MARY I

Queen of England

Born: 18 Feb 1516, Greenwich Palace, London, England
Acceded: 30 Nov 1553, Westminster Abbey, London, England
Died: 17 Nov 1558, St. James Palace, London, England
Buried: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Father: HENRY VIII TUDOR (King of England)

Mother: Catalina De ARAGON

Married: FELIPE II HABSBURG (King of Spain) 25 Jul 1554, Winchester Cathedral, Hampshire, England


Mary09.jpg (85606 bytes)


See her at The Queen Gallery

Mary Tudor was  the only surviving child of Henry VIII's first wife, Catalina De Aragon. Henry doted on Mary when she was little, calling her "the greatest pearl in the kingdom." The princess received an excellent education, and was carefully sheltered.

After the birth of the Princess Mary on 18 Feb 1516, Margaret of Salisbury became her sponsor in baptism and confirmation. Two days later the royal daughter was borne in pomp and solemnity to the Church of the Observant Friars at Greenwich and baptized. The Cardinal Wolsey was her Godfather, the Lady Catherine of Devon and the Duchess of Norfolk were her Godmothers at the font, and the Countess of Salisbury was her Godmother at the bishop.

In 1522 Henry arranged Mary's betrothal to Holy Roman Emperor Carlos V. Carlos was an adult, and Mary was just six years old; the marriage would take place when she was twelve. Mary had met Carlos and liked the idea of marrying him. But in 1525 Carlos broke off the engagement so that he could marry Princess Isabella of Portugal. That same year Henry sent Princess Mary to live in Wales, as was traditional for the king's heir. But at the same time, her half brother, the bastard son of the King Henry Fitzroy, was created Duke of Richmond, a title that Henry had before he came to the throne.

The year 1527 started off well for Princess Mary. She returned to live at her father's court and celebrated her engagement to a son of the King of France. But Henry VIII's attitude toward Mary and her mother had started to change. He had decided that God disapproved of his marriage to Catalina; why else had the Queen failed to produce healthy male children? And he was in love with the woman who was to become his second wife: Anne Boleyn.

Soon Mary learned that Henry wanted to annul his marriage to her mother. For this, the King needed the pope's permission. While he waited, he continued to treat Catalina as his Queen and Mary as his heir. But Mary's legitimacy was now in doubt, making her less valuable on the marriage market. The French engagement was broken off and no other match was arranged for her, although her father's advisors considered marrying her to Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy.

Henry grew increasingly angry at Catalina for resisting his attempt to end their marriage. Finally, in 1531, he sent Catalina away from court. After being shuffled between various castles and palaces, the Queen ended up a prisoner at Kimbolton Castle, near Huntingdon. Realizing that the Pope would never grant his divorce, Henry split from the Catholic church, established the Church of England, had his marriage declared invalid, and married Anne Boleyn. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in 1533.

Mary was now officially a bastard, called "the lady Mary," but, like her mother, she refused to accept her change in status. Henry was infuriated by his daughter's defiance and threatened to have her executed if she did not stop referring to herself as a princess. When Mary was eighteen, her household was disbanded and she was sent to live in Princess Elizabeth's household, where she was treated badly. Henry refused to see her, but he was not completely indifferent to Mary. Once, glimpsing her at a window, he nodded and touched his hat politely.

Catalina and Mary were not permitted to visit each other, and Catalina died in 1536 without seeing her daughter again. Now Mary was alone. Four months after Catalina's death, however, Mary's greatest enemy toppled from power when Anne Boleyn was arrested on false charges of adultery and executed. Anne had hated Mary and stated that she wanted her dead. With Anne gone, Henry treated his eldest daughter somewhat more kindly. His third, fourth, and sixth wives were all well-disposed toward Mary. (She got along less well with his teenaged fifth wife, Catherine Howard.) Although she never regained her former status or her father's affection, she was once again part of the royal family.

At first she got along well with the king's other children. As Elizabeth and Edward grew up, however, up their Protestant views put them at odds with Mary, who never swayed from her devout Catholicism. As King, Edward scolded and bullied Mary about her beliefs, and finally disinherited her in favor of Jane Grey. But in 1553, at the age of thirty-seven, Mary at last became Queen.

Mary realized that a plot was being hatched to place Jane on the throne. She had been urged by some friends to flee the country since they feared her life would be in danger. Mary knew that if she fled, she would forfeit all chances of becoming Queen and returning England to Catholicism, so she chose to remain and make a stand for her crown.

Edward died on 6 Jul 1553. Shortly afterwards, Duke of Northumberland informed Jane at Syon House that Edward had left the crown to her and that she was now Queen of England. Mary, meanwhile, was in East Anglia. Northumberland and three of his sons went to take Mary into custody. Mary was at this time moving around with a growing army of supporters. She knew that he must have confirmation of her brother's death, because it would be treason to declare herself Queen otherwise. She received news from a reliable source that Edward was indeed dead, and promptly sent proclamations throughout the country announcing her accession to the throne.

Mary went to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, which was better fortified. Her number of supporters was increasing and Mary took time to inspect her troops personally. The people of Suffolk were flocking to Mary and many of the leaders who were supposed to take her into custody instead went and begged for her pardon.

By this time, the Privy Council in London realized their error in going along with Northumberland's plot and declared Mary the true Queen of England. She left Framlingham for London on 24 Jul.

Of the conspirators who tried to place Jane on the throne, only a few were initially executed, including the Duke of Northumberland. Jane and Guildford were found guilty of treason, but Mary refused to execute them. Guildford's brothers, the other three sons of John Dudley, were kept in the Tower, but not killed. The Duke of Suffolk, Jane Grey's father, was released.

As Mary approached the outskirts of London, she was met by her sister Elizabeth, who offered her congratulations and rode in a place of honor with the new Queen. When Mary made her formal entry into London on the 30th of Sep, Elizabeth and the surviving wife of Henry VIII, Anne of Cleves, rode in a chariot behind the Queen's in the great procession.

The especial favourite ladies of the Queen were chosen to escort her in the coronation procession on 29 Sep. Gertrude Blount, Marchioness of Exeter, had been close to Mary since the 1530s; her husband, Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, had been executed in 1538 amidst rumours of a plot to marry their son to the then princess. In Aug 1553 her influence with the Queen was high, all the more so as Mary had not yet disappointed speculation that she might indeed marry Edward Courtenay, shortly to be restored to the earldom of Devon. The Marchioness was reportedly helpful to Northumberland's old ally William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, in securing his appointment to Mary's council on 13 Aug. Probably closer still to Mary was Susan Clarenciueux, widow of Thomas Tonge, Clarenceux King-of-arms, a servant to Mary since 1536 and now mistress of her robes and effectively chief gentlewoman of her privy chamber. She was a suitable intermediary even in matters of life and death.

On the morning of 1 Oct, Mary made the short walk from Westminster Palace to the Abbey across the street for her coronation. It was nearly 5 o'clock before the ceremony was finished and the court made it's way back to Westminster Palace for the banquet in the Great Hall.

Parliament met four days after the coronation and in the second session (three days later), Mary began to introduce the legislations that she had long hoped for. First, there was an act proclaiming Henry VIII's marriage to Catalina de Aragon valid and legal. This act passed with little resistance. However, the other main act was to repeal all the religious laws passed in the reign of Edward VI, and this didn't pass as easily.

Soon after her accession, Mary began considering the possibility of marrying Prince Felipe of Spain, the son of her former fiance, Emperor Carlos V. It worried her that Felipe was eleven years her junior because he was "likely to be disposed to be amorous, and such is not my desire, not at my time of life, and never having harbored thoughts of love." With difficulty the Emperor's envoy convinced her that Felipe was a stable, mature adult who would help protect her kingdom.

Mary - and most of her contemporaries - believed she must marry; she needed a husband for support and guidance.  After all, no woman had ruled England in her own right before.  Mary's subjects were alarmed to learn of her engagement to the Spanish prince, fearing that England would become part of Spain. A party in the Council wanted Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, the great-grandson of Edward IV, for the Queen husband. He was the last of the Plantagenets, young, good-looking, and charming; his high birth led him to spend most of his youth in prison. Mary was kind to him. She released him from the Tower and restored he and his mother to favor.  She remembered that Edward's parents had supported her mother during the great divorce. But she also made it clear she would not marry him. For Mary, whose life had possessed little happiness and peace after her adolescence, had always turned to her mother's family for advice and support. And she continued to do so when she became Queen. Certainly Felipe of Spain, heir to the Hapsburg empire, was the most sought-after prince in Europe. But he was also the grandson of her aunt, which meant a great deal to the sentimental Mary Tudor.

The Queen, however, had no intention of turning the country over to Felipe. Still, she did not immediately plan to marry him. She was deeply religious and had spent the past twenty years essentially alone and unloved.  She was naturally fearful of marriage. She asked Renard - was Felipe too young for her?  would she be able to satisfy him for she was ignorant of 'that which was called love'?  In short, she was a deeply devout and chaste maiden and he was a twenty-six-year-old widower.  Would he be happy with her?

Renard assured her that Felipe was delighted to wed Mary.  And, he added, they would have children together, providing England with a Catholic succession. Mary replied that she had never considered marriage until God had raised her to the throne but- now that she was Queen- she would lead her subjects down the path of righteousness.  With the might of the Holy Roman Empire behind her, her faith would be triumphant.  So she agreed to marry Felipe in late Oct 1553; their engagement was made official.

She was faced with a hostile reaction. Both her subjects and the King of France made their anger known. Many Englishmen believed Carlos V wanted to drag England into war against France, another costly and ineffectual enterprise.  In truth, Carlos really wanted control of that vital sea route between Spain and the Netherlands; he needed to control the English coast in order for his trade route to operate at its maximum profitability. But England has always been an insular nation. With Protestant propagandists and the French Ambassador spreading all sorts of rumors (Spanish invasions to immediate wars), the people were in an uproar.  Furthermore, Mary's councilors were an ineffectual bunch and their policies were roundly criticized.  It seemed that, just months into her reign, Mary was steadily falling from favor.

On 2 Jan 1554, Carlos V's envoys arrived to iron out the details of the marriage contract.  To secure his valuable trade route, Carlos was prepared to be generous.  In fact, he included every provision possible to stifle English fears.  But it was no use. The people didn't want the marriage.  Soon enough, word reached London of uprisings in the countryside- Carew in Devonshire, Wyatt in Kent, Crofts in Wales... The councilors were alarmed.  And then word reached them that Henry Grey, the Duke of Suffolk, had disappeared from his country home, Sheen. They had planned the uprising for Mar (when Felipe was due to arrive) but Courtenay, timid after years in the Tower, betrayed them. So the conspirators were forced into action. Carew could not raise his force without Courtenay's help so he fled to France and Crofts plans fell through. But, by the end of Jan, Wyatt had taken Rochester and the royal ships at the Medway. The Duke of Norfolk left with a force from London but many men deserted. Wyatt was encouraged and pressed on to London.  For two days, the fate of the Spanish marriage hung in the balance.  Londoners were undecided; Mary decided to sway the balance. She went to Guildhall and made a rousing speech exhorting the Londoners to support her. She did so against the advice of her council for they feared for her safety.  They needn't have worried.  When Wyatt reached London, he found the bridge closed to him.

Mary had refused to let the Tower guns be turned on the traitors. She feared the innocent citizens of Southwark would be harmed if they were fired. The rebels eventually surrendered but Mary had learned a valuable lesson - she discovered the depth of her subjects' hatred of the Spanish marriage. But it did not cause her to change her plans.  She was bewildered and angry but also hurt. She had shown mercy and forgiveness and was rewarded by rebellion.  She was now particularly susceptible to Renard's advice. Renard immediately questioned Mary's safety as well as Felipe's - would the prince be safe when rebellions were occurring throughout the nation?  The Queen was exhorted to ensure his safety. She must do this by punishing the rebels so none would dare rebel again.

Renard's advice was supported by Mary's council.  Inevitably, all her advisors urged Mary to execute Jane GreyWyatt had been supported by the vanished Henry Grey. When he had disappeared from Sheen, he had gone to raise an army against the Spanish marriage. But he gained little support. Grey owed his life to Mary's kindness and he responded by seeking to overthrow her. His intent was to lead men of the midland shires and join Wyatt near London.  His actual course fell far short of this goal - he fled from one county to another until he reached his manor of Astley.  He apparently hid in a tree trunk or under some hay; accounts vary.  He was promptly arrested by the Earl of Huntingdon.  Later, rumors spread that he had proclaimed Jane Queen during his ride through the midlands.  This was untrue but it didn't matter. Jane had once been Queen and, as Mary's advisors put it, she would be the figurehead of any Protestant plot. Once again, she was morally innocent but she was still dangerous.  She had to die.  To this, Renard added that Felipe could not arrive until the Protestant threat had been destroyed. All the opposition to her marriage had simply made the obstinate Mary more determined to marry Felipe.  So the suspended sentence on Jane was revoked and she was condemned to die immediately.

The date of the execution was set for Friday 9 Feb 1554. Mary, who so hated executing her cousin, tried one last time to save her soul. She sent John Feckenham, dean of St Paul's, to Jane. He was given a few days to sway Jane to the Catholic faith. Jane, long deprived of intellectual company and theological debate, was polite.  But she rebutted each of Feckenham's arguments with her own. Perhaps she relished this last chance to elucidate her precious faith. After hours of argument, she remained Protestant. But she had also come to like Feckenham very much. So she accepted his offer to accompany her to the scaffold and she promised to 'pray God in the bowels of his mercy to send you his Holy Spirit; for he hath given you his great gift of utterance, if it pleased him also to open the eyes of your heart'.

John Feckenham's work had delayed the executions until Monday 12 Feb. It was the end of Lady Jane Grey and her husband.

In Mar, 1554, Mary acted in a proxy betrothal, with the Count of Egmont standing in for Prince Felipe. He eventually set sail for England on Jul 12, arriving at the Isle of Wight a week later, on Jul 20, 1554. On Jul 23, he arrived at Winchester where he would meet his bride for the first time. It is not known exactly what language they used to converse (quite possibly Latin), but Felipe and Mary talked into the evening and by all appearances seemed to be getting along well. Mary liked Felipe from the start, and he treated her kindly, although he probably found her unattractive. (The men who had accompanied him to England later described Mary as old, badly dressed, and almost toothless). 

The marriage took place two days after their meeting, on 25 Jul the day of St. James- patron saint of Spain. After the wedding, they were proclaimed:

Felipe and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France and Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, defenders of the faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and the Tyrol.

After dancing and dinner, the couple was put to bed in accordance with the ancient blessing ritual.

In Sep, one of the Queen's physicians announced that she was pregnant. In fact, she did seem to show many of the signs including nausea and an enlarging belly.

Meanwhile, Mary began to act on her intention to restoring the Catholic faith in England. The nobles were allowed to keep the lands gained in the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, but the Queen encouraged returning former Church property (mainly furniture and plate) and set an example by doing so herself. The medieval heresy laws were restored by Parliament, which meant that heretics could be killed and their property and holdings given over to the Crown.

At no time since the days of the Wars of the Roses had England been in such a nervous and unsettled state. The government was weak, divided and unpopular. The uncertain outcome of the Queen's impending childbed, bringing with it the dread of another minority, dominated this time by a Spanish regency, hung like a fog blotting out the future. To make matters gloomier still, the religious persecution which has left such an indelible stain on the memory of Mary's reign had now begun. In all some three hundred people, including sixty women, suffered this peculiarly horrific form of death. It was not, however, by contemporary standards, an especially vicious campaign (by contemporary Continental standards it was mild), and it has to be remembered that in the eyes of the government Protestantism had, with justification, be-come synonymous with sedition, treason and open rebellion.

In Jan 1555, the arrests began. John Hooper, John Rogers and John Cardmaster were arrested after they refused to cease their heretical activities and put on trial. All three were condemned to be burnt at the stake, with Rogers the first to die.

Instead of deterring the Protestants, the burnings mainly served to increase their hatred of the Queen. In all about 275 people died and were later included in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments of the English Martyrs. It was because of these burnings that the Queen gained the epitaph "Bloody Mary".

As Mary's pregnancy progressed, Felipe began to make plans for the succession if the Queen were to die in childbirth, a relatively common occurrence in Tudor England. Mary would most likely want to exclude Elizabeth from the throne, which meant that the crown would then fall to Mary Queen of Scots, who was about to marry the son of the King of France and was unacceptable for Spanish interests. Felipe suggested marrying Elizabeth to a Catholic (and ally of the Holy Roman Emperor): Philibert, Duke of Savoy.

Mary had refused to allow Felipe and Elizabeth to meet, but in Apr when the Court moved to Hampton Court Palace Elizabeth was brought there as well (she had still been at Woodstock until then). She had few visitors and had not been granted an audience with the Queen, since she was still in disgrace. However, one evening the Queen sent over a rich dress to Elizabeth with the message that she was to wear it that evening. She met the King and was later brought into see the Queen. Foxe records that Felipe was hiding behind a tapestry during the interview. At the end, Mary agreed to welcome Elizabeth at court.

Mary had retreated into privacy awaiting the birth of her child, as was customary. She waited for the labor pains to begin, but her due date came and went without the birth of a child. The doctors predicted the child would come on 6 Jun, then 24 Jun, and then finally 3 Jul... but none came to pass.

It is thought that Mary did in fact suffer what is called a 'phantom pregnancy' arising from her great wish to have a child. She may have actually been pregnant at some point, but miscarried, or the child died and was not properly expelled. Whatever the case, it became quite clear that the Queen was not going to give birth, since it was now nearly a year after she was first reported to be with child.

After a while, Mary began to receive again and the signs of her "pregnancy" disappeared. The subject was not brought up in the Queen's presence.

In Aug, Felipe left England to conduct business for Spain in the Netherlands, promising Mary that he would soon return. The Queen was overcome with sadness at his departure and wrote to him almost daily.

Meanwhile, the trials and burnings continued. Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were condemned and burnt at the stake in Oct 1555. In Mar 1556, Thomas Cranmer followed, thrusting his right hand into the fire first because it had signed his earlier recantation of the Protestant faith.

In 1556, the rumous that Mary meant to have Felipe crowned King of England caused another rebellion. Sir Henry Dudley was one of the prime movers. The idea was depose Mary and Felipe, and raise Elizabeth to the throne. It was also intended to secure her marriage to Edward Courtenay, a distant relative descended from Edward IV. The ramifications of the plot seemed endless, and extended even to some of the councillors themselves. The Queen felt "deeply troubled", she saw treason everywhere, and on Apr she put the investigation in the hands of men such Rochester, Jerningham and Englefield, who had served her for many years and proved themselves to be trustworthy.

Felipe eventually returned to England in Mar 1557. Shortly afterwards, England declared war on France following a raid on Scarborough, England by Thomas Stafford, who had been in exile in France. The French King Henri II denied initiating the raid.

Felipe lead forces into France and took the town of St. Quentin and surrounding lands. But France struck back and took the city of Calais, the last foothold of England on the Continent. It had been in English hands since 1347.

Mary became depressed and paranoid. Adding to her misery was the French conquest of the city of Calais, which had been in English hands for over two hundred years. "When I am dead, you will find Calais lying on my heart" she told one of her attendants. The Venetian Ambassador, Giovanni Micheli, described her about that time in a letter.

With this loss came some good news, however. The Queen was sure she was pregnant again, now at the age of 42. She entered seclusion in late Feb 1558, thinking her confinement for labor would come in Mar. Those around her seemed to have doubts about the validity of this pregnancy after the earlier incident.

On Mar 30, Mary drafted her will and it is worded in such a way to portray that the Queen thought she was indeed with child. But, by Apr, no child had come and the Queen knew that she was once again mistaken. After the symptoms began to fade, Mary was left quite ill. From then on, she became progressively worse. In late Oct, she added the codicil to her will but did not expressly name Elizabeth as her heir in it.

The Queen drifted in and out of consciousness, but at one point was lucid enough to agree to pass the crown to her half sister, adding that she hoped Elizabeth would maintain the Catholic faith in England. It was around this time that Felipe learned of the death of both his father and his aunt.

On Nov 16, 1558, Mary's will was read aloud keeping with custom. She was lucid during the Mass held in her chamber the next morning. The priest performed the last rights, and the Queen passed.

Before modern embalming, beautiful displays of Avas Flowers would have been used to mask the smell of death. Current embalming techniques were developed several hundred years after Mary's death so flowers would not have been used simply for esthetic purposes. Florists such as Avas Flowers offer advice on the appropriate flowers for funerals today.

 

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