At 37 years old, Mary I of England was finally going to get married. She couldn’t wait but her betrothed, Prince Philip of Spain, wasn’t as enthusiastic about the match. His reasons for the marriage were entirely political. He needed English support for his war against the French and hoped to reunify the English Church with that of Rome. But he wasn’t in any hurry and kept postponing the date of his departure for England. When he finally managed to assemble his retinue at the Coruna, his sister, which was going to act as Regent of Spain during his absence, fell ill. So, Philip decided to make a last-minute tour of his properties in Segovia, Madrid and Toledo, and squeezed in a visit to his grandmother, the “Crazy” Queen Juana, at Tordesillas, too.
At the beginning of June, Philip’s Spanish household, which comprised of about 9000 people, both noblemen and servants, and 1000 mules and horses, sailed to Southampton in a fleet of 125 ships. The fleet, which also carried three million gold ducats, arrived in 5 days. Only Philip was missing now. A month passed and still no news of his arrival came. Mary was frantic with worry, fearing something bad had happened to her betrothed. Finally, on 12th July, Philip embarked on the “Espiritu Santo” at La Coruria and, suffering from sea-sickness, spent the entire voyage closed in his cabin. Luckily for Philip it was a short journey and, two days later, the ship reached its destination, dropping the anchor three miles out of Southampton. Here, Philip received a deputation of nobles led by Admiral Lord William Howard and, the next day, he was visited by young men looking for a place in his household.
On 19th July, the rest of the Spanish fleet arrived and the Prince’s ship could finally enter the harbour. On board, he was greeted by a committee of English lords, led by Arundel, who invested Philip with the Order of the Garter. After dinner, Philip was finally rowed to shore, in pouring rain. When he set foot on English soil, he was greeted by a salute of cannon fire, serenaded by minstrels and given a horse caparisoned in crimson velvet and gold. It was a present from Mary. He was also informed that his father, the emperor Charles V, had elevated him to the same rank as that of his wife by ceding to him the kingdoms of Naples and Jerusalem. He was then officially welcomed by Bishop Gardiner and Sir Anthony Browne.
Philip knew he had to win over the hearts of his new people and so behaved impeccably. He went to the Church of Holy Rood to give thanks for his safe arrival and then, he was finally taken to his lodgings. That evening, a banquet was given in his honour. Here he said: “I have not left my own country to augment my estate or the greatness of my power; on the contrary God has summoned me to be the husband of the Queen your mistress, and I will not refuse His divine will. For this purpose I have crossed the sea to live with that lady and with you. As long as you are faithful subjects, I will be your good prince.” Then, he turned to the Spanish noblemen and told them they should follow English customs. The English applauded him.
He spent three days in Southampton, where he received members of the Council. On the 23rd, he finally rode to Winchester to meet his bride-to-be. He entered the city at about 6 o’clock and went straight to the cathedral, where he was welcomed by Gardiner. From there, he was led to his lodgings. Here, he ate and changed into a suit of white kid with a surcoat embroidered in silver and gold and a hat with a long plume. At 10’oclock, Philip, together with 12 Spanish and Flemish gentlemen, finally went to Wolvesey Palace to meet his future wife, Mary.
She was wearing a gown of black velvet with a silver underskirt and lots of jewels. “Modestly, she kissed her own hand before taking his, but he smiled and kissed her on the mouth ‘in the English fashion'”*. Philip took his betrothed by the hand and led her to the presence chamber, where they talked for half an hour, while sitting on their thrones. Before leaving, he asked Mary to teach him how to say goodbye to the English lords, which positively impressed them. All too soon, Philip was gone. Two days later, they were married.
*Children of England by Alison Weir, chapter 13.
The children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir