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Where we left of last was with the accession of Mary I on the English throne. Her husband, King Felipe II of Spain, also held the title King of England. Under the Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary to Felipe of Spain, Felipe was to enjoy his wife’s titles and honours as King of England and Ireland for as long as their marriage should last. In reality Felipe was a King Consort and held his title by right of his wife. Although all Acts of Parliament were called under the joint authority of the couple, sovereignty was vested in Mary. England and Scotland would have true joint rulers where sovereignty was vested in both, with the reign of William III and Mary II. We will discuss them at a later date.

Queen Mary I’s reign was short, lasting only 5 years. Mary & Felipe did not have any children and upon Mary’s death, Felipe ceased to be “King of England.” Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth, the last surviving child of Henry VIII, with the ill-fatted Anne Bolyne, became the last monarch of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth reigned for 44 years and saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. One of the great struggles for Elizabeth during her reign was to beget an heir. There were many suitors for her hand, among them her former brother-in-law, Felipe II of Spain, and also his cousin, Archduke Karl of Austria and the French Princes, Henri and Francois both Duke of Anjou. Elizabeth kept many in suspense concerning her marriage, even well past her child-bearing years. However, Elizabeth let it be known that she did not want a man ruling over her.

During her reign the genealogical heir was her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, a great-granddaughter of Henry VII. * Many Catholics saw Mary as the rightful Queen of England and viewed Elizabeth as a usurper. This attitude would eventually lead to the down fall and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587. Mary, Queen of Scots was also a Queen Consort of France as she was briefly married to the sickly Francois II of France. Mary’s second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was also her cousin and he himself also had rights to the English throne as a great-grandson of Henry VII. They had one son, who became James VI, King of Scots after her mother was deposed in 1576. He was just thirteen months old.

Although looking back it is easy to see how clear the claim that James VI, King of Scots had to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth. It was not however, as clear of a choice as it seems. First off Henry VIII’s will excluded the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret Tudor, owing in part to Henry’s desire to keep the English throne out of the hands of the Scots monarchs, and in part to a previous Act of Parliament of 1431 that barred foreign-born persons, including royalty, from inheriting property in England. Since James was technically foreign-born and a double descendent of Margaret Tudor, it seem James’ chances of inheriting the English throne were slim.

Stay tuned to Part II to see how this was overcome and who else was considered heir to the English throne.

* An interesting side note. Mary, Queen of Scots is often listed without an ordinal. Technically she was Mary I, Queen of Scots because her great-great granddaughter, Mary II, who was both queen of England and queen of Scots.