Power, Profit, and Passion: Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon, and the Arranged Marriage in Early Tudor England

by Barbara J. Harris
Power, Profit, and Passion: Mary Tudor, Charles Brandon, and the Arranged Marriage in Early Tudor England
Barbara J. Harris
Feminist Studies
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Aristocratic marriage in early Tudor England is a classic example of a social institution that subordinated women to maintain the class and gender power of elite men. Tudor marriages did not, of course, function in isolation; rather, they both depended upon and reinforced a whole network of institutions and ideologies that created the particular form of male dominance characteristic of the elite in early sixteenth-century England. Yet, despite its signifi- cance in defining the relative positions of women and men, gender has not been placed at the center of analyses of the marriage system by historians of the period, nor has marriage been exam- ined through the eyes of women. Lawrence Stone's Family, Sex, and Mamage in England, 1500-1800,the standard authority on the subject, assumes that the primary purpose of the arranged mar- riage was to preserve and expand the wealth and political power of aristocratic patrilineages and that its role in perpetuating the sub- jection of women was secondary, even incidental.' Stone also sug- gests that the vast majority of elite women consented to the matches negotiated for them because they identified with the in- terests of the patrilineal families that exploited them as objects of exchange.2

This article presents a different interpretation of the arranged marriage, one far more consistent with the evidence I have found in manuscript and printed sources. It rests on three fundamental propositions: that the arranged marriage played a major role in sustaining the gender hierarchy; that given their economic and legal dependence, the acquiescence of upper-class women in the

Feminist Studies 15, no. 1 (Spring 1989). a 1989 by Feminist Studies, Inc.


marriage system does not prove they shared the values and priori- ties of elite men; and that historians investigating the arranged marriage must go beyond the marriage contracts that reflect male interests to the private letters that record female aspirations and at- titudes but often remain neglected in archives.

I begin with a detailed analysis of how the arranged marriage worked that draws particular attention to the way it simultaneous- ly reflected and perpetuated women's subordinate status. This analysis provides the context necessary for understanding the cen- tral subject of this essay- the matrimonial history of Henry VIII's younger sister, Mary Tudor. Although Mary was a royal princess, and her marriages were far more important politically and eco- nomically than the marriages of even the highest ranking noble women, her experience was not fundamentally different from theirs. Like all upper-class women, Mary was destined to be mar- ried to advance the interests of her lineage because she depended on its male head to pay her dowry and negotiate a suitable match for her. On an international scale, her brother exploited her first marriage to secure peace with France just as the nobility used their daughtersf and sisters' marriages to establish peace on the local and regional level. The letters documenting Mary's marriages can thus be used to expose and elucidate the close connection between the arranged marriage, the patriarchal family, and pervasive patterns of male dominance within the aristocracy as a whole. The letters also provide a rare opportunity to look at the arranged marriage from a woman's perspective and to observe her successfully ma- nipulating an oppressive social institution to gain some measure of autonomy. Although historians must be cautious about generaliz- ing from a single case, no matter how vivid and compelling, Mary's behavior certainly casts doubt on the assumption that most early Tudor elite women accepted the values embodied in the dominant marriage system. Above all, Mary's story shows how much we need a feminist history of aristocratic marriage that employs gender as a major tool of analysis and listens carefully to the voices of women.

The explicit purpose of marriage among the upper classes was to advance the political and economic interest of the patrilineally defined family. Fathers (or those substituting for them after their death) exploited their right to select their children's marriage part- ners to enlarge the family's estates, raise its social status, and in- crease its political power. In making their choices, fathers routinely ignored their children's preferences and subordinated their per- sonal happiness to the interests of the patrilineage. A powerful combination of material and ideological factors ensured that most daughters and sons would accept the marriages negotiated for them. Children of both sexes depended on their families for the land and money required to marry within their class, and the religious and secular moralists of the age insisted that the fih commandment required them to obey their parentsf wishes. The relatively young age of daughters and inheriting sons at first mar- riage increased parental control over these arrangements.

Provision for the marriage of daughters consisted of a cash dowry, called their marriage money, which was paid to the groom or his father, except in the case of heiresses destined to inherit their fathers' land. After her marriage, the wife had no claim to, or control over, her dowry. It belonged to her husband or his family. Marriage thus transferred wealth between male heads of families with women serving as the medium of exchange.

Although fathers negotiated matches for both their daughters and sons, the burden of the arranged marriage weighed far more heavily on women than men. Daughters were much more vulner- able than sons to pressure to consent to matches they disliked because of their dependence on their dowries and because Tudor culture was far more insistent on inculcating submissiveness in girls than in boys. Younger sons were freest to choose their mates because relatively little property was at stake when they wed and because their fathers were often dead by the time they married. But even heirs were able to choose their spouses if they were single and over twenty-one when their fathers died. Women rarely acquired this freedom because men routinely made their bequests of dowries conditional on their daughters' agreeing to marriages negotiated by their fathers' executors. Thus, elite marriages always involved the exchange of women, but men were objects of exchange only until they achieved adulthood. This difference ac- curately reflected the fact that women remained social dependents throughout their lives.3

Daughters were not only more likely than sons to be forced into unions they disliked, but their marriages also had greater effect on their subsequent lives. Husbands had enormous legal and economic power over their spouses but the reverse was not true. Furthermore, unless they were willing to risk social ostracism and poverty, wives had no alternatives if they found themselves in in- tolerable situations or subject to abuse. In contrast, dissatisfied upper-class husbands could escape to London, the court, or one of their other residences. Complacent attitudes toward men's ex- tramarital affairs and illegitimate children made it relatively easy for them to live apart from their mates. The only constraint they faced was the necessity of producing legitimate heirs.

Despite their relative powerlessness, some upper-class women did risk eloping or contracting secret marriages. Margery Pastonfs clandestine marriage with her father's steward, Richard Calle, is probably the best known of these defiant matches,4 but it is cer- tainly not unique. In the 1530s, one of the daughters of Sir Richard Grenville eloped with the surveyor of Calais, Richard Lee.5 Henry VIII's niece, Lady Margaret Douglas, secretly married Lord Thomas Howard, one of the third duke of Norfolk's younger half- brothers, while his widowed sister-in-law, Mary Boleyn, ran off with Sir Wiam Stafford.6

Even more interesting, because it undoubtedly represents a more common response than outright defiance, is the evidence of women's efforts to influence the choice of their husbands, some- times successfully, sometimes not. Once again, the fieenth- century Paston letters contain a well-known example. Margery Brews tried to secure a happy conclusion to her love match with John Paston I11 by asking her mother, who favored the marriage, to convince her father to increase her dowry. At the same time, she begged John to accept the amount her father had originally of- fered "if that ye love me, as I trust verily that ye do . . .for if that ye had not half the livelihood that ye have . . . I would not forsake YOU.,,^

In 1512, Elizabeth Stafford protested when her father, the third duke of Buckingham, decided to break her engagement to his ward, Ralph Neville, the young earl of Westmorland, in order to marry her to Thomas Howard, future third duke of Norfolk. Thomas Howard, who was recently widowed, was twenty years older than Elizabeth. Long afterward she spoke nostalgically about her relationship with Westmorland -"he and I had loved together two years" -and commented that "if my Lord my husband had not sent immediate word after my lady, and my Lord's first wife was dead, and made suit to my father . . . I had been married before Christmas to my Lord of Westmorland." Buckingham tried to con- vince Thomas Howard to take one of his other daughters, but when he refused-"he would have none of my sisters, but only meu-the duke forced Elizabeth to accept his proposal. Buck- ingham obviously considered an alliance with the Howards more important than his daughter's happiness.8

Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's younger sister, is probably the best known early-sixteenth-century woman who openly challenged the arranged marriage. In the summer of 1514, she was a nineteen- year-old beauty, widely considered the most eligible princess in Europe. Mary was a great favorite of her twenty-three-year-old brother, who insisted on her continual presence at co~rt.~ Nonetheless, despite his apparent affection for Mary and the fact that he was openly in love with his own wife, Katherine of Aragon, at this time,"J Henry felt no compunctions about offering Mary to Louis XII, the ailing, fifty-two-year-old king of France. Henry was deeply involved in peace negotiations with the French and rightly guessed that the prospect of marrying Mary would in- duce Louis to sign a treaty and alliance with England. Henry was responsible for the huge dowry necessary to marry his sister honorably and expected to receive diplomatic benefits commen- surate with his expense in return. As he anticipated, Mary's hasty betrothal to Louis sealed the new friendship between the two countries. On 30 July 1514 Mary solemnly renounced her previous engagement to Charles V; on 7 August England signed a treaty of peace and friendship with France; on 13 August Mary and Louis were married by proxy at Greenwich."

Mary made no secret of her opposition to the French match. Not only was she being married to an unattractive and sickly old man, but she was already in love with one of her brother's favorites, Charles Brandon, the handsome thirty-year-old duke of Suffolk. Suffolk, whose father died serving as Henry VII's standard bearer at Bosworth, grew up at the Tudor court, where he became Henry VIII's closest friend. After he became king, Henry raised him to the peerage, eventually granting him a dukedom, the highest rank in the nobility.

Mary understood the futility of resisting a marriage so important to Henry and English interests. Her only hope was that the reports about Louis's health were true and that she would soon be a widow. In these circumstances, the young princess displayed con- siderable political finesse: she bowed to the inevitable but only after forcing Henry to promise that she could choose her second husband herself. Mary attached so much importance to their agreement that she made Henry repeat it when she saw him for the last time before her departure for France.12 After Louis died, she once again reminded her brother about the terms of their bargain:

For the good of peace and for the furtherance of your affairs, you moved me to marry with my lord and late husband, King Louis of France, whose soul God pardon. Though I understood that he was very aged and sickly, yet for the advancement of the said peace, and for the furtherance of your causes, I was contented to conform myself to your said motion, so that if I should fortune to survive the said late king, I might with your good will marry myself at my liberty without your displeasure. Whereunto,, good brother, you condescended and granted, as you well know, promising unto me in such case you would never provoke or move me but as mine own heart and mind should be best pleased; that wheresoever I should dispose myself, you would wholly be contented with the same.

Apparently Henry knew Mary would choose the duke of Suffolk as her second husband when he made this promise to her.13

Mary's bargain with her brother shows that she rejected the definition of marriage that dominated discourse and practice at the top of the social and political hierarchy and that she resented being used as an asset to advance the interests of the Tudor dynasty. She clearly agreed to marry Louis XI1 because she had no choice. In her letters she articulated a completely different view of matrimony, one that focused on the personal happiness she an- ticipated from marrying the man who "best pleased her "heart and mind and asserted her right to choose that man for herself. Although she distinguished between her feelings for Suffolk and a mere carnal or sensual appetite, she was quite open about the in- tensity of her attachment to him. She described their marriage as "the thing which I desired most in the world and told Henry she would die if he forbade it.14

Mary's romantic and individualistic view of marriage was prob- ably more widespread than recent accounts of early Tudor mar- riage indicate. The most numerous and accessible documents on the subject, marriage contracts, give a very one-sided picture of contemporary attitudes because they inevitably reflect the finan- cial and political priorities of the men who negotiated them. Con- temporary letters document the popularity of medieval romances that both encouraged and reflected an alternative ideal of marriage based on love. In 1526, for example, Richard Pace asked Thomas, Lord Darcy, who was arranging a marriage for one Master Hervy, "to make the hastier end in this matter of love, to the which love, as we read in old books, nothing can be more displeasant than delay."l5 In her letter begging forgiveness for eloping with Sir William Stafford, Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary, wrote to Thomas Cromwell, "being I have read in old books that some, for as just causes, have by kings and queens been pardoned by the suit of good folks, I trust it shall be our chance through your good help."l6

The medieval romance was undoubtedly the most popular form of secular literature among the upper classes in the early Tudor period.17 William Caxton, who set up the first printing press in England in 1476, located his bookshop at Westminster, near the court, because he planned to print and sell books that would ap- peal to an aristocratic audience. His publications included over a dozen prose and poetry romances, among them Geoffrey Chaucefs Troilus and Cressida, John Gower's Confession of Love, Thomas Malory's Morte &Arthur, and Blanchardin and Eglantine.lS Wynkyn de Worde and Robert Copland continued to publish romances after Wiam Caxton's death in 1491; De Worde printed over fifteen.19 As early as 1518, Copland commented that the '%oaks of love" in print were "innumerable"; William Copland, who took over his shop in 1548, printed a dozen or more between then and 1557.20 Richard Pynson, another leading printer, produced the first English editions of Jean Froissart's Chronicles and John Lydgate's Seige of Troy.Z1 Henry VIII himself "commanded John Bourchier, Lord Berners, to translate the Froissart; Berners also translated a courtly allegory called The Castell of Love.22

The few surviving inventories of private libraries provide fur- ther evidence of the popularity of the romance in aristocratic circles. Sir John Paston (d. 1479); his younger sister, Anne; Sir Peter Arderne (d. 1467); Sir Edmund Rede (d. 1489); John Howard, first duke of Norfolk; Henry Percy, fifth earl of Northumberland

(d. 1527); Queen Elizabeth Woodville (d. 1492); and Sir Nicholas Carew (d. 1539) all owned at least one romance and often rn0re.2~ Even the dour Margaret Beaufort, Henry VII's mother, acquired a number of romances, including Blanchardin and Eglantine; in her will she bequeathed Froissart's Chronicles and Lydgatefs Seige of Troy to her son and Gowefs Confession of Love to one Mistress Parker." Henry VIII owned the Romance of the Rose; numerous editions of Froissart's Chronicles;various versions of Lancelot, the death of King Arthur, and the quest for the holy grail; and many less well-known r0mances.2~

That early Tudor women associated romantic love with mar- riage may seem surprising to those who equate courtly love with adultery and assume that Andreas Capellanus's dictum that romantic love could not exist in marriage actually defined medieval attitudes on the subject. However, recent scholarship is virtually unanimous in rejecting Capellanus's authority; some authors even question his seriousness.26 In any case, English romances never assumed that romantic love and marriage were incompatible or endorsed adultery as an ideal form of love.27 Susan Crane has shown that an independent English romantic tradition developed as early as the Anglo-Roman period.28

During the later Middle Ages, when most of the English romances particularly concerned with courtly love were written, English authors emphasized the compatibility between romantic love and the claims of family, church, and society. Both Susan Crane and Larry Benson trace this development to the increasing influence of courtly love, originally a literary invention, on the ac- tual behavior of the nobility.29 In this context, it became less and less tenable for the authors of romances to condone adultery. Instead of creating literary models that sanctioned sin, therefore, they reshaped their genre to demonstrate the ability of ideal love to flourish without violating the accepted norms of aristocratic society.30 In works such as Amadas and Ydoine, Gui de Warewic, Ywain and Gawain, and Stephen Hawesfs Pastime of Pleasure, authors of romances wrote of lovers who wanted to marry and eventually did.31 Siarly, Chaucer showed love resulting in mar- riage in the Knight's Tale; told the story of wedded courtly lovers in the Franklin's Tale; and celebrated romantic married love in the Book of the Duchess, dedicated to John of Gaunt in memory of his wife, Blanche of Lanca~ter.~~

Nowhere was the influence of literature on life more evident than at the court of Henry VIII in the early years of his reign. Lavish entertainments combining the elements of pageant and mask regularly featured knights who fought for the favor of their ladies. The pageant on New Year's Day 1512, for example, showed six ladies defending a fortress against the king and five noblemen; they were finally forced to yield the castle and accompany the assailants to a dance. On Twelfth Night 1515, twelve maskers at- tacked six ladies in a pavillion; after they were repulsed, the ladies danced with the knights who had rescued them. The entertain- ment at the Epiphany 1516 actually opened with a play based on the story of Troilus. Jousts and tournaments were also set in the framework of pageants modeled on romances and allegories of love. The fiction that gallant knights fought "for the love of ladies" was repeated often. At the conclusion of the great Westrninster tournament of 1511, for example, the heralds cried, "My lords, for your noble feats in arms, God send you the love of your ladies that you most desire."33

Not only were these tournaments fought for love, but, more often than not, they specifically celebrated the king's devotion to the queen. In the early years of their marriage, Henry was pas- sionately, even extravagantly, in love with Katherine of Aragon and always wore her favor in the lists.34 "If I were still free," he wrote to his father-in-law, "I would choose her for wife before all other."35 At the tournament in honor of their joint coronation, the royal couple sat in a pageant castle covered with gdded H's and K's. At the Westrninster tournament, held in Katherine's honor, Henry fought under the name of Sir Loyal Heart. Golden H's and K's were once again the most prominent form of decoration.36 Mary Tudor thus not only spent her adolescence at a court where the ideals of chivalry and courtly love flourished but also where the ideal couple, the king and queen, were husband and wife. The culture of the court both encouraged her to dream of a romantic marriage and gave her the vocabulary to articulate her opposition to the match arranged for her.

However unappealing Mary considered the aging king of France as a prospective husband, Louis anticipated the union with pleasure, excitement, and growing impatience. To him, the princess represented youth, beauty, and the possibility, however remote, of finally producing a male heir. In September, Henry sent an embassy headed by Charles, earl of Worcester, to make sure the French carried out their obligations under the marriage treaty before Mary arrived with her huge dowry. On 3 October 1514 word reached Paris that Mary herself had finally landed in Nor- mandy. The king responded by inviting the earl into his chamber to show him "the goodliest and the richest sight of jewels [that ever?] I saw." Worcester could scarcely believe the size and value of the collection on display and described it to Henry in great detail. Louis told him he was planning to give all the jewels to his wife; however, "merrily laughing," he said, "my wife shall not have all at once . . .for he would have many and at diverse times kisses [and] thanks for them." In a letter written later that day, Worcester reported that Louis "hath a marvelous mind to content and please the queen" and that nothing could displease him since he had heard of Mary's arrival. "I assure you," he told Henry, "he thinks every [hour] a day til he seeth her . . . I make no doubt but she shall have a good life with him. . . ."37 Neither Louis nor Worcester seemed to consider their image of Mary happily exchanging her sexual favors and affection for jewelry an insulting one. The at- titude toward women implicit in their conversation helps to ex- plain the ease with which elite men exchanged their daughters and sisters for their own political and economic advantage.

Mary's wedding took place at Abbeville, in Normandy, on 9 October. On the day of their marriage, Louis gave her "a marvelous great pointed diamond with a ruby almost two inches long." After their first night together, an anonymous Venetian observed that the king seemed "very jovial and gay, and in love, [to judge] by his countenance." True to his word, he gave his wife a ruby two and a half inches long and "as big as a man's finger." The second morning he gave her a "great diamond set with a "great round pearl hang- ing" from it. Henry's ambassadors reported that the queen was with Louis continually; Mary told them the king "maketh as much [of her] . . . as it is possible for any man to make of a lad~."~8

Despite the ambasssadorsf glowing accounts and Louis's obvious infatuation with Mary, an incident occurred the day after their wedding that demonstrated the real distribution of power in their marriage. A group of aristocratic women, headed by the duchess of Norfolk, had accompanied Mary to France. The group included eight young ladies-in-waiting who expected to remain with Mary under the supervision of Lady Jane Guildford after the rest of the wedding party returned to England. Lady Jane-the sister, wife, and mother of prominent courtiers-had herself had a long dis- tinguished career serving Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, and their two daughters. Mary, who called her "mother Guildford," had come to love and depend on her after her own mother's death when she was only eight years old.

The morning after the wedding, Louis peremptorily dismissed Lady Guildford and a number of the other women, as well as Mary's chamberlain and male servants. Mary, who was distraught, wrote Henry and his chief advisor, Thomas Wolsey, arch- bishop of York, begging them to do everything they could to secure permission for Lady Jane to return. She complained that the women left with her had neither the experience nor the knowledge to give her advice "in time of need," an eventuality she feared would occur sooner than expected at the time she left England "as my mother Guildford can more plainly show your grace than I can write." Her comment was probably an oblique reference to her husband's poor health and her belief that he did not have long to live. Mary blamed the duke of Norfolk for giving way to Louis's demands without protest, a shrewd attempt to enlist the archbishop's support because Norfolk was his chief rival on Henrfs council.39

A few days later, the duke of Suffolk reported the news he had heard about the crisis during his journey to Paris to participate in the tournaments in honor of Mary's coronation. The duke, Wolsey's political ally, also blamed Norfolk for Mary's misfortune and advised the archbishop to do everything he could to rectify

Wolsey wrote to Louis immediately on the pretext that the French king had once asked him to advise him "as if I were of your Privy Council." He explained that Henry had sent Lady Guildford with Mary because of her experience and knowledge of French. Henry was worried about his sister, who was very young and knew none of the ladies at the French court and was particularly concerned lest her health suffer if she had no one to confide in. The archbishop may have been referring delicately to the possibili- ty of Mary's becoming pregnant, a time when she would be anxious for the advice of an older woman she trusted. Wolsey advised the king to reconsider his decision, assuring him he would find Lady Jane "wise and discreet." He excused his boldness in writing on the ground that he was motivated solely by a desire to be "of

Despite her distress at the dismissal of her servants, Mary was aware of her vulnerability and took pains not to anger or disap- point her husband. A few days later, when Suffolk visited the king and queen for the first time, he reported enthusiastically that "there never was a queen nor lady that ordered her self more honorably or more wiselier . . . and as for the king, there was never man that set his mind more upon [woman] than he does on her, because she demeans herself so winning unto him, the which I am sure [is] no little comfort unto your grace." Suffolk com- mented that he was particularly pleased by her behavior "your grace knows why."42 This enigmatic remark suggests that the duke felt he had a personal interest in Mary's success in France. Perhaps Henry had made his promise about her second marriage condi- tional on her pleasing Louis.

On this occasion, even Wolsefs best efforts were of no avail. In early November, Worcester sent him a long letter indicating that Louis would not permit Lady Guildford to return under any cir- cumstances.

And he hath answered me that his wife and he be in good and perfect love as ever two creatures can be, and both of age to rule themself, and not to have servants that should like to rule him or her. If his wife need of council or to be ruled, he is able to do it. But he was sure it was never the queen's mind nor desire to have her again. For as soon as she came a land, and also when he was married, she began to take upon her not only to rule the Queen, but also that she should not come to him, but she should be with her. . . . And then he swore that there was never man that better loved his wife than he did, but or [ere] he would have such a woman about her, he had lever to be without her.

In what must have been a difficult admission, the French king referred to his "sickly body" and told Worcester he was self-conscious about being "merry with his wife" in the presence of a strange w0rnan.4~ At that point, Worcester, who recognized nothing further could be done, told Louis he was satisfied and was sure Henry would be too.44

Mary bowed to the inevitable and made no further efforts to secure Lady Guildford's return. A week later, she wrote her brother that Louis treated her more and more lovingly each day. The only sign of Mary's continued anxiety was that she privately told Suffolk and the marquess of Dorset, also in France for the cor- onation tournament, that "she had need of some friends about the king." Because no influential English men could remain with her, they arranged for leading members of the pro-English faction at the French court to advise her. In the meantime, Dorset told Wolsey that Mary "continues in her goodness and wisdom, and increases in the favor of her husband and the Privy Co~ncil.'"~

Louis's abrupt dismissal of Lady Guildford not only rid his court of a woman he considered a threat to his marriage but also pointedly warned Mary that he fully intended to assert his authori- ty over her and that she should beware of confusing his romantic feelings for her with a complacent attitude about his prerogatives as a husband. The whole episode underscored Mary's dependent position and isolation. Not only had she lost the emotional and practical support of her surrogate mother, but she had also learned how little she could expect from her brother. Although Wolsey had written to Louis advising him to allow Lady Guildford to return, both he and Henry backed down as soon as they realized how strongly the king felt on the subject. They were not willing to endanger the French alliance by arguing too persistently on Mary's behalf. What becomes painfully clear is that the very purpose of the arranged marriage, to advance the interests of the patrilineage, insured that a woman's family would seldom support her against her husband: if they did, they risked losing the advantages the marriage was meant to secure in the first place. The isolation of Elizabeth, duchess of Norfolk, married two years before Mary at the age of sixteen, who quarreled with her husband, the third duke, when he brought his mistress to live in their home, provides another example of this phenomenon. The duchess's brother, Henry Stafford, reproved her for not acquiescing in what she con- sidered an intolerable situation because of "the great honour that she is come to by that noble man her husband, and in what possibility she was in to do all her friends good."46

Thrown back on her own resources, Mary responded by doing her best to captivate her husband and avoid further quarrels. Con- sciously or not, she reverted to the pattern of her relationship with her brother-depending on her charm and beauty to get her way and retreating gracefully whenever necessary. Significantly, both Suffolk and Dorset made their favorable comments about her behavior toward Louis after the explusion of Lady Guildford.

The scenes at the French court just before and just after Mary's wedding illustrate the way in which the arranged marriage both encouraged and reflected contempt for women. The male voices we hear in the letters describing these events did not consider women adults or responsible moral agents in the same sense as men. Louis XII's conversation with the earl of Worcester, which indicated he expected Mary to exchange her affection and sexual favors for jewels, shows little respect for-or even recogniton of -her independent feelings. After their marriage, Louis conflated her with his other possessions and described her as "the greatest jewel that ever one prince had of another." Even Suffolk, presumably in love with Mary, appeared to be indifferent to her feelings about the role she was playing. Indeed, he was proud of her "winning" behavior to the king, not repelled or even jealous of it, because he knew it would please

Fortunately for Mary, her belief that Louis had but a short time to live proved to be accurate: the French king died on 31 December, only eighty-two days after their wedding. Mary was well aware that she was once again a valuable asset on the Euro- pean marriage market, particularly because rumors were circulating that she was still a virgin.dE The options facing her were clear: she could remain in France as a dowager queen; acquiesce in a second dynastic marriage on the continent, arranged either by her brother or the new French king, Francis I; or try to convince Henry VIII to allow her to marry the duke of Suffolk as he had promised. Given these options and the loneliness, isolation, and unhappiness she had obviously felt during her short marriage to Louis, Mary's choices were perfectly predictable: her first priority was returning to England; her second, marrying the man of her choice.

As Mary well knew, Francis had both financial and political motives for preventing her from leaving France. Under the terms of her marriage treaty, he would have to return her dowry and trousseau and pay her huge dower abroad each year for the rest of her life. Mary also expected to keep the jewelry and plate Louis had given her. In similar circumstances, her own father, Henry VII, had refused to permit Katherine of Aragon to return to Spain when her fist husband, Prince Arthur, died. Furthermore, if Francis prevented her departure, he might be able to force her to marry for his own advantage. Indeed, within weeks of Louis's death, observers at the French court reported that he intended to wed her to Charles, duke of Savoy.d9

Finally, Francis, who was just Mary's age and found his own wife dull and unattractive, began to spend a scandalous amount of time alone with the bereaved young widow. Mary wrote to Henry that she was in "extreme pain and annoyance" on account of "such suit as the French king made unto me not according with my honor."50 The duke of Suffolk, head of the delegation to negotiate Marfs return, repeated her complaint after he arrived in Paris."51

Tormented by these fears, Mary took matters into her own hands. When the French king asked her directly whether she had "made any promise of marriage," assuring her that he "would do for me therein to the best of his power," she replied that she would open her heart to him if he promised "as he was a true prince that he would keep her counsel and . . . help her to her desire." In response, Francis placed his hands between Marfs and swore to help her. With this gesture, the feudal ritual of homage, he sym- bollically assumed the position of her vassal.52

Mary then revealed her secret and explained the "good mind which for diverse considerations I bear to my lord of Suffolk." She asked Francis to support their marriage and to help her secure Henry's consent by writing to him in his own hand. The French king agreed and wrote to Henry sometime during February. He also vowed not to trouble Mary further with proposals she con- sidered dishonorable and dramatically pledged to treat her from then on as he would his own mother. Mary had thus skillfully used the chivalric culture of the court to turn Francis, whom Suf- folk described as "he that 1 feared most,"53 into a champion of their marriage. Although she believed-or at least pretended to be- lieve-that Francis had responded gallantly to her pleas as a woman in distress, the French king's real motives were probably far less disinterested. He had evidently concluded that Mary would never consent to a match he arranged and wanted to pre- vent Henry from gaining a diplomatic advantage from her second marriage either.

Surprisingly, given the temptation to use Mary to promote English foreign policy, Henry was prepared to keep his promise to her. In a letter to the king about the marriage, Suffolk noted in passing "you are so special good lord unto me that I should obtain the same [i.e., the marriage]," which he would hardly have done unless he was sure of Henry's approval.54 After the duke arrived in France to negotiate Mary's return to England, Wolsey reassured him unequivocally "that the king continueth firmly in his good mind and purpose toward you, for the accomplishment of the said marriage."55 Although there is no direct evidence about Henry's motives, he apparently attached more importance to his affection for Mary and Suffolk and to the dishonor involved in breaking a promise than to the benefit of arranging a second dynastic mar- riage for his sister. Like Francis 1, he may also have felt it would be futile to try to coerce her a second time.

Despite his intention, Henry refused to agree publicly to the marriage. He probably hoped to gain some diplomatic advantage from Mary's temporary widowhood by pretending she was on the marriage market once again. He also faced strong opposition to the match at court and on the council. Except for Wolsey, all his leading advisors spoke against it because they feared the increased influence it would give Suffolk. On one occasion, the archbishop reported that if the marriage failed "allmen here, except his grace and myself, would be right glad; on another, that "there be daily on every side practices made to the let [i.e., prevention] of the same [i.e., the marriage] .56

Thus, although Henry was willing to let Mary marry Suffolk, he wanted to control the sequence of events and to extract as much advantage as he could from taking an unpopular course. In his view, securing the return of Mary's dowry and gaining possession of the jewelry she had received from Louis were far more impor- tant than the timing of her second marriage. He insisted that his sister remain in France until these issues were resolved and that she postpone her wedding until after her return to England.

The connection between Mary's return to England, her union with Suffolk, and the negotiations in France explain why Henry appointed the duke, neither an experienced nor particularly astute ambassador, as head of the delegation to the French court. He thought Suffolk would negotiate successfully because his marriage depended on the results of his mission. Wolsey also undoubtedly encouraged Henry to choose him to prevent the appointment of the duke of Norfolk, who had headed the delegation to France at the time of Mary's wedding.

Nonetheless, Henry was worried that Mary would convince Suf- folk to act precipitously once he arrived in Paris. To forestall that possibility, he forced him to swear "in his hand that he would not marry his sister in France. Wolsey witnessed the curious ceremony at Eltham shortly before the duke's departdre. Suffolk pledged not to break his oath even if he were "torn with wild horsese1'57

While Henry equivocated publicly, alarming reports reached Mary that he intended to renew the imperial alliance by offering her to Charles V. At her first private meeting with Suffolk, she ac- tually accused him of planning to take her to Flanders for that pur- pose. Her romantic attachment to Suffolk had obviously not blind- ed her to the fact that his fist loyalty was to her brother. To make matters worse, two English friars who visited Mary about this time predicted that Henry's council would never consent to the marriage and that it would be prohibited once she returned to England. Suffolk was convinced that opponents of the match had instigated this obvious effort to frighten and discourage her.58

It was because of the strength of the opposition to their marriage at court and on the council that Mary and Suffolk attached so much importance to Francis I's promise to write to Henry on their behalf. They knew that as self-consciously a courteous and honor- able king as Henry would feel great pressure to grant a favor re- quested by a fellow monarch. Furthermore, as Suffolk himself wrote, if Henry permitted the match as a favor to the French king, he "shall be marvelously discharged [i.e., excused] . . . against his council as all the other noble men in his realm."59

Meanwhile, Wolsey warned Mary not to say anything "whereby any person in those parts may have [you] at any advantage," being particularly careful not to entertain "any notions of marriage. . . . And thus doing ye shall not fail to have the king fast and loving to you, to attain to your desire [and come] home again." Mary thanked the archbishop for his "good countenance and good lessons" but objected to his lack of confidence in her. "And whereas you advise me that I should make no promise, my Lord, I trust the king my brother and you will not reckon in me such childhood." She ex- plicitly promised to "be ordered" by the king and his c0uncil.6~

At the same time, Mary wrote the first of many letters to Henry emphasizing her devotion to him, her dependence on his goodwill, and her desire to please him. He was, she said, "all the comfort" she had in the world; "both a father and a brother [who] . . . sympathized in her most need." She cared for nothing but his "good and kind mind." Indeed, "she prayed god that she might live no longer than she should do that thing that should be to your [i.e., Henry's] content ."61

Mary begged Henry over and over for license to return to England. She assured him she was ready to leave on a day's notice. His ambassadors reported that she "counts every day a hundred until she may see your grace." When Henry failed to send for her, she wrote that she wanted to see him "above all things in this world."62

In addition to appealing to Henry's affection for her, Mary tried to bribe him into consenting to the marriage she desired. At their very fist interview, Suffolk had convinced her that the best way to gain Henry's approval was to satisfy his obsessive desire for the plate and jewelry Louis had given her. Within days of their meeting, she "freely" signed a bill offering Henry all the gold plate and gold vessels and his "choice of such special jewels as my said late husband, king of France, gave me."63

Once Mary and Suffolk knew that Henry had received Francis's letter supporting their marriage, they urged him to respond favorably without delay. The duke warned that if Henry refused, the French king would feel free to renew his dishonorable pro- posals to Mary. In addition, Mary appealed to "allthe love that it liked your grace to bear me" and noted sorrowfully that if he denied her petition "I am well assured to lead as desolate a life as ever had creature, and which I know well shall be mine end."64

A long letter from Wolsey to Suffolk made the king's price for consenting to the marriage clear. Henry claimed all the gold and jewels Louis XI1 had given his sister in return for "his lenient mind which he beareth unto you and the queen [i.e., Mary] for the ac- complishment of your desires." The archbishop warned the duke that everything depended on the success of his negotiations with France. Under no circumstances could Mary and Suffolk marry or return to England before the duke reached a satisfactory agree- ment with the French. Henry also refused to answer Francis's let- ter affirmati~ely.~~

While Mary and Suffolk anxiously awaited replies to their let- ters, the widowed queen continued to display the deference and submissiveness customary in her attitude toward Henry. Despite appearances, however, she had already decided to act independently. Subsequent events even suggest that Mary's confes- sion to Francis was not as spontaneous as it seemed, because she considered his support for her marriage to the duke essential for the success of her plan.

At her first private meeting with Suffolk in early February, Mary poured out all her worries and fears to him- that the French king would dishonor her; that she would not be allowed to marry Suf- folk after they returned to England; and, most of all, that she was going to be taken to Flanders to be married against her will. "And with that," to quote Suffolk, "[she] wept. Sir, I never saw woman so weep." When he could not console her, the duke said he would marry her in France if Mary could get Henry's permission "or else I durst not, because I had made unto your grace such a promise."66 But this did not satisfy Mary. Since her brother had already agreed to their marriage verbally, she insisted, "I will have the time after my desire"; and presented the hapless duke with an ultimatum, "I put [my lord of Suffolk] in choice [whether he would] accomplish the marriage within four days, or else that he should never have enjoyed me." She later confessed, "I know well, that I constrained him to break such promises as he made to your grace, as well for fear of losing of me, as also that I ascertained him . . . I would never come into England."67 Should her worst fears prove to be correct, Mary would reveal the clandestine union to Henry; if all went well, she and the duke would marry publicly at her brothex's court without revealing their secret.

The combination of Mary's tears and ultimatum overwhelmed Suffolk. Considering the risk he was taking, he capitulated with remarkable ease. The duke subsequently explained his behavior with disarming frankness in a letter to the king: "I chose rather to put me in your mercy than to lose all, and so . . . she and I was married."68 He apparently took Mary's ultimatum seriously; was unwilling to give up the power, status, and wealth he would gain as Henry's brother-in-law; and counted on his intimate friendship with the king to save him from the consequences of his disobe- dience. At no time did Suffolk mention romantic feelings for Mary, as she did in her letters about him, which strengthens the impression that he was moved less by passion than ambition and worldly considerations.

The wedding actually took place before ten witnesses sometime between 15 and 20 February 1515. The delinquent couple then consummated their union to prevent Henry from annulling their marriage whatever happened in the future. "To be plain with your grace," Mary remarked some weeks later, "I have so bound myself to him that for no cause earthly I will or may vary or change from the same."69

After she had taken this irrevocable step, Mary wrote to Henry in a new, more assertive tone. She reminded him of the promise he had made about her second marriage and threatened, "An [i.e., if] your grace will have granted me married in any place saving where- as my mind is . . . you shall hear that I will be in some religious house, the which I think your grace would be very sorry of, and all your realm . . . where never [no] man nor woman shall have joy of me."7O There is no way of knowing how serious Mary's threat was, but she was certainly trying to impress Henry with her deterrnina- tion. She obviously assumed that both her brother and the public at large would be horrified if she became a nun.

The more insistent tone in Mary's letter undoubtedly reflected the pressure she felt as Suffolk's negotiations with the French drag- ged on and rumors about the wedding began to circulate. As early as 22 February, Thomas Spinelly, the English ambassador to Flanders, reported a "great rumor" about the marriage but dis- counted it "as a false surmise to the Queen's dishonor."71 Mean- while, Henry's excessive demands prevented the duke from con- cluding an agreement. The French were willing to return Mary's dowry and trousseau, including all the English jewelry and plate, as her marriage treaty required. But, in addition, Henry wanted all the jewelry and plate Louis had given her and reimbursement for the cost of sending Mary to France the previous autumn. Even the English ambassadors thought his demands unreasonable.72

To complicate matters further, Mary told her husband she was pregnant in early March. In fact, Mary did not give birth to her first child until March 1516, twelve months later. Whether she was mistaken about the pregnancy, suffered an unrecorded miscar- riage, or purposely misled Suffolk to force hito reveal their union is unknown. What is clear is her extreme reluctance to return to England until her brother had accepted her marriage and par- doned both her and Suffolk for their di~obedience.7~ In any case, her announcement convinced the duke that they could not con- ceal their marriage much longer, whatever the state of negotia- tions with France, because Mary's honor and the legitimacy of a potential heir to the throne were at stake.

Faced with ruin by the unforeseen turn of events, Suffolk con- fessed everything to Wolsey. He begged the archbishop to help in the present crisis and declared sorrowfully that he had "as heavy a heart as any man living." He also asked Wolsey not to reveal his secret to Henry, observing, rather belatedly, "I had rather died than he should be miscontented."74

A week later, sick with worry because he had not yet heard from Wolsey, Suffolk wrote again. For the fist time, he explicitly requested permission to marry Mary openly in France, "seeing that this privy marriage is done and that I think none otherwise but that she is with child." A public wedding was the only way to save his honor and the king's. "Me lord, for the reverence of God, help that I may be married as I go out of France openly. . .for the king's honor and profit and for mine." Interestingly, he ignored the ques- tion of Mary's honor completely, accepting the common law doc- trine that a woman had no separate identity once she became a


On the same day, Suffolk, who understood that ultimately he and Mary would have to buy Henry's favor, sent Wolsey one of the most valuable jewels Louis had given her. "To induce the queen's matter and mine to the king's grace, I think best for your first entry you should deliver unto hi a diamond with a great pearl." He also repeated Mary's promise to give Henry his choice of her jewels when she returned to England. In a separate note, Mary told Henry obsequiously, "I and all mine is at your grace's com- mandment and pleasure."76

Unfortunately, Suffolk could not report much progress in the negotiations with the French. In addition, Suffolk's enemies at court were trying to destroy him by exploiting the failure of his mission and the increasingly insistent rumors that he had married the king's sister. They insinuated he was betraying Henry in return for Francis's support of the marriage.77 These accusations, tanta- mount to a charge of treason, were particularly dangerous because the duke was unable to defend himself in person.

Suffolk had no idea how precarious his position was until he heard from Wolsey sometime during the third week of March. Despite the duke's request, Wolsey had betrayed his confidence to the king "seeing the same toucheth not only his honour, your pro- mise to his grace, and [i.e., but] also my truth towards the same." Henry exploded and ordered the archbishop to tell Suffolk he felt completely "deceived of the constant and assured trust that he thought to have found in you." Wolsey warned ominously, "ye put yourself in the greatest danger that ever man was in." He doubted that even he could save the duke "considering that you have failed to him which hath brought you up of low degree to be of this great honor, and that you were the man in all the world he loved and trusted best, and was content that with good order and saving of his honor, you should have in marriage his said sister."78

Nevertheless, Wolsey gave Suffolk the best advice he could. Although he claimed to be speaking "of mine own head. . . in great doubt whether the same shall make your peace or no," he had evidently worked out the price for Mary's and Suffolk's pardon with the king. In addition to giving Henry her entire dowry and trousseau and all the plate and jewels she had received from Louis, Mary had to pay him £4,000 a year from her dower for the rest of her life. Although the price was high, Wolsey warned Suffolk not to quibble, given the danger he was in.79

In response to Wolsey's letter, Suffolk wrote twice directly to Henry. He did not try to justify himself to the king, since he knew -and perhaps even agreed -that nothing he said could ex- cuse his disobedience. Instead, he abjectly acknowledged his guilt, begging Henry to forgive him for his offenses and protect him against his enemies. In support of his plea for mercy, he reminded the king that he had never displeased him "saving the love and marriage of the queen." He specifically denied betraying Henry to the French.

But most of all, in a shrewd estimate of Henry's character, Suf- folk emphasized his absolute dependence on and love for the king. Despite the strength and maliciousness of his enemies, he did not fear them as long as Henry protected him "for in you been all and ever all and shall be all." Now that he saw how angry Henry was and recognized the extent of his misjudgment, he regretted his decision. What caused him the greatest pain was that he had disappointed the best master any man had ever had. "Sir, rather than you should have me in mistrust in your heart that I should not be true to you, as this may be accused, strike off me head and let me not live." Finally, he accepted the terms set out in Wolsey's letter: if the jewels and plate Mary received from Louis did not satisfy Henry, she would give him whatever he wanted from her dower. Indeed, "there is nothing that grieves me, but she nor I have no more to content your grace."8O

Mary assumed an increasingly passive role in the crisis that followed Suffolk's confession to Wolsey. Her behavior contrasted dramatically with the initiative she had taken and the determina- tion she had displayed during the short period between Louis's death and her second marriage. Once she was remarried, she quickly slipped into a subordinate role. Suffolk took over the negotations about their financial settlement with the king, although all the money, jewelry, and plate involved belonged to his wife. What is most striking is the duke's assumption that the key issues were his relationship to the king and their honor. Mary and Suffolk both apparently assumed that he was head of the family, that his interests were paramount, and that he was entitled to treat her property as his own. However unconventional the origins of their marriage, they did not question prevailing ideas about the appropriate relationship of husband and wife. Indeed, what Mary and Suffolk's behavior shows is that in a society as committed to hierarchical relations between women and men as early Tudor England, romantic love and the claim to choose one's mate do not necessarily result in more egalitarian relations bet- ween husband and wife.

The correspondence from this period reflects the new balance in Mary's relationship with her husband. From late February, Wolsey wrote exclusively to Suffolk.81 In addition, Mary's letters suppressed her own voice, with its spontaneous and familiar tone, as she deferred to Suffolk and Wolsey.82 There were no more let- ters like the defiant one she sent Henry shortly after her wedding. The change is particularly evident in the two she wrote just before returning to England. The fist was Mary's own response to her brother's anger at her marriage. Unlike Suffolk, she tried to justify their action by explaining the fears and rumors that had motivated them. She was particularly concerned to exculpate her husband, who was in far greater danger than she, and assumed responsibili- ty through a detailed account of her ultimatum. Although she referred to herself as "your most sorrowful sister," she "humbly re- quired rather than "begged foi' compassion, a choice of words that explicitly avoided the abject and desperate quality of Suffolk's pleas to the king.83

This dignified letter did not satisfy Henry. Wolsey therefore wrote another for Mary to copy and send her brother. She com- plied sometime in late April. This time Mary appealed at length to Henry's promise that she could choose her second husband herself and to his reputation for keeping his word. She also referred to "the great and tender love which ever hath been and shall be between you and me." In addition, and here Wolsey's hand is obvious, she repeated her undertaking to give Henry her whole dowry and trousseau, the plate and jewels she had from Louis, and as much of her dower as he wanted. Throughout, Mary "beseeched rather than "req~ired."8~

In mid-April the crisis about Mary and Suffolk's marriage began to dissolve. The first sign was that Henry accepted a compromise agreement with the French. On the fourteenth of the month, Mary acknowledged that Francis had returned the cash equivalent of half her dowry and the jewels that made up the other half. On the sixteenth, she signed a receipt for jewelry that originally belonged to her first husband.85 She left Paris the same day. Sometime before her departure, she married Suffolk for a second time, on this occasion with the king of France as a witness.86 After her ar- rival at Calais, she wrote Henry that she would not venture fur- ther into his realm until she received word indicating his "good and loving mind toward her marriage.87

Although no replies to either of Mary's letters have survived, she must have received adequate assurances about the future, for she and Suffolk returned to England on 2 May 1515. Mary met privately with her brother the next day. She told him firmly that her marriage to Suffolk was "not only concluded and determined, but was secretly perfected, finished, and solemnized." She reiterated that her husband was not to blame for their disobe- dience "since this proceeded entirely on her own wish, and the very singular love that she bore him . . .not at all from his procura- tion or pursuit." She concluded by asking Henry "to take and ac- cept [it] in good part, and to be well content at it." Although the king expressed considerable anger, he forgave the couple in deference to the wishes of the French king and archbishop of York.88

Mary and Suffolk's financial settlement with Henry was ob- viously the subject of discussion at this meeting and on subse- quent occasions. On 11 May they agreed in writing to return Mary's dowry to the king, to give him all her plate and jewelry, and to pay him £24,000 to cover his expenses in connection with her first marriage. In addition, Suffolk promised to surrender a valuable wardship to the king.89 Two days later, the couple were married for a third (and final) time in a public ceremony at Green- wich. Henry insisted on the wedding to quiet any remaining doubts about his honor or the legitimacy of Mary's children.gO

The king's affection for his sister and brother-in-law quickly overcame his anger at their disobedience, and they were soon playing a leading role in the social life of the court once again.gl Even more significantly, Henry never insisted on their compliance with the financial agreement they had signed. As late as 1526, the couple had not paid £ 1 of the £24,000 due under the settlement. Mary also retained some of the jewels, plate, and hangings Henry had given her when she first went to France.gz She still had an im- pressive collection of jewels in October 1532, when Henry asked her to lend them to Anne B01eyn.~~

Whether Mary gained the personal happiness she sought in her union with Suffolk is an impossible question to answer, because she never explained what she expected from their marriage. What is clear from the sources, however, is that Henry VIII remained, as he had always been, the center of Suffolk's lie. As the years passed, he spent more and more time at court, particularly after the mid-1520s when his influence and power rose to even greater heights. Mary's life followed a different trajectory. In the first few years after her marriage, she continued to participate in the social life of the court. After 1523, however, when her health began to deteriorate seriously, her appearances became less and less fre- quent. She participated in a public function for the last time in 1527, although she lived for six more years. Unlike Suffolk, Mary opposed Henry's divorce from Katherine of Aragon; Anne Boleyn's growing ascendancy at court undoubtedly reduced its attractions in her eyes. In 1532, indeed, she pointedly refused to join the ex- pedition to introduce Anne Boleyn to Francis I. Mary and Suffolk thus lived together less and less of the time, although there is no record of open conflict between them. When Mary lay dying in the late spring of 1533, her husband was caught up in the prepara- tions for and celebration of Anne Boleyn's coronation. Suffolk was not with her when she died and neither he nor Henry attended her funeral. Six weeks later the duke made another brilliant and profit- able match, this time to his ward, the fourteen-year-old heiress Katherine Willoughby.

The story of Mary Tudois marriages exposes the close connection between the arranged match and the subjection of women in a particularly stark light. It furnishes strong evidence for the argu- ment that the arranged marriage played as central a role in pre- serving the gender hierarchy as in protecting the wealth and political power of elite patrilineages. The economic dependence and legal subordination of aristocratic women made the marriage system possible; at the same time, the provision for women through dowries, the exchange of women to advance the interest of the male lineage, and the patrilocality of marriage all con- tributed to their continued subordination.

Mary's experience also illustrates the oversimplification in- volved when historians assume, on the one hand, a close, even causal, connection between arranged matches and hierarchical, emotionally cool unions and romantic matches and affectionate, egalitarian, companionate unions, on the other. Despite the romantic origins of her marriage, Mary assumed the position of a submissive and subordinated wife from the outset. Because of the priority Suffolk gave to his career at court as the king's best friend, he and Mary spent little time together and never developed the kind of marital partnership that might have increased her leverage in dealing with him. In contrast, many of their contemporaries in arranged matches developed warm, obviously loving relationships and cooperated closely in managing their households, estates, and patronage networks; in these cases, the subordination of the wife was often very muted on a day-to-day basis. Clearly, the way in which marriages were formed was only one of the factors that in- fluenced the subsequent relationship of elite spouses in early Tudor England. The patriarchal structure of society, dominant ideas about gender, men's careers, and the expectations and per- sonalities of specific couples interacted to create a variety of mar- riages that ranged from warm, working partnerships, through hierarchical relationships like Mary's and Suffolk's that became more distant over time, to complete failures that ended in separation or wife abuse.

Finally, the documents about Mary's marriages give us a rare op- portunity to look at the arranged marriage from the perspective of an early Tudor upper-class woman and to analyze her successful struggle for the right to choose her second husband. Significantly, the way Mary achieved her goal underscores the weak structural position of women of her class. She succeeded because of her per- sonal qualities -beauty and charm -and ability to manipulate other people, not because she had any independent authority or power. Mary displayed considerable skill in exploiting the feudal code of behavior and factions at court and in using her pen to state her case, but Henry's genuine affection for Mary and Suffolk and Wolsey's political stake in protecting the duke were more impor- tant than any of Mary's qualities or actions in resolving the crisis as she desired. In different political or emotional circumstances, Mary's determination and boldness might have had disastrous results, as the case of her niece Margaret Douglas clearly shows. In 1536, when Margaret secretly married Thomas Howard, a half- brother of the third duke of Norfolk, Henry imprisoned them both in the Tower of London. Although he soon transferred Margaret to restraint in a convent, Thomas Howard died in the tower fifteen months later.94

The challenge to historians is to move beyond this single case study to a revision of the whole history of upper-class marriage in the early Tudor period. The sources to carry out this project clear- ly exist: all the material I used to write this article has long been available to scholars. What historians need is the sensitivity to hear the female voices embedded in documents from the period and the conceptual framework to explain the significance of gender in the operation of a central social institution.


A National Endowment for the Humanities Travel to Collections Grant and Pace University generously supported the research for this article. I would like to thank Martha Howell, Jo Ann McNamara, Judith Walkowitz, Lois Schwoerer, Joe Slavin, Marilyn Williams, the members of the Columbia University Seminar on Women and Society, and the anonymous readers of Feminist Studies for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977), 85-89.

Ibid., 178-83;Lawrence Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19651, 594-97.

Upper-class widows, who were legally independent and possessed incomes from their jointures or dowers, are obvious exceptions.

Norman Davis, ed., Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Centuy (Oxford: Claren- don Press, 1971), 4: 342-43, 409, 541; 2: 498-500. Although this marriage took place before the beginning of the early Tudor period, it is relevant, because the structure of upper-class marriage did not change between the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

Muriel St. Clare Byrne, The Lisle Letters (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 19811, 3: 22.

Ibid., 3: 458-59; M.A.E. Green, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain (London: Colburn, 18461, 2: 194-97, 283.

See Paston Letters, 4: 662-63.

Cotton MSS., Titus B. 1, fol. 383c. British Library (henceforth BL),London.

Walter C. Richardson, May Tudor, The White Queen (Seattle: University of Washington, 1970), 12 and chap. 5; M.A.E. Wood Green, The Lives of the Princesses of England (London: Henry Coburn, 1854), 5: 16; Edward Hall, Chronicle (1809; reprint, New York: Ames Press, 1965), 514.

Garrett Mattingly, Catherine of Aragon (London: Jonathan Cape, 1963), 97-101, 103-12.

J.S. Brewer, James Gairdner, and R.H., Brodie, eds. Letters and Papers Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII (hereafter cited as L&P) (London: Her Majesty's Sta- tionary Office, 1862-1910), 1 (pt. 2): 5282, 5305, 5322.

Cotton MSS., Caligula D VI, fol. 253, BL.

SP1110, fol. 79. Public Record Office (henceforth PRO).

Caligula D. VI, fols. 246, 246d, 249, BL.

SP1138, fol. 206, PRO.

Leonard Howard, A Collection of Letters from the Original Manuscripts. . . (London: Printed for the Author, 17531, 526.

Larry D. Benson, Maloy's "Morte dzrthur" (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 19761, 137; Arthur B. Ferguson, The Indian Summer of English Chivaly: Studies in the Decline and Transformation of Chivalric Idealism (Durham: Duke University Press, 19601, xii; H.S. Bennett, English Books and Readers, 1475-1557 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- sity Press, 19521, 149.

N.F. Blake, Caxton and His World (New York: London House & Maxwell, 1969), chap. 4 and 224-38.

Bennett, English Books and Readers, 149, 191; Ferguson, 10.

Quoted in Ferguson, 64; see Bennett, English Books and Readers, 149, for figures.

Bennett, English Books and Readers, 192.

Ferguson, 25, 71.

James Gairdner, The Paston Letters, AD 1422-1509, Library Edition (London: Chatto & Windus, 1904), vol. 6, letter 987, pp. 65-66; H.S. Bennett, The Pastons and Their England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 112; J. Raine, ed. Testaments Eboracensia, A Selection of Wills from the Registry at York, vol. 4, Surtees Society, vol. 53 (1968), 102; J.R.H. Weaver and A. Beardwood, eds., Some Oxfordshire Wills Proved in the Perogative Court of Canterbury, 1393-1510, Oxfordshire Record Society, vol. 39 (1958), 42; J.P. Collier, ed., Household Books ofjohn [Howard] Duke ofNorfolk and Thomas, Earl of Surrey, 1481-1490, Roxburgh Club (London: William Nicol, Shakespeare Press, 1844), xxvii; Royal MS. 17E I1 and 18D ii, BL; Dictionary of National Biography, 1921 ed.; s.v. "Nicholas Carew," 986.

Charles Henry Cooper, Memoir of Margaret, Countess of Richmond and Derby (Cam- bridge: Deighton, Bell & Co., 1874), 45-46, 132-33.

Royal MSS., 13A I, V; 14D 11-VI; 14E 111; 15A XXII; 15B XI; 15E VI; 16F IX; 16G 1-11; 17E 11; 20C 11, BL; and Henry Omont, "Les Manuscrits fran~ais des rois d'Angleterre," Etudes romanes d&di&es a Gaston Paris (Paris: Emile Bouillon, 1891), 5-12.

Larry Benson, "Courtly Love and Chivalry in the Later Middle Ages," in Fifteenth- Century Studies, Recent Essays, ed. Robert F. Yeager (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 19841, 238; John F. Benton, "Clio and Venus: An Historical View of Medieval Love," in The Meaning of Courtly Love, ed. F.X. Newman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1968), 30-32; N.K. Coghill, "Love and 'Foul Delight': Some Contrasted Attitudes,"

in Patterns of Love and Courtesy, ed. John Lawlor (Evanston: University of Illinois Press, 1966), 142-47; Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo- Norman and Middle English Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 136;E. Talbot Donaldson, Speaking ofChaucer (New York: W.W. Norton, 1970), 159-60; Henry Angsar Kelly, Love and Marriage in the Age of Chaucer (Ithaca: Cornell University

Press, 1975), esp. 31-39.

Benson, "Courtly Love and Chivalry," 238-39; Benton, "Clio and Venus," 23; Kelly, Love and Marriage. See reviews of Love and Marriage-by Derek Brewer in Review of English Studies 228 (May 1977): 194-97; by R.T. Davies in Modern Language Review 73 (1978): 871-74; by Michael Ruddick in Western Humanities Review 30 (Winter 1976): 66; and by Lawrence K. Shook in Speculum 52 (July 1977): 701-02. See also Crane, chaps. 4-5; Ferguson, 66; John Lawlor, "The Pattern of Consolation in 'The Book of the Duchess,"' Speculum 31 (1956): 626-33; and David Starkey, "The Age of the Household: Politics, Society, and the Arts c. 1350-1550," in The Context of English Literature: The Later Middle Ages, ed. Stephen Medcalf (London: Methuen, 1981), 236-41.

This is the fundamental thesis of Insular Romance.

Benson, Malory's "Morte dArthur," 136-61; Crane, chap. 5; and Ferguson, chaps. 1-2.

Benson, Malory's "Morte &Arthur," 157-61; Crane, 179-88.

Crane, esp. chap. 5; and Ferguson, 58-68.

Lawlor, "The Pattern of Consolation in 'The Book of the Duchess,"' 628-31.

Ferguson, 13-17, 25, 68-72; Sydney Anglo, Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19691, 118-19; Hall, 511, 520.

Mattingly, 97-101, 103-12; David Loades, The Tudor Court (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 19871, 98.

Mattingly, 98.

Hall, 510, 517-19.

Caligula D. VI, fols. 201-201d, BL.

Ibid., fol. 203, BL; Calendar ofstate Papers, Venetian (London: HSMO, 1864-71), 2:


Caligula D. VI, fols. 146, 257 (12 Oct.), BL.

Ibid., fol. 150 (20 Oct.).

L&P, 1 (pt. 2), 2d ed., 3381.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 152.

Ibid., fol. 205 (6 Nov.).

See L&P 1 (pt. 21, 2d ed., 3440.

Cotton MSS., Vespasian F. 111, fols. 50, 160; Caligula D. VI, fol. 196, BL.

Harris, "Marriage Sixteenth-Century Style," 374.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 152, BL.

Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, 5: 78; SPlI10, fol. 9, PRO.

L&P, 2: 114 (4 Feb. 1515); Caligula D. VI, fol. 253.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 248d (15 Feb.).

Ibid., fols. 163, 165 (8 Feb. 1515), BL.

Ibid, fols. 163, 167, 248.

Ibid., fol. 248d; fols. 248, 256; Francis wrote before 15 Feb. 1515; fol. 165 (8 Feb. 1515);fol. 177 j3 Feb. 1515).

Ibid., fol. 163d.

SPlI10, fol. 42, PRO.

Ibid., fols. 21, 42, 71.

Ibid., fol. 82.

Caligula D. IV, fol. 191; D. VI, fols. 184d, 186, 191, 246d, BL.

Ibid., fol. 177.

Ibid., fols. 273, 281 (10 Jan. 1515).

Ibid., fols. 165, 255.

Ibid., fols. 213, 252, 255.

SP1110, fol. 81 (9 Feb. 15151, PRO. Suffolk saw Mary for the first time on 5 or 6 Feb. 1515. See Caligula D. VI, fols. 165, 213.

Caligula D. VI, fols. 163d, 248-250, BL; quotations from 249d.

SP1110, fol. 71, PRO.

Ibid., fol. 186 for both quotations.

Ibid., fols. 186, 246d-247.

Ibid., fol. 186.

Ibid., fol. 79.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 253, BL.

L&P, 2 (pt. 1): 180.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 221d (26 Feb. 15151, BL.

Ibid., fol. 186; SP1110, fol. 79, PRO.

Caligula D. VI, fol. 180 (5 Mar. 15151, BL.

SP1110, appendix 7, fols. 88-89 (12 Mar. 15151, PRO.

SP1110, fol. 81 (5 Mar. 15151, PRO; Vespasian F. 111, fol. 41 (6 Mar. 15151, BL.

Louise of Savoy, Francis 1's mother and the most influential person at his court, also wrote to Henry in favor of the marriage. See Caligula D. XI, fols. 86, 183, BL.

The letter was written after Suffolk's letter of 12 Mar. (see SP1110, fol. 82, PRO) and before Mary's of 22. Mar. (see Caligula, D. VI, fol. 258, BL). All quotations from this paragraph from this letter.

SP1110, fol. 82d, PRO.

Caligula D. VI, fols. 183-86 and 188, BL (both undated) for this and the previous paragraph.

See Mary's reference in Caligula D. VI, fol. 258, BL.

For example, see ibid., fols. 258 and Vespasian, F. 111, fol. 41.

Caligula D. VI, fols. 246-47, BL; 247 for quoted words.

84. SP1110, fols. 79, 151d, PRO; Green, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, 1: 203.

L&P, 2 (pt. 1): 319, 320, 327.

The marriage probably took place on 30 Mar. 1515; see Richardson, 173-74.

SP1110, fol. 79, PRO.

88. Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, 5: 102-3.

L&P, 2 (pt. 1): 436.

Green, Lives of the Princesses of England, 5: 103.

Ibid., 110-11; Calendar ofstate Papers, Venetian, 2: 638; L&P, 2 (pt. 1): 1153.

SPBIC, f01. 297, 310-11, PRO.

Richardson, 253.

94. Green, Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, 2: 283; Byrne, 3: 458-59; L&P, 9: 994.

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