Before she became the first Queen Regnant of England, before she was labeled illegitimate, she was, quite simply, Princess Mary of England – the apple of her father’s eye. But, ahh, nothing is simple for those Tudors. Nothing.
We discussed the early life of Mary Tudor in the Catherine of Aragon podcast-you might want to check that one out first. In a nut shell (and we use that term pretty accurately): Henry Tudor married a Spanish princess, Catherine of Aragon, who just happened to be the widow of his dead brother. Catherine had several pregnancies, but only one child survived birth and infancy: Mary, who was born on February 18, 1516. Henry, desperate for a male heir and thinking that another wife could bring him that, went to extremes to sever his ties with Catherine.
But before he did, Mary was his ” pearl in the kingdom”. He doted on her and set her up like the princess that she technically was. She was raised royal- finest of everything and traveled from one estate to the next with her entourage. But the Princess life Mary knew ended with her parents marriage. Her new step-mom had it out for her, more so once a step-sister, Elizabeth, entered the world.
But Step-Mummy Dearest couldn’t produce that male heir, so Daddy ended that marriage faster than the first. Step-Mom #2 was kind to Mary and gave her a little brother but she died from complications of childbirth. Mary got along well enough with #3, but that marriage didn’t stick and #3 was transformed into an Aunt. Step-monster #4 wasn’t around long enough for Mary’s distaste of her to cause too much trouble, and Step Mother #5 was the fairest, and kindest of them all and saw Daddy King to his death. With that, Mary’s ride on the Step-Momcoaster came to a complete stop. Little brother Edward became King, and Mary set off to a well provisioned life. (See our podcast and shownotes from Episode 24: Last Four Wives for more details about this time.)
Mary had inherited quite a bit from both of her parents. From her mother she had her deep Catholic faith, and a stubborn streak that helped her hold her ground. From her father she had gained great wealth, much land…and a stubborn streak. During Henry’s life Mary and he had many years where the two battled with stubborn and manipulative weaponry. After his death, she put those tools away during her brother’s reign.
And then he died. King Edward VI ruled for only six years and died at the age of 15. Because of his young age, a Regency Counsel made most of the decisions for him in regard to ruling. A Counsel made of men. Some of those men with ambition and drive and lust for power. As with everything, we do go into detail in the podcast about all of this and sum it up here: upon Edward’s death there was some confusion as to who would succeed him. Henry VIII had mapped out the line in his will-Mary would be next. But members of the Counsel schemed a way around that, and for a very brief time that person was determined to be Lady Jane Grey.
Mary was having none of this. She whipped her royal blood into a well executed bid for the crown, and won. (This is the extremely abridged version).
At the age of 37 Queen Mary I was crowned.
First up on her To-Do list: Convert England and her realm back to Roman Catholicism. Papa and Brother King had allowed Protestant faith to become the official religion, but Mary was a very serious Catholic. She had a few hurdles in the way but worked with Parliament to make it so, (number one…get it?) She ultimately threw her royal weight around and enforced heresy laws which allowed those practicing religion other than, and speaking out against the religion of the land to be executed. Specifically, burned at the stake.
It’s not a pretty time in history. Despite the nickname that would follow her through time- Bloody Mary- it wasn’t the first time this law had been practiced. Her own father and brother had also executed many for similar religious reasons. (And don’t get us started on what her Spanish grandparents did.)
Also up on Mary’s list: Find a husband and produce an heir. She checked off the former with Prince Phillip II of Spain, but the latter was never to be. She had two phantom pregnancies and never had a child.
Mary ruled for five years. In that time she had a complicated relationship with her half-sister and next in line for the throne, Elizabeth. Her relationship with her husband was also strained- he didn’t seem to be in it for more than political gain, and she was unable to provide an heir. By the end of her life, he was living and ruling in Spain and their time together had been minimal at best.
Mary died at the age of 42, and Elizabeth I was crowned. Mary’s original tomb was ruined over time. When Elizabeth died, James I buried both sisters together in the same tomb and that is where they lie now. With an effigy of ELIZABETH atop them both.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
Want to get a Mary I ditty stuck in your head? Horrible Histories has one for you.
Good site for middle grades (or a quick read ) and LOTS of extras to click on: Tudorhistory.org.
Of course there is the Showtime series, The Tudors where Mary’s story is shown with a heavy hand for the dramatic, not quite historically accurate but always riveting. If you are a fan, or want to discuss it, check out TheTudorsWiki.com
Books! We know you love your books and these are the ones that we recommended during the podcast:
Just because we can: Like Mary’s mug? At this writing Seaway China Company is sold out, but maybe you can find one of these Royal Doulton mugs to use at work. Especially handy if you have the unpleasant task of firing someone. (Royal Doulton has an entire line of Royal mugs like this.)
You might want to research the origins of some of your favorite nursery rhymes. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary has a little debate surrounding it. Was it about Mary Tudor, or her Aunt Mary Queen of Scots? You decide. Mother Goose Club has a lot of info or Secret Rhyme Origins has a bit, too.
As always, our music comes courtesty of MusicAlley. Visit them at Music.mevio.com