“I doubt not that your grace does take me for your lawful daughter, born in true matrimony”

Mary’s Coat of Arms as Princess

In July of 1531 Henry removed himself from Katherine at Windsor and set himself up at Woodstock. Mary was moved to Richmond and was not allowed to see her mother. Henry rightly believed that she would side with her mother in the divorce proceedings. Katherine and Mary continued to correspond with each other. In April 1533 Mary received two notes from Henry, the first announcing his marriage to Anne Boleyn, the second stating that she must no longer write to Katherine. She begged to be able to write one last letter but was refused. On September 7 Anne gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth. This was not the longed-for son and Katherine and Mary may have taken some relief in this but the worst was yet to come.

Mary received a letter from William Paulet, Comptroller of the Royal Household, that she was no longer a princess but described as the ‘Lady Mary, the King’s daughter.’ She was not going to accept this mildly and wrote a letter to the king expressing her concern that she had no doubt that he would, “take me for your lawful daughter born in true matrimony. If I agreed to the contrary I should offend God; in all other things Your Highness shall find me an obedient daughter.” The king responded that she had forgotten her filial duty in, “arrogantly usurping the title of Princess.” But she remained defiant. Mary inherited pride and obstinacy from both of her parents; she was not weak. Henry was angry and sent the Duke of Norfolk to her in December. She was given a half-hour notice to pack up her things and be moved to Hatfield to join Princess Elizabeth’s household. When she arrived the Duke asked if she would not go and pay her respects to the princess. Mary replied that she knew of no other princess in England except herself, but since the king had acknowledged Elizabeth as his she was willing to call her ‘sister’ as she called the Duke of Richmond, ‘brother’. Given the worst room in the house, Mary was also forced to hand over her jewels to the baby and her servants were dismissed. Mary was placed under the authority of Lady Shelton, Anne Boleyn’s aunt, who had been instructed by the king that if Mary was troublesome to give her a good beating. When Henry came to visit Elizabeth, Mary was ordered to be locked in her room. On one occasion knowing that Henry was leaving she went out onto the tower to look at him. When he saw her there he saluted and turned away. If Mary was hoping that there would be a change of heart she must have been sadly disappointed.

Mary by Horenbout

In September of 1534 Mary became gravely ill. Henry sent his own physician Dr. Butts to see her and concluded that her illness was partially caused by “sorrow and trouble.” Henry allowed Mary to be moved closer to Kimbolton to be able to see Katherine’s physician but still unable to see her mother.

The greatest test came with Henry’s Oath of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy. The Oath of Succession declared Henry’s marriage with Katherine as unlawful and his marriage to Anne Boleyn lawful and her children as legitimate. The Oath of Supremacy declared Henry as the supreme head of the Church of England and declared that the Pope no longer had authority in England. All subjects of the king were required to swear to these oaths and if not, they would be punished by life in prison or death. Mary heard through Elizabeth’s ladies that the king had decided to cut off her head if she refused to take the oaths. Mary was now sufficiently afraid to begin to plan escape from England to a safe haven on the continent. These plans occupied much of her days and contained scenarios of Mary drugging the household in order to escape unnoticed, or while out walking to be abducted by horsemen whom would take her to a waiting ship. She had to be convinced by the Emperor Charles’ ambassador Eustace Chapuys that it was too risky for her to think of escape.          

A portrait thought to be Mary

At the end of 1535 Katherine became ill. She died on January 7, 1536 without being allowed to write a last letter to Mary. In May, Anne Boleyn was arrested and tried for adultery. The day before her execution her marriage to Henry was annulled and Elizabeth became illegitimate and now known as the Lady Elizabeth. Henry’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond, also died in 1536. Mary may have felt some vindication at the death of Anne Boleyn but she was still not out of danger. The king sent over the Duke of Norfolk and members of the Privy Council to demand from Mary that she sign articles renouncing papal supremacy and declaring her mother’s marriage to Henry was unlawful. She considered this a betrayal of her mother and refused to sign. The Duke of Norfolk told her that if she were his daughter he would, “beat her and knock her head so violently against the wall that it would make it as soft as a baked apple” and that she was a traitor and should be punished. Henry’s first reaction was to demand her arrest and send her to the Tower. The Counselors interceded and asked to be sent to Mary one last time. Worn out and afraid, Mary signed the articles at eleven o’clock at night on Thursday June 15, 1536. She begged the king to forgive her and that she knew she had offended him. Six months later she was finally allowed to return to court.  

She was now twenty years old. Henry had not spoken to her since she was fifteen.

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir