Thursday, 18 February 2010

Happy birthday Mary!

On this day in 1516 the subject of this blog was born! Like her father and half-sister, Mary was born at Greenwich Palace and christened in the church of the Observant Friars (seen near the right in the sixteenth-century image of the palace posted below).

Mary was the only child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon that survived infancy. Though not the son desired, Mary was a healthy child and her birth prompted hope that the royal couple could proceed to have another healthy infant. Despite the joy exhibited at her birth the Venetian ambassador, Sebastian Giustinian, still offered his condolences to the new father over the disappointment of the child’s sex. [1] Fortunately Henry VIII did not take offence and subtly reminded the ambassador that both he and his wife were young and, “if it was a daughter this time, by the grace of God the sons will follow”. An earlier report by Giustinian also reveals that news of Ferdinand of Aragon’s death reached the English court whilst Katherine was in labour and her husband naturally withheld the news until after Mary’s birth.

Not only did Mary turn out to be a healthy baby but she was allegedly a rather well behaved one as well. As Henry later boasted to Giustinian, “By God, Mr. Ambassador, this baby never cries”.[2]


[1] In fact, Giustinian even delayed his formal ‘congratulations’ for some hours because the baby turned out to be a girl!

[2] Though an angel in her father’s eyes, little Mary’s behaviour was not always appreciated by others. On one occasion when Henry VIII was showing off the two-year-old Mary in front of several dignitaries she spotted Dionysius Memo, the Venetian organist, and started exclaiming loudly ‘Priest! Priest!’ in order to gain his attention and get him to play for her. Henry thought this was adorable; onlookers thought Mary was little better than a spoilt royal brat!

1 comment:

  1. The current show, The Tudors, on Showtime portrays Mary as not worthy of her Royal birth. No doubt to appease the current Tudor.