Mary I


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Born: 18th February 1516, Palace of Placentia, Greenwich

Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon

Married: Philip of Spain, 1554

Reigned: July 1553 – November 1558

Died:17th November 1558, St James’s Palace

Buried: 14th December 1558, Westminster Abbey

Mary I, Mary Tudor or ‘Bloody Mary’; this Queen is world renowned. Much of this was due to her religious persecution of Protestants during her short reign. However, despite it only lasting just over 5 years, her influence before and after her death made an impression on future monarchs.

Mary’s early life was happy as she was a confident and outgoing child, performing for visiting delegates at only four years old. Despite her father’s disappointment at having a daughter and no son as an heir, she had good relationship with him and was very close to her mother whom greatly influenced her religious and spiritual outlook. By 1530 this drastically changed with Henry’s desire for a son and subsequent annulment to Katherine. Mary was ostracized by her father, prevented from seeing her mother and by 1533 deemed illegitimate after the birth of her half-sister Elizabeth.  Her subsequent early adulthood was marred by her father’s difficult relationships with wives and advisers, executing those whom he disagreed with.

After Henry’s death in 1547, Mary’s half-brother, sixteen-year-old Edward became King. He was heavily influenced by his advisers whom pushed a strictly Protestant agenda. Mary, a devout Catholic like her mother refused to submit to his demands. When she eventually became Queen in July 1553 she was determined to reinstate Catholicism to the country. This is where her notoriety began, her nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’ owing to the vast number of Protestants she had burnt or otherwise executed. The exact number does vary however it is assumed that at least 288 people were killed due to their beliefs. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, he states that in addition to those that were burnt, ‘7 were whipped, 16 perished in prison and 12 were buried in dunghills’. The burnings began in early 1555 and the last took place a matter of days before Mary’s death. These events had a lasting impact on the monarchy and was a vital reason for the strong reluctance towards having another Catholic monarch.

The difficulty of being a Queen has been recognised as a key part of Elizabeth, Mary’s sister reign, and the reason why she didn’t ultimately marry is shown by Mary’s disastrous marriage. In July 1554 Mary married her cousin, Philip II of Spain in Winchester Cathedral. The couple had met for the first time two days before and he did not speak a word of English. Philip barely lived in England, leaving for Spain as soon as he could and only returning once briefly. Mary was oblivious to Philip’s dislike for her as she was so infatuated by him. Shortly after their wedding she believed she was pregnant, however this turned out to be a deadly growth making her stomach swell. Sadly for Mary she never had a child and she left the throne grudgingly to her half-sister Elizabeth.


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