Melita has kindly shared with us an interesting extract about Mary's relationship with her cousin, Emperor Charles V:
‘My well-beloved future Empress: Mary and the Emperor Charles V
One of the most important influences in Mary’s life was her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, a man who ruled over more territory in Europe than any man since Charlemagne. Born in 1500, to Mary’s aunt Juana and Duke Philip of Burgundy, Charles became Duke of Burgundy in 1506, and King of Spain a month before Mary’s birth. Before Mary was four, he was also Emperor.
England and Burgundy had been allies for many years, and Spain and England since the treaty of Medina del Campo of 1489, which had agreed the marriage of Mary’s mother, Katharine of Aragon, to Arthur, Prince of Wales. When Henry VIII came to the throne and married his late brother’s widow, the alliance with Charles was renewed.
Henry’s life-long ambition was to reconquer France, and similarly, Charles, although he had no designs on French territory, was eager to defeat François of France in the disputed Italian peninsula, and prevent French expansion. Much of the diplomacy of Henry and Charles throughout Henry’s reign, was thus dedicated to their combined assaults on François I, although both, at times, were also allied to France.
In 1521, the Treaty of London, which Henry and François had signed in 1518, and which was to be cemented by the marriage of Mary and François’ young son, was under strain, at the same time as Charles and François were at daggers drawn. Using the cover story of attempting mediation between the warring parties, Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s chief minister, travelled to Charles in his Burgundian capital of Bruges and negotiated a secret agreement, under which Mary would marry the Emperor. At that time, she was five, and Charles was twenty-one. It was agreed that the following year, he would visit England and sign the treaty in person.
Accordingly, in June 1522, Charles arrived in England, where he was wined, dined and entertained for a month. He met the six-year-old Mary, who seems to have formed as much attachment to him as a little girl can to a kind, older male relative. The court was first at Greenwich, and later, Mary joined them at Windsor Castle, where a treaty was formally agreed, according to which Charles, would marry Mary, when she reached the minimum marriageable age of twelve. There was a caveat, that the Pope had to grant a dispensation for the match, because of the close blood relationship of the two. He could not be asked immediately, because neither party wished the French to be alerted to the treaty – Charles was already bound to marry one of François’ daughters and Mary was still betrothed to the French Dauphin.
All seemed set fair for Mary to have a glorious future as Holy Roman Empress. Mary wore a brooch with the words ‘the Emperor’ enamelled on it, and Charles would ask after his ‘beloved future Empress’. The only fly in the ointment, so far as Henry was concerned, was that he had been obliged to agree that, if Mary had no brothers, she would inherit the throne of England. But Henry continued to hope that Katharine would bear a son, and it was not until 1524, that he seems to have accepted that that had become impossible.
In 1525, Charles won a stunning victory over the French at the battle of Pavia. King François was captured, and it seemed to Henry that, with his ally’s support, he could now sweep into France, to be crowned king, just as Henry VI of England had been, a hundred years before. But Charles hesitated. He had run out of money, and now that he had secured Italy, he was disinclined to interfere in France. He refused to give Henry more than moral support, and permission to raise troops in Charles’ territories, at Henry’s own expense. In the meantime, he was so short of cash himself that he needed Mary to be sent to him immediately, along with her dowry.
Henry was appalled – Charles’ demands were contrary to the treaty, and he could not let Mary, his only legitimate child, leave the country so young. She could not be married for another three years – and even that would be too soon, in Henry’s reckoning. Aware of the dangers of early childbirth, as suffered by his grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, Henry was adamant that Mary could not consummate any marriage until she was sufficiently physically mature. But he could not let Mary go to Spain without an immediate wedding, lest Charles hold her hostage.
But Charles would not wait – desperate for cash, he married Isabella of Portugal, whose brother was offering a dowry of 1m ducats, more than twice what Henry was offering with Mary, although, as the English pointed out, she had the chance of bringing the crown of England with her.
Henry was mortified, and his anger against Charles was another nail in the coffin of his relationship with his wife. Katharine could bear no more children, and, whilst in earlier years, Henry had been deeply attached to his wife, they had grown apart, and he was enamoured of a young woman of the court, Anne Boleyn.
There is no record of Mary’s reaction to being jilted by Charles – it does not seem to have affected her view of him, and Katharine, although it made her life more difficult, perhaps accepted it as a mere matter of policy.
It was certainly to Charles that Katharine turned in 1527 when she heard rumours that Henry intended to request the Pope for an annulment of their marriage. She sent a secret messenger to her nephew, and he reacted as she hoped. He wrote to Henry, begging him to desist from taking such a scandalous step, and put pressure on the pope to reject Henry’s request. Not long after, Charles dominated the situation, when his troops sacked Rome, and effectively delivered the pope, Clement VII, into Imperial control.
But, although for the next nine years, until Katharine’s death in 1536, Charles exhorted Henry, nagged the pope, and send endless messages of support to his aunt and cousin, at no time did he think of involving himself more directly. He was attached to both Katharine and Mary, but not to the extent of doing more than writing letters, and offering consolation. He had neither the inclination nor the resources to take any military action, nor would he damage his own native Burgundy’s economy by banning trade with England.
Far more enthusiastically engaged with Mary and Katharine was Charles’ ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Chapuys constantly urged Charles to do more, and gave Mary as much moral support as he could – he also gave her the impression that Charles was more emotionally invested in her situation than was probably the case.
It crossed Charles’ mind that it would be useful to have Mary in his own hands, and he gave some encouragement to the idea that she should try to escape – at one time, there was even a ship in the Thames that had orders to take her to safety in The Netherlands, but he was never strongly in favour of an escape – to give succour to the King of England’s daughter would be an open act of aggression, that would be of no benefit of Charles - nothing would be more likely than that it would drive Henry would form an alliance with France to Charles’ detriment in Italy.
As time passed, and it became apparent that Henry was not going to take Katharine back, Charles began to put his own needs for warmer relations between the countries above the welfare of his aunt and Mary. He made it clear via conversations between Chapuys and Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, towards the end of 1535, that he sought a rapprochement. When Katharine died in January 1536, Charles was even willing to go so far as to offer to mediate with the Pope to have Anne Boleyn recognised as Henry’s wife. As for Mary, although he did not want her to sign the oaths of Succession and Supremacy, which proclaimed Katharine’s marriage invalid, and Henry as Supreme Head of the Church in England, he advised her to sign, if her life were in danger.
Mary did sign, although not until after the execution of Anne Boleyn, and was restored to paternal favour. But she did not forget the support that Charles had given her – and perhaps valued it more than it was worth. Charles saw the opportunity to improve relations with England, and suggested a marriage between Mary and their mutual cousin, Dom Luis of Portugal. He promoted this idea for some years, but nothing came of it.
Later, after Charles was widowed, there was even talk of reviving the match between him and Mary, but although, according to Chapuys, the emperor’s ‘mouth was made to water’ at the thought of the now-mature Mary, there could be no possibility of the emperor marrying a woman considered illegitimate in her own country, and Henry could not be persuaded to change her status, especially as he now had a son, Edward, and did not want to risk Mary, with all of the resources that would be available to her as empress, trying to oust Edward from the succession.
Throughout Henry’s reign, Charles was rewarded for his support for Mary by her confidence, and her willingness to share information with his envoys about events in England. It is difficult to ascertain whether she was passing on more details of what was going on in England than Henry realised, or whether he was deliberately feeding her information he wanted Charles to hear, and Mary, either wittingly or not, was being used as a diplomatic pawn.
Charles’ concern for Mary became one of her psychological mainstays – and he was to reap the rewards of his efforts, however limited, during her own reign.
"The King's Pearl" is available now from Amberley Publishing.
Melita Thomas is the co-founder and editor of Tudor Times, a repository of information about Tudors and Stewarts in the period 1485-1625 www.tudortimes.co.uk
Melita has loved history since being mesmerised by the BBC productions of ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ and ‘Elizabeth R’, when she was a little girl. After that, she read everything she could get her hands on about this most fascinating of dynasties. Captivated by the story of the Lady Mary galloping to Framingham to set up her standard and fight for her rights, Melita began her first book about the queen when she was 9. The manuscript is probably still in the attic.
Whilst still pursuing a career in business, Melita took a course on writing biography, which led her and her business partner to the idea for Tudor Times, and gave her the inspiration to begin writing about Mary again.
‘The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary’ is her first book. She has several ideas for a second project, and hopes to settle on one and begin writing by the end of the year.
In her spare time, Melita enjoys long distance walking. She is attempting to walk around the whole coast of Britain, and you can follow her progress here. https://mgctblog.com/