Mary Tudor

(Mary I of England)


Mary Tudor was the eldest daughter of Henry VIII and the only surviving child of his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. When Henry VIII divorced Catherine in order to marry Anne Boleyn, she was declared illegitimate. After Anne was disgraced and executed, Mary returned to her father's favor, and was named his heir after her younger brother, Edward VI. Mary, however, clung to the Catholic faith in which she was raised, and was unpopular with the Protestant courtiers of her father and brothers court, (many of whom had become very wealthy due to the seizure of the monasteries.)

The Protestant regents who ruled England during the reign of Edward VI conspired to prevent Mary from ascending to the throne, by attempting to place Lady Jane Grey, a grand-niece of Henry VIII, on the throne, but this attempt failed. At first Mary sought to spare Lady Jane's life, but when the rebellion continued, her young cousin was executed along with the other conspirators.

Mary's two major concerns during her reign were trying to restore the position of the Catholic Church in England, and producing an heir, although she was already 36 when she became Queen. Her marriage to Philip II of Spain was extremely unpopular in England, and made her efforts on behalf of the Catholic church more difficult rather than easier. This was because Spain was at the time, the richest and most powerful country in Europe, and the English were jealous of its conquests in the new world, and fearful of falling under control of the Spanish monarch. These fears and jealousies fed into the rising anti-catholic sentiments of the day. Not only was her marriage to Philip, who was 11 years her junior, unpopular in England, but it was a very unhappy marriage for herself personally because Philip did not return her affection for him and treated her cruelly.

Over two hundred Protestants were executed during Mary's short reign, but at least as many Catholics were persecuted and killed under her father and brother. Nevertheless, her efforts to restore the Catholic church to its former position made her a villain among Protestant historians for hundreds of years. She died in 1558 having failed in both of her objectives.

Key events during the life of Mary Tudor:

Birth of Mary, to Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon.
Henry VIII divorces Catherine; marries Anne Boleyn.
Death of Anne Boleyn.
Death of Henry VIII; ascension of Edward VI.
Ascends to the throne of England on the death of her brother Edward VI.
Protestant rebellion is put down. Lady Jane is executed. Elizabeth, imprisoned.
Marriage to Philip II of Spain.
  Engaged in persecutions against protestants in England.
Philip leaves England for the continent.
Death of Queen Mary.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Spanish Match  in  Queen Elizabeth  by  Jacob Abbott
Charles V and his Son Philip  in  The Romance of Spanish History  by  John S.C. Abbott
Rival Queens  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
Queen Who Burns Heretics  in  The Story of Liberty  by  Charles C. Coffin
Heirs of Henry VIII  in  Christian Persecutions  by  Asa Craig
Reformation Established (1547-1559)  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Mary I—How a Candle Was Lit in England  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Protestant Edward VI and the Catholic Queen Mary  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Philip II. of Spain and Queen Mary
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Short Biography
Henry VIII King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Edward VI Raised as a protestant, Edward's brief reign was controlled largely by his uncles, the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland.
Lady Jane Grey Young noblewoman executed for involvement in conspiracies engineered by ambitious relatives.
Elizabeth I Led England through tumultuous age of reformation and discovery. Reigned 45 years.
Philip II Catholic king of Spain during Netherland revolt and Anglo-Spanish Wars. Great enemy of Protestant Reformers.
Anne Boleyn Second wife of Henry VIII. Executed when she fell from grace.