7 May 2010
Queen Mary I (1553–1558)
Reign 19 July 1553 – 17 November 1558
Coronation 30 October 1553
Predecessor Jane (disputed) or Edward VI
Successor Elizabeth I
Tenure 16 January 1556 – 17 November 1558
Spouse Philip II of Spain
House House of Tudor
Father Henry VIII of England
Mother Catherine of Aragon
Born 18 February 1516(1516-02-18)
Palace of Placentia, Greenwich
Died 17 November 1558 (aged 42)
Saint James’s Palace, London
Burial 14 December 1558
Westminster Abbey, London
Mary I (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558) was Queen regnant of England and Queen regnant of Ireland from 19 July 1553 until her death. She was the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon. As the fourth crowned monarch of the Tudor dynasty, she is remembered for restoring England to Roman Catholicism after succeeding her short-lived half brother, Edward VI, to the English throne. In the process, she had almost 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian Persecutions, earning her the sobriquet of “Bloody Mary”. Her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her successor and half-sister, Elizabeth I.
Childhood and early years
Mary was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon to survive infancy. Her mother had many miscarriages, and Mary had been preceded by a stillborn sister and three short-lived brothers, including Henry, Duke of Cornwall. Through her mother, she was a granddaughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. She was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London. Mary was a sickly child who had poor eyesight, sinus conditions and bad headaches. John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford was her Chamberlain, and his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent, was one of Mary’s attendants.
Education and marriage plans
Despite her problems, Mary was a precocious child. A great part of her early education came from her mother, who consulted the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives for advice and was herself Mary’s first instructor in Latin. Mary also studied Greek, science, and music. In July 1521, when scarcely five and a half years old, she entertained some visitors with a performance on the virginal (a smaller harpsichord). Henry VIII doted on his daughter and would boast in company, “This girl never cries”; he would sometimes show delight in her developing musical skills. When Mary was nine years old, Henry gave her her own court at Ludlow Castle and many of the Royal Prerogatives normally only given to a Prince of Wales, even calling her the Princess of Wales. She remains the only royal daughter in English history to be styled Princess of Wales, although she was never technically invested with the title. In 1526, Mary was sent to Wales to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches. Despite this obvious affection, Henry was deeply disappointed that his marriage had produced no sons.
Throughout Mary’s childhood, Henry negotiated potential future marriages for her. When she was only two years old she was promised to the Dauphin, son of Francis I of France, but after three years the contract was repudiated. In 1522, she was instead contracted to marry her first cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, then aged 22, by the Treaty of Windsor. However, within a few years, the engagement was broken off. It was then suggested that Mary should marry the Dauphin’s father, King Francis I himself, who was eager for an alliance with England. A marriage treaty was signed which provided that Mary should marry either Francis I or his second son Henry, Duke of Orleans, but Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VIII’s chief adviser, went on to secure an alliance with France without the marriage.
Philip and Mary
At age 37, Mary turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir, thus preventing the Protestant Elizabeth (still her successor under the terms of Henry VIII’s will and more importantly the Act of Succession of 1544), from succeeding to the throne. Mary rejected Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon, as a prospect when her cousin Charles V suggested she marry his only son, the Spanish Prince Philip, later Philip II of Spain. It is said that upon viewing the Titian full-length portrait of Philip now in the Prado, which had been sent to her, Mary declared herself to be in love with him.
Their marriage at Winchester Cathedral on 25 July 1554 took place just two days after their first meeting. Philip’s view of the affair was entirely political (he admired her dignity but felt “no carnal love for her”), and it was extremely unpopular with the English. Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the House of Commons petitioned her to consider marrying an Englishman, fearing that England would be relegated to a dependency of Spain. This fear may have arisen from the fact that Mary was – excluding the brief, unsuccessful and controversial reigns of Jane and Empress Matilda – England’s first Queen regnant.
Under the terms of the marriage treaty, Philip was to be styled “King of England”, all official documents (including Acts of Parliament) were to be dated with both their names, and Parliament was to be called under the joint authority of the couple. Coins were also to show the heads of both Mary and Philip. The marriage treaty further provided that England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip’s father in any war.
In order to elevate his son to Mary’s rank, Emperor Charles V ceded the crown of Naples, as well as his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, to Philip. Therefore, Mary I became Queen of Naples and titular Queen of Jerusalem upon marriage. In 1556, Mary’s father-in-law abdicated and she became Queen of Spain. Mary ruled England for five years. After that, Elizabeth succeeded her.
Insurrections broke out across the country when she insisted on marrying Philip, with whom she was in love. The Duke of Suffolk once again proclaimed that his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, was queen. In support of Elizabeth, Thomas Wyatt led a force from Kent that was not defeated until he had arrived at London. After the rebellions were crushed, the Duke of Suffolk, his daughter, Lady Jane Grey, and her husband were convicted of high treason and executed. Elizabeth, though protesting her innocence in the Wyatt affair, was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months, then was put under house arrest at Woodstock Palace.
Mary, thinking she was pregnant, had thanksgiving services at the diocese of London in November 1554. This turned out to be the first of two phantom pregnancies. Various theories have been put forward to explain her condition, including cysts or a psychological problem. Philip persuaded his wife to permit Elizabeth’s release from house arrest, probably so that he would be viewed favourably by her in case Mary died in childbirth. Soon after the disgrace of the false pregnancy, Philip headed off to Flanders to command his armies against France. Mary was heartbroken and gradually fell into deep depression.
As Queen, Mary was very concerned about heresy and the English church. She had always rejected the break with Rome instituted by her father and the establishment of Protestantism by Edward VI. She had England reconcile with Rome and Reginald Cardinal Pole, the son of her governess, Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury (who was beheaded for treason by Mary’s father Henry VIII) and once considered a suitor, became Archbishop of Canterbury; Mary had his predecessor Thomas Cranmer burned at the stake. Mary came to rely greatly on Pole for advice.
Edward’s religious laws were abolished by Mary’s first Parliament in the Statute of Repeal Act (1553). Church doctrine was restored to the form it had taken in the 1539 Six Articles.
Mary also persuaded Parliament to repeal the Protestant religious laws passed by Henry VIII. Getting their agreement took several years, and she had to make a major concession: tens of thousands of hectares of monastery lands confiscated under Henry were not to be returned because the new landowners created by this distribution were very influential. This was approved by the Papacy in 1554. The Revival of the Heresy Acts were also passed in 1554.
Numerous Protestants were executed in the Marian Persecutions. Many rich Protestants chose exile, and around 800 left the country. The first executions occurred over a period of five days in early February 1555: John Rogers on 4 February, Laurence Saunders on 8 February, and Rowland Taylor and the Bishop of Gloucester, John Hooper, on 9 February. The persecution continued for almost four years. All told 284 were executed, most by burning. The Marian persecutions are commemorated especially by bonfires in the town of Lewes in Sussex: there is a prominent martyrs’ memorial outside St John’s church at Stratford, London, to those Protestants burnt in Essex, and others in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, and the abbey grounds, Bury St Edmunds, to those executed in East and West Suffolk respectively.
During her reign, Mary suffered two phantom pregnancies. It has been speculated that these could simply be a result of the pressure to produce an heir, though the physical symptoms (including lactation and the later loss of her eyesight) reported by Mary’s attendants may be indicative of a hormonal disorder such as a pituitary tumour.
Mary decreed in her will that her husband should be the regent during the minority of her child. However, no child was born, and Mary died at age 42 at St. James’s Palace on 17 November 1558. She was succeeded by her half-sister, who became Elizabeth I. Although her will stated that she wished to be buried next to her mother, Mary was interred in Westminster Abbey on 14 December in a tomb she eventually shared with Elizabeth. The Latin inscription on a marble plaque on their tomb (affixed there by James VI of Scotland when he succeeded Elizabeth to the throne of England as James I) translates to “Consorts in realm and in tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection”. The Latin plays on the multiple meanings of consorts, which can mean either sibling or sharer in common.
Mary enjoyed popular support and sympathy during the earliest parts of her reign, especially by the Roman Catholic population, who recalled her mistreatment by Henry VIII and Edward VI. However, her marriage to Philip was unpopular among her subjects. The marriage treaty clearly specified that England was not to be drawn into any Spanish wars, but this guarantee proved meaningless. Philip spent most of his time governing his European territories, while his wife usually remained in England. After Mary’s death, Philip sought to marry Elizabeth, but she refused him.
The persecution of Protestants led them to call her Bloody Mary. While historians disagree how many were put to death during Mary’s brief reign, several notable clerics were executed:Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London; and the reformers John Rogers and Hugh Latimer. Mary was prominently featured and vilified in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, published by John Foxe in 1562, five years after Mary’s death. Subsequent editions of the book remained popular with Protestants through the 19th century.
One popular tradition traces the nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” to Mary’s attempts to bring Roman Catholicism back to England, although it may well be about her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots.