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  • Written by Jean Plaidy
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  • Written by Jean Plaidy
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Mary, Queen of France

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The Story of the Youngest Sister of Henry VIII

Written by Jean PlaidyAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Jean Plaidy


List Price: $9.99


On Sale: May 05, 2010
Pages: 304 | ISBN: 978-0-307-49670-6
Published by : Broadway Books Crown/Archetype
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Legendary historical novelist Jean Plaidy brings to life the story of Princess Mary Tudor, a celebrated beauty and born rebel who would defy the most powerful king in Europe—her older brother.

Princess Mary Rose is the youngest sister of Henry VIII, and one of the few people whom he adores unconditionally. Known throughout Europe for her charm and good looks, Mary is the golden child of the Tudor family and is granted her every wish.

Except when it comes to marriage. Henry VIII, locked in a political showdown with France, decides to offer up his pampered baby sister to secure peace between the two mighty kingdoms. Innocent, teenage Mary must become the wife of the elderly King Louis, a toothless, ailing man in his sixties. Horrified and furious, Mary has no choice but to sail for France. There she hones her political skills, bides her time, and remains secretly in love with Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. When King Louis dies, after only two years of marriage, Mary is determined not to be sold into another unhappy union. She must act quickly; if she wants to be with the man she truly loves, she must defy the laws of church and state by marrying without her brother’s permission. Together, Mary and Charles devise a scheme to outwit the most ruthless king in Europe and gain their hearts’ desire, not knowing if it will lead to marital bliss or certain death.


Although the wind blew from the northeast, whipping the cold waters of the Thames, bending the rushes and long grasses on the banks and throwing itself, as though in anger, against the Palace walls, the barges continued to arrive, and great personages alighted at the privy steps.

The young girl kneeling in a window seat watched them with satisfaction.

"Why, Katharine," she said, without turning to look at her sister-in-law, who sat sewing on her stool near the window, "my lord Dudley and my lord Empson are arriving now. Who next, I wonder." She pulled at her plentiful red-gold curls,. "And to think, Katharine, that they are coming to honor me!"

"Nay, Mary, you are over-vain. You should remember that it is not you they honor, but your fathers crown."

"By God's Holy Mother," retorted Mary, "is it my fathers crown then who is going to solemnize its nuptials tomorrow in this Palace?"

"We know it is yourself who is going to do that. But the honor these men do is not for an eleven-year-old girl, but because she is the daughter of the King of England."

"I am twelve, I would have you know," retorted Mary. "Twelve and..." She began to count on her fingers. "Twelve years and nine months. Almost thirteen. So there!"

"That is not so very old, and it is unseemly that you should use such oaths, which are in truth blasphemy."

"Oh, Katharine, you are such a dull creature."

She jumped from the window seat and, running to Katharine, put her arms about her. "There, I did not mean that. But you are so good...and I can never be good. At least I dont intend to be until I am so old that I must think of repentance. But you are not of that age yet, Katharine. Why dont you stop thinking about what is right, and think more about what is amusing?"

She put her head on one side and regarded Katharine. Poor Kate! A widow alreadyand of some years standing. It must be...she tried to count again...six years since Arthur had died, and poor Katharine had been growing older and sadder ever since.

"We are not put on earth to amuse ourselves, Mary," said Katharine quietly.

"But I was," persisted Mary.

"You are young, and you are not as serious as you should be; but as a Princess you have your duty, and that is something you should never forget."

"Duty!" cried Mary, and she swung round so that her tawny, damask petticoats showed beneath her green velvet gown. She pointed her toe and went on: "Oh, Katharine, have you tried the new dance? It goes like this. Henry showed me." She danced awhile, her hair streaming out behind her, her round face pink with the exertion, her blue eyes brilliant. Katharine said a prayer for her. She was so beautiful, so passionate, so self-willed, so spoiled; for even the King, who thought of little but enlarging his exchequer, softened at the sight of his youngest child.

"And," went on Mary, coming to a sudden halt, "I should like to remind you that Henry uses that oath, and if Henry does, then so shall I."

"You should not imitate his bad habits."

"Henry's bad habits! He has none. He is my wonderful brother. Do you know, Katharine, I love him better than anyone in the world." Her face darkened suddenly. "I should love Charles, I suppose, but he is not like Henry." She ran to the picture which she had propped up on the window seat, and coming back, sat at Katharines feet holding it out before her. It showed the Prince of Castile, a boy with sleepy eyes and a heavy jaw; his mouth was slightly open, and it was scarcely a prepossessing face. "Now can you imagine anyone less like Henry?" went on Mary. "And that is Charles, my bridegroom. Oh, what a wonderful thing it would be if Henry were not my brother. Then I might marry him."

"You are very frivolous and talk a great deal of nonsense," said Katharine primly; but in spite of herself she was smiling. She thought: It is the same with us all. We tremble for her; we deplore her frivolity; and yet there is not one of us who is unaffected by her charm. After all, she is but a child. She will grow up. "Dear sister," she went on, "tomorrow is a very solemn occasion for you. If you would like to pray with me..."

Mary shook her head emphatically. "I have said my prayers for the day, and you are quite wrong, Katharine. It is a joyous occasion. Did you not hear the bells ringing out this morning? There will be music in the streets and the people will make bonfires and dance round them. They are all so pleased because I am going to marry Prince Charles. There is nothing solemn about it. My father says it is a good marriage. So do all the old men from Flanders. They say that trade will flourish because of me...and that in marrying Charles I shall be doing my duty to England and my fathers House. So if I am doing all that, Ill not be solemn too. How the wind howls! They say it is hot in Spain. Is it? You know, because it was once your home. Katharine, one day I shall be Queen of Spain."

Katharine shook her head resignedly. "My poor, poor Katharine," Mary rushed on. "All this talk of marriage makes you sad. You remember your own marriage and poor Arthur. Oh, Katharine, I am sorry. But smile. You shall dance tomorrow. Did you know that there is going to be bull-fighting and bear-baiting? There'll be hunting and hawking, and Ill swear therell be jousting. It is going to be so exciting. Henry says that we do not have enough gaiety at Court, and when he is King..." She stopped and put her fingers to her lips. "But it really will be a very fine ceremony, Katharine, and you should enjoy it, with the rest of us."

She heard the sound of laughter from below, and running to the window, she knelt once more on the seat.

"It is Henry," she cried. "He is returning from the hunt. Henry! Henry...!"

She was tapping vigorously on the window, and the group of young men below looked upward. In their center was her brother Henry, already, although not yet eighteen, over six feet tall. He stood, legs apart, hands on hips, for the groom had taken his horse. He was soberly dressed, but only because his father deplored extravagance, and he managed to wear his clothes with a jaunty air; and indeed their very sobriety accentuated his dazzlingly healthy looks.

"Hey, sister," he called; then he turned and spoke to his attendants who immediately burst into laughter, implying that his wit was irresistible.

He entered the Palace and in a few minutes had flung open the door of the room and was striding toward his sister.

She leaped up at him, putting her arm about his neck; he swung her round and she shrieked with delight. Katharine, quietly watching, thought how much they resembled each other and how pleasant it was to observe the affection between a brother and sister. It was particularly comforting to realize that Henry was capable of such deep feeling, because she hoped that one day she might be the object of his devotion. She saw in this young man her chance of regaining her lost dignity, and the humiliation of the last years had been almost beyond bearing. Had she not made a great effort to suppress her feelings, she could have hated the King of England who had treated her with such cold indifference since the death of her mother had reduced her value in the eyes of the world. But now her father, Ferdinand of Aragon, was no longer merely King of Aragon. He had enjoyed great successes in Europe and therefore his daughter had ceased to be as insignificant as she once had been. She knew it was solely for this reason that she was allowed to be the companion of the Princess Mary—still humble, it was true, yet no longer completely banished from Court.

When her mother was alive, this dazzling young Prince had been promised as her second husband; she still hoped that he might remember that promise. So in his presence she was nervous, eager to please and yet afraid that she would betray her anxiety to do so.

"I can scarce wait for tomorrow," Mary was saying.

"Are you so eager to leave us then?" demanded her brother.

"Henry, I never want to leave you!"

His smile was sparkling. He loved praise and could never have enough of it.

"And you know," went on Mary, "it is only a ceremony. I am not to go away for years and years..."

"Let us hope not," cried Henry.

"Then you would have no sisters near you. You have already lost Margaret. Oh, Henry, I wonder what it is like in Scotland. Do you think Margaret ever misses us?"

"She has a husband to think of now, but they say Scotland is a dour country. Id rather be here in Richmond."

"Henry, perhaps Charles will come and live here, and I neednt go away."

"Is that what you would like, little sister?" "Will you command him to do so?"

"I...command the Prince of Castile!"

"Indeed you must, because you will be able to command the whole world when...when..."

The sister and brother looked at each other for a few seconds, then Henry remembered the presence of Katharine. He turned to her and said: "My sister prattles, does she not, Madam?"

"Indeed, she does, Your Highness."

"Katharine has been telling me I should pray more and talk less. I wont, Henry. I wont. I wont."

"You are a bold creature," said Henry. "Now listen to me. When the ceremony is over there will be a banquet and afterward a great masque. We will show these Flemings how we can dance and sing. You and I...with a few of my friends...will slip away and disguise ourselves. Then we will return and dance before the Court. They will be enchanted with us and, when they are asking each other who we can be, we will throw off our disguises and show them."

Mary clasped her hands together and looked up at the ceiling. "Oh, Henry, you think of the most wonderful things. I wish...oh, how I wish..."

"Tell me what you wish?"

She regarded him solemnly. "That I need never go away from you and, because being a Princess I must marry, I wish there was one who looked as you do, who spoke as you do, and was so like you in all ways that people could not tell you apart."

Henry gave a bellow of laughter. He looked at Katharine asthough to say: What do you think of my sister? Is she not ridiculous?

But he was contented that she should be so. He was indeed a contented young man. He believed that everything he wished for would soon be his. Every direction in which he turned he found adulation, and very soon—it could not be long because the old man was coughing and spitting blood regularly now—he would be the King of this country.

His friends paid him all the homage he could wish for; when he rode through the streets of his fathers cities he was cheered more loudly than any. He knew that the whole of England was eagerly awaiting that day when they could call him their King. He would have everything—good looks, good health, charm, gaiety...and all that great wealth which his father had accumulated so single-mindedly over the years.

Yet nothing pleased him quite so much as the adoration of this little sister because, knowing her well, he knew too that when she expressed her love she spoke from the very depth of her heart. Young Mary had never attempted to hide her love or her hatred; had he been a beggar she would have loved him.

He sensed too the yearning tenderness in the demeanor of the other woman, and he felt some regard for her.

This was a happy day for, although on the morrow Marys nuptials were being solemnized, it was only by proxy and she would be with him for some time to come. So he had not to think of parting with her yet.
Jean Plaidy

About Jean Plaidy

Jean Plaidy - Mary, Queen of France
JEAN PLAIDY is the pen name of the prolific English author Eleanor Hibbert, also known as Victoria Holt. More than 14 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Visit www.CrownHistorical.com to learn about the other Jean Plaidy titles available from Three Rivers Press.
About the Book|Discussion Questions

About the Guide

Twelve-year-old Princess Mary is nonchalant when she is married off to Charles, Prince of Castile and heir to the Spanish throne. It will be years before she is forced to actually join her husband in Spain, and the pomp and ceremony of court life provide a colorful and welcome distraction until that fateful day. But on the night of her wedding, Mary meets Charles Brandon, a dashing boyhood friend of her brother Henry, and her life is altered permanently. Suddenly the burden of royalty is a yoke around Mary’s shoulders, and she longs to be the author of her own destiny, free of her loveless political marriage. A glimmer of hope appears when a political snafu between England and Spain cancels her betrothal, but that hope is immediately snuffed out when Henry, now king, announces his intention to send Mary to France to wed Louis XII instead. Devastated, furious at Henry, and hell-bent on reversing this disastrous turn of events, Mary arrives in France and begins a quiet campaign to liberate herself and reunite with her love, Charles Brandon.

But life in the French court is complex, tangled, rife with hidden agendas and political posturing, and Mary soon finds herself engaged in a contentious relationship with François, the Dauphin of France, and his ambitious mother and sister. This trinity of schemers opens Mary’s eyes to the concept that Louis’s death is perhaps the only way out of her gilded cage. Meanwhile, Charles Brandon suffers Henry’s whims back in England and must pretend to be grateful for any advantageous betrothal Henry concocts, even as he secretly yearns for the one hand that will never be offered to him—Mary’s. And as Henry matures into an ever more-ruthless and power-hungry monarch, the two lovers are forced to risk their very lives if they are to unite at last.

Discussion Guides

1. Mary and Henry maintain a subtle balance of power between them. Although Henry has the last word by virtue of being king, Mary has enormous emotional
sway over him. Where do you see Mary affecting Henry’s decisions or intervening to calm situations that would otherwise prove disastrous? When does Henry first offer a glimpse of just how dangerous his temper can be, even with Mary?

2. Henry is so eager to become king that he joyfully anticipates his own father’s death: “Every direction in which he turned he found adulation, and
very soon—it could not be long because the old man was coughing and spitting blood regularly now—he would be the King of this country.” And as Mary contemplates her brother Arthur’s death, she muses, “perhaps it was all for the best…for Henry was surely meant to be King.” Are Henry and Mary vultures or pragmatists? Do you think their attitude is a necessary product of life in the English court, or are they particularly cold-hearted?

3. Mary’s arrival in France as wife to Louis is a hard blow to “the trinity” of François, Marguerite, and Louise. Yet, ironically, it is François who is chosen by the king to greet Mary when she first arrives. How does this first meeting go? Does François have a soft streak, or is he a consummate actor? Mary asks herself, “What was it he was attempting to offer? Commiseration? Consolation?” What is the answer?

4. Early in his rule, Henry faces a series of setbacks. The death of a newborn son, a mutiny by English soldiers in France, and the treacherous teaming-up of Ferdinand of Spain and the Emperor Maximilian, all send Henry into his first serious slump. What changes do you notice in Henry from this point on? How do they affect his rule, and how do they impact Mary’s plans? How does his wife, Queen Katherine, accidentally add insult to injury?

5. The friendship between Charles Brandon and Henry is a vehicle for the most intense dramatic tension in the novel. What method does Charles find most effective for stroking the king’s ego and keeping him happy? Charles recognizes “a certain primness in Henry’s character;” what does he mean by this?

6. Why does Pope Alexander agree to dissolve Louis XII’s marriage to Queen Jeanne? What is in it for him?

7. Despite Charles Brandon’s passionate love for Mary, he seems to be quite content to adapt into whichever romantic union happens to come along. He is betrothed and then un-betrothed to Anne Browne, married to Margaret Mortymer, married to Anne Browne, betrothed to Elizabeth Grey, and comes very close to becoming betrothed to Margaret of Savoy. He is enthused at the beginning of each relationship, seeing it as a new lease on life, but soon becomes apathetic. What do you make of Charles? Is he fickle or just searching for true love? What makes the relationship with Mary stick?

8. From his cushy position as political prisoner in Henry’s court, the Duc de Longueville writes to Louis in France, describing Mary in glowing terms and reporting on Henry’s deep love for her. What is the significance of this letter? What mischief is Longueville attempting to stir up? Does he succeed? Why does he find Henry’s court “so interesting and amusing to watch?”

9. Louise is tormented by the idea of Mary getting pregnant with the king’s child. Since she knows that Mary is desperately unhappy in the marriage, why doesn’t she encourage Mary to take a lover, thus creating a possibility that Mary will be discovered and ousted from the French court? What does Louise fear might happen?

10. What do you make of King Louis? He can see both the wild flirtation that goes on between Mary and François and the blatant love that Mary harbors for Charles Brandon. And yet, while it would be in keeping with the times to have her arrested for treason, he quietly suffers Mary’s indifference. He goes so far as to muse, “My poor little one . . . it is time I was dead.” Is he naïve, kind, self-loathing, or what? What events in his life have led him to this point?

11. When Mary leaves France, she tells Marguerite that “she would always remember their friendship with pleasure,” despite the fact that Marguerite has spent most of Mary’s reign as queen trying to get rid of her. Is this Mary’s version of diplomacy? Has she recognized and sympathized with “the trinity’s” ambitions? Where else do you see Mary smoothing feathers, politically and personally?

12. A theme of silencing runs throughout the novel. In various ways, Henry silences Mary, Louis silences Jeanne, Mary silences Anne Boleyn, etc. Where else do you see this theme at work?

13. François’s first love is the devout, mysterious Françoise. Who is she? Why does she reject him? This is the first refusal François has ever experienced in his gilded life; how does he take it? Who suggests that he simply abduct and seduce Françoise against her will?

14. Men may rule France, but there is fierce competition among the women behind the scenes as they struggle to put their chosen men on the throne. Louise and Anne of Brittany blatantly wish death upon each other’s children as they jockey for position. Is there any female solidarity to be had in this novel? Where do you see the men picking up on this female competition and using it to their advantage? Which female character do you find most sympathetic?

15. At the age of eighteen, Mary calls a meeting with Thomas Wolsey, Bishop of Lincoln; Sir Ralph Verney, the Princess’s Chamberlain; the Earl of Worcester; and the Bishops of Winchester and Durham. She asks them to plead her case to the king, and help dissolve her betrothal to the Prince of Castile. How does she get away with this meeting without facing Henry’s wrath? Do they help her? What international debacle releases her from this dreaded betrothal?

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