Mary I

Mary was born on 18 February 1516 at the Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, London, to parents King Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. She was their only child to survive infancy. Three days after she was born, she was baptized into the Catholic faith.

From almost the moment she was born Mary was to be used as a pawn to form political alliances.

At the age of two she was promised to Francis, the infant son of Francis I of France, but this was later rejected. Again, at the age of six, Mary was contracted to marry the twenty-two-year-old Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, but this engagement was cancelled. Yet again to form an alliance with France an agreement was made for Mary to marry either Francis I himself or his son Henry, Duke of Orleans, however this also did not go ahead.

Mary was a well-educated child, receiving much of her early education from her mother. She could read and write Latin from an early age and was taught French, Spanish, Music and Dance amongst other things.

Mary had a loving childhood and was close to her father Henry VIII who doted on her, however she was not the son that Henry hoped for. When it became clear that Catherine of Aragon would not produce a son, Henry chose to divorce her and marry Anne Boleyn, although this took many years to accomplish.

In 1531 Henry sent Catherine away from court and he no longer permitted Mary to see her, although he still allowed them to write to each other, although this later changed and Mary and Catherine were to never see or write to each other again. Henry believed that Mary would side with her mother against him.

Henry declared his marriage to Catherine of Aragon invalid, leaving Mary as an illegitimate child. Her life was now to change dramatically and she no longer received any loving affection from her father. When Catherine became ill, Henry still did not permit Mary to visit her, and when she died in January 1536 Mary was inconsolable.

Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533 and she gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth (Mary’s half-sister), however this marriage was short lived. In May 1536 Anne was beheaded; the day before her execution her marriage to Henry was annulled. Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth was now also named illegitimate.

Henry married again within weeks to Jane Seymour, who tried to form a reconciliation between Henry and Mary, but Henry would only agree if Mary signed a document recognising Henry as head of the Church of England, and agreeing to the fact that his marriage to her mother had been illegal. Eventually Mary signed the document and returned to court.

In 1537 Henry was to finally get his yearned for son, when Jane gave birth to Edward (future Edward VI), but following a difficult birth, Jane Seymour died twelve days later.

Henry VIII married a further three times, but these marriages did not produce any children, and it was Henry’s sixth and final wife Katherine Parr who reconciled Henry to his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth. Through the Act of Succession 1544, both Mary and Elizabeth were returned to the line of succession behind Edward.

Henry VIII died in 1547 and was succeeded by his son Edward VI who was crowned on 20 February 1547 aged only nine. Due to his young age, a Regency Council dominated by Protestants governed the country. Edward’s short reign was spent establishing the Protestant faith throughout the country.

Edward fell ill in 1551. When this illness was discovered to be terminal, Edward was persuaded by the Lord Protector John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland to change the line of succession.

Lady Jane Grey was the grand-daughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary and a devout Protestant. She was married off to Northumberland’s son, Guildford Dudley, and when Edward died in 1553, Lady Jane Grey was named Queen of England on 10 July 1553 by Northumberland.

Mary believing herself to be the legitimate heir to the throne rallied support. The Privy Council (Royal Advisers) who had initially supported Northumberland now changed their allegiance to Mary, leaving Northumberland with little support. This led to Lady Jane Grey being deposed after only nine days as queen.

Jane and her husband were both convicted of high treason and sentenced to death. Mary though suspended the death sentence and imprisoned them in the Tower of London. The Duke of Northumberland was also convicted of high treason and executed.

Reign

On 3 August, Mary rode triumphantly into London accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth and hundreds of supporters. She was crowned Queen of England on 1 October 1553.

Mary was keen to reintroduce Catholicism to England and one of her first actions was to release Catholics currently imprisoned in the Tower of London. She also reinstated her parent’s marriage as legitimate.

Mary, already in her thirties needed to produce an heir, so she looked to secure a husband quickly. Although her government insisted on her marrying an Englishman, Mary chose Philip II of Spain as her husband, to the opposition of her Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner.

This decision was extremely unpopular with the people and caused a rebellion in 1554 led by Thomas Wyatt the Younger and supported by Lady Jane Grey’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, later to be known as ‘Wyatt’s Rebellion’.

This unsuccessful rebellion led to Wyatt and Suffolk being executed. Mary believed that as long as Jane lived her reign would always have opposition, so Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley were also executed.

Mary and Philip were married only two days after meeting, on 25 July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral. It was a political marriage to secure the lands of two countries, but it is believed that Mary became very fond of her husband. On her wedding day Mary became, Queen of Naples and Titular Queen of Jerusalem.

In September 1554, it was announced that Mary was pregnant. Although for the next nine months she showed many of the signs of pregnancy, her due date came and went and no baby was born. Finally, it was agreed that Mary had suffered from a phantom pregnancy, maybe due to her desperation to have a child.

Shortly after the phantom pregnancy Philip left England to take charge of his forces in Flanders against France, and it is believed that Mary was devastated by his departure.

Mary continued in her attempt to restore the Catholic faith to England. The Heresy Laws were revived by Parliament at the end of 1554, which led to hundreds of Mary’s subjects being executed, many burned at the stake, with even more being exiled.

The deaths of so many Protestants during Mary’s reign gained her the name of ‘Bloody Mary’.

During Philips return to England in 1557, Mary thought herself pregnant a second time, but again no child came and following this her health deteriorated, possibly from Cancer.

Mary was a devout Catholic and her half-sister Elizabeth a staunch Protestant. Although Mary did not want Elizabeth as her successor, she finally had to accept that Elizabeth would take the throne.

Mary died, aged 42 on 17 November 1558 at St James’s Palace, and is buried at Westminster Abbey.

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