March 3, 1515 – Wedding of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon
The King of France’s death changed her world considerably. Now a Queen dowager in a foreign country she had barely begun to settle in, she was suddenly pushed into strict seclusion for 40 days. Charles had been sent to France by Henry, specifically promising to keep his relations with the widow on a formal basis. Henry had no reason to distrust him. Charles was his creation, dependent on him for everything, and also ambitious. Why would he bite the hand that so generously fed him?
Suffolk arrived on 27 Jan; five days later, he met Francois at Senlis. Francois summoned Suffolk to a private audience and bluntly dropped his bombshell - the Duke had come to marry the Dowager Queen, had he not? Poor Suffolk was taken aback and protested vehemently. Francois went on to share Mary’s confession and reassure the Duke. He was their friend, Francois said, and he would write to the English King and explain all. Suffolk took no chances; he dashed off his own account of the interview to Wolsey and then went to see Mary. It was a most emotional reunion. She accused him of taking her to England only to have her married off again against her will. He protested but she would have none of it. She issued an ultimatum - either marry me now or never marry me at all. There would be no better time, she said, for he had jealous enemies on the Privy Council who would prevent it in England. She had her brother’s explicit promise that she could follow her heart and Henry knew her greatest desire. What was the risk for him, anyway? She was a princess and Queen, very beautiful, and imperious. Why would any man deny her? Suffolk was understandably torn between his obedience to Henry and his desire for Mary.
In the small chapel of the Palais De Cluny, sometime in Feb 1515, Mary Tudor did the unimaginable for a princess, she married the man “she” chose.
The consequences were rapid and hardly comforting. Francois demanded Suffolk’s acquiescence in several disputes over Mary’s dowry as payment for their ‘secret’. Meanwhile, Wolsey and Henry wanted the Duke to be firm and reject all the French king’s demands. Furthermore, news of the wedding was circulating throughout Paris and Mary suspected she might be pregnant. Suffolk knew he could no longer delay confession and wrote to Wolsey, now Archbishop of York. He wanted to arrange a more public wedding ceremony since he knew their secret wedding could easily be invalidated (certainly he knew that better than most.) And he feared that the king’s council was urging an annulment. Many didn’t consider Suffolk a fit match for a princess and others wanted to promote pro-Hapsburg policy of which Mary’s remarriage could play a part.
Henry’s reaction was not favorable. Brandon had written to Wolsey for support and he received a prompt reply but it hardly comforted him; the King could not believe his most trusted friend had betrayed him but, if it were true, the newlyweds had to pay a stiff penalty - literally. They must pay back Mary’s marriage portion in annual installments of 4000 pds, leaving her just 6000 pds to live on. She must return all the plate and jewels she had taken to France as her dowry as well as the many gifts King Louis had given her. Beyond that, they must hasten to beg the King for forgiveness. Suffolk and Mary did just that, both blaming her for the hasty marriage. Suffolk wrote: "Sir, for the passion of God, let it not be in your heart against me, and rather than you should hold me in mistrust, strike off my head and let me not live". Mary knew her brother well so, along with her letter, she sent him the most sumptuous jewel Louis had given her - a diamond called the Mirror of Naples (which formed part of the French crown jewels). She assured her brother that she had not acted out of ‘sensual appetite’; instead, she had been subject to ‘consternation, fear and doubt' which made her force Suffolk's hand. Henry did not reply. Francois eventually allowed her to keep some of Louis's gifts and, on 16 Apr, they set out for the French coast. Mary wrote to Henry again at Calais, telling him that she was now under his jurisdiction again (Calais was an English possession) and that she would not sail for England until he gave permission. She reminded him of 'the great and tender love' they had always shared and promised to remain in Calais if that is what he wished.
It was not - Henry sent permission for them to cross the Channel in early May; they met Henry privately at the manor of Barking outside London. There is no record of that meeting, of course, and one must assume that Wolsey had perhaps exaggerated Henry’s displeasure since he wanted Suffolk’s gratitude. Henry was willing enough to forgive his best friend and favorite sister - after she turned over all her jewels and plate from France and signed a contract to repay the 24000 pds spent on her first marriage in the annual installments of 4000 pds. It was obvious that Henry was not surprised by the marriage; he was mostly angry at Suffolk for breaking his word. Suffolk and Mary were wed again at Greenwich Palace on 13 May with Henry and Catalina De Aragon in attendance. There was feasting and celebration but it was strictly a family affair and foreign Ambassadors wondered if they should congratulate the couple. After all, the situation was odd and there were some (mostly on the king’s council) who disapproved of the match. But, for the most part, there were no hard feelings or grudges. Suffolk was a popular man, good-looking and charming, and few - even in Tudor England - could resist such a grand love story. After all, they had risked everything to be together. Before long, the Suffolks were back in the king’s good graces. They are recorded as extending all the great court celebrations of the next few years. Mary’s pregnancy in France had been a false alarm but she did become pregnant a few months later. On 18 Feb 1516, she gave birth to her only surviving child, a princess called Mary after her aunt. The new duchess of Suffolk, however, was more fortunate - on 11 Mar 1516, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy called Henry after the King. Henry and Wolsey stood as the child’s godfathers.