Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Retracing Mary’s steps

A few weeks ago I travelled to the city of Gloucester, one of several places Mary stayed during her route to Ludlow in 1525. Mary was nine years old when she started her journey to the Marches of Wales to represent the monarch in this region. For nineteen months Mary travelled to, stayed in and left Ludlow. Details of her itinerary still survive, although there is some uncertainty regarding the length of visits to various places. However the journal of Prior William More of Worcester Cathedral provides detail about Mary’s stay in that city.

Nearly two weeks ago I travelled to Worcester to see the cathedral in which Mary took mass on at least two separate occasions in 1526. In front of the High Altar is the tomb of King John, an English monarch who like Mary has not enjoyed a fantastic historical reputation!

The Quire with the High Altar in the back

According to Prior More’s account, the young princess made an offering at the mass he conducted in mid to late January 1526 and again on Easter Day of that year.

The High Altar, at which the young Mary celebrated mass.

King John’s tomb in front of the High Altar. Prince Arthur’s chantry is in the background

As Mary was celebrating mass, a controversial figure connected closely to her parents rested nearby. To the south of the high altar is the chantry chapel of Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII, eldest brother to Mary’s father, Henry VIII, and the first husband of Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon. Arthur was not a controversial figure in his own right, but his marriage to Katherine of Aragon would prove to be a contentious matter when Henry VIII wished to annul his marriage to Katherine. By 1526 Henry VIII already seems to have fallen for Anne Boleyn and his doubts concerning his first marriage appears to have formulated since his failure to produce a living male heir with Katherine. Little did Mary know that the memory of Prince Arthur, whose tomb she had prayed by, would be evoked the following year for means that would change her life and the course of English history...


I've posted images of Arthur, prince of Wales's tomb on my Flickr page:


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