Mary Tudor

Mary Tudor

Mary-Tudor
Mary Tudor c.1514

Painted for Louis XII before Mary left England for France

By Jean Perreal of Paris, Royal Painter of the French Court

Few villages can claim the distinction of being at one time the home of a Queen.  Mary Tudor, the younger sister of Henry VIII, made her home at Westhorpe Hall following her marriage to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.

Mary Tudor, known throughout the land for her beauty, was obliged under an arrangement made by her brother to marry King Louis XII of France.  She was just eighteen years old at the time of her marriage and within three months, King Louis died.  He was fifty-two.

Charles Brandon was a close friend and confidante of Henry VIII and it was at court that he first met the King’s sister with whom he secretly fell in love.  Charles Brandon was sent to France by Henry to bring Mary home after the death of Louis.  Henry was opposed to a match between the pair wishing instead for any future marriage of Mary to be to his advantage so he was outraged when he discovered they had secretly married in France in 1515.  On their return to England, Henry imposed a heavy fine on them which made it impossible for them to live at court.

Westhorpe Hall was built for the Duke of Suffolk and Mary, who continued to be known as the French Queen, during the mid-1520s.  If the Duke is to be believed, Westhorpe Hall cost him £12,000 and this scale of expenditure would alone indicate the importance of the house.  This magnificent building was a symbol of the Duke’s status as an East Anglian magnate to rival Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and as a base from which he and his wife could lavishly entertain. Charles Brandon created an adjoining deer park, known as ‘New Park’ to ensure his property was fit for a queen.  The sport of hunting was something both Mary and Charles enjoyed.

Mary, having spent much of her time at Westhorpe in particular laying out the gardens in the ‘French style’, sadly died there in June 1533.  She lay embalmed in her chapel for almost a month during which time her ducal chaplains sang daily divine service.  After a final mass on 21st July, 1533, her coffin left Westhorpe and processed to Bury St Edmunds where she was buried in the Abbey.  After the Dissolution, her body was moved to St Mary’s Church, Bury St Edmunds.  Her entrails were buried underneath the chancel floor in St Margaret’s church as evidenced by a visiting Herald in 1603 who recorded  ‘By lyes under a little stone the bowels of the French Queen Mary, wife of Charles Brandon, D.of Suffolk’.

Westhorpe Hall was demolished in the mid-eighteenth century.  All that remains of its former glory are the coat of arms placed in the brickwork of the new hall and a lovely three-arched Tudor bridge over the moat.  Dredging of the moat in recent times has recovered stonework, some highly decorated, which gives just a glimpse of what a fine building it was.

westhorpe-bridge

Westhorpe Tudor Bridge

mary-tudor-info-board

Board hanging in St Margaret’s Church

close-up-of-crest

Close up of Crest

mary-tudor-grave at Bury St Edmunds

Mary Tudor Grave at Bury St Edmunds

 3: Charles Brandon’s Westhorpe, an Early Tudor Courtyard House in Suffolk   SJ Gunn & PG Lindley The Proceedings Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History 145 (1988) pp272-289
 4: The Choreography of Suffolk Ed. D.N.J. MacCulloch

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