Women who Married for Love

Chapter 5 : Mary, The French Queen


Fourth in our list of passionate ladies, is the great-grand-daughter of both Catherine de Valois and Jacquetta – Henry VIII’s sister, Mary. In 1514, Mary was due to marry Charles of Castile. Henry VIII fitted her out with a sumptuous wardrobe, and planned to accompany her to the Low Countries for the ceremony, arrangements being made for the royal party to stay in the Castle at Calais. Unfortunately, Mary was jilted, if not exactly at the altar, certainly at the Church door. Charles aged 14, acting out a part arranged for him by his grandfather, Emperor Maximilian, declared that, at a practically doddering 18, Mary was far too old for him, and the Burgundians repeatedly delayed matters,

This betrayal was part of a larger piece of treachery by Maximilian who had secretly agreed a truce with his and Henry’s joint enemy, Louis XII of France. Henry, however, held the ace on this occasion, and trumped Maximilian by marrying Mary to the recently widowed Louis. Mary claimed that Henry had promised she could chose a second husband for herself, so, when the elderly, gouty and dribbling Louis, whose delight in his outstandingly beautiful bride probably made her shudder, obligingly died within three months, Mary hastily married Charles Brandon.

Brandon, son of Henry VII’s standard-bearer, was orphaned when his father was killed at Bosworth, and had been brought up at court, becoming Henry VIII’s jousting companion and closest friend. He had been created Duke of Suffolk in 1514, but that did not make him a suitable spouse for the King’s sister and Henry VIII was incandescent. The couple were obliged to pay a swingeing fine before being forgiven. Mary and Charles enjoyed eighteen years together, before she died in 1533.