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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Mary I of England


Mary was born on February 18, 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive infancy.

She was a precocious child. At the age of four-and-a-half, Mary entertained a visiting French delegation with a performance on the virginals (a type of harpsichord).

By the age of nine, Mary could read and write Latin.

At the age of two Mary was promised to the infant son of the King of France but the engagement was broken off when she was five.

In 1522, at the age of six, Mary contracted to marry her 22-year-old first cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.  However, the engagement was broken off within a few years by Charles with Henry's agreement.

Mary at the time of her engagement to Charles V. She is wearing a rectangular brooch inscribed with "The Emperour


Henry became deeply disappointed that his union with Catherine of Aragon had produced no sons, putting the marriage in jeopardy. Eventually, she was sent to live away from court, after which Mary was not permitted to see her mother.

In  1533, Henry married Anne Boleyn, and Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, formally declared the king's union with Catherine void. Mary's own household was dissolved; her servants were dismissed and in December 1533 she was sent to join the household of the infant Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield, Hertfordshire. The relationship between Mary and her father worsened; they did not speak to each other for three years.

Catherine died at Kimbolton Castle on January 7, 1536. She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral and Henry forbade Mary from attending her mother's funeral.

Henry's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, helped reconcile Henry with Mary. In 1543, an Act of Parliament put her back in the line of succession after Edward, Prince of Wales.


Mary had a very fair complexion, pale blue eyes and red or reddish-golden hair. She was also ruddy cheeked,

Portrait by Antonis Mor, 1554

During King Edward VI's reign the 1549 Act of Uniformity enforced the use of the Book of Common Prayer and outlawed the Mass. The devout Catholic Princess Mary ignored this restriction and instead increased her Mass attendance to two or three times a day.

After King Edward VI died of tuberculosis on July 6, 1553, the powerful Duke of Northumberland plotted to exclude the rightful successor to the throne, Princess Mary, and instead installed the devout 15-year-old Protestant Lady Jane Grey. She lasted nine days as Queen before being overthrown by Mary who swiftly ascended the throne on July 19, 1553.

The Streatham Portrait of Lady Jane Grey.

Protestant subjects under Queen Mary were presented with the ultimatum "turn or burn" and Archbishop Cranmer was confined to his Lambeth Palace having made the fatal mistake of approving the succession of the Protestant Lady Jane Grey.

Mary married Philip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral on July 25, 1554. She wished to produce a Catholic heir, thus preventing the Protestant Elizabeth succeeding her to the throne.

Mary and her husband, Philip

Queen Mary used a marmalade made of almonds, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, musk, orange peel, quinces, rosewater and sugar in an unsuccessful attempt to help her get pregnant.

The official marriage announcement of Mary and Philip of Spain was published on January 15, 1554. As a result of experiences with the Spanish Inquisition while accompanying his English ambassador father Sir Thomas Wyatt, Thomas Wyatt the Younger had developed an aversion to the Spanish government.

Wyatt gathered 4,000 men in Kent and begun a rebellion against Queen Mary. on January 25, 1554, They planned to depose her in favor of Elizabeth. On reaching London, Wyatt was defeated and captured.

The Conspiracy now known as Wyatt's rebellion, also involved the Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey. On February 12, 1554, the ‘nine- day queen’ Lady Jane Grey was beheaded at the Tower of London at the age of 16, an hour after her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley.

Thomas Wyatt was beheaded on April 11. 1554. Before his execution, Wyatt exculpated the Princess Elizabeth of any blame.

Early 1540s portrait by Holbein of Thomas Wyatt The Younger

Mary became queen consort of Habsburg Spain on Philip's accession to the throne in 1556.

In 1555 Queen Mary banned any English translation of the Bible or any Protestant literature. She proclaimed "that no manner of persons presume to bring into this realm any manuscripts, books, papers etc, in the name of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Miles Coverdale, Erasmus, Tyndale etc, or of any like books containing false doctrines against the Catholic faith."

Mary became weak and ill in May 1558.  In pain, possibly from ovarian cysts or uterine cancer, she died on November 17, 1558 aged 42 at St. James's Palace, during an influenza epidemic

All but the most devout Roman Catholics heaved a sigh of relief at “Bloody Mary's” passing. Her savage persecution of the Protestants (over 280 English dissenters were burnt at the stake during her reign) introduced an adverse bitterness into English religious life and the ultimate result, the widespread growth of Protestantism was exactly the opposite of what was intended by the fanatical Queen.

Mary's re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed after her death by her half-sister and successor Elizabeth.

Mary is buried in Westminster Abbey, immediately next to her half sister Elizabeth I. The Latin inscription on their tomb translates to "Partners both in Throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection".

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