Francis I of France, Infanta Catherine of Aragon, jure uxoris, King Felipe II of Spain, King Henry VIII of England, Queen Mary I of England and Ireland, Queen Mary’s Marriage Act
From the Emperor’s Desk: I will not do a complete biography of Queen Mary on the anniversary of her birth, instead I will focus on how she came to marry King Felipe II of Spain.
Mary was born on February 18, 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Infanta Catherine of Aragon, to survive infancy. Her mother had suffered many miscarriages and stillbirths. Before Mary’s birth, four previous pregnancies had resulted in a stillborn daughter and three short-lived or stillborn sons, including Henry, Duke of Cornwall.
Throughout Mary’s childhood, Henry negotiated potential future marriages for her. When she was only two years old, Mary was promised to François, Dauphin of France, the infant son of King François I, but the contract was repudiated after three years.
In 1522, at the age of six, she was instead contracted to marry her 22-year-old cousin Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (Carlos I of Spain). However, Charles broke off the engagement within a few years with Henry’s agreement.
Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s chief adviser, then resumed marriage negotiations with the French, and Henry suggested that Mary marry the French king François I, himself who was eager for an alliance with England. A marriage treaty was signed which provided that Mary marry either François I or his second son Henri, Duke of Orléans, but Wolsey secured an alliance with France without the marriage.
In 1528, Wolsey’s agent Thomas Magnus discussed the idea of her marriage to her cousin James V of Scotland with the Scottish diplomat Adam Otterburn. According to the Venetian Mario Savorgnano, by this time Mary was developing into a pretty, well-proportioned young lady with a fine complexion.
When aged 37, Mary and was Queen she 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 Emperor Charles V suggested she marry his only legitimate son, Infante Felipe of Spain.
Infante Felipe’s first wife was his double first cousin, Infanta Maria Manuela of Portugal. She was a daughter of Felipe’s maternal uncle, King João III of Portugal, and paternal aunt, Archduchess Catherine of Austria. They were married at Salamanca on November 12, 1543. The marriage produced one son in 1545, after which Maria Manuela died four days later due to haemorrhage.
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 Grey, and her husband Guildford Dudley were executed. Lady Jane Grey was a pawn in trying to usurp the throne at the beginning of Mary’s reign.
Courtenay, who was implicated in the plot, was imprisoned and then exiled. Princess 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.
Queen Mary I of England 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 and Queen Isabella I 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.
Queen 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.