9/30/08 - raising a princess

In today's excerpt - the life of the infant princess Mary (1516-1558) first child of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine. Mary later reigned as the first queen of England and is remembered as 'Bloody Mary':

"[Newborn] Mary was an attractive baby, and there was genuine parental affection. But she did not stay with them long.

"From these very early days, Mary would live close to, but separate from, her parents. As a baby she seems to have stayed very near them, and to have passed Christmas with them at Greenwich, but babies and all their paraphernalia did not figure in the day-to-day lives of 16th-century monarchs. ... The notion that Katherine raised her daughter herself is at odds with the role of a queen consort, and Katherine had been a very diligent practitioner of this role during her years of childlessness.

"So, in the first two years of her life, Mary was cared for by a wet-nurse Katherine Poole (later Lady Brooke), wife of one of the king's gentlemen ushers, a team of four rockers, no doubt intended to sooth her when she was lying in her magnificent cradle, and the highly necessary person of a laundress, to deal with all the washing that a small child generates. In the feeding, changing and daily routine of her daughter's life, Katherine took no part. ...

"The princess' household seems to have been a functioning unit within days of her birth. As well as the nursery staff and the lady governess there was a treasurer to manage finances, a chaplain and a gentlewoman. Mary's expenses soon began to grow. In the six months between October 1517 and March 1518, they stood at £421.12s 1d. By 1519/20 they had risen to £1,100, about £400,000 today [or $735,000]. Not until her father's death in 1547 would Mary actually have an income of her own, but she grew up as the focus of a substantial business unit, whose members had considerable responsibilities as well as privileges. ...

"Although she was a little girl in an adult world, her life was not necessarily devoid of amusement. A later fixture of Mary's life was her fool, Jane Cooper, one of the few female examples we have of a role that was generally given to men. The two seem to have had a close relationship, with Mary meeting Jane's expenses for haircuts and illness. Fools were not just entertainers, they were something of an emotional safety valve. It is probable that as a child Mary enjoyed the antics of her father's court jesters. ...

"There are no records of Mary having contact with other children or being educated with them, unlike her siblings Elizabeth and Edward two decades later. This is not conclusive proof that she grew up in complete isolation, and it is possible that she knew the daughters of her aunt Mary."


Linda Porter


The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"


St. Martin's Press


Copyright 2007 by Linda Porter


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