Mary I (February 18, 1516 – November 17, 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her aggressive attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII and return England to Roman Catholicism. The executions that marked her pursuit of the restoration of Roman Catholicism in England and Ireland led to her denunciation as “Bloody Mary” by her Protestant opponents.
On July 6, 1553, at the age of 15, King Edward VI died from a lung infection, possibly tuberculosis. He did not want the crown to go to his sister Mary, because he feared she would restore Catholicism and undo his reforms as well as those of his father Henry VIII, and therefore he planned to exclude her from the line of succession. His advisers, however, told him that he could not disinherit only one of his half-sisters: he would have to disinherit Elizabeth as well, even though she was a Protestant. Guided by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, and perhaps others, Edward excluded both from the line of succession in his will.
Contradicting the Third Succession Act, which was enacted by Henry VIII and passed by the Parliament of England in July 1543; the Act restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, Edward named Dudley’s daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary, as his successor. Lady Jane’s mother was Frances Brandon, Mary’s cousin and goddaughter. Just before Edward VI’s death, Mary was summoned to London to visit her dying brother. She was warned, however, that the summons was a pretext on which to capture her and thereby facilitate Lady Jane’s accession to the throne. Therefore, instead of heading to London from her residence at Hunsdon, Mary fled into East Anglia, where she owned extensive estates and Dudley had ruthlessly put down Kett’s Rebellion. Many adherents to the Catholic faith, opponents of Dudley’s, lived there. On July 9, from Kenninghall, Norfolk, she wrote to the privy council with orders for her proclamation as Edward’s successor.
On July 10, 1553, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen by Dudley and his supporters, and on the same day Mary’s letter to the council arrived in London. Despite Edward’s desire to exclude Mary from the throne it was never approved by Parliament which mean that the Third Succession Act was still the extant law of the land which meant Mary was still her brother’s legal heir and successor.
By July 12, Mary and her supporters had assembled a military force at Framlingham Castle, Suffolk, Dudley’s support collapsed, and Jane’s attempt at usurpation was halted on July 19. Although truth be told Jane and her husband were mere pawns of Dudley’s schemes. Jane and Lord Guilford Dudley were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mary rode triumphantly into London on August 3, 1553, on a wave of popular support. She was accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth and a procession of over 800 nobles and gentlemen.
One of Mary’s first actions as queen was to order the release of the Roman Catholic Duke of Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner from imprisonment in the Tower of London, as well as her kinsman Edward Courtney. Mary understood that the young Lady Jane was essentially a pawn in Dudley’s scheme, and Dudley was the only conspirator of rank executed for high treason in the immediate aftermath of the 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.