Lady Mary Tudor’s desperate cries to her Father on paper

Mary Tudor played by Sarah Bolger
Mary Tudor played by Sarah Bolger

On June the Tenth 1536 Mary wrote to her father and Cromwell, of the former she sent Cromwell a copy begging him to restore her to favor: “Most humbly I prostrate before your noble feet, your most obedient subject and humble child, that hath not only repented her offences hitherto, but also decreed simply from henceforth and wholly next to Almighty God, to put my state, continuance and living in your gracious mercy.”

In her letter to Cromwell she said she would submit to her father’s demands as long as they didn’t offend her conscience:
“I trust you shall perceive that I have followed your advice and counsel, and will do in all things concerning my duty to the King’s Grace (God and my conscience not offended) for I take you for one of my chief friends, next unto his Grace and the Queen.
Wherefore, I desire you, for the passion which Christ suffered for you and me, and as my very trust is in you, that you will find such means through your great wisdom, that I be not moved to agree to any further entry in this matter than I have done. But if I be put to any more (I am plain with you as with my great friends) my said conscience will in no way suffer me to consent thereunto.”

Cromwell’s response was to submit to all of her father’s demands but Mary wrote back saying that she wouldn’t.
“Good Master Secretary,
I do thank you with all my heart, for the great pain and suit you have had for me for which I think myself very much bound to you. And whereas I do perceive by your letters, that you do mislike mine exception in my letter to the King’s Grace, I asure you, I did not mean as you do take it. For I do not mistrust that the King’s goddness will move me to do anything, which should offend God and my conscience. But that which I did write was only by the reason of continual custom. For I have always used, both in writing and speaking, to except God in all things.
Nevertheless, because you have exhorted me to write to His Grace again, and I cannot devise what I should write more but your own last copy, without adding or diminishing; therefore I do send you by this bearer, my servant, the same, word for word; and it is unsealed, because I cannot endure to write another copy. For the pain in my head and teeth hath troubled me so sore these two or three days and doth yet so continue, that I have very small rest, day or night.
Your assured bounded loving friend during my life,
Mary”

With the same determination, she wrote to her father:
“I have written twice unto Your Highness, trusting to have, by some gracious letters, token or message, perceived sensibly the mercy, clemency and pity of Your Grace, and upon the operation of the same, at the last also to have attained the fruition of your most noble presence, which above all worldly things I desire: yet I have not obtained my said fervent and hearty desire, nor any piece of the same to my great and intolerable discomfort I am enforced, by the compulsion of nature, effstones to cry unto your merciful ears, and most humbly prostrate before your feet for some little spark of my humble suit and desire praying to God to preserve Your Highness, with the Queen, and shortly to send you issue which shall be gladder tidings to me that I can express in writing,
Your Most Humble and Obedient Daughter and Handmaid,
Mary.”

Mary’s boldness infuriated Henry further who was getting frustrated with her stubbornness and he sent a delegation of councilors to confront Mary. At the head of this council was the Duke of Norfolk who told Mary that if she was his daughter he would punish her behavior by bashing her head against the wall until it was soft like a boiled apple. Later Chapuys visited her and told her that her cousin the Emperor was also urging her to submit, if she did not then her father would surely killed her. Mary never believed her father would go to such lengths but recent developments had made her see otherwise. Henry was not the same man Mary knew as a child. Any man or woman who defied Henry’s position as Head of the Church would be put to death, Mary was no different.

On June 22, Mary finally signed. The document entitled “The Confession of Me the Lady Mary” stipulated that she was a bastard born of incest and her parents’ marriage had been invalid.

“I do freely, frankly recognize and acknowledge that the marriage heretofore had between His Majesty and my mother (the late Princess Dowager) was by God’s law and Man’s law, incestuous and unlawful.
(Signed) MARY”

Mary was quickly back in favor and reestablished in her father’s court. Her submission had saved her life but cost her dearly. The imperial ambassador wrote that “this affair of the Princess has tormented her more than you think” and indeed it had, but it had also made her stronger. Chapuys would later write that Mary had become more pragmatic and conciliatory than her mother and her good understanding of people and politics had left her with many friends and allies at court.

Sources: 

  • Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
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