The Sword and the Rose (1953)






Director:  Ken Annakin

Starring:   Richard Todd (Charles Brandon), Glynis Johns (Mary Tudor), James Robertson Justice (King Henry VIII), Michael Gough (Duke of Buckingham), Jane Barrett (Lady Margaret), Peter Copley (Sir Edwin Caskoden), Ernest Jay (Lord Chamberlain), D.A. Clarke-Smith (Cardinal Wolsey), Jean Mercure (Louis XII), Grard Oury (Dauphin of France), Fernand Fabre (DeLongueville), Robert Le Bal (Royal Physician), Gaston Richer (Antoine Duprat), Rosalie Crutchley (Queen Katherine), John Vere (Lawyer-clerk).

Henry VIII uses his sister Mary Tudor's marriage prospects as a pawn in international politics




Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Windsor Castle, early in the reign of Henry VIII.  The King matches his English wrestlers against the champions of France.  The English are losing badly and Henry is very mad.  He yells at his sister Mary Tudor.  A gentleman named Charles Brandon offers to wrestle the French champion.  Henry likes the idea, but Mary suggests that he should first let Lord Buckingham wrestle the Frenchman.  Lord Buckingham does so and wins the match.  Now Marry suggests that Lord Buckingham wrestle Charles Brandon.  At first Brandon is being badly beaten and Mary asks her brother to end the match.  Henry refuses saying she wanted to see a Christian thrown to the lion.  Brandon, however, gets out of the head hold Lord Buckingham had him in.  He gets under Buckingham, picks him up and throws him to the ground.  Mary is pleased and suggests to her father to make him a captain of the guard.  Henry reminds her that she is to marry Louie, the King of France. 

Brandon is made a captain of the guard.  His first assignment is to deliver a message to Mary.  A friend warns him not to fall in love with Mary.  Brandon assures him he won't.  He goes and speaks with Mary's ladies-in-waiting asking for Mary, who is actually the one playing badminton.  Mary is a little rude to him, so he delivers his message that the Queen wants to see Mary to a lady-in-waiting. Then he leaves with the ladies-in-waiting aghast at his insolence. 

The Duke of Buckingham is interested in Mary, but she is not interested him.  He says he would help her stay out of a marriage with the French king.  She asks him to stay her friend.  She goes to see the Queen and addresses her as her sister Kate, Catherine of Aragon of Spain.  The Queen scolds Mary for being too informal with her in public.  She says that she is concerned about Mary's May Day Ball.  The Queen wants to know why several different court favorites were not invited?  Mary says that she has not made the list up as of yet.  She asks a favorite of hers, Sir Edwin, to make up a guest list for the party.  Sir Edwin suggests that Brandon be invited and Mary agrees.  She tells Sir Edwin to bring Brandon to her room later so she can make sure the fellow knows how to dance. 

Mary dances with Brandon while a lady-in-waiting plays a string instrument and Sir Edwin looks on.  Mary finds out that Brandon is a good dancer.  He says that in France and Spain they have a new dance that is all the rage at the courts.  Mary asks him to dance it with her and as part of the movement he picks her up and spins her around in the air.  This movement, however, is too much for Mary and she sits down saying that dancing is not to be a wrestling match.  But Lady Margaret wants to try it.  Mary agrees to let her dance with Brandon and Margaret finds the dance quite thrilling.

When Brandon beat the Duke of Buckingham at wrestling, he made an enemy of him.  So, when Brandon shows up at the palace, Buckingham calls him an interloper and draws his sword against him.  Brandon uses his cape to grab the sword and take it away from Buckingham.  Sir Edwin intervenes and says that Brandon was invited personally by Princess Mary.  The Ball begins.  Princess Mary will chose who she will dance with for the first dance.  She usually chooses Buckingham, but this time she just passes him by and goes to Brandon.  Buckingham is shocked.  That was shocking enough, but after the first formal dance Mary tells Brandon to do the new dance rage in continental Europe.  Brandon swings her around to the gasp of the audience.  Queen Catherine is scandalized and stops the music.  Mary objects to this and Catherine demands that Henry back her up.  But Henry decides to learn the new dance himself and dances with his sister.  Catherine leaves in a huff. As Henry gets the hang of the dance, he lets his sister go and grabs a pretty young woman to dance with.  Mary goes back to dancing with Brandon.

When Brandon goes out on a hunt with the King and others, Mary follows them.  When she gets an opening she rides over to Brandon saying she needs help with her saddle.  He investigates but finds no problem.  As he relaxes, she smacks her horse with a whip and off he goes running into the forest.  Brandon chases after her and stops her horse.  She asks him to treat her as a burgher's daughter instead of a princess.  She asks him to pick a nosegay bouquet for her and compose her a poem.  It takes him a little time with the poem, but he does well once he gets started.  Mary throws her arms around him and they are about to kiss when Margaret says the hunters have reached the castle and they will miss her there. 

Buckingham rat finks on Mary and Brandon to King Henry.  The ambassador of France comes to speak to Henry.  Henry smiles and tells Buckingham that Louie has come around and this will be the position that will cure Mary of any concern for Brandon.  The ambassador suggests Princess Mary marry King Louis XII to make a strong alliance between the two countries.  For the dowry, the French king wants half a million crowns.  King Henry is outraged.  He speaks with his advisers on the matter.  The cardinal says they should raise the full half million crowns, but only give the French 400,000 and the king can keep 100,000 crowns for the treasury.  King Henry likes the plan. 

A messenger tells Mary that the King wants to see her, but Mary tells the messenger to tell the King that she will not come.  This infuriates Henry and he rushes over to her room and breaks open the doors.  Mary pretends that she is naked under a bed sheet.  She says she will greet them all informally and gets up.  Henry has to retreat or create a scandal.  He speaks very loudly saying they are leaving.  They go and Mary gets dressed.  They ride out of the castle on horses but then just turn left and dismount.  Henry plans to catch Mary fully dressed. 

Mary has asked that Brandon be told to meet her in the library.  When she goes to the library she is told that Brandon resigned his position and is headed for Bristol and then to the New World.  Mary is devastated by the news.  She leaves the library, but runs right into Henry and his men.  The French ambassador now presents her with a beautiful diamond necklace.  Mary just throws the necklace to the floor and runs out.  Henry is mad all over again and says she will marry Louie or receive a whipping. 

Brandon pays the ship's captain for his passage and waits for a favorable tide to come in.  Who else should show up than Mary herself.  He takes her to a private room to talk.  She tells him that she has run away and is going to the New World with him.  She shows him that he can take her as his page.  She has come dressed as a page.  On board ship he adjusts her costume and shows her how to walk in a manly manner. 

The ship pulls up its anchor and starts its voyage.  All hands are ordered on deck to drink to the start of the voyage.  The captain says that all must come up, including the young page.  They drink and then everyone is to throw their hats up in the air.  The captain sees the page still has on his hat and demands that he throw it up.  A seaman pulls Mary's hat off and everyone realizes that she is a woman.  The seaman tries to get fresh with Mary and Brandon tries to defend her but he is grabbed by many sailors.  The captain gives Brandon back his money and puts him and his woman in a boat headed back to shore.

On shore Brandon is arrested for high treason.  He will be taken to the Tower of London.  Mary promises him that they will be together in within a week. 

Henry signs the death warrant for Brandon's execution for kidnapping a princess.  Mary comes in to talk with her brother.  Henry tells her he will cut off his head.  Mary says if he spares Brandon, she will do anything he asks of her.  Will she marry Louis of France?  Mary answers:  "Yes.  Even that."  The cardinal is worried that Mary will not make a good wife and thus sour the relationship between France and England.  He suggests that since Louie can not live too much longer, Mary should be offered the opportunity to choose her own second husband.  Henry agrees to this and Mary is happy.  She asks that Brandon be allowed out of prison.  Henry says no.  She must show that she can be a good queen before they release Brandon.  And if she tries to communicate with him in any way, they will chop his head off. 

Mary asks Buckingham to tell Brandon of her bargain with the King,  Buckingham promises her he will.  She calls him a trusted friend. 

Mary is now the Queen of France.  The King of France is quite old.  At a banquet she kisses glasses of wine and keeps giving them to the King.  He is so in love that he keeps drinking the wine.  It doesn't take long before he falls down drunk. 

Brandon is still in the Tower of London.  Buckingham comes in and tells Brandon that Mary has now married the King of France.  Brandon finds that hard to believe.  Buckingham also tells him that Mary has asked that Brandon be allowed to continue his voyage to the New World.  He says he will arrange for Brandon to escape. 

Brandon lowers a rope from the tower and then shimmies down to the ground.  Buckingham watches this.  He opens a water gate and then swims to a waiting boat.  He gets into it and starts rowing away.  But hidden under covers are two of Buckingham's assassins.  They stab Brandon and throw him overboard.  They then signal to Buckingham that it has all been taken care of.  But Brandon is not dead yet. 

Mary and the King go for a horseback ride.  She tells the King that he looks so gallant and dashing on his horse.  He rides faster and gets ahead of her.  She passes him on her horse.  He pushes the horse to a gallop but then soon has to quite because he becomes exhausted.  His staff has to rescue him.  The King's son wants Mary for himself and is very fresh with her.  Mary whips him with her horse whip across the face and gallops away. 

The King has to be put to bed in a very weakened condition.  Mary tells Margaret that she wants her and Sir Edwin to head for England because the King of France is dying.  She tells her to seek out her friend the Duke of Buckingham. 

Margaret tells Buckingham to send Brandon to France now that Mary's marriage is over.  Buckingham tells them that Brandon tried to escape and was killed.  Buckingham says he will go to France himself to serve as Henry's ambassador.  Meanwhile, an old man gives a message to Sir Edwin from Brandon.  Sir Edwin has the messenger take him to Brandon.  

Buckingham arrives in France.  King Francis I tells him that King Henry wants his sister back, but he wants Mary to remain here with him in France. He will now set aside his present wife and make Mary his queen.  Buckingham demands that he release Mary.  The French King lets Mary go with Buckingham, thinking that King Henry will send Mary back to him.  With Mary, Buckingham tells her that Brandon was killed trying to escape from the Tower of London.  Mary is very depressed.  He also tells her that King Francis wants her back.  He has sent back the dowry money to Henry.  Mary tells Buckingham that Henry will refuse the money.  Buckingham suggests that Mary marry him and she will need not fear either king.  Mary tells him that no one can take the place of Charles Brandon.  She tells him to remain her friend and to never again speak of love to her.   He starts to force himself upon Mary.  Charles shows up to save the day.  At the point of a blade he forces Buckingham into a closet and locks him in.  But Buckingham's guard let him lose as soon as they see Brandon ride away.   Buckingham and his guards give chase. 

Princess Mary, Sir Edwin and Brandon reach the shore and Mary and Bandon prepare to get in a boat and row to the ship that will take them to England.  But Buckingham catches up with them.  As Brandon pushes Mary's boat into the water, Buckingham stabs Brandon in the back with his sword.  Mary knocks Buckingham off his horse with one of the oars.  Meanwhile the sailors and Sir Edwin fight off the guards.  Brandon stabs Buckingham once in the stomach and then once in the arm.  Brandon refuses to kill the man saying he could not be so merciful.  He gets in the boat with Mary. 

King Henry VIII gets his 400,000 crowns back.  But then Mary shows up.  She has to do her best acting to save herself and Brandon.  She tells Henry that she already has a husband.  This makes King Henry very angry at Brandon.  Mary reminds him that she had permission to marry anyone after the loss of her first husband.  Henry relents.  He also decides to keep the money from France as well as his sister.  Mary asks Henry to make him the Duke of Suffolk and the King agrees.  Now she wants some of the French money, but Henry says no.  He will give them 20 manors and their rents.  Mary accepts but she still wants some of the French money.  Henry says absolutely not and that he will only accept the marriage if the Duke of Suffolk takes her home and keeps her there.  He also tells Brandon to beat his sister at least three times a day.  He leaves.

Brandon tells Mary he loves her.  They kiss. 


 Nice love story.  But it has just a little history and plays around with the characters irregardless of the true history.  The movie is also a bit of a swash buckler movie complete with sword fights.  James Robertson Justice as King Henry VIII was very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1496 (March 18) – Mary Tudor born. She was a younger sister of Henry, the future king of England as Henry VIII. Henry was very close to his sister Mary and later named his daughter, the future Queen Mary I, after her.  As a young woman she was known as one of Europe's most beautiful princesses. 

1507 (December) – Mary betrothed to Charles of Castile, later Holy Roman Emperor. Due to international politics, the wedding never takes place. Cardinal Wolsey negotiates a peace treaty with France.

1514 (October 9) – at age 18 Mary marries the 52-year-old French King Louis XII at Abbeville in northern France. One of her Maids of Honor was Anne Boleyn (future queen to King Henry VIII and future mother of future Queen Elizabeth I).

1515 (January 1) – three months after the marriage, King Louis XII dies. The new King of France, Francis I, tries to arrange a second marriage for Mary.

While married, Mary had fallen in love with Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk, but her brother wanted to use her in a political marriage for his own benefit.

1515 (late January) – Henry sends Brandon to bring Mary back to England, but make him promise not to propose to her.

1515 (March 3) – Brandon marries Mary in secret in France. When Henry finds out he is mad as hell and the Privy Council urges that Brandon be imprisoned or executed. Wolsey intervenes and Brandon and his wife are let off with a heavy fine.

1515 (May 13) – Brandon and Mary officially marry at Greenwich Palace.

1520s (late) – relations between Henry VIII and Mary are strained because Mary opposes her brother’s attempt to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Mary strongly disliked Anne.

1533 (June 25) – Mary dies at Westhorpe Hall, Westhorpe, Suffolk. Her husband soon married their son's fiance, who was also their ward, fourteen-year-old Catherine Willoughby, by whom he had two sons.



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