The Tudor Society

8 October – Henry VIII forces Princess Mary to write letters

On this day in Tudor history, 8th October 1536, while the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion was getting underway in Lincolnshire and spreading to Yorkshire, Henry VIII wasn’t only issuing orders regarding the rebels, he was also issuing orders regarding his eldest daughter.

Henry and Mary had recently reconciled after Mary had finally submitted to him and recognised his supremacy and her illegitimate status. It was something that cost Mary dearly, but it did mend her relationship with her father and allow her back at court.

But then Henry VIII put more pressure on his daughter by forcing her to write to the pope and to Mary of Hungary, the emperor's sister.

What did Mary have to write? What did the king want of his daughter? And why had Mary submitted to her father?

Find out all about this in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 8th October 1515, Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox and niece of King Henry VIII, was born at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland. Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland, and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She was born while her mother was travelling to Henry VIII's court in London after fleeing Scotland. Margaret was a fascinating lady and you can find out more about her in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1536 – The commons, i.e. the people, approved the petition of grievances drawn up by the rebels of Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
  • 1549 – Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector, was proclaimed a traitor by the King's Privy Council.
  • 1561 – Baptism of Edward Wright, mathematician and cartographer, at Garveston in Norfolk. Wright is known for his treatise “Certaine Errors in Navigation” (1599), his work on Mercator's map projection and his translation of John Napier's 1614 Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio into English.
  • 1594 – Death of Ellis Price (Prys), scholar and administrator. Price served Henry VIII as a Monastic Visitor in Wales 1535, Commissary-General and Chancellor of the diocese of St Asaph, and as an administrator in Wales after the “Acts of Union”. He also later served as Sheriff of Merioneth, Anglesey, Caernarfon, and Denbigh, and a member of the council in the Marches of Wales.


On this day in Tudor history, 8th October 1536, while the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion was getting underway in Lincolnshire and spreading to Yorkshire, Henry VIII wasn’t only issuing orders regarding the rebels, whom he regarded as “crafty persons” and “false traitors”, he was also issuing orders regarding his eldest daughter.

Twenty-year-old Mary, the future Mary I, was the king’s daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII had had a troubled relationship with Mary following his banishment of her mother from court, the annulment of the marriage, his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Parliament’s declaration that Mary was illegitimate. Mary had had an awful few years, being prohibited from seeing her mother, going from being her father’s “pearl” to being at best neglected and at worst treated cruelly, and then losing her mother in January 1536. It is little wonder that her health had suffered.

But then things had looked up for Mary when Anne Boleyn was executed for high treason in May 1536. A week after her stepmother’s beheading, Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell, hoping that her father’s chief advisor would intercede with the king on her behalf. She wanted permission to write to the king, and hoped that her relationship with her father could be mended now that Anne Boleyn, the person she held responsible for her ill-treatment, was out of the way. Sadly for Mary, although Anne Boleyn may have supported and even encouraged the king’s actions towards his first daughter, the king was ultimately responsible for what had happened to the girl. He saw her as defiant and disobedient, and needing punishment. The king wasn’t interested in mending his relationship with Mary, treating her well or welcoming her back at court until she toed the line and submitted to him. On 15th June 1536, he sent members of his council to Mary’s home to try and bully her into accepting him as supreme head of the Church in England and acknowledging that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne. The visitors were so aggressive and threatening that Eustace Chapuys, the imperial ambassador and Mary’s good friend, was worried about Mary’s health and safety. So worried was the ambassador, that he encouraged her to make the “sacrifice” and submit to her father, assuring her that it was the emperor’s “advice and wish” and that “God looked more into the intentions than into the deeds of men”. Mary went ahead and signed the submission to her father without reading it.

Mary’s submission predictably led to a reconciliation with her father, but Chapuys recorded that signing the submission costs Mary dearly, recording that “the Princess fell suddenly into a state of despondency and sorrow”.

And that wasn’t the end of the pressure on Mary. On this day in 1536, Chapuys recorded how the king was “compelling” Mary to write two letters, one to the pope and another to Mary of Hungary, the emperor’s sister. Chapuys explains that in the letter to the pope, Mary was “to acknowledge the invalidity of her mother's marriage” and to state that she had “consented willingly, and not under compulsion, to do what the King wished”. He requested that she add that she hoped that “the Pope will forbear meddling with English affairs, as the King is in the right.” I bet Mary didn’t want to write that bit! She was to explain the same thing to Mary of Hungary, asking her to pass that on to the emperor, saying that “she has freely renounced her right” and “she is well satisfied with what she has done”. Chapuys obviously wanted to explain the situation and to make sure that the pope and emperor knew that Mary had been compelled by King Henry VIII to both submit and to write these letters. He wanted to make it clear that there was no “poison beneath what she does”.

Eustace Chapuys was a good friend to the princess and it’s good that she had someone she could rely on for support and advice at a time like this.

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8 October – Henry VIII forces Princess Mary to write letters