Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Question from Roland - Historical reference for "Mary Rose" name

Question about Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor, (the 'French Queen' and later Duchess of Suffolk) - I've read books where she was referred to as 'Mary Rose', but I've yet to come across an actual historical reference to her by that name.

Was 'Mary Rose' a romanticized invention of fiction writers? I've a feeling that was so. Or was it that her name 'Mary' was mistakenly linked to Henry VIII's ship 'The Mary Rose'?


Roland H.


Anonymous said...

Her name was not Mary Rose. It was just Mary. It's an interesting story how she came to be called that though.

Almost as soon has ascended the throne, Henry VIII set about trying to improve England's navy, which meant building more and larger ships that were basically armed warships. He refused to acknowledge that he was doing that though, saying he was building pleasure ships for himself and his family. So we had the Henry Grace a Dieu and the Catherine Pleasaunce. I doubt Henry fooled anybody, but he insisted they were just pleasure ships.

The Mary Rose was officially christened after the Virgin Mary and given a long Latin name, so it's not surprising it got shortened to just the Mary at first. I've never read any speculation on how the Rose got in the name, but I would guess that it might have had decorations of Tudor roses and that could have contributed to the name. That's just a guess on my part, though.

While the Mary Rose was being built in 1514 and 1515, Henry's sister Mary was very prominent at court, due to her marriage to Louis XII of France and then, after Louis's death, her marriage to Charles Brandon. And when the ship was completed, she attended a very well-publicized celebratory dinner on the ship.

I think these things led to her being associated with the ship in the public mind, though there really is no indication that I've ever found that the ship was meant to be named after her.

Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor are my particular area of interest and I used to be very annoyed when she was called Mary Rose. But I bow to the inevitable. She will continue to be called that, because it is a very convenient and easy way to distinguish her from her niece, Mary I.

Lara said...

Eeek, I sometimes use the "Rose", but I usually put it in quotes since I just use it, like you said Kathy, to help differentiate between her and Mary I. I don't think I ever really thought about if it was historically accurate or not!

Anonymous said...

Lara, I try not to pay attention to anybody calling her Mary Rose any more. It really is convenient, so it will stay, I'm sure.

You know, I didn't think about this until I was reading over my post, but in a weird sort of way, Mary has almost come to be named after the ship rather than the other way around!

(Oh, and sorry for my typos. I am very typing-challenged. I'll try to do better in the future.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info Kathy. I think the 1953 movie 'The Sword and the Rose' (starring Glynis Johns) about Mary and Charles Brandon might've added to the 'Mary Rose' confusion.


kb said...

From the Mary Rose (ship) site:

"The Mary Rose is believed to have been named after the King's favourite sister, Mary, and the Tudor emblem, the Rose. Once in the Thames she was fitted out and equipped with her ordnance. There is a payment to...

Cornelius Johnson, gunmaker, towards new stocking and repairing divers pieces of ordnance in the king's ships now in the Thames, viz., The Mary and John, The Anne of London, The Mary Rose and The Peter Granade, £20. To the same, for eight loads of elm for stocking the said ordnance, at 4s. the load."

I have also never heard of Mary Tudor Valois Brandon being referred to as Mary Rose during her life.

Anonymous said...

To begin with people thought that the Mary Rose was named after Mary Boleyn but in fact the ship was named after the king's sister Mary Brandon Tudor. The king's favourite sister.

Anonymous said...

roland, I don't really think The Sword and the Rose (based on Charles Major's When Knighthood Was in Flower had all that much of an impact. It was really the salvage of the Mary Rose and all the publicity that entailed that started the trend of using "Rose" with her name. Mary and Charles' story is so interesting anyway, it's hard to see why people want to botch it up so much as The Sword and the Rose (not to mention The Tudors!) did.

kb, the Mary Rose site gives a very inadequate version of the history of the ship and is not adequately documented. They offer nothing that I could find on the site in the way of contemporary Tudor references to document their assertions on the name.

My books are a little bit scattered at the moment (long story) and I am recovering from some back problems that make it difficult for me to locate references, but I did find one last night that may help.

In Alison Weir's Henry VIII, The King and his Court, she sites Venetian state papers (presumably correspondence from the Venetian ambassador to England at the time) to write:

"On 29 October 1515, the King attended the launching of another new ship, The Virgin Mary, which became popularly known as the "Princess Mary" in honour of Mary Tudor." It goes on to describe the formal naming of the ship by Queen and the onboard feast attended by all present (including Mary as I noted in my original post). (There are numerous printings of Weir's book, all of which seem to vary in page numbering. In my version, this passage is on page 192. It will probably be different in other versions. It is near the beginning of Chapter 22).

If the ship were to be named after Mary Tudor, there is no reason they would christen her The Virgin Mary. That makes no sense at all. They would have called her the Mary Tudor or the Queen of France or really, even the Mary Rose after the style of the Catherine Pleasaunce, but they wouldn't have named her the Virgin Mary. Incidentally, Mary was about four months pregnant at the time, which would have made it all a bit ridiculous too.

The comment at the Mary Rose site that the ship is believed named after Mary is true on its face. It's just incorrectly believed to be named after her. They need to research it a bit further.