Mary was courted by Philipp, Duke of Bavaria, from late 1539, but he was Lutheran and his suit for her hand was unsuccessful. Over 1539, the king’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, negotiated a potential alliance with the Duchy of Cleves.
Suggestions that Mary marry Wilhelm I, Duke of Cleves, who was the same age, came to nothing, but a match between King Henry VIII and the Duke’s sister Anne was agreed. When the king saw Anne for the first time in late December 1539, a week before the scheduled wedding, he found her unattractive but was unable, for diplomatic reasons and without a suitable pretext, to cancel the marriage.
Cromwell fell from favour and was arrested for treason in June 1540; one of the unlikely charges against him was that he had plotted to marry Mary himself. Anne consented to the annulment of the marriage, which had not been consummated, and Cromwell was beheaded.
There was much court intrigue involving Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, and Mary’s old governess and godmother, and her son Reginald Pole. Margaret Pole was the only surviving daughter of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, a brother of Kings Edward IV and Richard III (all sons of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York), by his wife Isabel Neville.
The entirety of the story is not the subject of this blog entry but I will mention it’s connected to Reginald’s objection to Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn.
Margaret’s downfall was also connected to Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell produced a tunic bearing the Five Wounds of Christ, symbolising Margaret’s support for the Church of Rome and the rule of her son Reginald and the king’s Roman Catholic daughter Mary. The supposed discovery, six months after her house and effects were searched at her arrest, is likely to have been a fabrication. She was sentenced to death, and could be executed at the king’s will.
On the morning of May 27, 1541, Margaret was told she was to die within the hour. She answered that no crime had been imputed to her. Nevertheless, she was taken from her cell to the place within the precincts of the Tower of London where a low wooden block had been prepared instead of the customary scaffold.
Henry VIII had her executed on the pretext of a Catholic plot uncovered by Cromwell in which her son Reginald Pole was implicated. Her executioner was “a wretched and blundering youth” who “literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces”.
In 1542, following the execution of Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, the unmarried Henry invited Mary to attend the royal Christmas festivities. At court, while her father was between marriages and thus without a consort, Mary acted as hostess. In 1543, Henry married his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, who was able to bring the family closer together. Henry returned Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession through the Act of Succession 1543/1544 (also known as the Third Succession Act), placing them after Edward – though both remained legally illegitimate.
Henry VIII died in 1547, and Edward succeeded him as King Edward VI of England and Ireland. Mary inherited estates in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and was granted Hunsdon and Beaulieu as her own. Since Edward was still a child, rule passed to a regency council dominated by Protestants, who attempted to establish their faith throughout the country.
For example, the Act of Uniformity 1549 prescribed Protestant rites for church services, such as the use of Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. Mary remained faithful to Roman Catholicism and defiantly celebrated traditional Mass in her own chapel. She appealed to her cousin Emperor Charles V to apply diplomatic pressure demanding that she be allowed to practise her religion.
For most of Edward’s reign, Mary remained on her own estates and rarely attended court. A plan between May and July 1550 to smuggle her out of England to the safety of the European mainland came to nothing.
Religious differences between Mary and Edward VI continued. Mary attended a reunion with Edward and Elizabeth for Christmas 1550, where the 13-year-old Edward VI embarrassed Mary, then 34, and reduced both her and himself to tears in front of the court, by publicly reproving her for ignoring his laws regarding worship. Mary repeatedly refused Edward’s demands that she abandon Catholicism, and Edward persistently refused to drop his demands.