LondonQueen Mary I  
1516-1558
 
 
 
 
 
The Tudor dynasty produced some of Britain’s most famous monarchs and caused violent religious upheaval in Britain. Persecutions started with King Henry VIII, were carried on by his son Edward VI and peaked with Queen Mary I, earning her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’.
 
Mary grew up in an atmosphere of betrayal. She was an extremely intelligent and precocious child, adored by her parents, Katherine of Aragon and Henry VIII, hopelessly spoiled and indulged.
 
She excelled in all her studies, and obeyed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which was regarded as ‘the only true faith’. She was well aware that her marriage would be used to cement a political alliance and that any decision would have to be approved by the Pope. Mary knew exactly what her role in life was to be until she was 16 years old.
 
The failure of Mary’s mother Katherine to produce a viable male heir led to the annulment of Henry’s marriage thus challenging the authority of the Pope and causing the separation from the Church of Rome. Her parents’ marriage was declared illegal and thus she was illegitimate. Her position was insecure and her religious anchor was gone.
 
Illegitimacy 
When her half-sister Elizabeth was born to Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn, her place in the line of succession transferred to the legitimate heir. She was styled "Lady Mary" rather than princess because of her illegitimate status and sent off to Hatfield House to serve as lady-in-waiting to her half-sister.
 
Lady Mary was cut off from her friends, favourite servants and never allowed to see her mother again. She was even refused permission to attend her mother’s funeral.
 
At first Mary refused to accept that her parents’ marriage had been illegal. She maintained that Elizabeth was not a princess, however she would address her as ‘sister’. She also asserted her seniority over Elizabeth at every opportunity and treated her coldly. She even made fun of Anne Boleyn’s execution and called her a witch.
 
In an attempt to improve relations with Henry she submitted to his authority as head of the Church of England. By this she repudiated papal authority, acknowledged that the marriage between her mother and father was unlawful, and accepted her own illegitimacy.
 
Elizabeth was deemed illegitimate the same way as Mary when her mother Anne Boleyn was executed and her father remarried for the third time. Jane Seymour provided the much needed male heir and died in the process. Lady Elizabeth was removed from the succession but Mary was brought back into the fold.
 
She was made godmother to Prince Edward, given a royal household with the return of her old servants, and permitted to live in royal palaces.
 
When Mary was 27 Henry married his sixth and last wife, Catherine Parr, She was instrumental in bringing the family closer together and restoring both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession after Edward. She could do nothing about their illegitimate status.
 
Edward VI King 
In 1547, Henry died and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI who was crowned at the age of 9. By this time the Protestant reformers occupied all the powerful positions and both Edward and Elizabeth had been brought up in the Protestant faith. Mary, however, remained a staunch Roman Catholic and worshipped in her own private chapel. This really annoyed the young boy King who accused her in front of the court of "daring to ignore" his laws regarding worship.
 
Edward was pretty sure that if Mary succeeded him she would return England to Roman Catholicism. He couldn’t change the laws of succession without excluding his Protestant half-sister Elizabeth.
 
To get around this problem he was persuaded by John Dudley, one of his influential Protestant advisors, to pass the succession to Dudley’s 16 year old daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, in his will. Meanwhile, Mary was summoned from her home in Framlingham Castle to come to London. They intended to imprison Mary in the Tower and exclude her from ever ascending the throne.
 
King Edward died 1553 
In 1553, aged 15, Edward died of tuberculosis. Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen at the New Inn in Gloucester but Mary fled to her home in Norfolk.
 
Mary Now Queen
The conservative populace of East Anglia rallied around Mary, furious that their rightful Queen had been deposed. Support for Dudley and Grey evaporated and Mary rode in triumph into London, to take up her rightful crown.
 
Lady Jane Grey Executed 
The first thing she did was imprison Dudley and Lady Jane Grey in the Tower of London prior to their execution. Mary was surrounded by treacherous Protestant Privy Counsellors and advisors so she set about changing this situation.
 
She released the Roman Catholic Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and the cleric Stephen Gardiner from the Tower. She made Gardiner Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor. On 1 October 1553, Gardiner formally crowned Mary.
 
She then turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir. She chose Phillip II of Spain, not a popular choice with her subjects. They were married in Winchester Cathedral by Gardiner. If she did not produce an heir, the Protestant Elizabeth would succeed her because of the 1544 Act of Succession.
 
Poor Mary was 37 years old and, no matter how hard she tried, the likelihood of having a child was practically nil. She had two phantom pregnancies but no children. As far as Phillip was concerned the marriage was a political alliance and he did his duty.
 
Under the terms of the marriage Phillip was styled King of England and jointly ruled with Mary. The marriage treaty further provided that England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip's father (Emperor Charles V) in any war.
 
Elizabeth imprisoned 
Insurrections broke out across the country when Mary insisted on marrying Philip. The Protestant reformers wanted Elizabeth as Queen and led a rebel force in support of her. The rebellion was crushed, the leaders executed and Elizabeth imprisoned in the Tower for two months before being put under house arrest at Woodstock Palace.
 
Mary became very depressed at her failure to produce an heir especially when Phillip left to fight wars against the French. Before he went he persuaded Mary to release Elizabeth probably hoping this would make him more popular with his subjects. He knew if Mary died he would no longer be King of England so he tried to ingratiate himself with Elizabeth.
 
On coming to the throne Mary set about reconciling England with the Church of Rome. She abolished all Edward’s laws on religious worship. She also persuaded parliament to repeal the religious laws passed by her father.
 
Archbishop Cramer burnt at the stake 
The Revival of the Heresy Act was passed; anyone continuing to worship as a Protestant was considered a heretic and guilty of high treason. The Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake, and replaced with Reginald Cardinal Pole. Mary relied a lot on Pole’s advice.
 
Protestants who refused to change their faith were burned at the stake and the sites of these martyrdoms are marked in many towns around Britain. Bishop Hooper’s Memorial outside Gloucester Cathedral marks the spot where this pious man was put to death in front of his own church.
 
Not only was Britain in religious turmoil but it was economically a disaster. Trade with Europe was the basis of the economy and relied on import duties and taxes. An informal method of raising finance was from capturing Spanish ships for their cargoes but this had to be discontinued when Mary married Phillip.
 
When Phillip persuaded Mary to help Spain fight a war against France, trade with France was jeopardised. The war did not go well and England lost its last remaining possession in France, Calais. Mary devalued the currency and the British public blamed the Spaniards for their financial woes. Meanwhile the remaining Protestants took advantage of the situation fermenting unrest.
 
Mary died in 1558 
Mary’s reign lasted five turbulent and divisive years before she died on 17th November 1558. She is buried in Westminster Abbey, London.