Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

by Carolly Erickson

Paperback(First Edition)

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Here is the tragic, stormy life of Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. Her story is a chronicle of courage and faith, betrayal and treachery-set amidst the splendor, pageantry, squalor, and intrigue of sixteenth-century Europe.

The history of Mary Tudor is an improbable blend of triumph, humiliation, heartbreak, and devotion-and Ms. Erickson recounts it all against the turbulent background of European politics, war, and religious strife of the mid-1500s. The result is a rare portrait of the times and of a woman elevated to unprecedented power in a world ruled and defined by men.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312187064
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/15/1998
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 1,258,384
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Distinguished historian Carolly Erickson is the author of Rival to the Queen, The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots, The First Elizabeth, The Hidden Life of Josephine, The Last Wife of Henry VIII, and many other prize-winning works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Tsarina's Daughter won the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction. She lives in Hawaii.

Read an Excerpt

Bloody Mary

By Carolly Erickson

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1978 Carolly Erickson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0399-8


Owre Royall Rose now reignyng, rede and whyte,
Sure grafted is on ground of nobylnes
In Harry the viij owr joye and our delyte
Subdewer of wronges mayntenar of rightwysnes
Fowntayne of honor exsampler of larges.
Our clypsyd [eclipsed] son now cleryd is from the darke
By Harry owr Kyng, the flowr of natewr's warke.

On a bright winter day in February of 1511 servants crowded the tiltyard of Henry VIII's palace at Westminster, readying the lists, carrying body armor and horse barbs, and covering the walls of the wooden spectators' pavilion with tapestries and hangings of cloth of gold. A solemn joust had been proclaimed, to celebrate the recent birth of Henry's heir, the infant Prince Henry, duke of Richmond and Somerset and chief hope of the Tudor dynasty.

Inside the pavilion the queen, Katherine of Aragon, took her place of honor under the small golden cloth of estate, concealing her plumpness in a dark gown with sleeves of gold and black. At her throat she wore her emblem, the pomegranate of Spain, suspended from a chain, and pomegranates had been painted on the wooden trim of the pavilion. Surrounded by her sumptuously dressed ladies, and by the nobles and court officials in their velvets and heavy gold chains of office, Katherine was the center of attention as a crowd of Londoners gathered to watch the spectacle. This was her first public appearance since her churching, and her usually pale face, smiling as always, flushed with pride. She had finally done what she was sent from Spain to do ten years earlier. She had produced an heir to the English throne.

The trumpeting of mounted heralds bearing the arms of England announced the opening of the jousts. At one end of the tiltyard — a long, narrow stretch of ground divided along its length by a solid wooden barrier — the line of grooms and liveried guardsmen parted as a huge decorated pageant car rolled slowly into view. Nearly as wide as the tiltyard itself, and so tall it towered over the pavilion, it was like a large stage set mounted on wheels, complete with scenery, actors and props. A forest landscape with grass-covered hills, rocks and a variety of trees and flowers had been fashioned from green damask and colored silks and satins. In the foreground amid the trees were six foresters in Lincoln green velvet, bringing the wooden lances for the joust, and at the center of the forest stood a golden castle. Before the castle gate a handsomely dressed gentleman sat in the silken ferns weaving a garland of roses for the infant prince. This elaborate scene appeared to be drawn by two great beasts, a lion of damask gold and an antelope of silver, with golden horns and tusks, chained to the pageant car with huge gilded chains. Troops of green-clad wild woodsmen walked before the structure, leading the lion and antelope, and two beautiful women rode on the backs of the beasts.

When it reached the queen and her ladies the forest halted, the foresters blew their horns, and from four openings in the artificial hills four "Knights of the Savage Forest" rode out of the pageant and down onto the tilting ground. Each of the four was in full armor, with a plumed helmet and a lance in his hand. Though their visors obscured their faces the crowd knew well enough by his height that one of the disguised knights was the handsome nineteen-year-old king. On the trappings that blanketed their horses were the chivalric names of the four defenders: Sir Loyal Heart, Sir Valiant Desire, Sir Good Valour, Sir Joyous Thought. At the sight of the defenders the crowd roared its welcome and to the sound of trumpets and drums the noble challengers, their horses trapped in crimson satin embroidered with golden pomegranates, rode onto the field from the opposite side and the jousting began.

Sir Loyal Heart — as the king called himself that day — was easily the most skillful jouster at the tourney, shattering more lances than any of the other combatants and, assuming his performance that day was true to form, wearing out four or five mounts. From all accounts Henry did not, as one would expect, triumph over his opponents merely because he was the king; he genuinely surpassed them in size, strength and skill. He was by sixteenth-century standards a very tall man. His standing armor, preserved in the Tower of London, accommodates a man of about six feet two, and the size of his jousting armor suggests that he may have been even taller. Like Richard Lionheart and his maternal grandfather Edward IV, Henry towered over his courtiers and guardsmen, and when he walked in a crowd he was easy to distinguish. He was not only tall but powerfully built, with broad shoulders and muscular arms and legs, and with no trace of the repulsive girth he acquired at the very end of his life. "He is well made, tall and stout," an observer wrote of the king at twenty-one, "and when he moves the ground shakes under him."

Henry seems in fact to have combined the force of his massive size with good coordination and unusual dexterity. Proficiency in the joust, for which he regularly trained and toughened himself two days a week, required both accuracy of aim and the stamina to withstand repeated blows to the chest and head. For to win a tournament required not only breaking the most lances but breaking them on the helmets, rather than the saddles or body armor, of the opponents. And striking the tilt, or wooden barrier, more than twice, or striking a horse instead of his rider, or losing your helmet twice, or, unthinkable dishonor, striking a disarmed knight or one with his back turned, all meant immediate disqualification.

The jousting lasted until dark, when the challengers, including the earl of Essex and Lord Thomas Howard, were defeated by the four Knights of the Savage Forest. The king was applauded and cheered one final time as he rode off the field, still in the guise of Sir Loyal Heart. His triumph once again bound the spectators to him by an emotion stronger than loyalty to a sovereign and not far short of gratitude to a savior. He had entered the lists not as their king but as their champion, a half-enchanted knight emerging from a mysterious forest. And by the true valor of his arms he had won the day.

On the following day the combats were introduced by a chivalric procession climaxed by Henry's solemn entry in his own person, as sovereign, under the canopy of royalty. Again, the queen and her ladies in place, the trumpeters summoned the jousters, and a parade of gentlemen rode in single file up and down the length of the lists, testing their horses and displaying their arms and devices. A group of lords in russet and cloth of gold followed, and a party of knights in the same colors. Then came a great party of gentlemen and yeomen on foot, the former in silk, the latter in matching damask, with scarlet hose and yellow caps. They surrounded the king, and held the supports of the miniature pavilion of cloth of gold and purple velvet under which he rode. The canopy, richly embroidered, had a fringe made from thin gold wire, and was surmounted by an imperial crown. Sewn all over it were replicas of Queen Katherine's monogram, the letter K, cast in fine gold. Henry, in gleaming armor, rode a prancing horse in golden trappings and with a horn attached to its forehead like the horn of a unicorn. The golden letters, hearts and pomegranates covered his armor and horse cloths, and as he made his horse curvet and bow the gilt spangles that hung from the plume of his helmet shook and glittered in the sunlight.

Next the three disguised knights from the previous day rode onto the field, each with his own pavilion of crimson and purple topped by a large gold K, and with fifty attendants on foot. And finally, to remind the company of the absent prince whose birth had occasioned the jousts, twelve "children of honor" were led in on great war horses, no two dressed alike. With this the king's party was complete.

Then, as the crowd looked to the opposite end of the tiltyard to see the entry of the opponents, led by Henry's closest friend Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk, they fell silent. Instead of a fanfare and a procession of panoplied knights they saw a solitary figure ride toward the pavilion where Katherine sat, not a knightly figure but a man in the brown hooded cloak of a monk or recluse. Stopping his horse in front of the queen, he petitioned her to give him leave to joust in her presence, adding that if it pleased her he would begin at once, if not, he would leave as he had come. When she smiled and nodded he threw off his cape and signaled his attendants to bring his armor. The religious was none other than the strapping Brandon himself, and the spectators watched with delight as his armor was tied in place and his helmet and lance supplied. When his horse had been similarly barbed and arrayed, he rode to his assigned place. After Brandon came a small pageant car carrying a castle tower or turret, out of which rode Henry Guilford, principal defender for that day, in brown and silver. He and his liveried attendants also asked Katherine's permission to joust, as did the marquis of Dorset and Thomas Boleyn, who made their appearance dressed as pilgrims returning from the Spanish shrine of St. James of Compostela, their pilgrim staves and the golden shells that symbolized the shrine their only ornaments. The earl of Wiltshire, entered in another pageant, called "The House of Refuge," at the center of which was a huge golden pomegranate tree; the spreading branches of the tree covered the house and the knight, who was all in silver.

When the defenders for the day were in place, the jousting began, and by the time it was over the king and his three companions had again prevailed. Whether because he broke the most spears or because — as we know he did at a joust in 1515 — he accomplished the rare feat of forcing to the ground both a man and his horse, Henry "achieved valiantly," and attained the prize.

The prize of arms won at the prince's tournament was only the capstone to the greater triumph of the prince's birth. No kingdom was secure, no people's loyalty guaranteed, until the ruler had provided a male heir to succeed him, and now that Henry had done that he could relax and congratulate himself for a while. He could even allow himself to look ahead to the future. The prince would in time be king as Henry IX, third Henry of the house of Tudor and ninth in a line of Henrys stretching back five hundred years: Henry I, son of William the Conqueror; Henry II Plantagenet, friend and slayer of Becket and ruler of half of France; Henry III, saintly patron of learning and builder of cathedrals; Henry IV, adventurer and founder of the ill-fated Lancastrian line; Henry V, the beloved Prince Hal and legendary victor of Agincourt; Henry VI, whose long reign ended in madness and the chaos of the Wars of the Roses; the Tudor Henry VII, who ended those wars by his victory at Bosworth Field; and, finally, the exuberant Henry VIII, whose fame as a soldier or diplomat or ruler — indeed as anything but an expert jouster — was yet to be achieved.

In the craft of kingship Henry was very much a novice. His fellow rulers on the continent were well over twice his age, and treated him with avuncular disdain. He had as yet taken no part in European politics, though his father-in-law, Ferdinand of Aragon, was urging him to throw the weight of English arms and money against the dominant French. The pope too, the bellicose Julius II, was a suitor for Henry's support in his fight against the French in Italy. Nine months earlier he had sent Henry the traditional golden rose, anointed with the sacred coronation oil and sprinkled with pungent musk, that symbolized the long-standing sentimental alliance between the papacy and the English kings.

With the dimwitted, bankrupt Emperor Maximilian, ridiculed throughout Europe as the "man of few pence," Henry had had little to do, while the aging French king Louis XII saw in his inexperienced young English counterpart no threat to his ambitious designs. At the opening of the year 1511 the battleground of Europe was Italy, where for a generation the armies of France and Spain had fought over the spoils of the Renaissance city-states. For the moment, France had triumphed, but the peninsula's other great territorial lord, the pope, was determined to drive the French out. Even now, in midwinter, Julius was leading his soldiers through the snow in a futile campaign against the French in the north of Italy.

If he lacked a military or diplomatic reputation, Henry did possess one enviable political asset: a full treasury. The costs of his extravagant costumes, tourneys and court revels had not even begun to deplete the wealth his father had left him. And the continental powers were not slow to capitalize on that wealth. Already he had become a sort of royal pawnbroker, making loans secured by diamonds and other jewels and, in one instance, by the armor of the great fifteenth-century duke Charles the Bold. Four months earlier the Venetian ambassador wrote his home government that the English king had agreed to loan the Signory 150,000 ducats on jewels.

Of course, the infant prince gave Henry a further bargaining counter. As soon as possible, English diplomats would begin negotiations at all the European courts for his betrothal. The diplomatic credit to be gained from a marriage alliance with France, Portugal or the Austrian Hapsburgs was wonderful to contemplate, and by no means out of reach. The prince was certain to be a handsome and promising child, heir to a stable throne; these benefits, plus Henry's flowing coffers, would surely lead to a splendid match. Already the diplomats were spreading news of the elaborate christening ceremony of the young Henry, and of the organization of his personal household and his Council of State. They would describe the tournament, too, expanding on its grandiose pageantry and the king's well-known prowess.

Henry's pleasurable speculations about his son were understandable, for since his marriage he had had ample reason to doubt whether his wife could give him a son at all. Katherine's childless first marriage, the frailty of her health and a miscarriage the previous year had all pointed to the possibility of barrenness.

Katherine of Aragon had come to England ten years earlier, when Henry was a boy, to marry his older brother Arthur. The joining of the Tudor heir to a younger daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain raised England's prestige abroad, but only temporarily. Katherine did not become pregnant — indeed she was to swear later that the marriage had not been consummated — and the death of the consumptive prince left her widowed at sixteen. Kept in England as a hostage until her father paid the final installment of her dowry, something he showed no inclination to do, Katherine spent the next eight years uncertain of her status and her prospects. Apart from the title Princess Dowager she had nothing to show for her time in England. She had no money, no friends outside her small retinue of Spanish servants, and she was an obvious nuisance both to her father-in-law Henry VII and her father Ferdinand. Her beloved mother, the valiant Isabella, was dead; her favorite sister, Joanna, wrote at first infrequently and then not at all.

In her anxious isolation Katherine turned to God. By the time she was twenty she had apparently decided to renounce worldly things and subject herself to the harsh demands of an ascetic life. Someone at the court became concerned enough about the harm this relentless praying and fasting might do to write to the pope. Julius wrote back ordering that her regimen be relaxed, and stating specifically that it threatened to hamper her ability to conceive and bear children in the future. It must certainly have made worse the ailments that had afflicted her since reaching adolescence: tertian fever and a troublesome irregularity in the menstrual cycle which, after her marriage to Henry, led Katherine into repeated misjudgments about whether or not she was pregnant.

When Henry became king on his father's death in 1509, the same diplomatic advantages that had compelled Arthur's marriage to Katherine now led Henry to marry her, after receiving the papal dispensation required to legitimize in the eyes of the church the joining of a man with his brother's widow. To Henry's relief, Katherine's bedchamber women pronounced her pregnant soon after the wedding in June, but late in the following January the child was born prematurely, a stillborn daughter. No one but the king, two Spanish women and Katherine's physician and chancellor knew of her misfortune; Henry kept up the pretense of her continued pregnancy by ordering sumptuous fittings for the royal nursery for the confinement expected in March. The queen was willing to go to any length to hide the truth, and went through the public ceremony of withdrawing for her confinement knowing she could not prolong the deceit much longer. In a transparent attempt to save face it was given out by Katherine's confessor that she had been pregnant with twins, only one of which had been stillborn, and that she was confined to await the birth of the second child. But through his spies the Spanish ambassador had learned that she had begun to menstruate again, at least for a time, and from February through the end of May reports of abdominal swelling and deflating, ceasing and returning of the menses succeeded one another to everyone's confusion. Henry was annoyed and his privy councilors angry, though they had the tact to blame not Katherine but her bedchamber women for the "error." The ambassador's own conclusion was that "some irregularity in her eating and the food she takes cause her some trouble, the consequence of which is that she does not menstruate as she should."


Excerpted from Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson. Copyright © 1978 Carolly Erickson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition vii(4)
Preface xi(4)
List of Illustrations
PART ONE: The Princess
PART TWO: The King's Troubled Daughter
PART THREE: "The Unhappiest Lady in Christendon"
PART FOUR: Queen Alone
PART FIVE: The King's Wife
Notes 487(24)
Select Bibliography 511(8)
Index 519

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