The real history of 'Bloody' Queen mary I

Mary I Timeline

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  • Mary was born on 18 February 1516 to parents Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and was Queen of England from 1553 to 1558.
  • Like her mother, Mary was a committed Catholic and resisted pressure to convert to Protestantism during the latter part of her father Henry VIII’s reign, and also during the reign of her brother, Edward VI.
  • Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 and named his cousin, Lady Jane Grey, as his successor having disinherited Mary to prevent the country returning to Catholicism, as he knew would happen under her rule.
  • Lady Jane Grey was declared Queen on 10 July 1553 only to be deposed by Mary 9 days later on 19 July 1553.
  • After being crowned, Mary reversed the work of her father Henry VIII and returned the country to Catholicism. During her short reign, she saw many rivals and key Protestant figures imprisoned at the Tower.
  • Mary chose the Catholic Philip of Spain as her husband, a political alliance that proved extremely unpopular and gave rise to serious rebellion. Thomas Wyatt and his followers, unhappy at the marriage and the religious reform, marched on London in 1554 in an attempt to reinstate Lady Jane Grey as a Protestant successor. The City of London held fast, and the rebels were defeated. Mary was left with no choice, and on 12 February 1554 had 16 year old Lady Jane Grey executed at the Tower to prevent further plotting.
  • On 18 March 1554, Mary I imprisoned her half-sister Elizabeth in the Tower of London on suspicion of being involved in the rebellion. Two months later on 19 May 1554, Elizabeth was released from the Tower and sent to live at Woodstock Manor where she was watched closely.

  • On 25 July 1554, Mary I married Phillip of Spain.

  • In 1555, Mary I restored medieval heresy laws and began taking a more fearsome stance towards Protestants and set about martyring them. The Protestant churchmen Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake on 16 October 1555, and Thomas Cranmer, former Archbishop of Canterbury was burned at the stake on 21 March 1556.

  • Following Mary I’s death on 17 November 1558, Elizabeth returned to the Tower and on 13 January 1559 was crowned Queen of England. Mary agreed to Elizabeth succeeding her to become Queen only a few months before her death.

Did you know?

The first

Mary I was the first Queen of England to be crowned and to rule in her own right.

Unpleasant affliction

Small and short sighted, poor Mary may have suffered from a form of rhinitis that gave her foul-smelling breath, which didn’t endear her to many.

What kind of ruler?

After being declared a bastard by her father and having had to ensure banishment from court and separation from her beloved mother Katherine of Aragon, it was unlikely that Mary would make a kindly, tolerant monarch. The first Queen of England to be crowned and to rule in her own right, ‘Bloody Mary’ devoted a good deal of energy and cruelty to restoring what she called the true religion – Catholicism. However, burning over 300 Protestants at the stake did not make her any happier; her marriage to Philip of Spain did not lead to the conception of her longed-for child and, in the closing months of her reign, the English lost Calais – the last relic of a once proud empire.

Unhappy end

Soon after her marriage, Mary and her doctors were convinced that she was pregnant, but they were wrong. Philip (who stayed away as much as possible) returned briefly in 1557 and Mary declared she was pregnant again despite being 41 at this stage. It appears that her swollen stomach may have contained a large tumour, and by the following year she had died.