Medieval European History
February 28, 2014
Mary I, Queen of England
Contrasted with the other monarchs of the Tudor Dynasty, Mary I has been frequently deemed an extremely cruel religious revolutionary, earning the moniker “Bloody Mary”. Overshadowed by the skill of subsequent monarchs with far greater political and religious savvy, one must re-examine her rule in the context of the numerous limitations and tragedies she endured. Mary I was a queen better pitied, than scorned. Mary was born February 18, 1516 in London. She was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She was baptized a Catholic in the Greenwich Church three days after she was born. As a child, Mary was often sick. She had eye diseases, and suffered from headaches1. Even though Mary had ill health, she was an intelligent child with a strong work ethic, and her early childhood was generally very happy. Mary’s first teacher was her mother, who taught her Latin2. In addition to this, Mary also learned Greek, science and music. She performed on the harpsichord in front of many guests before the age of five.3 In general, both her parents seemed to love her very much and when she reached the age of nine, King Henry granted her the title Princess of Wales. In the history of England, this title had only been given to the crown princes,4 so it was a significant honor. Despite his love for Mary, King Henry could not hide the disappointment of not having a male heir. Like most medieval noblewomen, Mary was a pawn of her father in royal marriage, and he considered her: “a new and useful card to play in the universal game of European matrimonial alliances.”5 When she was only two years old, she was engaged to the King Francis I of France’s son, also named Francis, but three years later, this marriage was annulled. In 1522, she was arranged to marry her twenty-two-year-old cousin, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, but few years later, that engagement ended when Charles V married the Princess of Portugal. Soon after, King Henry VIII selected Francis as her fiance once again. Their marriage was seen as a way to help the two countries become allies. The arrangement said that Mary needed to marry either Francis, or his younger brother, Henry, the Duke of Orleans. Later on, King Henry VIII’s chief advisor successfully found another way to keep the relationship with France, so Mary’s marriage of convenience became worthless. The one thing that was clear was that Mary had no say in her own life. Amidst all these engagements, Mary’s parents’ own marriage entered a crisis. Although seemingly pleased with Mary as a child, King Henry desperately wanted a male heir; he decided the only way for this to happen was if he married another woman. When Mary was fifteen, Henry divorced Catherine, married Anne Boleyn, and seemingly overnight, Mary was declared illegitimate. Queen Catherine insisted that she was the legal queen and refused to acknowledge the divorce. Therefore, King Henry banished Queen Catherine.6 He then married Anne Boleyn secretly, separating from the Catholic Church in the process. In Anne, Mary encountered the most abominable stepmother ever, and Mary’s life became one of deep sadness and frustration. Anne hated Mary from deep in her heart, because Mary was a threat to her future children. King Henry and Mary became estranged. Mary’s health declined and she did not receive proper medical attention.7 Compounding her tragedies, Mary was not allowed to visit her mother, and in 1539, her mother died “[breaking] her spirit.8 Later on, Mary was banished from the palace, living in seclusion in Hertfordshire. In 1533, Anne Boleyn was crowned the new Queen of England, and three months later, she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Adding to Mary’s degradation, she became the servant of her stepsister, and her title was changed to Lady Mary. King Henry excluded her more and more and all her maids were...
Bibliography: Fraser, Antonia. The Wives of Henry VIII. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
“Henry VIII’s Six Marriages” [http://ent.163.com/09/0406/00/5665DD850003362R.html],
Liang, Hui. “Mary I Religious Policy and Related Activities” in Journal of Tianjin
Manager College, January 9, 2012, p
Meyer, Carolyn. Mary, Bloody Mary. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1999.
Ridley, Jasper. The Tudor Age. New York: The Overlook Press, 1990.
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