Editor’s Note: Sarah Bryson’s newest research of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk, will be released February 15, 2018, by Amberley Publishing. Today, Sarah visits Queenanneboleyn.com to share her thoughts about King Henry VIII’s favourite sister.
La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, a Life in Letters
By Sarah Bryson
Over the last few years of I have been researching the life of Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France and sister of Henry VIII. Born in 1496, Mary was the youngest surviving daughter of King Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth of York. At the age of eighteen, she would marry the fifty-two-year-old King Louis XII of France as part of the peace treaty between England and France. A few months after the marriage Louis died and Mary created a scandal when she married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Not only did she marry Brandon within three months of Louis’ death she also married without her brother, King Henry VIII’s, permission!
I came to know Mary through researching her husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. To better understand why Mary took a simple Duke as her second husband, after being married to the King of France, I set about researching her life. The moment I started researching I found myself utterly fascinated with this incredible woman.
My first port of call was the internet. I began to read everything and anything I could on Mary’s life yet it was not enough. I knew that if I wanted to find out who the real Mary Tudor was I needed to find primary sources. I began to search primary sources such as letters and documents composed during Mary’s life to try and gain a better understanding of the events happening at the time. However, this was not enough. This did not give me an idea of the real Mary, the Mary behind the formal documents. That is when I found Mary’s letters.
Thankfully many of Mary’s letters survive, and I have had the great pleasure of reading and examining all these letters and they are a fascinating insight into the type of woman that she was. Mary was the perfect model of a Princess — beautiful, dedicated to her faith, possessing all the qualities and skills required of a royal woman at the time and hopefully for her husband, fertile. Yet Mary was so much more than this. She was a strong, passionate woman who used her skills at letter writing to manoeuvre her way in a male-dominated world.
Presenting herself as submissive and obedient, Mary would often subtly make a suggestion, framing it in such a way that the reader, so often a male, would think the idea was his. Then when Mary was presented with the idea she would humble herself and thank the writer for his great wisdom – when all along the idea had been Mary’s. It was a clever tactic by Mary to get exactly what she wanted without overstepping her position as a woman.
Mary’s letters also show that she was dedicated to her faith and believed strongly in supporting and helping those in her household. She wrote several letters seeking assistance and aid for relatives of those who served her in such things as finding positions within other households as well as seeking support in criminal matters.
Through reading Mary’s personal letters I began to gain a deeper understanding of who she really was. From this, I began to write. First I mapped out the general timeline of Mary’s life and began to fill it in with detail, all the while trying to focus on the letters that Mary wrote as well as letters and documents that were written about her, both during and after her life. In doing so I believe that I have been able to give a true and deeper understanding to this remarkable woman.
I also had the great pleasure of having some interesting in-depth discussions with several historians who have helped me explore the events unfolding during the early 16th century. In addition to this, I have had many, many late night e-mails back and forth with a wonderful art historian who has helped me to make some fascinating proposals related to Mary’s portraits.
Why did I decide to call my book La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, a Life in Letters? First and foremost ‘La Reine Blanche’ means ‘The White Queen’ in French. After Mary’s first husband, King Louis XII of France died, Mary went into a formal seclusion to see if she was carrying the late King’s child. Mary was not pregnant; however, during this period of time, she was forced to wear white, the French colour of mourning. It was at this time that Mary was dubbed ‘La Reine Blanche’. The greatest number of Mary’s letters that survive come from this time after the death of Louis XII and the marriage to her second husband, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. It is through these letters that we can see the strong, intelligent woman that Mary was and how she was able to use her skill at letter writing not only to regain her brother’s love and return to England, but to also allow a marriage of her choosing. These letters were the most influential for me, and thus I wanted the title of the book to reflect this influential time in Mary’s life.
I am very excited that my book on Mary Tudor will be available on February 15, 2018. It has been a labour of love to write and I hope that my book will shed light onto an often overlooked member of Tudor history and a woman that was quite remarkable in her own right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR!
Sarah Bryson is a researcher, writer and educator who has a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Honours. She currently works with children with disabilities. She is passionate about Tudor history and has a deep interest in Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and the reign of Henry VIII and the people of his court. She has run a website dedicated to Tudor history for many years and has written for various websites including ‘On the Tudor Trail’ and Queenanneboleyn.com. She has been studying primary sources to tell the story of Mary Tudor for a decade. Sarah lives in Australia, enjoys reading, writing and Tudor costume enactment.
La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, a Life in Letters is now available for pre-order.