Queen "Bloody" Mary I Tudor of England

Queen Mary I of England reigned as Queen of England for a short five years (r.1553-1558), the first reigning queen since the disputed Mathilda in the 12th Century. Most historians consider her reign to be unfruitful in that she never was able to fulfill her dream of returning England to the Roman Catholic Church. She also never had any children of her own to continue her dynasty in England. Her foreign policies met with failure as well.

Born in 1516 to England's King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary lived quiet life as a royal princess until about 1527 when the king began to seek annulment of his marriage to her mother.   Since Catherine had not produced a male heir, Henry feared that if Mary inherited the throne civil war might result.  Since the pope refused to grant an annulment, in 1533 Henry's bishops dissolved the marriage and allowed Henry to marry Anne Boleyn, who soon gave birth to Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth.  In all, England thus broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and began to follow Anglicanism.  After Catherine's death, Henry in turn executed Anne Boleyn on a trumped-up charges of adultery conspiracy.  His next wife, Jane Seymour, gave birth to his long-desired heir, Edward, so both Mary and Elizabeth were treated as royal bastards.  

Edward VI followed his father as king in 1547, but died already in 1553.  Mary became queen only after a faction of Protestant nobles tried to put Lady Jane Grey, or the "nine day queen," on the throne.  Mary's overwhelming support by the powerful averted a serious civil war.  Only a handful of executions followed, including Lady Jane.  

Mary immediately went to work bringing the Roman Catholic faith back to England. She initially did this by rescinding the religious proclamations of Edward VI, and replacing them with old English laws enforcing heresy against the Church. In carrying out the last action, Mary earned her nickname, "Bloody Mary," because during her reign, she had more than 300 persons burned at the stake for heresy. Among them was the Archbishop of Canterbury,  Thomas Cranmer.  Chiefly because of her support of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, she was never really able to gain the support of nobles and most of her countrymen.

In her drive to find an heir to the English throne, at the age of 37 Mary wed prince Philip II of Spain. This made her subjects even more apprehensive about her, because many viewed Spain as an archenemy of England. Twice during her reign she believed that she was with child, and even showed the symptoms of pregnancy. It seems that she had a "hysterical pregnancy" -- she had convinced herself so that her body responded as if she were pregnant. It has also been supposed that she might have had an ovarian cyst that not only prevented her from conceiving a child, but could have contributed to her early death in 1558.

Mary's foreign affairs had also met failure as well. Encouraged to ally with Spain by Philip in a war against France, Mary lost Calais, the only English held possession in France. Sadly, in 1558, deserted by her husband who went back to Spain to claim the Spanish throne, Mary realized that she would not be able to provide an heir, and was forced to recognize her sister, Elizabeth, an Anglican Protestant, as the next ruler of England.  Although at several points Mary threatened and put pressure on on her sister to convert to Roman Catholicism, she successfully resisted, survived, and became Queen Elizabeth I

Special superstitious note:  The game of seeing a ghost or a witch by looking in a mirror in the dark and chanting the name "Bloody Mary" has nothing whatsoever to do with this queen, except the coincidence of the same name.  When I was a kid, to try the trick we said "Mary Worth" (perhaps connected to a comic strip running at the time). For more information, see the article Barbara Mikkelson, "Bloody Mary," Snopes.com, 27 April 2001, <http://www.snopes.com/horrors/ghosts/bloody.htm> (2 June 2005), which also has a brief description of Mary's reign.  [B.A.P.]

Annotated Bibliography

Carlson, Eric J. "Courtship in Tudor England" History Today. August, 1993.
In his article, Carlson describes the courtship process in great detail. He contends that prearranged marriages had virtually ceased by the time of Mary I's reign. This is helpful in the study of Mary I in that it shows the changes English society was undergoing when Mary instituted her religious policies, possibly making the society even more uneasy about their Queen.

Eakins, Lara E. "Mary I." Tudor England. 3 Mar 1998. <http://tudorhistory.org/mary/> (27 January 2005).
This internet article focuses mainly upon the failure of Mary to conceive a child and provide a successor to the throne of England. It also provides general biographical information on Mary, but not in any great detail. It is helpful in that it analyzes, in some detail, Mary's attempts to bear a child and the effects this had on her marriage to Philip. This is a good article if one wants to concentrate their study on the personal life of Mary Tudor, rather than the political life.

Guy, John.Tudor England. New York, NY.: Oxford University Press, 1991.
A portion of this book in dedicated to the reign of Mary I and her relationship with her countrymen. It gives useful information concerning how the public viewed their queen. According to the book, she was seen as "pious, politically self-deceived, and as intense as a nun." This information is important when one considers how her subjects responded to her political decisions.

Hanson, Marilee.  "Queen Mary I." Tudor England 1485-1603. 1997. <http://englishhistory.net/tudor/monarchs/mary1.html> (26 January 2005). 
Good site with pictures, good biographies, primary sources and connections to other Tudor monarchs.  [B.A.P.]

Helm, Peter J. England Under the Yorkists and Tudors. London, England : G. Bell & Sons, Ltd., 1968.
This publication dedicates a chapter to Mary I, revealing little analysis of the cause and effects of her reign. It is useful, however, as a source of general biographical information, such as her character, her religious policies, her marriage, etc. It is similar to an encyclopedia article, but with much more detail. For that reason, it can be considered most helpful.

Hughes, Paul, and Larkin, James. Tudor Royal Proclamations. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1969.
This book is an excellent primary source in that it gives the actual proclamations of Mary I. It is very useful because it shows the national confusion that resulted from the conflicting policies of the Tudor monarchs, and how that affected Mary's reign. In viewing these documents, one can see how Mary seemed to ignore the need for cooperation between the government and the governed.

Lee, Elizabeth. Mary Tudor. (2005). <http://home.earthlink.net/~elisale/index.html> (26 January 2005).  
Very good site with pictures, detailed chapters about her life, and even music.  [B.A.P.]

Lingard, John. The History of England, vol. V. Edinburgh, Scotland: John Grant, 1902.
This book contains two lengthy chapters that go into great detail concerning almost all biographical aspects of Mary's life. It provides some analysis that proves to be most enlightening when studying her personality and her method of thought. I found this book to be most valuable in becoming familiar with the political and personal events of her life.

Loach, Jennifer. "Mary Tudor and the Re-Catholicisation" History Today, November 1994.
In her article, Loach attempts to prove that the reintroduction of Roman Catholicism during Mary's reign has been wrongly perceived as a failure by most historians. She points out that Mary appointed very able clergy who were most dedicated and diligent to the task remaining before them. Also, she contends that Mary insisted on a high standard of clerical education through the establishment of seminaries that would "prove essential to the later success of re-Catholicisation in other parts of Europe." This article is valuable because it differs from the conventional assumption that Mary's attempts at re-Catholicisation ended in failure, and concentrates on the positive aspects of her policies.

Luke, Mary. The Nine Days Queen: A Portrait of Lady Jane Grey. New York, NY.: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1986.
This book gives an insightful view of the attempt by English nobles to put Lady Jane Grey, a distant relative of Edward VI, on the throne of England. It is helpful in telling the story of Mary I, by providing the viewpoint of Protestant nobles who wanted a Protestant monarch, and feared a Catholic one. This book provides motives for those in opposition to Mary as queen of England.

Maynard, Theodore. Bloody Mary. Milwaukee, Wis.: Brice Publishing Co., 1955.
Through his book, Maynard attempts to justify and describe Mary's motivations for returning England back to Catholicism. He contends that even though her methods might not have been correct, she was "by nature of extraordinary honesty and by all natural inclinations notable for her personal kindness." This book is very helpful because it goes into much detail on the personality on Mary herself and thus provides motivations for the politics that she perpetuated during her reign.

Prescott, H. F. Mary Tudor. New York, NY.: The Macmillan Company, 1953.
Prescott gives a different approach to the study of Mary I. The author goes into much detail on the characters of the various personalities that Mary encountered during her life, and how they effected her decisions. He also describes in great detail, the implementation of the plan of Mary to return England to Catholicism through inquisitions and executions. This book is helpful simply because it concentrates on detail that is commonly glossed over in most biographies about Mary. It will soon be republished 

Von Ranke, Leopold. A History of England. 2nd reprint ed., New York, NY.: AMS Press, Inc., 1966.
This book provides a section that gives an excellent account of how the government of England adjusted to the leadership of a Catholic queen (Mary I). Von Ranke, the famous German historian who wrote in the 19th century, gives a very insightful account of how nobles and other government leaders adjusted, or did not adjust, to Mary's new religious policies. This book is helpful in that it shows just how much religion effects the policies and practices of a government, and how much upheaval a religious change can bring about.


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URL: http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/marytudor.html
Written by Ryan Lindbuchler, Copyright 1998
Original Posting: 1998 November 16
Last Revision: 2005 June 5

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