The Tudor Society

Mary I

Mary I

Mary I

Birth: 18 February 1516
Death:17 November 1558
Rule: 1553-1558
Marriages: Philip II of Spain
Issue: None

Mary was born on 18 February 1516 at Greenwich Palace and was the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. She was an intelligent girl, was known as a linguist and loved music and dancing. Mary was made illegitimate and removed from the succession after the annulment of her father's marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 and the subsequent birth of her half-sister Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She and Elizabeth (who had been removed from the succession in 1536 after the fall of her mother) were restored to the line of succession, after their half-brother Edward, by Parliament in 1543 but Edward VI chose to remove his half-sisters from the succession as he lay dying in 1553 and chose Lady Jane Grey as his heir. Mary was forced to fight for the throne and was proclaimed queen on 19 July 1553.

Mary sought to bring England back to Rome by repealing all of the Protestant legislation of Edward VI's reign. She also introduced an act undoing the annulment of her parents' marriage and making it valid. She married Philip of Spain on 25 July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral. On 18 September 1554, it was announced at the imperial court that Mary I was pregnant but it turned out to be a false pregnancy. Later, in 1557, it was thought that the Queen was pregnant but it was a false alarm again.

Although Mary's reign has often been seen as a disaster, in comparison to Elizabeth I's “Golden Age”, Mary achieved much during her short reign: she preserved the Tudor succession, she strengthened the position of Parliament by using it for her religious settlement, she established the “gender free” authority of the crown, she restored and strengthened the administrative structure of the church and she maintained the navy and reformed the militia. Mary was also the first queen regnant of England.

Mary has gone down in history as the monarch who lost Calais and as “Bloody Mary”, due to the burnings of Protestants during her reign. Mary died on 17 November 1558 at St James's Palace. Her health had been declining for some time and she contracted a fever in August 1558 and then “dropsy” in the October. She was laid to rest at Westminster Abbey.

(Taken from Illustrated Kings and Queens of England by Claire Ridgway, Tim Ridgway and Verity Ridgway)

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