Mary Tudor was an unusual princess in an age that cared little for the personal feelings of royalty, male or female. As a child, she was betrothed to the younger Charles in 1507, a betrothal firmly anchored in politics. The negotiations waffled on for years: They should marry now. No, they should wait. The terms aren’t good. Perhaps this isn’t the best match we could get. Perhaps we should discuss this further. The result was that Mary wasn’t married off early as her older sister Margaret had been. She remained in England and had free reign at her brother’s court.From Nancy Bilyeau:
She shone brightly there. As her brother’s preferred dance partner in court frivolities, she came to the attention of virtually all the ambassadors to the English court whose collective description of her was middling tall, blonde, stunningly gorgeous, and unbelievably charming.
Mary was not unduly unhappy at the dissolution of her betrothal, but neither was she interested in marrying the elderly king of France. Apparently she was won over when her brother promised her that after Louis’s death, she could marry as she pleased.
But the marriage to Louis was short-lived, lasting only about ten weeks. In poor health even before the marriage, he died on January 1, 1515. His new widow’s immediate concern was to avoid being married off by either the new French king, Francis I, or her brother. Both were eager to use her as a pawn in the chessboard of European politics. Tudor that she was, Mary played them off against each other. To Henry she merely promised she would not let Francis choose a husband for her. To Francis, she was a bit more forthcoming, admitting that the man she was in love with — the only man she would ever marry — was Henry’s close friend, Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.
Francis was disappointed, but somewhat mollified by the thought that Henry was going to be equally thwarted. As for Henry, he very conveniently sent Charles over to negotiate the return of the dowry and escort the widow home. It’s hard to know for certain what Charles and Mary had planned beforehand, but they secretly married almost immediately in Paris. I’ve always thought they decided it would be easier to obtain forgiveness than permission, and presenting Henry with a fait accompli would take away any temptation on his part to try to change Mary’s mind about another royal marriage. (Read more.)
A 19th century historian wrote of Henry VIII and Charles Brandon:Share
"The two men were of the same towering height but Charles was, perhaps, the more powerful... both were exceedingly fair and had the same golden curly hair, the same steel gray eyes planted on either side of an aquiline nose.... owing to the brilliance of their complexions, they were universally considered extremely handsome."This was the man Princess Mary fell in love with at the same time her brother was arranging her marriage to the King of France. There is no hint of impropriety between them at the English court; she was scrupulously chaperoned. Brandon did not escort her to France. So why did Henry VIII send his friend, infamous for his treatment of women, to escort a vulnerable Mary back to England after King Louis died? He is supposed to have made Brandon promise not to marry her in France. Brandon was always a loyal friend to Henry VIII...yet he did marry her. The French royal jewels that the couple smuggled out of the country and gave to Henry VIII--including the Mirror of Naples--mollified him. (Read more.)