The Thorn and the Rose

For today’s post I am going to be discussing the sisters of Henry VIII.   The Thorn of the title referred to Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland.   The Rose of the title referred to Mary Rose Tudor, former Queen of France, and Duchess of Suffolk.   The sisters were several years apart in age, and led vastly different lives after Margaret was sent to Scotland to wed James IV.

Mary Rose Tudor was the favorite sibling of Henry VIII.   She was the namesake of both The Mary Rose ship, a lead ship in his naval fleet, and Henry’s first borne daughter Mary Tudor!   This is how she got away with marrying her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, without the king’s permission.  

Margaret Tudor was sent to Scotland to marry James IV, and lived there as queen, and later dowager queen.    James IV was killed in an ill-conceived Battle of Flodden against England, and Margaret was left as a widow.   Her young son James V was still too young to rule alone, and she became regent in his stead.   Margaret made an impulsive, and irrational decision to remarry.   Her second marriage was to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.   That marriage ended in divorce, and she married a third time to Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.   She experienced great losses of children, several dying young or being stillborn.    She likely died of a stroke at age of 51.  She was grandmother to both Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

Mary Rose Tudor was sent to France for her first marriage to the aged King Louis XII.   This marriage did not last long as the king died less than three months after the marriage.   After they confirmed that she had not fallen pregnant within the marriage, Mary was free to leave France.   Charles Brandon was sent to accompany her back to England.   It was at this time that Mary confessed to having been in love with Brandon since her childhood.   She told him that she wanted to marry him and only him, and at that point she believed her brother had given her leave to marry a man of her choosing for her second marriage!   So the two wed secretly before returning to England.    This act infuriated Henry VIII, as he had intended to wed Mary in another political union.   He was also angry that they had wed without his consent, even if Mary insisted that she believed he would have allowed her to choose her second husband, Henry had never consented to this!   After time had passed, Henry forgave his favorite sister and best friend, and they were allowed to return to court life.   She died of an unconfirmed illness at age 37, which is ironically the same age at which her mother died!

In the television series The Tudors Mary and Margaret are conflated with one another, likely to cause less confusion between the two Mary Tudors.   Margaret Tudor is given the foreign marriage to an old husband (a king of Portugal instead of France), and the love story with Charles Brandon!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about the sisters of Henry VIII.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a painting of Mary Rose Tudor.   I found the image on   

Further Reading/Watching

  • The Rose and the Thorn: The Lives of Mary and Margaret Tudor by Nancy Lenz Harvey
  • Mary Rose by David Loades
  • The Tudors (2007-2010)