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From the Emperor’s Desk: I will not be addressing the attempted usurpation by Lady Jane Grey at the beginning of Mary’s reign. I will cover that in my series I am doing on Usurpers.

One of Mary’s first actions as queen was to order the release of the Roman Catholic Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and Stephen Gardiner from imprisonment in the Tower of London, as well as her kinsman Edward Courtenay. Mary understood that the young Lady Jane was essentially a pawn in Northumberland’s scheme, and Northumberland was the only conspirator of rank executed for high treason in the immediate aftermath of the attempted coup.

Lady Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, though found guilty, were kept under guard in the Tower rather than immediately executed, while Lady Jane’s father, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, was released. Mary was left in a difficult position, as almost all the Privy Counsellors had been implicated in the plot to put Lady Jane on the throne. She appointed Gardiner to the council and made him both Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor, offices he held until his death in November 1555. Susan Clarencieux became Mistress of the Robes. On October 1, 1553, Gardiner crowned Mary at Westminster Abbey.

Spanish marriage

Now aged 37, Mary turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir, which would prevent the Protestant Elizabeth (still next-in-line under the terms of Henry VIII’s will and the Act of Succession of 1544) from succeeding to the throne. Edward Courtenay and Reginald Pole were both mentioned as prospective suitors, but her cousin Charles V suggested she marry his only legitimate son, Infante Felipe of Spain. Felipe had a son from a previous marriage and was heir apparent to vast territories in Continental Europe and the New World. As part of the marriage negotiations, a portrait of Felipe, by Titian, was sent to Mary in the latter half of 1553.

Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the English House of Commons unsuccessfully petitioned Mary to consider marrying an Englishman, fearing that England would be relegated to a dependency of the Habsburgs. The marriage was unpopular with the English; Gardiner and his allies opposed it on the basis of patriotism, while Protestants were motivated by a fear of Catholicism. When Mary insisted on marrying Felipe, insurrections broke out.

Thomas Wyatt the Younger led a force from Kent to depose Mary in favour of Elizabeth, as part of a wider conspiracy now known as Wyatt’s rebellion, which also involved the Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane’s father. Mary declared publicly that she would summon Parliament to discuss the marriage and if Parliament decided that the marriage was not to the kingdom’s advantage, she would refrain from pursuing it.

On reaching London, Wyatt was defeated and captured. Wyatt, the Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane, and her husband Guildford Dudley were executed. Courtenay, who was implicated in the plot, was imprisoned and then exiled. Elizabeth, though protesting her innocence in the Wyatt affair, was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two months, then put under house arrest at Woodstock Palace.

Mary was—excluding the brief, disputed reigns of the Empress Matilda and Lady Jane Grey—England’s first queen regnant. Further, under the English common law doctrine of jure uxoris, the property and titles belonging to a woman became her husband’s upon marriage, and it was feared that any man she married would thereby become King of England in fact and name.

While Mary’s grandparents King Fernando II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile had retained sovereignty of their respective realms during their marriage, there was no precedent to follow in England. Under the terms of Queen Mary’s Marriage Act, Felipe was to be styled “King of England”, all official documents (including Acts of Parliament) were to be dated with both their names, and Parliament was to be called under the joint authority of the couple, for Mary’s lifetime only.

England would not be obliged to provide military support to Felipe’s father in any war, and Felipe could not act without his wife’s consent or appoint foreigners to office in England. Felipe was unhappy with these conditions but ready to agree for the sake of securing the marriage. He had no amorous feelings for Mary and sought the marriage for its political and strategic gains; his 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, Emperor Charles V ceded to Felipe the crown of Naples as well as his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Mary thus 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 a mixture of Spanish, French, and Latin.