A Brief Biography of Queen Mary I

By Tim Lambert

Mary Tudor was Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon’s daughter. Mary was born on 18 February 1516. As a child, she was well-educated. However, her mother lost favor with her father. In 1525 Mary was sent to Ludlow to preside over the Council of Wales. She was recalled from Wales in 1528. Then in 1533, Henry had another daughter, Elizabeth, with Anne Boleyn. Mary was sent to wait upon her half-sister.

Henry VIII died in 1547 and he was replaced by his 9 year old son Edward. Both Edward and his protector, the Duke of Northumberland were Protestants. However, Edward was sickly and it was clear he was not going to live long. The Duke of Northumberland was alarmed as the next in line for the throne, Henry’s daughter Mary, was a Catholic.

Northumberland married his son to Lady Jane Grey, a descendant of Henry VII’s sister Mary. When Edward died in 1553 Northumberland had Lady Jane Grey crowned queen. However, the people rose in favor of Mary, and Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned.

When she became queen Mary was surprisingly lenient. The Duke of Northumberland was executed in August 1553. However, Lady Jane was, at first, spared.

However, Queen Mary married Phillip of Spain in July 1554. The marriage was very unpopular and in Kent, Sir Thomas Wyatt led a rebellion. He was defeated but Mary was forced to execute Lady Jane, fearing her enemies might try and place Jane on the throne.

Mary was a devout Catholic and she detested the religious changes of her father and her brother Edward. Mary was determined to undo them. Catholic mass was restored in December 1553. In 1554 married clergy were ordered to leave their wives or lose their posts. Then, in November 1554 the Act of Supremacy was repealed.

In 1555 Queen Mary began burning Protestants, which later earned her the nickname ‘bloody Mary’. The first martyr was John Rogers who was burned on 4 February 1555. The same year bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were executed. Then in 1556, Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury was executed. Altogether between 1555 and 1558, nearly 300 Protestants were executed. (Most of them were from Southeast England where Protestantism had spread most widely). Many more Protestants fled abroad.

However, Mary’s cruelty simply gained sympathy for the Protestants and alienated ordinary people. She simply drove people away from Roman Catholicism.

Furthermore in 1557 England went to war with France. In 1558 the English lost Calais, which they had hung onto since the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453. It was a major blow to English prestige. Queen Mary died on 17 November 1558. She was 42. Mary was buried in Westminster Abbey.