Mary Tudor (First Queen Regnant of England)
New Hall School, main entrance (erected May 2019)
Mary Tudor, daughter of King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, was born in 1516.
In the month prior to her birth, Henry bought the manor of New Hall from Sir Thomas Boleyn. He wanted it as a safe haven for his wife and heir, away from London's diseases. He immediately demolished the Boleyn's late 15th century moated home and built the lavish Beaulieu Palace.
In celebration of Mary’s birth, Henry’s coat of arms depicted a little Tudor Rose (Mary) emerging from a Pomegranate, (the symbol of the house of Aragon, Mary’s mother). The stone feature originally adorned the gatehouse of Beaulieu Palace, now residing in the Chapel at New Hall School.
By 1526 Henry was pursuing Ann Boleyn. Ann had no love for Katherine or Beaulieu which, after Henry's divorce, became Princess Mary's home. In 1533, Ann triumphantly returned to Beaulieu as Queen to celebrate the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth. The humiliated Mary, now declared illegitimate, was forced to take part in the festivities and acknowledge her half-sister as heir.
Towards the end of his life, Henry restored Mary to the Royal Succession and she succeeded her childless half-brother, Edward, in 1553. However, she then had to flee to Norfolk, when an armed conspiracy sought to establish Lady Jane Grey as a Protestant monarch. The attempted coup fizzled out and Mary returned to London to claim the crown. She stopped en-route at Beaulieu, where the merchants of the City of London presented her with a purse made of crimson velvet filled with coins, as a token of respect.
When Elizabeth became Queen, she gave Beaulieu to the Earl of Sussex, a powerful Privy Councillor. So while it ceased to be a royal dwelling, it remained at the centre of politics.
In 1622, the Sussex family sold New Hall to George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, favourite of James I and Charles I. It was confiscated by Parliament during the Civil War and Oliver Cromwell briefly and lived there.
In 1660 it was bought by George Monck, who had engineered the restoration of Charles II and was created Duke of Albemarle. This huge property was expensive to maintain. Rich London bankers, who purchased it in 1738, reduced it to a compact country house.
Sixty years later they sold it to the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre. They were seeking a site for their girls' Catholic school which had been forced out of the Low Countries by the French Revolutionary armies. There has been a Catholic school at New Hall ever since.