21 July 2018

Visiting the Tomb of Mary Tudor, Queen of France


Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France, was the youngest surviving daughter of King Henry VII and the younger sister of King Henry VIII.  Mary was also grandmother to Lady Jane Grey. I spent four years researching her life for my books, as she is born in my book Henry - Book Three of the Tudor Trilogy, and is the subject of my latest book, Mary - Tudor Princess. Mary is also a central character in my next book, about the life of her husband, Charles Brandon.

Mary Tudor died at Westhorpe in Suffolk after a long illness, a little before eight in the morning on the twenty-fifth of June 1533. She was thirty-seven years old. She was laid to rest in the abbey church of Bury St Edmunds. Her alabaster monument was destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries and her tomb moved to the nearby St Mary’s Church, where it is to this day.

In 1784, Mary’s lead coffin was moved to the chancel of St Mary’s and placed under a plain slab of Petworth marble inscribed ‘Mary Queen of France 1533.’ Although Mary was only Queen of France for some ninety days, it seems she never used her husband's surname or her title Duchess of Suffolk, always preferring to be referred to as Queen of France, so I believe she would have been happy with the simple inscription.

I visited on a bright summer morning and was impressed by the scale of the church, which is one of the largest parish churches in England, with the largest West Window of any parish church in the country.

In the Lady Chapel, there are stained glass windows, provided by Queen Victoria which show events from Mary’ life. In the lower centre window, Mary is shown being 'forgiven' by her brother Henry VIII for marrying his best friend, Charles Brandon, without his permission.


The later inscription and insignia on the wall above Mary's grave and the marble curb were provided on the orders of King Edward VII, who visited in 1904:


When Mary's coffin was moved it was opened and it is reported that her hair was some two feet long, a ‘reddish-gold’ colour and her teeth were even and complete. Locks of her hair were acquired by historian Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, and Lady Margaret Bentinck, Duchess of Portland. Several specimens claiming to be Mary’s red-gold hair survive, including this one in the Bury St Edmunds Moyse's Hall museum:


I was pleased to see how the town of Bury St Edmunds celebrates the connection with Mary Tudor.  There is even this large poster in the Corn Exchange Wetherspoons:


My book  Mary - Tudor Princess is available from Amazon in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions, and although it is historical fiction, it is based on years of research to ensure her story is as factually accurate as possible.

Tony Riches
See also:

Exploring Westhorpe Hall, Home of Mary Tudor (Queen of France) and Charles Brandon
Visiting the Tomb of Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Visiting St Margaret's Westhorpe - Parish Church of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Sir Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Researching and Writing Mary – Tudor Princess


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your photos from your visit to Mary’s tomb. I hope one day to be able to travel and see all these amazing with my own eyes. Until then I will live vicariously through others! So excited to read your novel on Mary and the next one regarding her husband! I eagerly await learning more about these two individuals and their marriage that vexed Henry VIII so much!

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