Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, Carlos I of Spain, François I of France, Henry VIII of England, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Infanta Catherine of Aragon, Mary I of England, Mary Tudor, Pope Clement VII, Pope Julius II
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.
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.
Mary was baptised into the Catholic faith at the Church of the Observant Friars in Greenwich three days after her birth.
Despite his affection for Mary, Henry was deeply disappointed that his marriage had produced no sons. By the time Mary was nine years old, it was apparent that Henry and Catherine would have no more children, leaving Henry without a legitimate male heir.
In 1525, Henry sent Mary to the border of Wales to preside, presumably in name only, over the Council of Wales and the Marches. She was given her own court based at Ludlow Castle and many of the royal prerogatives normally reserved for a Prince of Wales.
Vives and others called her the Princess of Wales, although she was never technically invested with the title. She appears to have spent three years in the Welsh Marches, making regular visits to her father’s court, before returning permanently to the home counties around London in mid-1528.
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 of France, 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 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (King 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, 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 Orleans, 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 King 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.
Although these various possibilities for Mary’s marriage had been considered, the marriage of Mary’s parents was itself in jeopardy, which threatened her status. Disappointed at the lack of a male heir, and eager to remarry, Henry attempted to have his marriage to Catherine annulled, but Pope Clement VII refused his request.
Henry claimed, citing biblical passages (Leviticus 20:21), that the marriage was unclean because Catherine was the widow of his brother Arthur, Prince of Wales (Mary’s uncle). Catherine claimed that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated and so was not a valid marriage.
Pope Julius II had issued a dispensation on that basis. Clement VII may have been reluctant to act because he was influenced by Emperor Charles V, Catherine’s nephew and Mary’s former betrothed, whose troops had surrounded and occupied Rome in the War of the League of Cognac.
From 1531, Mary was often sick with irregular menstruation and depression, although it is not clear whether this was caused by stress, puberty or a more deep-seated disease. She was not permitted to see her mother, whom Henry had sent to live away from court.
In early 1533, Henry married Anne Boleyn, and in May, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, formally declared the marriage with Catherine void and the marriage to Anne valid. Henry repudiated the pope’s authority, declaring himself Supreme Head of the Church of England.
Catherine was demoted to Dowager Princess of Wales (a title she would have held as Arthur’s widow), and Mary was deemed illegitimate. She was styled “The Lady Mary” rather than Princess, and her place in the line of succession was transferred to Henry and Anne’s newborn daughter, Elizabeth.
Mary’s household was dissolved; her servants (including the Countess of Salisbury) were dismissed and, in December 1533, she was sent to join her infant half-sister’s household at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.
Mary determinedly refused to acknowledge that Anne was the queen or that Elizabeth was a princess, further enraging King Henry VIII. Under strain and with her movements restricted, Mary was frequently ill, which the royal physician attributed to her “ill treatment”.
The Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys became her close adviser, and interceded, unsuccessfully, on her behalf at court. The relationship between Mary and her father worsened; they did not speak to each other for three years.
Although both she and her mother were ill, Mary was refused permission to visit Catherine. When Catherine died in 1536, Mary was “inconsolable”. Catherine was interred in Peterborough Cathedral, while Mary grieved in semi-seclusion at Hunsdon in Hertfordshire.