The Passionate Tudor

A Novel of Queen Mary I

About the Book

The New York Times bestselling author of the Six Tudor Queens series explores the dramatic and poignant life of King Henry VIII’s daughter—infamously known as Bloody Mary—who ruled England for five violent years.

Born from young King Henry’s first marriage, his elder daughter, Princess Mary, is raised to be queen once it becomes clear that her mother, Katherine of Aragon, will bear no more children. However, Henry’s passion for Anne Boleyn has a devastating influence on the young princess’s future when, determined to sire a male heir, he marries Anne, has his marriage to Katherine declared unlawful, brands Mary illegitimate, and banishes them both from the royal court. But when Anne too fails to produce a son, she is beheaded and Mary is allowed to return to court as the default heir. At age twenty, she waits in vain for her own marriage and children, but who will marry her, bastard that she is?

Yet Mary eventually triumphs and becomes queen, after first deposing a seventeen-year-old usurper, Lady Jane Grey, and ordering her beheading. Any hopes that Mary, as the first female queen regent of England, will show religious toleration are dashed when she embarks on a ruthless campaign to force Catholicism on the English by burning hundreds of Protestants at the stake. But while her brutality will forever earn her the name Bloody Mary, at heart she is an insecure and vulnerable woman, her character forged by the unhappiness of her early years.

In Alison Weir’s masterful novel, the drama of Mary I’s life and five-year reign—from her abusive childhood, marriage, and mysterious pregnancies to the cruelty that marks her legacy—comes to vivid life.
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Praise for The Passionate Tudor

“An exquisitely drawn, poignant portrayal of one of history’s most complex, maligned, and fascinating figures . . . Told with all of Alison Weir’s characteristic verve and eye for evocative period detail, this is a book that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned. . . . A must for Tudor fans everywhere.”—Tracy Borman, author of Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I

“Utterly convincing and eminently readable . . . This is Alison Weir’s most humane—and most personal—novel yet. Her huge fund of historical knowledge allows her to tackle head-on the challenge of our most controversial queen, at once beleaguered girl and the ‘Bloody Mary’ of black legend. The result is a Mary Tudor we can all accept, without having always to admire.”—Sarah Gristwood, author of The Tudors in Love

“What a totally absorbing read and remarkable novel . . . I was utterly enthralled by the way Weir so skillfully shows the gradual evolution of Mary Tudor, from the tender, brave, and resolute little girl into the desperate woman, so broken by her marriage and the constant political and religious deceits and manipulations around her. It is Weir’s great skill that shows us in the child a glimpse of the compassionate queen that Mary might have been, which really drives home the tragedy of her story in a way I’d never understood it before.”—Karen Maitland, author of Company of Liars

“Thrilling and captivating, this is a brilliant rendering of Mary Tudor and her world. Alison Weir welcomes us into her vivid, tragic, and dangerous life. Beautifully evoked, The Passionate Tudor is unforgettable.”—Kate Williams, author of The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots
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The Passionate Tudor

Chapter 1


Mary’s earliest memory was of a glittering ceremony at her father’s court when she must have been very tiny. She could recall nearly tripping over her silk skirts, grasping her mother’s hand as they greeted some very important strangers. She had been aware that it was her special day and that she was the center of everyone’s attention. She could remember the whole court bowing to her as she toddled past, and later the roar of that great golden giant, the King her father, as he threw back his head and laughed heartily, brushing back a tear, at something she had said.

“You asked the French ambassador if he was the Dauphin. ‘If you are,’ you said, ‘I want to kiss you,’ ” her sainted mother told her, one February afternoon seven years later, still smiling at the reminiscence. Mary loved to see her mother smile. It brought a radiance to her face, made her almost beautiful, although she was very old and often looked tired and sad.

Mary knelt upon the cushioned window seat beside her and peered through the diamond panes of the casement at the palace gardens below, where she could see the Queen’s maids playing tag, cheered on by some young, gaudily dressed gentlemen.

“Is it true that I was going to marry the Dauphin?”

Mother smiled. “Yes. You were set to be queen of France, but God had a greater destiny in store for you.”

“Yes—­I am going to be the Holy Roman Empress—­and queen of Spain, as well as queen of England!” Mary fingered the gold brooch on her velvet bodice that bore the legend “The Emperor,” which she wore always to honor her betrothed. “When will I go to Spain?”

“Not for a long time yet, I hope,” Mother said, picking up her embroidery. “When you are old enough to be married.”

“Lady Salisbury says that girls can be married at twelve,” Mary persisted. “I’m nine now.”

“I was fifteen when I came to England to be married to your uncle, Prince Arthur,” Mother said. “Twelve is too young. And you are small for your age. You still have a lot of growing up to do.”

Mary heard the relief in her voice and suspected that her mother was dreading their parting as much as she was. While part of her relished the prospect of her glorious future, she hated the thought of leaving England, her parents, and everything she loved and knew, because it would be forever, unless she was very, very lucky. Look at Mother: she had never been back to her native Spain in nearly twenty-­five years. Already Mary could imagine the despair of homesickness . . .

“When he was here, the Emperor Charles asked your father if you might go to Spain immediately,” Mother told her. Mary drew in her breath sharply. “He said you should be educated as befitted a future empress and queen of Spain. But your father said that if Charles searched all Christendom for a lady mistress to bring you up after the manner of Spain, then he could not find one more perfect than myself, for I have such an affection for Charles that I would bring you up to his satisfaction. And Charles, bless him, had to agree. I was so relieved, because I felt you were not strong enough to risk a sea voyage or acclimatize yourself to the air of another country. I was remembering my own terrible voyage to England and how ill I was for six years after my arrival. And I was a lot older than you.”

She smiled at Mary and stroked her hair. “When the time comes, we will make sure that you sail to Spain at the most clement time of year. You will love Spain, Daughter. I had the happiest childhood there. After my parents drove out the Moors and reclaimed the land for Christ, my sisters and I grew up in the great palace of the Alhambra at Granada. It is a beautiful place with fair courtyards and fountains. This future is what I want for you; I have always prayed that you should find happiness in the land of my birth. Never forget that you are half Spanish!”

“Never!” Mary declared, and begged the Queen to recount the oft-­told tale of the deeds of her noble grandparents, the renowned Spanish sovereigns Ferdinand and Isabella.

“Isabella was a great queen, as you will be one day,” Queen Katherine said. “You will rule England, with Charles beside you, and Spain and the Empire too.”

Mary found it impossible to imagine the extent of the vast territories over which her future husband held dominion. Spain, the Low Countries, Germany, Austria, parts of Italy . . . He was the mightiest prince in the world.

She had met him once, three years ago, when he had come to En­gland for their betrothal. She had been six then, and greatly in awe of the tall, grave-­faced young man with the ugly jaw—­a jaw so misshapen that he could not fully close his mouth. Yet he had been courteous to her and taken such a kindly interest in her childish concerns that she had felt overwhelmed with gratitude to the King her father for making such a great marriage for her. She had not quite understood then what it would mean for her. Yet she had been aware, young as she was, that her mother was overjoyed that there was to be no French match for her daughter; France was the ancient enemy of Spain, and Mother’s hatred of the French was no secret. Her joy had known no bounds when she saw her beloved child affianced to her nephew, her sister’s son.

And there, Mary knew, lay a tale, one Mother was reluctant to recount. She had spoken just once of her sister, Queen Juana, and then only to say that the poor woman was ill and confined to a convent.

It was Reginald Pole, the son of Mary’s beloved governess, Lady Salisbury, who had enlightened her. Reginald was a clever young man who seemed to know everything—­and so he should, for the King had paid for him to have a very expensive education—­and Mary adored him, hanging on his every word; it had ever been so, for as long as she could remember; he was like a big brother to her. One day recently, after her lessons had ended, he had pulled up a chair to her desk and they had spoken of Christopher Columbus, who had discovered the New World under the patronage of Ferdinand and Isabella, and then the talk had led to more recent history. Reginald had explained that Queen Juana ought to be ruling Spain, but could not because of her madness.

“Madness?” Mary had echoed, horrified.

Reginald seemed reluctant to elaborate. “I fear I have said more than was proper to you, my lady Princess. I thought you knew the truth.”

“I know some of it,” she told him, aware that she would have to confess the lie later.

“Then you will know that she was confined in a convent and that her son Charles rules in her stead.”

“But what did she do? How did people know she was mad?”

“By her behavior. Her husband died. He was known as Philip the Handsome, and she loved him to idolatry. His death unhinged her. She would not give up his body for burial, not for months. They had to prize her away.”

Mary shuddered.

“Queen Isabella’s mother was mad, too,” Reginald said.

“No, she wasn’t!” she protested, bewildered. There was an awkward pause.

“They’re all mad in the Spanish royal family,” he grinned, with that twinkle in his eye that showed he was teasing her. “Take care, my lady Princess, that you don’t fall victim to the curse, too!”

Mary had thrown a cushion at him for that, and chased him around the schoolroom until her tutor, Dr. Fetherston, had come and shooed him away, scolding him for encouraging indecorous behavior in his precious charge.

“It will be time for your music lesson soon,” Mother said, pushing a loose tress of red hair back under Mary’s velvet hood. “When you have practiced, you must play for me. I love to hear you play.”

“Will my lord father be there?” Mary asked, sliding off the window seat. More than anything, she craved his approval.

“I hope he will visit us this afternoon before Vespers,” Mother said, sounding wistful. Father did not come as often as he once did. He was so busy, weighted with the burdens of state. It was fortunate that he had Mary’s godfather, the mighty Cardinal Wolsey, to help him. But if Father was an often absent figure, Mother was always there, a constant loving presence in Mary’s life. That was why it was hard to imagine a future without her.

Mary slid off the window seat, curtseyed, and danced off to her music lesson. She spent an hour practicing on the virginals, then sped back to the Queen’s apartments to play the song she had learned.

“Walk!” Mother admonished gently. “Ladies do not run.”

Mary curtseyed and set up her virginals on the table. She was just about to begin when the door opened and the King was announced. And there he was, her great and glorious father, larger than life and glittering with jewels. He pulled her up from her curtsey and spun her around. “And how is my little princess today?”

About the Author

Alison Weir
Alison Weir is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous historical biographies, including The Lost Tudor Princess, Elizabeth of York, Mary Boleyn, The Lady in the Tower, Mistress of the Monarchy, Henry VIII, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Life of Elizabeth I, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and the novels Anne Boleyn, A King’s Obsession; Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen; The Marriage Game; A Dangerous Inheritance; Captive Queen; The Lady Elizabeth; and Innocent Traitor. She lives in Surrey, England, with her husband. More by Alison Weir
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