Queen Mary

Queen Mary (born 18 February 1516, reigned July 1553 till death November 1558)

It can reasonably be said that Mary’s was not a happy life. The only child of Queen Catherine of Aragon to survive infancy, her life was spent in the maelstrom created over Henry’s need for a male heir, the separation of England from the Church of Rome and the Protestant Reformation.

She did have some “firsts.” Undoubtedly Henry was aware of the disastrous anarchy in England when Henry Ist’s daughter, Matilda, was first in line to inherit the throne, but Stephen took it, undoubtedly Henry VIII wished to avoid the civil war from which his father Henry VII had seized the throne, and the only answer was to keep changing wives until one came up with a son. Mary was the unfortunate loved, but “wrong sex,” child. Eventually she did become Queen Regnant, the sovereign, and as such was the first in England. She later married Philip of Spain, and as his wife was the first Englishwoman to be Queen in Spain, although she never went there, and was also Queen of Naples and Queen of Jerusalem.

As a child, she was treated as if she was heir to the throne by sending her to a castle in Wales, which normally was the destination for the first born male child, designated Prince of Wales. A number of the usual barter proceedings took place, Henry and Wolsey were prepared to marry her to old or to young provided they were kings or heirs to thrones – none of the deals matured. After her parents’ marriage was broken, Mary was no longer of trade value, and cruellest of all, was no longer permitted to see her mother, nor allowed to attend her funeral. She did remain in her father’s sight, not always with him, and when her half-brother Edward was born she was god-mother to him at his christening in Hampton Court.

After Mary, unwillingly, accepted her father as head of the Church in England she was restored to his favour and was well treated in terms of financial generosity. Numerous efforts were made to find her a husband of appropriate rank. When Henry was “between Queens” Mary acted as hostess, the principal lady of his court.

During her father’s lifetime the rites of the Roman church were not changed even though the name of the church was changed. After Henry’s death, when her brother Edward enthusiastically promoted the Protestant religion, Mary with difficulty continued in her own faith. This was the reason Edward wanted a Protestant successor, picked on Lady Jane Grey, and to no pleasure for Mary, disposing of that threat was among her first tasks on ascending the throne as her father had willed.

At the age of 38, against all advice save for the Holy Roman Emperor, against the wishes of the people of England and Spain, Mary was married to Prince Philip of Spain, who became designated King of England. Later, in 1556 when Philip’s father abdicated, and Philip succeeded him, Mary acquired the titles of Queen of Naples, Queen of Jerusalem, as well as Queen of Spain, the Netherlands and the Spanish colonies in America.

In September 1554 certain physiologic signs persuaded Mary she was pregnant, and great was delight. Her medical advisers agreed, she went in April 1555 to Hampton Court to prepare for delivery. There was widespread civil disturbance as a result of the religious issues, compounded by her marriage to a Spaniard, and it was thought she would be safer in Hampton than in Windsor. She waited. She begged Philip to stay with her. She went on waiting. The clergy were required to parade through London praying for her safe delivery. After eleven months in which no baby came, it was concluded no baby was going to come. Mary and Philip left Hampton Court 23rd August, and made a public appearance in London, she on a litter. Despite her hysterical weeping, Philip left England August 29th but returned in 1557, giving rise to another belief in a pregnancy that wasn’t.

Mary died in pain in November 1558; flu was about, but it is possible she had a gynaecologic cancer.

The burning of Protestants continued, for the greater part they were simple folk who had neither the money nor the wit to escape to the continent. A couple of centuries later Mary was awarded the term, “Bloody Mary,” by which soubriquet this sad and devout woman is always known.

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