Birth of Princess Mary Tudor, the future Queen Mary I of England

Princess Mary Tudor, the only surviving daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was born in the early hours of 18th February 1516, at Greenwich Palace.

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Mary was Catherine’s fifth pregnancy, after four previous unsuccessful pregnancies which had resulted in the birth of a stillborn daughter and three short-lived or stillborn sons, including Henry, Duke of Cornwall, who died on 23rd February, 1511 at just 52 days old.

Edward Hall, the infamous Tudor chronicle, wrote about Mary’s birth:

was borne a fayre prynces and christened with great solempnitie, and named Mary.”

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Although Henry wanted to have a son and a male heir, which would later become his obsessive desire, the king remembered his wife’s previous miscarriages and was happy to have a living daughter.

Sebastian Giustinian, the Venetian Ambassador who served at the English court, congratulated the king with the birth of his daughter, but he, however, remarked that:

“the State would have been yet more pleased had the child been a son”.

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Mary Tudor’s birth might have been viewed by Catherine and Henry as a good sight for their marriage: God finally blessed them with their first living child, and sons would follow later – that was Henry’s logic. However, the couple couldn’t know that it wouldn’t be the case and that they were doomed to experience a great disappointment because Catherine would never bear a healthy son after Mary’s birth.

Already after Mary’s birth, another tragedy hit Catherine and Henry. On 10th November, 1518, the queen delivered a stillborn daughter. The Venetian ambassador wrote:

The Queen has been delivered in her eighth month of a stillborn daughter to the great sorrow of the nation at large”.

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It was Catherine of Aragon’s last pregnancy; perhaps, her monthly courses stopped shortly after that or the king didn’t sleep with his wife regularly. In her lifetime, she supposedly had several miscarriages and gave birth to several infants who were stillborn, died immediately after birth (two of them males), or died within a few weeks of birth (one of them a boy).

Prince Mary was baptised on 20th February, 1516 in the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich three days after her birth. Her godparents were her great-aunt Catherine Courtenay, Countess of Devon and daughter of Edward IV; Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury and daughter of George Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence; Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey; and Agnes Howard (née Tilney), the second wife of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk.