Mary Tudor: The Truth About Henry VIII's Sister

We all know Henry VIII, the iron-fisted monarch who mastered the art of multiple wives. With his cantankerous persona, more-to-love physique, and penchant for tossing the game board over and starting a new church when he didn't get his way, he has become one of the most recognizable faces in European history.

But what, you may well ask, about his sister Mary? What do we really know about her? Was she as despotic and crabby as her older brother, or was she the gentle sort who probably would've been deep into Bon Iver if she'd lived at a time when there was literally any instrument besides the lute?

Mary Gets Married Part I: The French connection

Mary Tudor was born around March of 1496, the daughter of Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York. The last of their progeny to survive the dangerous business of being a baby around the turn of the sixteenth century, Mary got to live the high life for a hot minute, nabbing her own house full of servants at six years old. Once she reached adulthood, she was widely reported to have been one of the most beautiful women in Europe, though how much of that had to do with a natural fear of getting your head chopped off for calling the king's sister a butterface remains unknown.

At 18, Mary had the great honor of marrying 52-year old King Louis XII of France in a steamy, by-proxy wedding ceremony where the Duc De Longueville stood in for the king. Later that night, the Duc totes touched Mary with his naked leg, and boom, the whole thing was considered consummated. We know, it's like a letter to Penthouse up in this joint. According to legend, things actually got pretty wild between the two, and three months later, Louis died of either too much mommy-daddy time or severe gout. And that's about as French an exit as you can ask for.

Mary Gets Married Part II: Tudor Fast, Tudor Furious

Three months later, Mary was back at the altar, this time accompanied by Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. There was only one problem: Henry VIII was so not into it. He had gone so far as to make Charles swear he wouldn't propose to Mary, but Mary managed to convince Charles to go takes-backs on a promise made to one of the head-choppiest kings in European history. Henry's advisors recommended a light beheading, proving that they really only had the one gear, but the king settled on a reasonable fine of £24,000, or around £7,200,000 in contemporary money.

After that, Mary and Henry didn't hang out as much. She wasn't a big fan of his first divorce or his second wife, and probably didn't love being fined private jet money for what amounted to a Renaissance-era Vegas wedding. She spent most of her remaining days chilling at a private manor house in Suffolk.

But time catches up with all of us in the end, and the fact that "try poking that boil" still passed for medicine at that point meant that it tended to have a good head start on people. Mary died at age 37 in June of 1533. Cause of death: who knows? Theories include tuberculosis, cancer, and appendicitis. Science wasn't an exact science back then.