If Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid it followed that eleven-year-old Princess Mary was illegitimate. This in turn would prohibit her from the crown and make her less valuable on the international marriage market. No doubt, this was one of the reasons that Catherine remained adamant about fighting to keep her position rather than taking herself off to a nunnery as Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio helpfully suggested prior to the Blackfriars trial where Catherine challenged the court’s authority.
Later, after Parliament enacted the necessary laws that broke with Rome and Henry’s marriage to Catherine was annulled by Thomas Cranmer the Princess Mary was used as a weapon by Henry to ensure that Catherine was compliant, although Catherine’s letters to her daughter are suggestive of shared martyrdom. The girl, now seventeen and no longer a princess but a bastard was refused permission to see her ailing mother, she lost her household and her governess. In 1533 at the point when this occurred, Lady Salisbury (Margaret Pole) offered to pay for Mary’s household out of her own purse but the king would have none of it, or perhaps Anne Boleyn would have none of it. Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, reported that Anne had said she would have Mary for her chambermaid.
Mary’s opposition to the king was seen in the fact that she continued to be called the Princess Mary rather than the Lady Mary even when her servants suffered the indignity of having Mary’s insignia removed and replaced with Henry’s own. She told anyone who would listen that if she disavowed her mother that she would ‘offend God.’ It was a very personal resistance that directed itself to the king from Beaulieu where Mary was staying at the time.
When Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth was born, Mary’s chamberlain Lord Hussey was told to change Mary’s name to lady rather than princess. He tried. Mary informed him that until the instruction was received in writing then she was a princess.
Henry reacted badly. He sent officials to browbeat and threaten his daughter. In December 1533 the duke of Norfolk was required to fetch Mary to serve in her half sister’s household. He told her that she was to go to the Princess of Wales. Mary told him that the title was hers by right. Norfolk gave her half and hour and two ladies in waiting to accompany her. He did not become involved in the argument. He followed orders.
Norfolk left Mary in Hatfield in tears but Henry complained he had been too soft on the girl. The ladies-in-waiting were removed and Anne Boleyn’s aunt Lady Shelton was put in charge of the ex-princess having been given a list of instructions about her treatment.
Henry put Mary’s refusal to comply with the change in her status down to her bad blood. It would only be after the death of Anne Boleyn that Henry would begin to soften towards his eldest, formerly legitimate, daughter and even then she would be required to submit to the king’s will before a reunion could take place. On the 15th June 1536 Mary signed the document which recognised her parents’ marriage as unlawful and recognised Henry as the head of the Church of England.
Poor Mary; she went from her father’s pampered darling to being ill treated, neglected and isolated. She was forced to act in direct opposition to her religious beliefs and all this had happened as her character formed. Her only allies during this time seemed to be the Spanish. No wonder she looked towards Spain when her turn to ascend the throne arrived. She was undoubtedly scarred by the whole experience.
Jane Seymour, perhaps the original Plain Jane if Chapuys comments are to be believed, became wife number three on 30th May 1536. She was another descendent of Edward III via Hotspur. She’d also been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and also to Anne Boleyn. One story said that Anne was deeply distressed to encounter Jane sitting on Henry’s lap. Her chosen motto was “Bound to serve and obey” – a wise choice given Henry’s complaints about wife number two and presumably wife number one’s implacable logic and argument. Her emblem is the phoenix rising from a tower surrounded by those burgeoning roses reflecting both a Plantagenet and Lancastrian inheritance. The pheonix is a symbol of love and renewal. Jane is the renewed Tudor hope for an heir.
Jane would also be the queen who oversaw Henry’s return to a more traditional set of beliefs. She tried to reconcile him to Princess Mary and also interceded on behalf of the catholic pilgrims who’d revolted during the Pilgrimage of Grace. Her clemency wasn’t welcome so far as Henry was concerned and she swiftly retreated from the political field.
It was February 1536 when word of Henry’s interest in Jane Seymour was first mentioned in ambassadorial dispatches and it wasn’t long before her brothers found themselves being rewarded with important posts and preferments.
In 1537 Jane fell pregnant, a fact recorded by Edward Hall. The rejoicing must have been a little bit cautious given all the previous disappointments but on the 12 October she produced a boy, Edward, and then promptly died from complications on 24th October. Cromwell would later blame her attendants for giving her rich food and sweets but in reality it was likely to have been childbed fever that carried Jane off.
Jane was very different from her predecessor, although Anne’s leopard was very swiftly adapted into Jane’s other symbol – the panther. The panther, heraldically speaking, is a more gentle animal than a leopard and can also represent Christ. He was also white and covered in multicoloured spots rather than being black. Examples can be found at Hampton Court looking rather splendid but it should also be remembered that Henry VI used a panther as a symbol as did the Beauforts. Double click on the image of the panther to find out more about the garden at Hampton Court. Jane wasn’t particularly well educated and reverted to older fashion styles when she became queen. Perhaps she thought that the higher neck lines would stop Henry being too attracted to her own ladies-in-waiting, she had after all had plenty of opportunity to watch what went on at court. Historians can’t agree as to whether she was an active player in inveigling Henry away from Anne or whether she was a pawn in the hands of her family. She kept her own counsel and did not live long enough to prove a disappointment to Henry.