The Tudor Society

29 March – As foul a lady as the smallpox could make her

On this day in Tudor history, 29th March 1551, Mary Dudley married Henry Sidney. Happy anniversary to Mary and Henry!

Both Mary and Henry served Queen Elizabeth I loyally and for many years, and, unfortunately, Mary suffered a great deal after she nursed the queen through smallpox in 1562.

Find out more about Mary Dudley and Henry Sidney in today's video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1555 - Former Dominican priest and Protestant martyr, John Laurence, was burned at the stake in Colchester.
  • 1564 – Death of Sir Edmund Peckham, Privy Councillor in Mary I's reign, and High Treasurer of all the mints from 1544. He was buried at Denham Church in Buckinghamshire.
  • 1591 – Burial of William Wager, playwright and Church of England clergyman, at the church where he was Rector, St Benet Gracechurch. His plays included “Enough is as Good as a Feast” and “The Longer thou Livest the More Fool thou art”, both polemical Protestant interludes.
  • 1613 – Burial of Sir Thomas Bodley, scholar, diplomat, and founder of the Bodleian Library, Oxford. He was laid to rest in Merton College Chapel, Oxford.
  • 1628 – Death of Tobie Matthew, Archbishop of York, at Cawood. He was buried in York Minster. Matthew had become Bishop of Durham in 1595, and then Archbishop of York in 1606.

There are 4 comments Go To Comment

  1. M

    That is very sad. First to be disfigured, and then to head into your old age feeling unappreciated after decades of faithful service. A shame really. But now I am really curious about this couple. Did they suffer at all from the fall of the duke of Northumberland? Did Henry Sidney take a mistress after the smallpox debacle? So many questions… Michelle t

    1. C - Post Author

      Things were a bit “iffy” for them when the duke fell, as Mary, as his daughter, was included in his attainder, but historian Simon Adams notes that Sidney “was able to make his peace with Mary I quickly, thanks in part to three sisters who were members of her household”, so his links with the queen’s household helped them.
      No, there’s no suggestion that he took a mistress and, in fact, their marriage seems to have been perfectly happy after she had smallpox as she had children after that.

  2. R

    There is a beautiful tomb memorial in Saint Lawrence Church in Ludlow, in the Welsh Marches or borderlands where the fourth daughter of Sir Henry Sidney, who was Lord President of the Council of the Welsh Marches, the first permanent one, who died in the castle there aged nine in 1574. When her father died his heart was taken from Worcester to lie with his daughter, Ambrosia. Poor Lady Mary Dudley Sidney, how very unfortunate for the poor woman, nursing the Queen became ill and badly marked and probably wore a mask or heavy makeup afterwards, only to be treated less than they should have expected by that Queen. And her husband wrote that his poor wife was ugly! They did make up apparently.

    The sacrifice the people who nursed sick kings and queens made to keep them alive is very commendable. This poor lady could have died. I know how ill Queen Elizabeth became for ten days and almost died. She too was marked by the smallpox and her white makeup was made up very thick to cover it for the rest of her days. It was a fatal disease and the marks were terrible to behold on those who survived. Thankfully it is a disease that we have eradicated, at least mostly, existing in a lab in Geneva here in the West only.

    1. R

      I mean the lab is here in the West, the disease was eradicated everywhere by the 1970s.

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29 March – As foul a lady as the smallpox could make her