“Anne of Cleves — Henry VIII’s Luckiest Wife?”, by Roland Hui

March 5, 2017 in Guest Writers, News, Queens of World History by Beth von Staats

By Roland Hui

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Anne of Cleves – Henry VIII’s Luckiest Wife?

By Roland Hui

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Of Henry VIII’s six wives, Anne of Cleves has the distinction of not only outliving him, but also his other Queens. That she also emerged unscathed from her marriage (unlike the unfortunate Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard) and ended up a wealthy divorcee, has many describe her as Henry’s luckiest wife.

But did Anne of Cleves see herself that way? Although there were reports of her being joyous and spending her time as a free woman in endless rounds of recreations and shopping sprees for new clothes, there were indications that her behaviour was a façade. In truth, Anne’s divorce from the King was crushing to her. So much so that, when the opportunity arose, she even wanted him to take her back.

Misconceptions about Anne begin with her early life in Germany. The daughter of Duke John III of Cleves, she was brought up by her mother the formidable Mary of Julich-Berg-Ravensberg, a lady who ‘very straightly looketh to her children’. Of her siblings, Anne – a girl of ‘very lowly and gentle conditions’ – was particularly close to her mother. The Duchess, it was said, was ‘very loath to suffer her to depart from her.’ This implied a meekness in Anne, perhaps even a reluctance to ever leave the comfort of home and family to marry.

However, when the King of England sought her hand as his fourth wife in 1539, Anne appeared to have regarded the marriage with eager anticipation. Unlike the lovely Christina of Denmark, whom Henry VIII’s fancy had alighted upon previously, Anne had apparently no fear of marrying a man whom Christina thought was another Bluebeard. From what she had heard of Henry’s three late Queens, the first ‘was poisoned, the second was innocently put to death, and the third lost through lack of keeping in her childbed’. There were no reports that Anne shared such worries. On her journey to England to be made a married woman, her only concern was to make herself an agreeable companion to her future husband.

At a stopover at Calais, Anne was made aware that her fiancé was especially fond of gambling. Seeking out one of the King’s officials, the Admiral William Fitzwilliam, she had him teach her one of Henry’s favourite card games. Later, she even invited Fitzwilliam and his fellow Englishmen to her table to sup in order to learn more about her new country and its people. When Fitzwilliam declined out of modesty, she insisted he sit with her.

Anne’s enthusiasm was even more evident when she would not even let foul weather hinder her way to the King. When a snowstorm threatened to delay her at Canterbury, it was Anne who insisted that she and all her party set out for Rochester nonetheless. She was ‘so desirous to make haste to the King’s Grace’, the Duke of Suffolk remarked, ‘that Her Grace forced for no other.’ So much for the shy and withdrawn young woman many historians have made Anne out to be.

Despite Anne’s zeal, the meeting with Henry VIII at Rochester was a disaster. For reasons that remain mysterious to us, he took an instant dislike to her. However, the papers were signed, and the couple were duly wed on January 6, 1540. Although Henry was unfailingly polite to Anne, he shunned her bed, claiming impotence (he was still a most virile man, Henry insisted, but just not with his wife). Not only that, in private he complained about her supposed ugliness, and he even grumbled that she was probably not the virgin she claimed to be owing to her unattractive figure.

On the other hand, as her ladies would later claim, Anne was definitely still ‘a maid’; she was clueless as to what sex really was. According to them, the Queen stated that by just lying next to the King, she could become pregnant without intercourse! As this story only later came about during Henry VIII’s efforts to annul his union with Anne, it can be dismissed as an outright fabrication. A lie to confirm that the royal marriage was never consummated, making it easier for the King to get rid of her. Such a tall tale made Anne look pathetically naive and, even today, some historians give it credit. But we need not believe it. It is inconceivable that Anne, a woman who was determined to be a success as Queen of England, would have been so dense as to what was expected of her in the royal bedchamber. Also, Anne’s English was still too limited to allow her to converse with ease with her English ladies, much less on a subject so intimate.

Anne’s disappointment with her marriage (the King rarely, if ever, slept with her), led her to seek out Thomas Cromwell, the King’s chief minister, who had arranged their match. However, Cromwell put her off repeatedly as he thought himself incapable of dealing with such private matters. Frustrated, she began to wax ‘stubborn and wilful’ with her husband, as the King himself would complain. This was a woman who would not sit still and be silent when her happiness was at stake.

‘The pretended marriage’ as even Anne herself would later call it, came to an end in July when it was told to her that the King had doubts about its validity (Anne was formerly betrothed – and actually still was – to another man Francis of Lorrain, according to English lawyers). As many historians would tell it, as well as Hollywood with ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ (1933) and television with’ The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ (1970), Anne was very eager and willing to be free of the notorious Henry. But nothing was farther from the truth. According to Karl Harst, the German envoy, his mistress was devastated. ‘She does weep and bitterly cry,’ he wrote her family, ‘in such a manner as would move a stone heart to pity.’

Ultimately, Anne had no choice but to give in.  In return, she accepted a handsome settlement and was even adopted as the King’s ‘sister.’ Anne was reported to be most content, and when the King married his fifth wife Katheryn Howard, Anne bore her no grudge. However, when Katheryn fell, Anne saw it not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity – a second chance for herself. Would the King take her back? But when her German representatives put out feelers at the English Court, they received an unequivocal ‘no’. Anne was further embittered when her ex-husband took a new wife, Katharine Parr. Although she was never heard to say an unkind word about anyone, Anne was heard to complain how the new Queen was less beautiful than herself.

Far from being the ugly and dim lady many historians and popular culture have made her out to be, Anne of Cleves was far from that. She was reasonably attractive (just take a look at Hans Holbein’s portraits of her) and her efforts to be a success in England show Anne to be a woman of courage, determination, and initiative. By no fault of hers, her husband was entirely unattracted to her and, being King, he was allowed to have his way in the end. Perhaps it was in death that Anne of Cleves was vindicated. Of all of Henry VIII’s wives, she alone was laid to rest in the grandeur of Westminster Abbey, the great burial place of the Kings and Queens of England.

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Roland Hui

 

Roland Hui received his degree in Art History from Concordia University in Canada. After completing his studies, he went on to work in Interpretive Media for California State Parks, The U.S. Forest Service, and The National Park Service.

Roland has written for Renaissance Magazine and for Tudor Life Magazine. He blogs about 16th-century English art and personalities at Tudor Faces at: tudorfaces.blogspot.com.

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The Turbulent Crown begins with the story of Elizabeth of York, who survived conspiracy, and dishonour to become the first Tudor Queen, bringing peace and order to England after years of civil war. From there, the reader is taken through the parade of Henry VIII’s six wives – two of whom, Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard, would lose their heads against a backdrop of intrigue and scandal.

The Turbulent Crown continues with the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who ruled for nine days until overthrown by her cousin Mary Tudor. But Mary’s reign, which began in triumph, ended in disaster, leading to the emergence of her sister, Elizabeth I, as the greatest of her family and of England’s monarchs.

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England’s Lonely Rose. The Story of Mary Tudor (Part II)

April 6, 2014 in Hall of Crowns (Mercy Rivera), News, Queens of World History by Mercy Rivera

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With the ascension of Jane Seymour as Queen Consort of Henry the VIII, Mary Tudor’s future saw a little light.  Jane shared Mary’s religious beliefs, and her gentle demeanor conquered her heart  in an instant.  The new Queen made a huge success when she reconciled the King with his eldest daughter, but this loving event had a high cost for Mary.

The price Mary had to pay to conquer the King’s affection was her total submission to His Majesty.   With pain and humiliation, she had to recognize her illegitimacy. This was the most difficult thing she had to do.  To sign a paper that said she was not the legitimate fruit of the love of her parents, to approve the idea that she was never the lawful daughter of the Queen and King of England under the holy sacrament of matrimony was something that would haunt her forever.  But if she wanted to live a life close to what it was when she was a princess, and if she wanted to stay alive, she had to do it.  These, are the articles she signed:

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“The confession of me the Lady Mary, made upon certain points and articles under written, in the which as I do now plainly and with all mine heart confess and declare mine inward sentence, belief and judgment, with a due conformity of obedience to the laws of the realm ; so minding for ever to persist and continue in this determination, without change, alteration or variance, I do most humbly beseech the King’s Highness, my father, whom I have obstinately and inobediently offended in the denial of the same heretofore, to forgive mine offences therein, and to take me to his most gracious mercy. First, I confess and knowledge the King’s Majesty to be my Sovereign Lord and King, in the imperial Crown of this realm of England, and do submit myself to his Highness, and to all and singular laws and statutes of this realm, as becometh a true and faithful subject to do; which I shall also obey, keep, observe, advance and maintain, according to my bounden duty, with all the power, force and qualities that God hath induced me, during my life.

” I do recognize, accept, take, repute and knowledge the King’s Highness to be supreme head in earth under Christ of the Church of England, and do utterly refuse the Bishop of Rome’s pretended authority, power and jurisdiction within this Realm heretofore usurped, according to the laws and statutes made in that behalf, and of all the King’s true subjects, humbly received, admitted, obeyed, kept and observed. And also do utterly renounce and forsake all manner of remedy, interest and advantage which I may by any means claim by the Bishop of Rome’s laws, process, jurisdiction or sentence, at this present time or in any wise hereafter, by any manner, title, color, mean or case that is, shall, or can be devised for that purpose.

” MARYE.

       I do freely, frankly and for the discharge of my duty towards God, the King’s Highness and his laws, without other respect, recognize and acknowledge that the marriage heretofore had between his Majesty and my mother, the late Princess dowager, was by God’s law and man’s law incestuous and unlawfull.

” MARYE.”

 

Mary sent a letter to her father the King, along with the documents of her submission.

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Most humbly prostrated before the feet of your most excellent majesty, your most humble, faithful, and obedient subject, which hath so extremely offended your most gracious highness that mine heavy and fearful heart dares not presume to call you father, nor your majesty hath any cause by my deserts, saving the benignity of your most blessed nature doth surmount all evils, offences, and trespasses, and is ever merciful and ready to accept the penitent, calling for grace in any convenient time

Having received, this Thursday at night, certain letters from Mr. Secretary, as well advising me to make mine humble submission immediately to yourself (which because I durst not, without your gracious license, presume to do before), I lately sent unto him, as signifying that your most merciful heart and fatherly pity had granted me your blessing, with condition that I should persevere in that I had commenced and begun, and that I should not offend your majesty by the denial or refusal of any such articles and commandments as it may please your highness to address unto me, for the perfect trial of mine heart and inward affection.

For the perfect declaration of the bottom of my heart and stomach, first, I knowledge myself to have most unkindly and unnaturally offended your most excellent highness, in that I have not submitted myself to your most just and virtuous laws; and for mine offence therein, which I must confess were in me a thousand-fold more grievous than they could be in any other living creature, I put myself wholly and entirely to your gracious mercy, at whose hand I cannot receive that punishment for the same that I have deserved. Secondly, to open mine heart to your grace in these things, which I have heretofore refused to condescend unto, and have now written with mine own hand, sending the same to your highness herewith, I shall never beseech your grace to have pity and compassion on me, if ever you shall perceive that I shall privily or apertly vary or alter from one piece of that I have written and subscribed, or refuse to confirm, ratify, or declare the same, where your majesty shall appoint me. Thirdly, as I have and shall, knowing your excellent learning, virtue, wisdom, and knowledge, put my soul into your direction, and by the same have and will in all things, from henceforth, direct my conscience, so my body I do wholly commit to your mercy and fatherly pity, desiring no state, no condition, nor no manner degree of living but such as your grace shall appoint unto me, knowledging and confessing that my state cannot be so vile as either the extremity of justice would appoint unto me, or as mine offences have required and deserved. And whatsoever your grace shall command me to do, touching any of these points (either for things past, present, or to come), I shall as gladly do the same as your majesty can command me.

Most humbly, therefore, beseeching your mercy, most gracious sovereign lord and benign father, to have pity and compassion of your miserable and sorrowful child, and with the abundance of your inestimable goodness so to overcome mine iniquity towards God, your grace, and your whole realm, as I may feel some sensible token of reconciliation, which, God is my judge, I only desire, without any respect: to whom I shall daily pray for the preservation of your highness, with the queen’s grace, and that it may please Him to send you issue.

From Hunsdon, this Thursday, at eleven of the clock at night.

Your grace’s most humble and obedient
daughter and handmaid,

MARY.

Mary was finally at the feet of her father. He was pleased.  He got what he wanted. He crushed his daughter’s Spanish pride, and now he could welcome her back to court with open arms. Now, to his eyes, she was his loving child again, but only because she submitted to his arrogance and vainglory. All that she meant for him in the past was buried and forgotten. Elizabeth was also forgotten, and Mary was aware of it. This fact started to warm up the coldness she felt for her in the beginning. In any case, it was still too soon to think about her welfare or have ideas of helping her.

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Mary and Queen Jane became friends. Thanks to this, Mary was allowed back to court, and she had her own chambers, both in White Hall Palace and Hampton Court.  Finally, after years of shadows, Mary saw the golden light of a royal life again.  She was close to her father and some old friends she left behind.  The King saw many opportunities in the return of Mary to his court. He knew she was deeply loved by the people in the North and East of England, so maybe it was time to use that again on his favor.  New arrangements for marriage were made upon her, one of them with Duke Phillip of Bavaria. Of course the gentleman was not happy with it, and Mary much less, since both were of different religious faith.  In any case, as in the past this arrangement never came to reality, Mary was too happy with her new peaceful life to care for it. After all, even when she was older for marriage according to the time regulations, she was still feeling young and pretty enough to find a fine husband and bear children.

Eventually Queen Jane got pregnant. The Kingdom rejoiced as well as the King.  The Lady Mary became even closer to the Queen, spending much of her time in the Queen’s chambers, attending her with her other ladies in waiting. Sadly, death claimed the Queen twelve days after the birth of her son, Prince Edward. The King was devastated. He lost the Queen that gave him his most desire heir, and he retreated to mourn her.  The Lady Mary kept herself close to her siblings.  It seemed that the friendship with Queen Jane, the good treatment of her father and her return to court gave her peace, and new strengths to forget the past, at least for now.

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Finally, time for mourning was over for the King, and news about arrangements for a new marriage were filling the court’s ears.  After some time, it was announced the arrival of a German Princess, Anne of Cleves to the English court to marry King Henry.  Mary was not happy with the news. Anne of Cleves was Protestant. She saw again the ghosts of the past in her arrival, but still she managed the situation with dignity, and gave his father’s new fiancée a respectful welcome.  Even when her religious beliefs were questionable for Mary, she saw no dangers on Anne of Cleves. The lady was calmed, of decent manners and virtuous in her behavior. For now her fears of dealing with a second Anne Boleyn were over.  But since the King was never attracted or willing to spend the rest of his life with a Queen he found “repulsive” according to his points of view, this marriage only lasted six months, and a new Queen was placed upon the throne of England, this time, one that would give Mary a lot of headaches, her name…. Katherine Howard.

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From the start, the relationship between Mary and the young Queen Catherine was bad.  First of all, Mary was nine years older than Catherine.  When you analyze this you can easily understand that this fact made Mary feel totally uncomfortable.   Mary kept wondering why fate allowed a young, air headed, irresponsible and frivolous girl to marry a King and have a luxurious life, while she, a woman born in golden sheets and with royal blood in every vein of her body, was still unmarried.  The age issue between them was also hard for Mary to deal with publicly. Thanks to her long years of stress, sorrow and neglect, she was looking older than her natural age already. Young Queen Catherine shined in the glory of youth, while she was getting grey when she was not even bloomed yet.  Then comes the fact that the young Queen was a member of the powerful and proud Howard family. This was not exactly the issue, the part that Mary disliked the most about this is that Catherine was cousin of the late Queen Anne Boleyn, and as we discussed before, for Mary, any person related to Anne it was impure and evil for Mary.

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The temper was another detonator between the young Queen and the Lady Mary.  Queen Catherine was far too young to have a proper role as queen. In fact she was very immature, but that does not mean she was dumb. She knew who she was and the power behind the title she was wearing, and she noticed the lack of respect that the Lady Mary showed to her.  When Catherine Howard asked Mary of why she did not pay to her the honors that she as Queen of England deserved, and received all but a satisfactory answer, Her Majesty dismissed two of Mary’s closest ladies in waiting, and also made fun of her, reminding her that she was older than her, and yet still unmarried.  One more time, Mary had to swallow her rage, her pain, her sorrow and keep her mouth shut before the poison of a Queen that to her eyes did not deserve the privilege.  Mary felt a huge resentment towards her father. He did nothing against Catherine after the incident, and she felt unloved by him again.   Mary also felt betrayed when she found out that Anne of Cleves and Queen Catherine became friends, and even enjoyed a dance together on Christmas.

In Catherine Howard, Mary saw a huge threat for her. She felt she was taking away all that cost her a lot to recover. She was even again placed above her half sister.  Queen Catherine and the Lady Elizabeth became very close. They spent time together, and the King was pleased with this.  But there was a time when there was a truce between Catherine and Mary.  When the Lady Salisbury was locked in the Tower of London, Mary asked the young Queen for mercy towards the poor lady who was her governess, friend and supporter in the most difficult times of her life. Surprisingly, Queen Catherine sent clothes and blankets to the poor old lady and tried to persuade the King in her favor. Sadly this ended with the King scolding Catherine, and the young Queen never said another word about it.   But the time for Mary to endure Young Queen Catherine’s presence was counted, and finally, a scandal of lust and treason sent Catherine Howard to her death in February 13th 1542. In the same place where Anne Boleyn was executed, Queen Catherine lost her life by the ax.

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In 1543, eighteen months after Catherine Howard’ s execution Henry married his sixth wife, Catherine Parr, Lady Latymer. She was twice widowed of elderly husbands and was now rich. She served as a gentlewoman of the Chamber to Catherine Howard. She was educated and devout, something that was very important for the approval of Mary.  Catherine Parr and Mary knew each other from the past, and they had a nice relationship since then. This why she was delighted that she was now her stepmother.  After the royal wedding the King and new Queen Catherine Parr went on a honeymoon progress through the southern shires and Home Counties accompanied by Mary.  Catherine wanted a new style in the life at court for Royal Ladies.  She thought that it was important to add artistic activities to the studies and normal duties of high born ladies.  She included music, art, and poetry as day by day activities, and Mary, was pleased with it.   Once again, Mary was important and recognized at court and felt comfortable.  She developed a better relationship with her half sister Elizabeth and with her brother Prince Edward as well.   Mary was very happy with Catherine as her stepmother. Catherine treated her as a sister instead of a daughter, since she was only four years older than Mary. At this time, Mary was more frequently at court. Queen Catherine adorned her with precious jewels and gave her money and most importantly. Catherine treated her as a royal princess. Catherine suggested to Mary that she undertake a translation of Erasmus’ paraphrases of the New Testament. Mary loved this work and had finally found a kindred spirit to express her hopes and fears with. Catherine understood Mary’s depression at the unsettled state of affairs regarding any match for her. “While my father lives,” said Mary, “I shall be only the Lady Mary, the unhappy lady in Christendom.” Catherine was concerned for Mary’s health and constant episodes of depression. She sent her medications and other treatments. She even gave Mary pocket money because Mary had suddenly developed a love for gambling.  She enjoyed this so much, that she even taught her half sister Elizabeth to play dice. During the reign of Catherine Parr, Mary had the chance to have a life at court with her siblings in constant peace and joy. She felt at home.

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Catherine Parr’s marriage to the King gave Mary the longest period of unbroken happiness she had known since childhood. It was much needed after a decade of sorrow. Catherine was a champion of the princess, and her regard for Mary certainly helped improve her prospects, as well as enriching her life. They even shared a love for clothes and jewels. They also had a love of music in common. Both thrived on conversation and diversion and were dedicated to studying and religion.  The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys recorded that the Lady Mary and Queen Catherine were almost always together, and he thanked the Queen in  the name of his Master Charles V for all that she had done and would continue to do for the Lady Mary.

By 1544 a new act of succession was introduced. Since becoming queen, Catherine Parr had set out to reconcile King Henry and Mary and to restore her as a potential heir to the throne. Eustace Chapuys was most impressed with the queen’s attempts at favoring the Princess and wrote frequently to Charles V about it. Charles was also most pleased and encouraged Chapuys to continue good relations with Queen Catherine. The act was the first succession act in England to give females the right to succeed to the throne as queen. Lady Mary and Elizabeth were again part of the succession after their brother Edward. Though both Mary and Elizabeth remained illegitimate and were denied the title of princess, they were King Henry’s official heirs.

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It was in this same year 1544 that Mary was painted by an artist commemorating her re-in-statement to the succession. In the portrait, attributed to Master John, Mary is still young and quite beautiful. Portraiture was another common interest between Catherine Parr and Mary. Throughout her reign, she ordered portraits of her, Mary and Elizabeth. It is thought that perhaps these portraits of Catherine were done to make up for the fact that King Henry had commissioned a painting of the royal family during her reign only to put Jane Seymour in posthumously as queen. Perhaps that is the case, but the portrait of Mary is memorable and a favorite of many admirers to this day.

By summer of 1544, Catherine had been appointed Regent of England as King Henry went off to battle in France. During her reign, most historians believe it was Elizabeth who was most affected by watching her step-mother rule over the country. Mary, herself, would also pay close attention to Katherine’s regency which no doubt influenced her. Both daughters would come to see that it was possible for a queen to handle all that was expected of a king — that perhaps one day they too could rule as queen of England.

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But again, the happy times did not last long. The health of the once almighty King Henry the VIII was in decline, and during this time, he started to keep himself away from the Queen and his children.  He was not the man the once was, obese to the extreme, his ulcer was tormenting him beyond measure. He lost all the dignity of his powerful years.  He hated the idea of being seen like that by his family and his people.  King Henry’s final Christmas was spent alone at Whitehall, apart from Katherine and Mary who were at Greenwich Palace. On 11 January, it is accounted that the queen’s apartments were prepared for her arrival, but there is an uncertainty as to whether or not Katherine saw her husband one last time. On 28 January 1547, King Henry died. Neither Katherine nor his children were present.

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Mary was not told of her father’s death until a few days later, and this, made her angry.  The entire realm, especially the Council was too busy making preparations for the coronation of Prince Edward.  Once again, Mary felt hurt in her feelings and her pride as the King’s daughter.  Mary’s reaction to her father’s death was never recorded as she never publicly mourned his death.  Most likely her reaction to the news was mixed grief and some kind of relief. At Henry’s death both Mary and Elizabeth became two of the richest women in England. They both had an income, the promise of a dowry, and extensive holdings of property. Mary was now an owner of 32 houses and manors. These lands had previously belonged to the Duke of Norfolk and his son Surrey, but were attained by the King after their arrest. It is noted that after all that the Howard’s had put Mary through, she still came out on top owning most of Norfolk, Suffolk, and land in Essex.

Until April 1547, Mary remained in the household of the Dowager Queen Catherine. Mary went into deep mourning, and it is not recorded whether or not she attended her father’s funeral or even her brother’s coronation. In her mourning, Mary went into deep reflection upon the way the country was now being run. While Henry was alive, she didn’t dare questioning his advisers, but now that her brother Edward was the King, she felt a little freer and less afraid to express her opinions.   By spring, after a dispute with the Dowager Queen and the Lord Protector of England, Mary abandoned the protection of Catherine and decided to live her own life, command her own servants and take control of her properties.

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Mary was no longer a frail little girl, and now she was free to reach the life she always wanted, but was denied by her father.   Besides, the fact that the Dowager Queen got married with Thomas Seymour made Mary very upset, she felt it was an insult to the memory of her father.  Even with that, Mary never forgot that it was Catherine the one who helped her to have a happy life at court, the one who was her friend and supporter, the person who helped her to recover what she lost for so long.  So instead to consider her a traitor or an enemy, Mary kept her in good graces for the rest of her life.

END OF PART II

SOURCES:

http://www.marytudor.net/stepmothers.html

http://tudorqueen6.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/the-relationships-of-lady-mary-tudor-henry-viii-and-his-consort-katherine-parr-pt-2/

http://timesoftudors.blogspot.com/2013/02/mary-tudors-dislike-of-katherine-howard.html

http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/marytohenry1536.htm

https://www.google.com.pr/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1024&bih=653&q=mary+tudor+queen+of+england&oq=mary+tu&gs

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09766a.htm

http://tudors.wikia.com/wiki/Princess_Mary_Tudor

 

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