Mary Tudor, Queen of England
MARY TUDOR, QUEEN OF ENGLAND
Reigned, July 6, 1553, to Nov. 17, 1558; b. Feb. 18, 1516; d. Nov. 17, 1558. She was the only surviving child of henry viii and catherine of aragon. Henry had hoped for a son who would perpetuate the fledgling Tudor dynasty. Although disappointed, he was sanguine. "We are both young," he told the Venetian ambassador, Giustinian. "If it is a daughter this time, by the grace of God the sons will follow."
Early Years. Henry, 25, and Catherine, 31, took the greatest interest and delight in their infant daughter. Both sovereigns were devout Catholics. The king was an enthusiastic sportsman, generous, affable, much concerned about theological questions, dedicated to peace, and universally beloved by his subjects. The queen was well educated and practiced an uncompromising austerity that was remarkable for a Renaissance sovereign. She fasted regularly and was accustomed to having religious books read to her. Henry and Catherine selected as Mary's first governess a widow of considerable discretion, Margaret pole, Countess of Salisbury. Until she was 12, Mary's health and education were a constant concern of her parents. She received an excellent musical training and spoke French, Latin, Italian, and Spanish with great fluency. She was well versed in the writings of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine. When Henry expressed his desire to have his marriage to Catherine annulled so that he might marry Anne Boleyn, Mary opposed him.
"During the protracted proceedings of the marriage controversy, both Mary and her mother faced their adversities with dignity." Early in the following year, 1533, Abp. Thomas cranmer, who had succeeded Cardinal Thomas wolsey, pronounced Henry's marriage invalid, making Mary technically illegitimate. With the early arrival of Anne Boleyn's child, the future Queen elizabeth i, Mary was no longer recognized as princess of Wales and the identity badges worn by her lackeys on their coats were removed. In the years between the divorce and the execution of Anne Boleyn, Mary's life was unpleasant. She was estranged from her father, because of her support of Catherine's cause. While her father did send his physician to attend her when she was ill, Henry refused to allow Catherine to visit Mary. When Catherine died in 1536, court officials finally were able to secure Mary's signature to a document in which she renounced the pope's "pretended authority" and acknowledged that her mother's marriage had been unlawful. Before signing the document though, Mary made a secret prostration that she acted only under compulsion.
Once again restored to her father's good graces, Mary passed the days pleasantly at court with her books, embroidery, and music. This period of peaceful obscurity ended abruptly with her father's death in 1547. Her sickly half-brother, Edward, son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, inherited the kingship at 11, but the real power was exercised by Jane's brother, Edward Seymour, the Protestant Duke of Somerset. The old order was changing inexorably. Frequent attempts were made to force Mary, next in line to the throne, to conform to the new innovations in religion. She refused. Edward VI sent a special commission to insist upon compliance. Mary promised obedience in all things except the novel religious services. The new bishop of London, Nicholas ridley, offered to preach before her. She declined to listen to him or to read any books she regarded as heretical.
Queen Mary I. In 1553 Edward became seriously ill and the ambitious John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who had gained an ascendancy over the council, persuaded the dying boy to set aside Mary's right to the throne, because it would mean a Catholic restoration, and to name as his successor Lady Jane Grey, a descendant of Henry VIII's sister Mary. Lady Jane became the bride of Northumberland's fourth son, Guilford Dudley, and Northumberland exerted heavy pressure on many prominent men to join the treasonable conspiracy. When Edward died, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen. Nine days later, Mary, having rallied a considerable force, marched on London. The vast majority of the English people decided in her favor and Northumberland's plot collapsed. Lady Jane Grey and her husband were confined to the Tower and later executed. Northumberland was beheaded but other traitors retained their freedom or were allowed to go into retirement. Mary's leniency was partly responsible for Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion, early in 1554, in opposition to the proposed marriage of Mary and philip ii of Spain. Queen Mary was 38, small, plain and shortsighted. Yet she organized the defense of London and the uprising was put down with little bloodshed. Only about 100 of the ordinary rebels were executed.
Mary Tudor believed that she was predestined and preserved by God for the throne in order that she might be His instrument for the reestablishment of Catholicism. Her principal adviser in religious matters, Cardinal Reginald pole, declared that it was not enough that she honor God; she must compel her subjects to do likewise and punish the disobedient in virtue of the authority she had received from God. The papal legate expressed the dominant philosophy of the 16th century regarding nonconformity in religion: heresy and schism must be overcome—by peaceful means if possible, by force as a last resort.
Early in her brief reign, Mary was confronted by an indifferent laity, a nobility gorged with abbey lands, a vacillating hierarchy, and a nondescript but intransigent Protestant minority. She proceeded cautiously. It is significant, for example, that the arrival of Cardinal Pole in London was delayed for an entire year after Mary came to power because a violent anti-Catholic reaction was feared.
First of all, the religious legislation of Edward's reign had to be voided. This was followed by the parliamentary repeal of the antipapal legislation of Henry VIII. Finally, papal supremacy was grudgingly acknowledged in England only on condition that confiscated ecclesiastical property in private hands would not be restored to the Church. In a great variety of ways the queen sought to revitalize and strengthen Catholicism in her realm. She called for an active missionary apostolate to acquaint the
people with the true nature of the Catholic religion. She secured the return of many English friars who, to avoid earlier persecutions, had been exiles in Flanders. She rebuilt and reestablished hospitals, churches, and monasteries. She subsidized ecclesiastics who had been deprived of their revenues. She sought to allay religious antagonisms, hoping that the passage of time and a policy of leniency, rather than severe punishment, would mitigate the rage of some ardent nonconformists. Her efforts, while aiding the Church, further antagonized the hard core of Protestant resistance. Accordingly, an obsequious Parliament revived the old laws against heresy.
Religious innovations had brought nothing but grief to Mary Tudor in the reigns of her father and half-brother. Heresy, in her single-minded outlook, was an evil thing. In the following year a Catholic episcopal synod was convened to re-establish the Roman Church in England and a Protestant plot was unearthed. The number of executions rose to 90. In 1557, 70 were put to death, and in the final eleven months of Mary's reign in 1558, another 40 perished.
The specter of Mary's persecutions of Protestants survived long after her reign. John Foxe (1517–1587) was the first in a long line of Protestants martyrologists to celebrate the lives and deaths of the Marian matyrs in his Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perilous Times (1570). His work, like many of this genre, called upon nationalist sentiments to denigrate Mary's attempt to re-establish Catholicism and praised the Elizabethan religious settlement. In truth, it must be admitted that Mary's relgious policies did re-invigorate Catholic beliefs in England and sustained the Church's tradition into the reign of Elizabeth I. In addition, the Marian period was marked by a number of positive social and economic developments. Mary tried to reverse the course of inflation and to revalue the country's debased currency. She made strides in dealing with England's deficits, its poverty, and its trade problems. Many of these successes have been credited, not to Mary, but to her half-sister Elizabeth, proof that her record as queen will likely continue to be overshadowed by the persecution she unleashed.
Bibliography: h. f. m. prescott, Mary Tudor (rev. ed. New York 1953). e. h. harbison, Rival Ambassadors at the Court of Queen Mary (Princeton 1940). p. hughes, The Reformation in England, 3 v. in 1 (5th, rev. ed. New York 1963) v. 2. b. white, Mary Tudor (New York 1935). j. m. stone, The History of Mary I: Queen of England (New York 1901). w. schenk, Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England (New York 1950). g. r. elton, England under the Tudors (London 1955). h. c. white, Tudor Books of Saints and Martyrs (Madison 1963). g. mattingly, Catherine of Aragon (Boston 1941). j. d. mackie, The Earlier Tudors (Oxford 1952). g. l. m. j. constant, The Reformation in England, tr. r. e. scantlebury and e. i. watkin, 2 v. (New York 1934–42) v. 1. a. vermeersch, Tolerance, tr. w. h. page (New York 1913). j. gairdner, The English Church in the Sixteenth Century from the Accession of Henry VIII to the Death of Mary (New York 1902). c. read, The Tudors (New York 1936). j. a. muller, Stephen Gardiner and the Tudor Reaction (New York 1926). d. m. loades, Mary Tudor (New York 1989). d. m. loades, The Reign of Mary Tudor. Politics, Government and Religion in England, 1553–1558 (New York 1979). r. tittler, The Reign of Mary I (New York 1991).
[j. j. o'connor]