The Life and Historical Reputation of Mary Tudor

Chapter 4 : The Storm Breaks

In 1531, with the divorce dragging on and Anne Boleyn becoming more demanding, Henry finally banished Katharine of Aragon from court and separated Mary from her mother in the summer of that year. They never saw each other again. Mary, conscious of her position, was careful not to burn her bridges with her father even after he married Anne in 1533. It was the birth of Elizabeth in September, 1533, that brought about a drastic change in the relationship between Henry and Mary. The King was not a man to enjoy confrontation but he now had two daughters, a discarded wife and, in Anne Boleyn, a Queen who would not let the rights of her newborn child come second to those of someone she regarded as a bastard.

So, in the space of a matter of weeks, Mary’s status and household were drastically altered. She was required to return plate and jewels to her father, (she refused with disdain initially), her lady governess was dismissed and her household reduced. And, even more unbearable for one with the pride of her mother’s Spanish blood and the determination of the Tudors, she was no longer to bear the title of a royal princess. Instead, she became the Lady Mary, a King’s illegitimate daughter, with no right to inherit the English throne.

At seventeen years old, Mary’s world crumbled around her. The next three years would be the most miserable of her life. If her behaviour was not always wise, it was certainly consistent. She did what very few others managed successfully – she defied her father. And she despised Anne Boleyn, the hated concubine, the scheming daughter of a junior aristocrat, who was determined to destroy her. It is doubtful if any two women in English history have detested each other quite as thoroughly as Mary Tudor and Anne Boleyn and the impact of this venom lasted far into the future, when Mary’s relationship with her adult half-sister, Elizabeth, soured. But it should be stressed, as refutation of the often repeated claim that Mary hated Elizabeth from the moment of her birth, that this is simply not true.

In the nearly three years that Mary was banished from the court, as an unwelcome and deeply unhappy appendage to Elizabeth’s household, Mary refused to accept what Elizabeth stood for – a legitimate child, Henry VIII’s heir, the end of her own parents’ marriage and her own happiness - but there is no indication that she vented any of her frustration on the child herself.bIn fact, they would spend the rest of their father’s reign frequently living in the same establishment; it was only after Henry’s death (and, perhaps significantly, as Elizabeth approached adulthood) that they drifted apart.

Mary was neither alone nor friendless during her exile. She was allowed to keep a few servants with her and the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, interceded on her behalf as often as he could. Frequently ill and resolutely refusing to do the bidding of her ‘minders’, most of whom were either of the Boleyn family or affiliated to them, Mary’s stubbornness exasperated Anne Boleyn. Henry’s second wife did try to mend fences with Mary, whether out of a genuine desire or more politic realisation that an improved relationship would benefit her own situation, is hard to say. Mary always dismissed such advances with an icy hauteur. Yet Anne’s downfall did not bring her the relief she craved. Instead, it made her situation worse.