Thursday, January 08, 2009

Question from Nikki - Mary as Princess of Wales

I am reading "bloody mary" by carolly erickson. she states that princess mary became "princess of wales," the first girl to beknown by that title, officially. the footnote says "lord ferrers, steward of mary's welsh household, referred to her council as "the prince's council. L.P. IV:i:ii, 830."

i had no idea she was princess of wales?


  1. The title was never officially bestowed on her. David Loades in his biography on Mary argued that Henry did not wish to confirm Mary as his heir, but to instead ‘keep his options open’ thus never granted her this title. Nevertheless she appears to have been viewed by many as Henry’s lawful heir and as princess of Wales. Her time at Ludlow, the traditional seat of princes of Wales, probably confirmed her unofficial title in the eyes of many.

    Reasons as to why Mary was sent to Ludlow vary and may have been a compilation of motives. The official line was the argument that the lack of a Prince of Wales, and thus a representative for the monarch in that area, had allegedly promoted discord in that region. Thus the arrival of Mary would promote ‘good order, quiet and tranquillity’. Unofficial reasons may have included Henry’s desire to appease his wife and others by awarding Mary some degree of responsibility and honour as he had done to his illegitimate son (Fitzroy had been created earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond in 1525 and awarded a significant household). Loades also suggests that Henry desired to separate Mary from ‘the overweening influence of her mother’ although does not credit this as being the main reason.

  2. She was treated as such before Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn, divorce to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, and the birth of her half-sister, Elizabeth. After the birth of Elizabeth, she was stripped of her title as princess. She was then assigned to the houehold of her sister, who now bore the title, though not the title "Princess of Wales."

  3. yes, and also i've noticed Elizabeth got her title a lot sooner than Mary got hers, because it would seem Henry got impaitent, wheras when he was married to katherine, he figured that sons would soon follow, so he did not make Mary Princess of Wales until he must have realized Katherine could no longer bear children.

  4. A new book, with the weighty title of From Heads of Households to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor 1516-1558, argues that Henry never regarded Mary as his heir, except for one brief moment in 1525 when he hoped that her betrothed Charles V would allow his prospective father-in-law to undertake the conquest of northern France while Charles held the French king captive after Pavia.

    Before that, Mary's household was not that of an heir, but an ad hoc conglomeration originally intended to comprise all of the king's daughters and younger sons, as only the eldest son received an official separate household. Unfortunately, the longed-for "Prince of Wales" never arrived so Mary was the sole occupant. However, Mary's household was organized as a satellite of the king's; her servants wore the king's livery and her furnishings came from the king and queen.

    Henry's 1525 ambitions prompted him to elevate Mary's status by sending her to Wales as his representative, according to author J.L. McIntosh. The imperial alliance fell through before she went, but Henry continued with the plan because of unrest on the Welsh borders. Traditionally, the kings of England sent a viceregal representative, preferably a member of the royal family, to establish authority on the borders. (There was equal unrest on the Scots border at the same time, and Henry sent his newly elevated son the Duke of Richmond to head the northern council, which McIntosh thinks is a clear sign he was backing two horses.)

    Mary's household in Wales was set up to be a princely household -- her servants wore her own special livery and she presided over a magnate's court, indulging in courtly entertainments and commanding the budget and entertainment of a prince. Nikki's point about the prince's council is analyzed by McIntosh; apparently "princes" was an acceptable spelling for "princess" in the 16th century and the possessive was rarely used, so what you are seeing is actually "princess' council," not "prince's council."

    As Nasim points out, Mary was never princess of Wales and as a female she could not be made princess of Wales. "In the sixteenth century ... a woman was not eligible to hold the title in her own right. The designation 'Princess of Wales' was reserved only for the wife of the Prince of Wales. There are no official documents, generated by the crown, which refer to Mary holding the title of Princess of Wales or Prince of Wales."

    However, Mary's court in Ludlow and the deference with which she was treated caused most foreign and domestic observers to assume she was the king's heir, the "princess of Wales," in popular parlance, because that was what the king's direct heir was always called.

    Olivia's point about Elizabeth getting the title (not of princess of Wales, but of heir to the throne) is also addressed in this book. According to McIntosh, Henry realized that the ad hoc approach he had taken to Mary's household in her infancy and childhood would not work when he was trying to convince hostile foreign and domestic parties of the legitimacy of his new marriage and his new heir. Elizabeth started off life with a household appropriate to the heir of England, unlike her sister Mary.

    It's a very interesting book -- I recommend it!


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