Mary I’s Marriage – Part 3

Part III…(Read Part II here)

By John A. Murphy

When the subject of marriage was first raised the queen demurred. She told her courtiers, councillors, household officers and ambassadors that she has lived a maid she was personally inclined so to remain. None believed this more than a maiden’s proper modesty….

Next, there was a minuet around the names of suitable candidates. Again propriety prevented the queen from naming names. So what had to be done could only be done by signs and signals. Fortunately experienced courtiers were expert in courtly semaphore…..

Charles V played gallant: through Renard he suggested he would renew his betrothal – were it not for his age and infirmity. The queen gracefully responded by suggesting that as her former betrothed he might instead suggest the names of suitable candidates. To this suggestion he readily agrees.

Then silence follows.

Meanwhile Cardinal Pole the queen’s cousin arrives in Vienna. Wily Charles keeps him at the Imperial court. Pole, although a cardinal, is only in minor orders: a scion of the House of York he remains a perfectly viable candidate for the queen’s hand.

Mary reads the move and understands.

She counters delaying tactics by putting pressure on Charles. On 13th September she creates Edward Courtenay, the other eligible male of the House of York – earl of Devon. As when Robert Dudley is made earl of Leicester at the time the marriage negotiations over Mary Stewart’s second husband – everyone understands the meaning of the queen’s action.

From this point until December 1553, when Gardiner is appointed, against Renard’s advice, to head the negations over the marriage treaty, the bishop runs Courtenay as the Council’s preferred choice. It puts both the Emperor and Renard on the back foot. Under pressure the Emperor offers up his reluctant son and heir to the English queen.

It’s clearly what Mary had in mind all along – for Philip alone met all the necessary requirements she had of marriage.

Renard is made snow blind in a blizzard of factional twists and turns. He never grasps the nature of English politics and its governing structures.

He cannot see that the determining political connection is between Bishop Gardiner and the axis of the queen’s household men, Sir Robert Rochester, her comptroller, Sir Edward Hastings, her master of horse and her Vice-Chamberlain (the official responsible for the queen’s security and access to the private apartments) Sir Henry Jerningham. Nor can Renard see the use the queen makes of the bishop’s personal secretary James Bassett whom she appoints groom of her privy chamber. Basset is later created a principal gentleman in King Philip’s privy chamber.

From the outset Stephen Gardiner is really the queen’s principal minister. The rest is smoke and mirrors.

This alone explains why the bishop bothers to compose his Machiavellian Treatise and another of his household men George Rainsford writes a description of England to introduce Gardiner’s political guide-book dedicated to King Philip. Gardiner’s men receive senior appointments in church and government.

View along the nave of Winchester Cathedral to the west door

When Philip lands in Southampton the bishop brings the queen’s personal gift of a diamond ring to Philip. He also brings news of Philip’s accession to the thrones of Naples and Sicily and Jerusalem. The marriage itself takes place in the Bishop Gardiner’s cathedral at Winchester. Later, it is from the bishop’s palace in London, Winchester House in Southwark, that Philip crosses London Bridge and enters London in his public triumph.

Gardiner’s primacy can again be clearly measured by the fact that the Legate Cardinal Pole allows him the unique honour to preach the Reconciliation sermon at St Paul’s Cross in December 1554.  This is probably the largest single peaceful public gathering of the entire history of the Tudor monarchy. It brings an estimated thirty thousand people into the streets of London. The bishop’s sermon is loudly cheered and most remarkably the entire crowd kneels in devout silence to receive the absolution from the Pope.

It may have been Bishop Gardiner’s eloquence that so moved the queen’s subjects. More likely it was the queen’s pregnancy which had been simultaneously proclaimed to universal rejoicing.

On his death in 1555 Gardiner is given the largest public funeral in the sixteenth century.

Rebel alarums and wedding bells

If from the outset, as we have seen, Queen Mary’s objectives were widely understood it did not mean they were entirely unopposed.

The same male prejudices that made a foreign bride an attractive prospect also made a foreign groom an ugly one. Inherent in male title was the notion of legitimate entitlement. This problem is repeatedly explored in Shakespeare’s plays. Just as today, there was hostility to foreigners coming into England and robbing those born here of their just deserts.

And it was this, more than the religion of the queen’s prospective groom that fed the discontents that had not been clearly defeated by force of arms in July 1553. These underlying suspicions were easily provoked. In the autumn of 1553 they become mixed-up with unease over the novelty of female rule; the religious fervour of some dispossessed evangelicals and their convinced adherents; and the naked ambitions of those who had little left to lose from making a fight of it.  Of the latter group, the duke of Suffolk was foremost and forefront but others like Sir Thomas Wyatt are drawn in.

The lady Elizabeth herself was involved – copies of letters to her were found in the bag of the French Ambassador’s man Nicolas.  And as previously in the attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne – behind all is the hand of Henri II. The French king has most to gain from Mary I’s defeat.

And everyone is equally aware than every delay significantly reduces the queen’s chances of having a child.  Once again the queen acts decisively. Once again she takes command.

In order to play this public role the queen uses the public apartments of the palace. Mary makes Wolsey’s White Hall her command centre. As at Framlingham, Mary wears as breastplate over her gorgeous gowns. She strides about confidently – playing Boudicca before the troops. And again as at Framlingham she speaks directly to the royal guard and assembled troops in the palace forecourts. Most dramatically she rides into the city and addresses the citizens of London in Guildhall. Singlehandedly she turns the tide with some of the finest rhetoric spoken by Tudor lips. It’s as affecting as Elizabeth’s address at Tilbury and yet more remarkable for, unlike Elizabeth who already knew the danger was behind her when she spoke, Mary spoke knowing she was beset with as yet undefeated dangers. Afterwards to cheering crowds she calmly took her royal barge back to her palace at Whitehall.

Wyatt’s rebellion achieved one end. It delayed the completion of the negotiation of the marriage treaty. The Imperial negotiators had scarpered. They do not return to England until March by which time rebel heads have fallen in their rebel cause – taking with them Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley. They very nearly manage to take the Lady Elizabeth and the earl of Devon as well…

Queen Mary’s strengthened hand induces further Imperial concessions – though the prospective groom remains as jittery as a colt. By May the treaty is concluded and the cloth-makers of Spain are busily stitching together the grandest trousseau in the history of grooms.

After Mary’s decisive victory over Wyatt everyone in England was expected to do their duty. As clearly the English political class expected to be paid for the privilege. The Imperial negotiators dug even deeper into their deep pockets. And as ever money easily bought the principles that Wyatt believed no true Englishmen would willingly surrender.

King Philip and Queen Mary I are married in one of the most extraordinary and beautiful services of the sixteenth century. The spectacle is easily forgotten by history but at the time it made a huge impression.

The cathedral inside and out was decked in fine cloth of gold. There were stages and raised platforms for the procession. There were fanfares and grand processions. The music was composed by the two chapels royal. It was the first time horns, wind and other instruments were used in English services. The setting of the mass was probably by Morales; the Te Deum and Ave Maria may have been by Robert Parsons. Indeed this may have been the occasion for Parson’s famous setting of the prayer.  There were two chairs of state with separate matching canopies (a sign that the royal revels at least suspected what none were meant to know – that Philip would be a king in his own right rather than made king consort by his marriage).

They married on the feast of St James. The Nuptial Mass was probably a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit: we know Gardiner worse a scarlet and gold chasuble with a cloth of gold cope over his mass vestments. There were five deacons and two sub-deacons in cloth of gold -according to use of the Sarum pontifical. The vows were taken in English according to the Sarum rite.

The queen was asked to take Philip as her lawful husband and to be buxom to him, worship him and serve him. Philip placed a ring with pieces of silver and gold on the paten saying in heavily accented English:

‘With this ring I thee wed; this gold and silver I thee give, with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow’

As we have seen the political establishment had already acquired an appetite for Philip’s Spanish goods – at least in gold and silver. They had tasted the fruits of the marriage and found them remarkably palatable.

Unremarkably having taken the king’s shilling their hearts and minds followed. The English did their duty by King Philip. They even fought in his war with France. Indeed that war was the means by which the Dudley family restored its fortunes. And they were already back in their place at court when Queen Mary died in November 1558.

By then her marriage had already failed in its prime object – to secure the succession by a male heir.

Conclusions

Forty years of Queen Elizabeth eclipsed so much of what Mary had set out to achieve in 1553 that it was thought her brief reign achieved nothing whatever. It suited Elizabeth and her government that the propaganda of Fox in the propaganda of the Book of Martyrs and the burnings should symbolise Mary’s religious reforms – with their easy associations with Spanish ‘auto-da-fe’ and the Spanish Inquisition and her ‘Spanish marriage’. The propaganda drew attention away from those whose entrails were slowly drawn on English scaffolds in the name of treason but in reality in the cause of religion.

Truth told time was never on Mary I’s side. And the shortness of time has coloured perceptions. It has told against her and her extraordinary achievements in the brief space of time made available for to her reign.

But history should not be a time server.

The reign of Mary Tudor is remarkable for all manner of reasons. Many of the templates of female government are established in her brief time: first as a virgin queen and then as a married regnant. And not least remarkable is her handling of the negotiations for her marriage. It really was blueprint for other queens regnant to use. And use it they did – Mary Stewart in her negotiations for a second husband; Elizabeth herself in the negotiations with Alencon.

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