(1515-1558), Queen of England (1553-1558)
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Tudor Queen of England (1553-1558), Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

Henry's treatment of her mother and herself made her youth a very unhappy one, more so because of the declaration of her,and her half-sister Elizabeth's, illegitimacy in 1533.

Mary was proclaimed Queen in 1553 by popular consent in place of the unfortunate Lady Jane Grey.

The first public Act of Mary's new reign retroactively validated the marriage of her parents, Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, thus affirming the Queen's legitimacy as heir to the throne of England.

A staunch Catholic, Mary firmly expressed her intention to marry Philip II of Spain, a marriage which was unpopular even with her Catholic subjects, and this led to Wyatt's rebellion in 1554. After its suppresion, Lady Jane Grey was executed and the Princess Elizabeth (whom Wyat refused to incriminate) was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

In the same year, Mary married Philip at Winchester and commenced a campaign to suppress Protestantism with some three hundred Protestants being martyred for their beliefs.

Mary put measures for currency reform into place to counteract the dramatic devaluation of the currency that characterized the last few years of Henry VIII's reign and that of Edward VI. Her deep religious convictions also inspired her to institute social reforms (although these were largely unsuccessful). It was also during Mary's reign that Calais, England's last possession in France, was lost.

She was succeeded on her death of uterine or ovarian cancer on November 17th, 1558, by her half-sister as Elizabeth I who undid many of the changes Mary had made.

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Early Years

Henry VIII was determined to have a male heir to secure the House of Tudor established by conquest at the end of the Wars of the Roses by his father, Henry VII. Mary, born at Greenwich Palace ("Placentia") on February 18th, 1516, was the only surviving child of Henry by Catherine of Aragon. Their previous seven children having been either still-born or dying as babies.

Described by Henry as the "pearl of the world", the Princes Mary was not seen as a heir to the throne of England which had never been ruled by a queen but rather was seen as a valuable aide in cementing alliances by marriage. She was betrothed to the dauphin of France when aged only two and, during the following ten years, was promised in many alliance negotiations.  

Not only was Mary the Tudor princess of a powerful European power but her mother was determined that she should be concious of her connections to the royal house of Spain, a country united by the marriage of her grandmother who took a very active part in driving the Moors out of the Iberian peninsula with widespread possessions on the continent. The infant Mary spoke English, Spanish and was taught Latin, initially by her mother and later by a tutor to prepare her for the throne.

Aged nine, the royal princess was sent to Ludlow Castle where, by tradition, the Princes of Wales were groomed for the throne. In 1528, having spent three years at Ludlow, Mary left Ludlow amidst the turmoil at court as her father sought to divorce her mother so that he might marry Anne Boleyn.

Catherine of Aragon had been married to Henry VIII's elder brother Arthur, Prince of Wales. The couple were sent to Ludlow where Arthur took ill and died. Reluctant to return Catherine's large dowry, Henry VII entered into protracted negotiations with Spain for Catherine's marriage to Prince Henry. The necessary Papal dispensation for Henry to marry his brother's widow and the marriage were concluded shortly after his accession to the throne as Henry VIII. The original special dispensation for the marriage was used as an excuse by the Pope to refuse to grant an annulment of the marriage but there was also a great deal of pressure on the pontif by the Catherine's kinsman the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. 

After five years' diplomatic wrangling, Henry VIII was provided with a solution by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who would grant the divorce irrespective of the wishes of the pontif causing England's rift with the Roman Catholic Church.

Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn in 1533 when Mary was aged 17. Mary was banished to Hatfield, effectively the servant of her half-sister Elizabeth by Anne Boleyn. She was stripped of her title and declared illegitimate. Her mother was given Richmond Palace and rarely appeared at court after the divorce. Mary, however, suffered the wrath of her father for refusing to acknowledge either the divorce from her mother and her own new status and was only allowed to see Catherine once in five years.

Catherine of Aragon died on January 7th, 1536. After her mother's death Mary, aged 20, wrote to her kinsman and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, for help to flee to Spain.

Shortly, however, the monarch grew tired of Anne Boleyn who was tried and executed for treason. Her father presented Mary with a document acknowledging his divorce from her mother and her own illegitimacy. This Mary refused initially to sign although, in doing so, she exposed herself to the risk of a traitor's death. Her refusal to sign the document also put her friends and supporters in danger and she eventually signed it without reading it although parliament did pass and act of succession which recognised her right to the throne after her half-brother Prince Edward but before her half-sister by Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth.

The reign of Edward VI

Henry VIII died in January 1547 to be succeeded by Mary's half-brother and godson (whom she was quite fond of) as Edward VI. On his death, Henry's will left Mary large estates in East Anglia (chiefly composed of the estates of the Dukes of Norfolk) which made her one of the largest and most powerful land-owners in the realm. During the first year of Edward's reign, Mary led a comparatively peaceful life in East Anglia.

In order to secure the divorce from her mother, Henry VIII (who had been dubbed "Defender of the Faith" by the Pope for his defence of the Roman Catholic Church against the Protestants) and Archbishop Cranmer left the church substantially intact with the monarch assuming its leadership. The monasteries were dissolved not only because of the wealth their demise generated for the crown, but because they could not be loyal to the pontif in Rome and to the monarch whom the same pontif had excommunicated.

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Although the Queen's plans to marry the Catholic Phillip II of Spain were officially announced on January 14th, 1554, they had leaked out long before. Mary's subjects, both Catholic and Protestant, viewed the proposed royal wedding with great displeasure as they feared that England would become dominated by Spain as the Netherlands and other European territories already were. As early as November 26th, 1553, a group of conspirators met to discuss mounting a rebellion against the Queen and her marriage, most proably with a view to deposing Mary and putting her half-sister Elizabeth on the throne. In the event, the rebellion in in January 1554, led by Sir John Wyatt, was limited to Kent. The rebels marched on London but the rebels lost heart and dispersed leaving Sir John Wyatt, left with only a small band of supporters, to surrender to a traitor's death.

Wyatt's rebellion caused Elizabeth, whose enthronement was seen as the object of the rebels, to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. Throughout his captivity and on the scaffold, Wyatt proclaimed Elizabeth's innocense.

In 1555, parliament passed an Act making parishes responsible for the maintenance of the roads within their boundaries.

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Mary had always rejected the break with the Roman Catholic Church which her father had instituted and the establishment of the Anglican Church during the short reign of her Protestant half-brother, Edward VI. On succeeding to the throne, Mary tried to turn England back to "the old religion".

The title of "Supreme Head of the Church of England and Ireland" was formally dropped by an Act of Parliament between January 3rd and January 16th, 1555.

Where persuasion failed, force was readily used and a considerable number of Protestant leaders were executed of which the first was John Rogers, executed on February 4th, 1555 at Smithfield . . .

. . . even his children assisted at it, comforting him in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding rather than an execution.

  - the French ambassador, Noailles, of the support given to Rogers by the majority of the people at his execution

. . . he was soon followed by Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Two hudred and eighty-one others followed during the five-year reign, earning the queen the title of "Bloody Mary".

"Bloody" Mary's restoration of England to Catholicism might have been, but it was also quite remarkably successful; while only John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, had resisted the changes wrought on the church by her father, Henry VIII, to the point where the King had him executed, most of Mary's bishops refused to conform to the restored Protestantism under Elizabeth I and died under house arrest.

During Mary's five year reign 227 men and 56 women were burned at the stake, twice as many as had met their deaths in this manner in England during the the previous one hundred and fifty years. While it has been pointed out fewer Protestants died during the reign of Mary than Catholics during the long reign of her half-sister and successor Elizabeth, Mary achieved faster rate of execution through religious persecution than could be boasted by the contemporary Spanish Inquisition.

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Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was born on September 7th, 1533, at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London, the second daughter of Henry VIII (1509-1547) and only surviving child of his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth was recognised as the heir to the throne at the time of her birth although, because the circumstances of her parents' marriage (chiefly the divorce of Henry VIII from the Catholic Catherine of Aragon), Elizabeth was considered by Roman Catholics to be illegitimate. Her older half-sister, Mary Tudor (b.1515, later Queen Mary I, 1553-1558), the only surviving child of the king's marriage to Catherine of Aragon was passed over and made to serve in Elizabeth's household.

Elizabeth's childhood, unlike that of her half-sister Mary's, was comparatively happy and she recieved an extremely thorough education in literature, languages and music. Her life before her accession to the throne was not without its dangers and, at the time of Wyat's rebellion, Queen Mary had her imprisoned in the Tower of London for a time.

The fortunes of the two-year-old princess and heir to the throne changed suddenly on the execution of her mother for treason in May 1536 and the birth of a male heir, Edward (later Edward VI), to Henry by his third wife, Lady Jane Seymour, in October 1537. Elizabeth was now placed in the same position as Mary had been at her own birth. To legitimise the new-born prince as Henry's heir, both his royal half-sisters were declared illigitimate.

All of King Henry's later wives treated Elizabeth and Mary kindly and Elizabeth was devoted to her father. Following Henry's death in 1547, he was succeeded to the throne by the young Edward VI and Elizabeth was placed in the care of her father's last wife, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour (c.1508-1549), Lord High Admiral, brother of Jane Seymour and uncle to the new king.

Seymour was attracted to the young Elizabeth who may have responded in kind. He hoped to marry her after Catherine's untimely death shortly after the birth of their child, but was executed (as was his brother Edward, the Lord Protector, later) in a series of power struggles during the minority of Edward VI.

Under the aegis of Catherine Parr, Roger Ascham, and their associates, the princess Elizabeth was raised as a Protestant. She also received a fine education, an exceptional eduction for a woman of the time, under the tutelage of various scholars, including Ascham, renowned as author of "The Schoolmaster". She learnt the classics, history, mathematics, poetry, and languages and could speak and/or write capably in six languages during her reign: her native English, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and Greek.

Yea, I believe, that beside her perfect readiness in Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, she readeth here now at Windsor more Greek every day than some prebendary of this church doth read Latin in a whole week.

  - Roger Ascham, Elizabeth's tutor from 1548 to 1550

Elizabeth's position was secure during the lifetime of her half-brother, the king, but the young Edward VI died in 1553 of either tuberculosis or poisoning by arsenic. Following the brief and abortive attempt to place Lady Jane Grey, her staunchly Catholic half-sister Mary came to the throne as Queen Mary I.

The Queen was determined to convert her half-sister to Catholicism and Elizabeth, for her part, was willing to give the outward appearance of Catholic worship although she remained Protestant at heart. Mary saw through the deception and, at the time of Wyat's rebellion, had Elizabeth briefly confined to the Tower of London.

Some believe that it is during her confinement in the Tower that Elizabeth first met the love of her life, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It is more likely, however, that they had known each other since their childhoods.

Elizabeth's life was spared but her position subject to a new threat when Mary married Philip II of Spain, raising the spechtre of a Catholic heir to the throne of England to secure her forcible return of the country to the Catholic faith.

Queen Mary's vision of a Catholic England was shared neither by the common majority of the Enlgish, nor the aristocracy. On the death of the childless Queen in 1558 however, Elizabeth (who had been designated explicitly as heir by the will of Henry VIII) was the natural successor and accepted as such by parliament.

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Henry VIII   (1491-1547), King of England (1509-1547)

Mary's father who divorced her mother, Katherine of Aragon, because she could not produce a male heir.

Katherine of Aragon   (1435-1536)

Mary's mother, a Spanish princess.

Edward VI   (1537-1553), King of England (1547-1553)

Henry's only son by Jane Seymour, succeeded to the throne as a sickly child, only nine years old.

Elizabeth I   (1533-1603), Queen of England (1558-1603)

Secured the Reformation and peace within her realm, her long reign frequently referred to as the "Elizabethan Age".

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1516.Feb.18Birth of the future Mary I to Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon at Greenwich Palace
1525Princess Mary goes to Ludlow Castle (-1528)
1528Princess Mary leaves Ludlow Castle
1534Act of Succession: invalidates the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon and excludes Princess Mary from the succession
The first of three Acts of Succession passed during the reign of Henry VIII
1536.Jan.07Death Katherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII, at Kimbolton in Huntingdon
She was buried in Peterborough Cathedral
1536.May.19Execution of Anne Boleyn (1507-), the second wife of King Henry VIII
1536.May.30Marriage of King Henry VIII to Lady Jane Seymour
1536.Jul.01Mary and Elizabeth declared illegitimate by Parliament
1544Act of Succession: provides that Princess Mary might succeed to the throne if Edward dies without issue
The last of 3 Acts of Succession passed in the reign of Henry VIII
1547.Jan.28Death of King Henry VIII, aged 55; Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset becomes Lord Protector in the name of the 9-year-old King Edward VI
1553.MayJohn Dee tried for black magic before the Star Chamber and imprisoned (reign of Mary I)
1553.Jul.06Death of King Edward VI, aged only 15; Northumberland proclaims Lady Jane Grey as queen
1553.Jul.10Lady Jane Grey officially proclaimed Queen of England
1553.Jul.11Mary I proclaimed Queen of England in Norfolk and Suffolk
1553.Jul.12Mary I proclaimed Queen of England at Bury
1553.Jul.13Mary I proclaimed Queen of England at Norwich
1553.Jul.19Mary I, the ardent Catholic daughter of Henry VIII by Katherine of Aragon proclaimed Queen of England in London, she undisputedly succeeds to the throne of England - Lady Jane Grey is deposed and imprisoned
The proclamation made at Cheapside Cross and other accustomed places
1553.Aug.03Queen Mary I enters London triumphantly accompanied by Elizabeth
1553.Aug.23Execution of John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland
1553.Nov.26Conspirators meet to plot what became Wyatt\'s Rebellion
1553.Nov.30Coronation of Mary I ]]or October?[[
1554Marie of Guise succeeds James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, as regent of Scotland (1560) in the name of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots
1554.Jan.14Official announcemnet of the intention of Queen Mary to marry Philip II of Spain although the news had leaked well before
Met with displeasure throughout the country by Catholics and Protestants fearing England would be dominated by Spain as were the Netherlands
1554.Jan.22Wyatt holds a meeting at Allington Castle to plan the rebellion against the marriage of Queen Mary to Philip II of Spain
The date is set for Thursday Jan 25th, Wyatt sending a letter with the details to the Duke of Suffolk which is intercepted by government agents
1554.Jan.25Proclamations of the rebellion read in Kentish towns including Maidstone, Melford, Malling, Ashford and Milton Regis and the rebels assembled
1554.Jan.26Wyatt and the rebels capture and occupy Rochester
1554.Jan.29Sir John Wyatt encamps on Blackheath with 4,000 rebels
1554.Feb.01Queen Mary addresses the citizens of London at the Guildhall on the need of meeting the danger from the rebels
1554.Feb.03Land of the annual value of �100 pa offered the captor of Wyatt as a reward
1554.Feb.06Wyatt and the rebels arrive at Kingston and cross the Thames unhindered
1554.Feb.07Wyatt and the rebels proceeded through Kensington to Hyde Park and skirmish with a troop of infantry at Hyde Park Corner
1554.Feb.08Wyatt and the rebels arrive at Ludgate, hew retreats to Temple Bar with a few followers and subits to the Norroy herald, is taken to Whitehall and is committed to the Tower
1554.Feb.12Execution of Lady Jane Grey, who had been proclaimed Queen of England by Northumberland on the death of Edward VI, and her husband Guildford Dudley at the Tower of London
1554.Mar.15Wyatt arraigned at Westminster of high treason, condemned and sentenced to death
1554.Apr.11Wyatt executed for treason
1554.Apr.12Head of Wyatt hung from a scaffold on Hay Hill beside Hyde Park
1554.Apr.17Head of the rebel Wyatt stolen from the scaffold
1554.Jul.25Marriage of Mary I to Philip II of Spain at Winchester
1554.Nov.30Roman Catholicism is restored in England, under Queen Mary
Nearly 300 Protestant leaders were burned at the stake during Mary\\\'s reign
1554.DecParliament re-enacts the penal statutes against Lollardy
1555Parishes made responsible for maintaining roads within their boundaries by Act of parliament
The Act required that each able-bodied householder should provide four days labour annually towards the repair of the roads within the parish (increased to six days in 1691)
1555.Feb.04Execution of John Rogers, the first Protestant martyred during the reign of Queen Mary
1555.Mar.23Death of Pope Julius III
1555.Mar.28Mary I announces to four Privy Councillors that she is restoring the monastic lands in the possession of the Crown to the Church
1555.Apr.30Death of Pope Marcellus, aged 52; succeeded by Pope Paul IV
1555.May.29Privy Council order Englefield to apprehend John Dee and that he search the papers of Dee and Thomas Benger
1555.Jun.05Privy Council orders Englefield to examine Cary, Dee, John Field and Sir Thomas Benger about their having practiced conjuring and witchcraft
1555.Oct.16Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley burned at the stake outside Balliol College in Oxford by Queen Mary I
1555.Oct.16Elizabeth released from Woodstock to return to her childhood home of Hatfield
1555.Oct.25Charles V abdicates his imperial position to his brother Ferdinand and his sovereignty of the Netherlands to his son, Philip
1556Holy Roman Emperor Charles V abdicates in favour of his brother Ferdinand
1556Holy Roman Emperor Charles V gives Spain to his son Philip (II of Spain)
1556.Mar.21Death of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, burned at the stake
1557Influenza epidemic throughout Europe
1557.Jul.07Queen Mary declares war on France in support of her husband, Philip II of Spain
1557.Aug.10Battle of St Quintin: Spanish forces defeat the French
1558.Jan.07Loss of Calais, Englands last domain in France, taken by French troops led by Francis, Duke of Guise
1558.Apr.24Marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Francis, heir to the French throne (Francis II)
1558.Sep.21Death of Charles V, aged 58
1558.Nov.17Death of Queen Mary I, her half-sister succeeded to the crown as Queen Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn
Her reign is marked by the rise of England as a sea-power and a flourishing of the arts, particularly literature and drama
1558.Dec.14Burial of Queen Mary I in Westminster Abbey
16523rd session of the Council of Trent

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Regnal Years

The Regnal Years of mary's reign are counted from July 6th, 1553.


By the Grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and in the Earth Supreme Head of the Church of England and Ireland (Dei Gracia Anglie, Francie et Hibernie Regina, Fidei Defensor, et in terra ecclesie Anglicane et Hibernice supremum caput)

Following Mary's marriage to Philip II of Spain on July 25th, 1554;-

Philip and Mary, by the grace of God King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland; Defenders of the Faith; Princes of Spain and Sicily; Archdukes of Austria; Dukes of Milan, Burgundy, and Brabant; Counts of Hapsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol (Philippus et Maria, Dei Gratia Rex et Regina Anglie, Francie, Neapolis, Ierusalem, et Hibernie; Fidei Defensores; Principes Hispanie et Sicilie; Archiduces Austrie; Duces Mediolani, Burgundie, et Brabancie; Comites Haspurgi, Flandrie, et Tirolis)

Mary, Mary, quite contrary . . .

Many scholars trace the nursery rhyme "Mary, Mary, quite contrary..." to Mary I's unpopular attempts to bring Roman Catholicism back to England. The "cockle shells", for example, identified with the symbol of pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Spain and the "pretty maids all in a row" with nuns.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
And pretty little maids, all in a row.

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HOUSE OF TUDOR:   Henry VII     Henry VIII     Edward VI     Mary I     Elizabeth I    

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Mary Tudor a life
  by Basil Blackwell, MA, publisher
Cambridge, 1989

Tudor Royal Proclamations
  , ed. Paul L Hughes + James F Larkin, publisher Yale University Press, 1964-1969
3 volumes

Tudor Royal Proclamations
  , ed. Paul L Hughes + James F Larkin, publisher Yale University Press, 1964-1969
3 volumes

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