Bloody Mary, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, Henry VIII of England and Ireland, Mary I of England and Ireland, Mary Tudor, Philip II of Spain, Philip of Spain, Queen Mary’s Marriage Act, Roman Catholic Church
Mary I (February 18, 1516 – November 17, 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, and as “Bloody Mary” by her Protestant opponents, was Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. Her attempt to restore to the Church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by Parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions.
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 Catherine of Aragon to survive infancy. Her mother had suffered many miscarriages. 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.
Mary was the only child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive to adulthood. Her younger half-brother, Edward VI, succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because he supposed, correctly, that she would reverse the Protestant reforms that had taken place during his reign. Upon his death, leading politicians proclaimed Lady Jane Grey as queen.
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 Fernando II of Aragon and 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. Feilpe 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 25 July 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.
After Felipe’s visit in 1557, Mary again thought she was pregnant, with a baby due in March 1558. She decreed in her will that her husband would be the regent during the minority of their child. But no child was born, and Mary was forced to accept that her half-sister Elizabeth would be her lawful successor.
Mary was weak and ill from May 1558. In pain, possibly from ovarian cysts or uterine cancer, she died on November 17, 1558, aged 42, at St James’s Palace, during an influenza epidemic that also claimed Pole’s life later that day. She was succeeded by Elizabeth. Philip, who was in Brussels, wrote to his sister Joan: “I felt a reasonable regret for her death.”
Although Mary’s will stated that she wished to be buried next to her mother, she was interred in Westminster Abbey on December 14, in a tomb she eventually shared with Elizabeth. The inscription on their tomb, affixed there by James I when he succeeded Elizabeth, is Regno consortes et urna, hic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria sorores, in spe resurrectionis (“Consorts in realm and tomb, we sisters Elizabeth and Mary here lie down to sleep in hope of the resurrection”).
After Mary’s death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.