Saturday, December 16, 2017

Royal Wedding Weekend: Queen Mary Tudor

Have you heard the news?? (I know you have!)  Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on May 19, and I am SO excited at the news.  To celebrate, I've decided to blog about a few royal weddings of the past.  Some ended happily, many did not, but there were always beautiful clothes, pageantry, and some kind of hope for the future.

We'll start in the 1500s, with the wedding of Queen Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain, on July 25, 1554.  Mary had not been queen long, after her dramatic accession, and she was eager to marry.  She was 37, loved children, and really wanted to be a traditional wife, which she had been denied for her whole life.  There were also the concerns of state, the need for an heir.  But her choice was not a popular one.  Encouraged by her cousin and longtime mentor, Charles V, and with nostalgic memories of her Spanish mother, she determined to marry Charles's son Philip II.  Philip was 10 years younger but already a widower, and said to be very handsome.  Mary's council, and most of the country's population, were not big on foreigners, and had qualms that the two would unite in their uber-Catholicism.  Mary brushed them off, maybe already somewhat infatuated with the idea of a bit of romance in her life at long last, and declared she would marry him.  After quelling some anti-Spanish riots, she did just that.

The royal couple married at majestic Winchester Cathedral two days after meeting (Mary was enthusiastic; Philip less so, but no doubt being declared King of England made him happy enough).  As Philip spoke no English, the service was conducted in a mix of Latin, Spanish, and English, and it was hours long and quite grand.  Philip wore "breeches and doublet were white...over all a mantle of cloth of gold...ornamented with pearl and precious stones, and wearing the collar of the Garter."  The cathedral itself was "richly hanged with arras and cloth of gold," with a dais draped in scarlet and set with two thrones.  (Philip had been declared King of England, to rule alongside his wife).

Mary herself wore a dress of the French style, "rich tissue with a border and wide sleeves, embroidered upon purple satin, set with pearls," and a kirtle and train of white and silver satin.  (A splendid replica was made to be displayed at the cathedral)

The ceremony was followed with a lavish banquet and dancing, amid the uneasy mixing of Spanish and English courtiers (the Spanish didn't think much of Mary's looks), and then the marriage bed was blesed by Archbishop Gardiner and the couple put to bed.  The marriage was almost certainly consumated, because a few months later Mary thought herself pregnant, her blessing from God complete.  (It turned out to be a false pregnancy, a humiliating blow Mary never recovered from).  The marriage was marred by war, illness, and long separations, though Mary was devoted to her husband.

When Mary died in 1558, Philip was in Brussels and had not seen her in many months.  He declared he felt a "reasonable regret" for her death, and later tried to court her half-sister Elizabeth, and then married a French princess.  Much later, he went to war with the country where he was so briefly king, with the disastrous Armada.  I always feel so sorry for Mary.

There are many interesting biographies of Mary and Philip, but a couple of my favorites are:
Linda Porter, Mary Tudor: The First Queen
Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor, England's First Queen

You can see more about the Act of Marriage here.

(and on a totally different note, if you are in the mood for a Regency Christmas read, my Wallflower's Mistletoe Wedding is still available!!  I promise it's a lot more fun than the fateful union of Mary and Philip....)

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