Mary Tudor seems to have loved Charles Brandon, Viscount Lisle and future Duke of Suffolk, since she was a girl. This Tudor princess was as headstrong and brave as any other member of her bloodline, and was as determined as her elder brother Henry VIII to marry for love. A dutiful sister, she sallied forth across the English Channel in October of 1514 and married the 52 year old King of France, Louis XII, when she was only 18 in order to seal a peace treaty with her nubile young body. Nevertheless, she warned Henry that the next time she married it would be to a man she wanted … not one HE wanted.
The Salic monarch, considered to be elderly by the standards of his time, found Mary to be his Dream Teen Queen. Alas for Louis, he only got to enjoy his connubial felicity for a few weeks. In mid-December he began to experience a crippling case of gout, and he passed away on 1 January 1515. Rumor had it that he killed himself by his excessive frolics with his gorgeous young bride, but he died from stuffing himself at the table, not stuffing Mary in bed.
Mary was now a widow, and being carefully watched by the king-to-be, Francis I, to see if she would produce a son to replace him. When it became apparent that Mary was not gravid, Francis took the throne and Henry sent Charles Brandon to go get Mary and bring her home. This was sending the fox to guard the henhouse, but Henry thought it was safe because he made Charles swear not to propose. Henry had just made Brandon a duke and therefore a potential match for a queen, but Brandon wouldn’t dare risk his neck by marrying Mary against his old friend’s wishes would he? Henry must have forgotten that his own grandfather was the result of a queen marrying a squire. It also didn’t occur to him that Mary had plenty of fortitude and was willing to drag Charles to the altar, proposal or not.
When Charles got to France he found Mary determined to make him her husband. He would later tell Henry that she twisted his arm to get him up the aisle, but I suspect there wasn’t that much of a struggle. To prevent anyone from tearing asunder what God had joined together, they were married in a small ceremony on 31 March 1515. After promising to pay Henry an arm and a leg for their flouting of his will, the king forgave the pair and let them marry at his court on 13 May 1515.
Happy anniversary to the lovebirds!
Although the modern eye sees only moderate comeliness in Suffolk, for his era he was apparently a Henry-Cavil-level hottie … which would explain Mary’s determination to have him.
Suffolk is a fascinating character. Did you know his first wife was alive and kicking when he wed Mary Tudor? Yep, Suffolk was engaged to Anne Browne when he jilted her to marry a wealthy widow named Margaret Neville Mortimer. Once he had secured Margaret Mortimer’s monies, he had their marriage annulled and wed his first choice Anne Browne. Lady Lisle died in 1511, years before her husband would become Suffolk, but Margaret Mortimer was still above ground. It wasn’t until 1528 that a Papal Bull by Pope Clement VII finally made Suffolk and Mary’s union officially legitimate. When Mary died in 1533 Suffolk would wed his 14 year old ward Katherine Willoughby a few weeks later. The girls had been betrothed to his son, but rumor had it that Suffolk was sniffing around Katherine’s pretty skirts even before his wife died. The plot thickens, no?
If you want to know more about Suffolk’s scandalous marital shenanigans then I suggest you read Sarah Bryson’s wonderful new book, Charles Brandon: The King’s Man.