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Infante Felpie of Spain was unhappy at the conditions imposed on him in his marriage to Queen Mary, but he was ready to agree for the sake of securing the marriage. He had no amorous or romantic feelings toward Mary and sought the marriage for its political and strategic gains; Felipe’s aide Ruy Gómez de Silva wrote to a correspondent in Brussels, “the marriage was concluded for no fleshly consideration, but in order to remedy the disorders of this kingdom and to preserve the Low Countries.”

To elevate his son to Mary’s rank, Felipe’s father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ceded to Felipe the crown of Naples as well as his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Therefore, Mary became Queen of Naples and titular Queen of Jerusalem upon marriage.


Their wedding at Winchester Cathedral on July 25, 1554 took place just two days after their first meeting. Felipe could not speak English, and so they spoke in a mixture of Spanish, French, and Latin.

False Pregancy

In September 1554, Mary stopped menstruating. She gained weight, and felt nauseated in the mornings. For these reasons, almost the entirety of her court, including her doctors, believed her to be pregnant. Parliament passed an act making Felipe regent in the event of Mary’s death in childbirth.

In the last week of April 1555, Elizabeth was released from house arrest, and called to court as a witness to the birth, which was expected imminently. According to Giovanni Michieli, the Venetian ambassador, Felipe may have planned to marry Elizabeth in the event of Mary’s death in childbirth, but in a letter to his brother-in-law, Maximilian of Austria, Felipe expressed uncertainty as to whether his wife was pregnant.

Thanksgiving services in the diocese of London were held at the end of April after false rumours that Mary had given birth to a son spread across Europe. Through May and June, the apparent delay in delivery fed gossip that Mary was not pregnant. Susan Clarencieux revealed her doubts to the French ambassador, Antoine de Noailles.

Mary continued to exhibit signs of pregnancy until July 1555, when her abdomen receded. Michieli dismissively ridiculed the pregnancy as more likely to “end in wind rather than anything else”. It was most likely a false pregnancy, perhaps induced by Mary’s overwhelming desire to have a child.

Elizabeth remained at court until October, apparently restored to favour. In the absence of any children, Philip was concerned that one of the next claimants to the English throne after his sister-in-law was the Queen of Scots, who was betrothed to the Dauphin, François of France. Felipe persuaded his wife that Elizabeth should marry his cousin Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, to secure the Catholic succession and preserve the Habsburg interest in England, but Elizabeth refused to comply and parliamentary consent was unlikely.

In the month following her accession, Mary issued a proclamation that she would not compel any of her subjects to follow her religion, but by the end of September 1553, leading Protestant churchmen—including John Bradford, John Rogers, John Hooper, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer—were imprisoned.

Mary’s first Parliament, which assembled in early October, declared the marriage of her parents valid and abolished Edward’s religious laws. Church doctrine was restored to the form it had taken in the 1539 Six Articles of Henry VIII, which (among other things) re-affirmed clerical celibacy. Married priests were deprived of their benefices.

Mary had always rejected the break with Rome instituted by her father and the establishment of Protestantism by her brother’s regents. Philip persuaded Parliament to repeal Henry’s religious laws, thus returning the English church to Roman jurisdiction. Reaching an agreement took many months and Mary and Pope Julius III had to make a major concession: the confiscated monastery lands were not returned to the church but remained in the hands of their influential new owners. By the end of 1554, the pope had approved the deal, and the Heresy Acts were revived.


Under the Heresy Acts, numerous Protestants were executed in the Marian persecutions. Around 800 rich Protestants, including John Foxe, fled into exile. The first executions occurred over a period of five days in early February 1555: John Rogers on February 4,:Laurence Saunders on February 8, and Rowland Taylor and John Hooper on February 9. Thomas Cranmer, the imprisoned archbishop of Canterbury, was forced to watch Bishops Ridley and Latimer being burned at the stake.

Cranmer recanted, repudiated Protestant theology, and rejoined the Catholic faith. Under the normal process of the law, he should have been absolved as a repentant. Mary, however, refused to reprieve him. On the day of his burning, he dramatically withdrew his recantation. In total, 283 were executed, most by burning. The burnings proved so unpopular that even Alfonso de Castro, one of Felipe’s own ecclesiastical staff, condemned them and another adviser, Simon Renard, warned him that such “cruel enforcement” could “cause a revolt”.

Mary persevered with the policy, which continued until her death and exacerbated anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish feeling among the English people. The victims of the persecutions became lauded as martyrs.