Mary Tudor was born on February 18th 1516 at Greenwich. She was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon. As a young child, she received much love and attention. She was to be an esteemed Princess and she would be well taken care of. Mary was an intelligent and gifted child. In 1520, she performed for a French delegation group on the virginals. Her music skills were very developed and by the time she was nine she was able to read and write in Latin, studied in Greek and learned dance. Her early childhood was generally happy, but things started to change. In 1525, she was given her own household at Ludlow Castle. This began the separation of between Catherine of Aragon and her daughter, Mary Tudor.
Mary Tudor had many marriage arrangements, but none of them went through. When she was two years old, she was promised to the son of Francis I, but that contract was broken three years later. Then when she was six, she was supposed to marry her cousin Holy Roman Emperor Charles, but the marriage was broken off with Henry’s agreement. England tried to negotiate with France again and Henry was willing to sign off on Mary to be married to Francis I or his second son. However, the treaty and alliance was created without securing a marriage.
As Mary entered her teenage years, her parent’s marriage was deeply troubled. Little arrangements were to be made for her and her father was most upset to be without a male heir. Her father started to fall in love with one of her mother’s ladies, Anne Boleyn. Mary had no respect for this woman and hated her deeply. In spring of 1533, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer annulled Catherine and Henry’s marriage. He named the marriage invalid and that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s marriage was officially valid. Catherine was formally given the title of the Dowager Princess of Wales and Mary became illegitimate. As a result, she was given the name “The Lady Mary.” She would no longer be referred to as a Princess and she was removed from the succession. Mary refused to name Anne Queen and always referred to her mother as the True Queen. This angered her father and their relationship was strained and they did not speak to each for three years. When Elizabeth was born, she was put ahead in the line of succession. Mary had no part of it, but was recalled to be a lady for her half-sister. To say this was difficult would be an understatement. At the same time, Mary became very ill regularly and frequently. Her doctor said that it was because of her mistreatment, but no one truly knows what ailments she suffered and why. Both Mary and Catherine were not allowed to see each other. Could you even fathom how difficult this would be for them both? Mary never saw her Mother again and Catherine of Aragon died in January of 1536.
Things slowly started to improve with Mary. When Anne Boleyn was executed in May of 1536, Jane Seymour, the new wife of Henry VIII, urged him to make amends with his daughter, Mary. At the same time, Elizabeth was no longer referred to as a princess and was also called “The Lady Elizabeth.” The terms for reconciling with her Father were that she had to recognize that he was the head of the church, the marriage between her Mother and Father was invalid, and that she was illegitimate. She tried to gain favour again with his father by saying that she would submit to his authority as far as God and her conscience would allow, but she was forced to agree to all of his terms. This would have humiliated her more and make her feel such great sorrow. She had to deny everything she knew she was. She would have to desecrate her Mother’s memory. One could be bold enough to say that her true internal feelings never changed. However, submitting to the claims of her father helped her. Her living conditions did improve. She was allowed to have fine gowns and clothes once more. She was also permitted to live in royal palaces and had her expenses covered. When Jane Seymour died giving birth to her half-brother, Edward, Mary became his god-mother and acted as chief mourner for the Queen’s funeral. Mary Tudor truly did respect Jane Seymour. She was a true and loving Catholic. She was pleased to call Jane her step-mother.
Through the next few marriages, Mary had little involvement. In 1539, Thomas Cromwell arranged for Anne of Cleves to be the wife of Henry VIII. This match was not favoured by Henry for he found her unattractive. However, she settled for an annulment and was pleased to be called the King’s sister. As a result, this brought about Thomas Cromwell’s downfall. He was executed himself for treason and one of his charges was that he plotted to marry Mary. This strange charge was not likely at all.
Throughout the years, Mary remained faithful in the Catholic religion. She lived a quiet life and did not associate much with the other Queens. In 1541, her old governess, Margaret Pole, was executed for her involvement in a Catholic plot and basically to get back at her son Reginald Pole, who was not in England at the time. One might guess that this probably hurt Mary deeply. Margaret was a strong Catholic and a great support for Mary in her younger years. As well, Margaret was quite old at this time.
When Katherine Howard came to the throne, there is little said of what Mary thought of it. It is obvious that it would be silly and embarrassing for her father was old and obese and Katherine was so young and pretty. When Katherine was executed, Mary was asked to oversee the Royal Christmas activities for there was no Queen to do it then. Finally, her father married again for the last time. He married Catherine Parr, who managed to be loving, kind, and merciful. She brought the family back together and encouraged Henry to put his daughters back in the line of succession. The Act of Succession 1544 put both of the women, Mary and Elizabeth, although still illegitimate, back in the line after Edward.
In 1547, her father died and left her young brother, Edward to assume the throne. She inherited the estates of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex and was granted two other places for her own. She did not visit the court much and stayed faithful to her Catholic religion. Her brother was truly Protestant, so she wanted little to do with him. In 1550, she reunited with her brother and sister at Christmas. Edward embarrassed her by reproving her for disobeying his worship laws. She refused his demands to get rid of her beliefs and Edward refused to no longer demand her. The two of them never did see eye-to-eye.
In July of 1553, Edward died at 15 of a lung infection. He did not want his sister, Mary to come to the throne. He did not want England to reverted back to Catholicism or have Mary undo all of his and his father’s reforms. He was told that he could not disinherit one sister and allow another to claim the throne. Elizabeth embraced the Church of England, but because of these technicalities, she could not reign next. Edward, with his advisers, namely John Dudley, devised a plan to remove his sisters from the line of succession and put Lady Jane Grey, Dudley’s daughter-in-law on the throne after him. She was the granddaughter of Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII.
Mary was summoned to visit her dying brother, but was soon warned of a plot. There was a plan in place to capture her to ensure that Lady Jane would take the throne. Mary fled to East Angelia, where she owned many estates. This was the time she began to develop her own supporters. On July 10th 1553, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen. There are accounts that state she did not desire to rule England, but was forced to do this. The day before this, Mary wrote a letter to the Privy Council claiming that she is Queen and this letter was received on the same day as Jane’s coronation. By July 12th, Mary Tudor and her supporters developed a military force and her own support began to grow. Jane was disposed on July 19th and imprisoned in the Tower of London with her husband and John Dudley, her father-in-law.
On August 3rd 1553, Mary rode into London with strong public support. Mary realized that Lady Jane was simply a pawn and in the aftermath. As a result, John Dudley was the only person that was executed for High Treason right after. She released the Duke of Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner from prison. Lady Jane and her husband were found guilty of treason, but stayed in the tower instead of being executed right away. No one truly knows what Mary’s plans would have been for Jane and her husband. Regardless, they were simply prisoners and had no claims or titles. Gardiner was made the Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor until his death in 1555. Queen Mary was in a difficult position and she had to decide how she should proceed. Many of the councils, if not all, had been implicated in the plot to put Jane on the throne. Mary was formally crowned Mary I on October 1st 1553.
One of her next major plans was to find herself a husband. This princess, now queen, had been neglected too long in the marriage search. She wanted to be married and produce an heir after her. Her sister, Elizabeth, would still be queen after her under the 1544 succession document. Mary did not want this to happen. She had a couple of prospective suitors, such as Reginald Pole or Edward Courtenay. However, her cousin, Charles V, suggested she marry his only son, Prince Phillip of Spain. She was petitioned by Gardiner and the House of Commons to marry an Englishman. There was fear that the Hapsburgs would gain more power in England, but this petition did not go through.
All of England was not pleased with this new development and a rebellion broke out let by Thomas Wyatt, the younger (son of Poet Thomas Wyatt, alleged lover of Anne Boleyn). His plot wanted to put Elizabeth on the throne. The plot also included the Duke of Suffolk which was also Lady Jane’s father. At this time, she was still imprisoned in the Tower of London. The Queen declared publically that she would refrain from marrying Prince Philip if Parliament thought that it would not help the Kingdom. Soon after, Thomas Wyatt was captured and his rebellion was put down. This involved the execution of Thomas Wyatt, the Duke of Suffolk, Guildford Dudley (husband of Jane) and sadly Lady Jane Grey. Elizabeth protested her involvement in the plot, but was still imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months and then was taken to Woodstock Palace and placed under house arrest.
With the treasonous rebels out of the way, Mary and Philip could marry. There were some terms that England would not be obliged to provide military support to Philip’s father in any war, and Philip could not act without his wife’s consent or appoint foreigners to office in England. For Mary’s life only, Philip would be called King of England for her sake. Philip was not the most pleased with the terms and held no loving feelings for Mary I. Their marriage was a political alliance. They married on July 25th 1554, two days after officially meeting.
In September 1554, it was believed that Mary I may have been pregnant. She started to exhibit some symptoms of marriage, including gaining weight and being nauseous. In April of 1555, Elizabeth was released from house arrest to witness the birth. Yet, nothing happened. Mary continued to exhibit symptoms until July of 1555, but then her abdomen receded. She had no baby, she was not expecting. This was most likely a “phantom pregnancy”, which may have occurred because Mary desired a baby so deeply. Prince Philip was upset and disgraced at these lies and left for France to command his army in Flanders. Mary I was heartbroken for she was obsessively in love with her husband. Although, Philip cared very little for Mary.
The focus will shift to how Mary’s religious and economic policies were developed. Mary stated that she would not force anyone to follow her faith, but she soon imprisoned many reformation leaders like, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and John Rogers. Like many politicians, Mary gave out lies to assure her place. She wanted her people to support her. In October of 1553, she declared the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon valid and abolished Edward’s religious laws. In 1554, the Heresy Acts started once more. This raised fear in England and one could only imagine what was next. In February of 1555, the first executions for heresy were done. Thomas Cranmer was forced to watch Bishop Ridley and Latimer burned at the stake. As a result, he recanted his beliefs. However, Mary did not forgive him and he was to be executed by burning at the stake. On the day of his burning, he withdrew his recantation. Two hundred and eighty three people were executed for heresy during her reign. In the 17th century, Protestants cruelly gave her the name of Bloody Mary. However, her father killed many more people in a shorter period of time. It was another cruel injustice that cannot be changed now. After the death of Cranmer, Reginald Pole because the Archbishop of Canterbury in March of 1556.
In 1557, her husband, Philip returned to England. He tried to urge his wife to support Spain in a renewed war against France. She was in favour of doing this, but her advisors were opposed. The French trade would be in trouble. The war was only declared when Thomas Stafford invaded English with France to dispose Mary. The war was a burden and started to take away favour from Mary. The conditions were not the best for her subjects. There were famines because there was so much rain causing floods. Mary did not benefit from the “New World” trade. The Spanish held their resources tightly and she could not condone piracy. There was medieval taxing and tried to engage in currency reform, but this was not successful.
In 1557, after Philip’s visit, Mary thought she was with child once more. Yet, there was no child. She was forced to realize that Elizabeth would be her lawful successor. Mary became very weak and ill. She died on November 17th 1558 at the age of 42. Mary stated that she wanted to be buried by her Mother, but this wish was not granted. Mary Tudor was buried at Westminster Abbey. She would later share this tomb with her half-sister, Elizabeth. Inscribed on the tomb in Latin is: “Regno consortes & urna, hic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria sorores, in spe resurrectionis,” which translates to “Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection”. From Forgotten Princess, to Queen Mary, Mary Tudor was originally a strong and beautiful woman. She was the first real and true female monarch of England. She was strong in her faith, but her cruel situations tainted her. She became obsessive, fanatical, and desperate. One cannot forget how wonderful , but mistreated she really was. Everyone should always honour her and remember Mary I.