Today in 1565 Mary Grey married Thomas Keyes. She was the youngest of the Grey sisters and a potential heir to the throne as a granddaughter of Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister. As such, she was not allowed to marry without Queen Elizabeth’s consent – despite her never being a real contender for the throne. But Mary knew she was unlikely to get this consent. She had hoped to wait for a good time to approach the queen, but she and Thomas grew impatient and decided to take the risk and marry. We think, and most sources agree, they chose 16th July to marry as Elizabeth and the court were attending another wedding that day which served as a distraction. However there are some sources that put their wedding a couple of weeks later.

Mary knew very well that this marriage could be her downfall. Her sister Katherine had also married in secret, and when Elizabeth heard about it, she had Katherine imprisoned in the Tower. Eventually Katherine would be separated from her husband and one of her sons, dying when she was only 27. But Katherine had married Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford – himself a descendant of Edward III. Their marriage and their two sons were a threat to Elizabeth’s rule. But Mary’s husband was the Sergeant Porter at court, a much less important man. Perhaps Mary hoped that this would show Elizabeth that she was no threat to her crown, and that they would be left in peace.

Unfortunately, they would not be. The happy couple had a little over a month together before news of their marriage spread to Elizabeth. William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief advisor, described it as such: ‘The Sergeant Porter, being the biggest gentleman of this court, has married secretly the Lady Mary Grey; the least of all the court… the offense is very great.’

Like she had with Katherine and Edward, Elizabeth now separated Mary and Thomas. Mary was placed under house arrest, while Thomas was sent to the Fleet – a notorious London prison. He was released in 1569, but died two years later. Mary remained under house arrest until 1572, and so never saw her husband again.

I tell the story of all three Grey sisters in The Last Tudor . In this excerpt, I imagine Mary’s thoughts as she marries Thomas.

‘Of course, I think of my sister. She did not ask me to witness her wedding; she was protecting me just as I am protecting my kinswomen by leaving them outside the door. But I have read all the evidence from the trial of her marriage, and from the inquiry into her husband, and I know of Ned’s room with the wines and the food laid out, and Janey Seymour as their only witness, and how when the priest left them they went to bed together and fell asleep and had to jump up and dress each other and she had to run back to court. I know how much she loved him, and that nothing would have stopped her from marrying him. I know what it has cost her, and I know that I am choosing as she did – to marry a man for love, to live life to the full, and to take whatever comes from the malice of Elizabeth. Because I won’t learn to die, nor live my life as if it were half a life. I want to be a wife and perhaps a mother. I want Thomas as my husband more than I want to survive in this arid twilight court. I am twenty years old. I am ready for life. I want love, I want a real life, I want a husband.’

Image: Portrait of Lady Mary Grey, attributed to Hans Eworth, 1571, via Wikimedia Commons
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Published on July 16, 2018 08:02 • 539 views • Tags: mary-grey, on-this-day
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message 1: by Gloria (new)

Gloria Long I love the way you do your books Not only do you give a good story that makes it interesting to read but you make me, and I am sure others, want to learn more about the real history of these people. I can't wait for your next tv/movie that comes out. I like to see it as well as read it.

message 2: by Sara (last edited Jul 23, 2018 09:38PM) (new)

Sara Walker Agreed! My favorite book is Lady of the Rivers, it's such a romantic and brutal story with magical elements woven throughout. I don't know how Ms. Gregory does it, she is enchanting.♡

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