Mary Tudor – “Bloody Mary” (1516, r 1553 -1558)
Mary was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catharine of Arragon
and came to the throne almost by accident; certainly not by design. The
untimely death of Edward Vi thrust Mary into the limelight in a country
where the people had had enough of changes ordered and proclaimed at every
turn. They wanted stability, whereas Mary was an ardent Catholic
and doubtless was encouraged by her Spanish relations and the Church of Rome
itself, to restore the Catholic church in her realm. In the machinations of
her parents divorce Mary had been labelled a bastard and for thirty seven
years lived a reclusive life. She was entitled perhaps, to have a chip on
her shoulder, but she came to the throne full of bigotry, intolerance,
malice, spite, and an absolute determination to have her revenge on those
who had slighted her.
Her reign could have
returned the Church of Rome to a longer lasting dominance in England had she
not been so determined to marry Phillip son of Charles V, Emperor of
Germany and King of Spain. This united the whole of western Europe
under one family and effectively destroyed England`s independence. It also
meant the stronger form of Catholicism as practiced in Spain and the
prospect of the Inquisition. Second, she pursued a policy of suppression and
persecution that eventually won for the suffering Protestants the
admiration of the people generally. In brief, she was her own worst enemy.
On hearing of her brother`s death Mary immediately wrote ( 9 July 1553) to the Lords of the Council claiming her right to the crown. They in turn replied on 9 July reiterating her illegitimacy. Mary left London on receipt of the rejection and went to Framlingham Castle, Suffolk. Here she stirred up the local populace who disliked the Duke of Northumberland for having suppressed a rebellion in Suffolk during Henry VIII`s time. Their help was offered on the understanding that she would not alter the religion then established by Edward. She lied to them. Thus she was well prepared to take arms against the Duke of Northumberland who was despatched after her, and overcame him. Meanwhile popular support for Mary in London resulted in them declaring for her. On 3 August 1553 she made a triumphant entry. Shortly after the blood began to pour beginning with the Duke of Northumberland who was promised a pardon if he recanted his faith, which he did. But was executed anyway. With him were Sir John Gates and Sir Thomas Palmer.
The recantation and execution of Northumberland was tactically a strong move
as it knocked the stuffing out of the Protestants and sent the strongest of
warnings to the populace. The result was compliance and an almost overnight
reappearance of all things Popish in the churches.
Mary`s own obsessive commitment was
reflected in her demand that a fresh supply of oil be obtained for her
anointing as she feared the stock in hand had lost its efficacy since the Pope`s interdict. And a coronation chair was sent by the Pope which she
preferred to the usual chair which had been polluted by her Protestant
brother Edward VI. In his reign she had been refused permission to have the
mass said in her private quarters; and the last act of the boy king in 1553
was to specifically exclude her from the succession because of her religion.
Instead Lady Jane Gray was nominated and installed by parliament as the
legitimate successor. She lasted but nine days before Mary took hold of the
Among the people there was sympathy to compensate Mary for the treatment given her
mother and a naive belief that there would be no return to the tyranny of
Rome and freedom for Protestant belief and worship. But Mary had only been
biding her time until her succession was secure before she set out to
reverse all policy, exterminate Protestantism and reverse her fathers
renunciation of Rome. Within three months her appointees – Bishops Gardiner
( also made Chancellor),
Bonner, Tunstall and Daye were hard at work sitting in judgment on their
episcopal brethren. The Marshalsea Prison and the Tower were soon filled to
overflowing with two main types of prisoner – those involved in the support
of Lady Jane Grey and those held on religious grounds. Among the latter were
Bradford, Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer.
Having reinstated the Bishops,
and replaced those of the reformed faith with Catholic nominee, Mary
summoned her first parliament for 5th October. But impatiently she and her
councillors issued a Declaration on 18 August that no one should
preach or read openly of the word of God; prohibited the use of the term
papist and the association with it the term `heretic`; teaching the
Scriptures and printing any religious work was banned. Throughout August,
September and October a succession of worthy reformed preachers and the like
were seized and thrust into assorted prisons and condemned. Mary was crowned
on 1 October 1553.
In her thankfully, short reign of five years Mary cheated and lied her way through a complete reversal of all the reformed laws of her predecessors aided and abetted by Stephen Gardiner, reinstated as Bishop of Winchester and further made Lord Chancellor. Also reinstated were his surviving cronies including Tunstall Bishop of Durham, and Bonner Bishop of London. And that was before the executions and burnings took place of nearly three hundred reformers for alleged heresy including Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley. The extent of Mary`s actions
against the Church of england is shown in her imprisonment of the archbishops Cranmer (Canterbury), Holgate (York); Bishops – Ridley, Poinet, Scory, Coverdale, Taylor, Hervey, Bird, Bush, Hooper, Ferrar and Barlow. Some twelve thousand clergymen were silenced and many of them imprisoned.
At the parliament the reformed religion was simply abolished. The laws of Henry VIII about praemunire, and the statutes of Edward VI regarding the Book of Common Prayer and Sacrament were repealed and the attainder of the Duke of Northumberland confirmed. Dissenters were duly noted and proceeded against in due time. At this parliament the marriage to Philip II of Spain, was announced. This raised a minor revolt in Kent led by Sir Thomas Wyat, but the protest was soon nipped in the bud with Wyat and the Carews of Devonshire declared traitors. In February 1554 Wyat and his army reached into London but the soldiers soon dispersed and he was forced to surrender, while a hundred or more were killed in the streets and hunted down. Inevitably he went to the Tower and was subsequently executed, quartered, and his head displayed at Hay Hill. On 12 February the Lady Jane Gray
barely seventeen years old,was beheaded along with her husband, Lord Guildford. Several other members of the nobility followed her to the block.
On the 24th February the odious Bishop William Bonner issued instructions to take the names of parishioners who did not attend confession. The persecution had begun.
In March Mary wrote to Bonner, Bishop of London and similarly to the Mayor of London, instructing them on religious matters which included
“that every bishop , and all other persons aforesaid, do diligently travail for the repressing of heresies and notable crimes, especially in the clergy, duly correcting and punishing the same.”
She followed this with a Proclamation to force `foreigners` to leave the kingdom. This had the result of many learned teachers and professors at the universities having to leave.
In April a parliament in Westminster agreed the marriage of Mary and was asked to approve the supremacy of the
Pope. They declined to do so right away. At the same time Mary started her revenge attack on Thomas Crammer who
had been cast into the Tower.
St James` Day (the patron saint of Spain) 24 July 1554, in the cathedral at
Winchester Mary and Philip of Spain were married. On the 1 August following
their new titles were announced and required to be used thereafter on
“Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, king and queen of England, France. Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland; defenders of the faith; prince, of Spain and Sicily; archdukes of Austria ; dukes of Milan, Burgundy, and Brabant; counts of Hapsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol.”
Almost immediately the
government of England fell into the hands of Philip and his Spanish
advisers. But worse was to follow in November of 1554 with the cringing “humble supplication” of parliament (filled by Mary`s placemen) begging forgiveness of the
Pope and acknowledging his supremacy. The situation was exacerbated by the reply of Cardinal Pole who delivered an Absolution for their `sins` by authority of the pope. Philip wrote to the pope on 30 November:
“I will write no more thereof, but only that the queen and I as most faithful and devout children of your holiness, have received the greatest joy and comfort thereof that may be expressed with tongue; considering that besides the service given to God thereby, it hath chanced, in the time of your holiness, to place as it were in the lap of the holy catholic church such a kingdom as this is.”
This parliament also re-enacted the laws against heretics from the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V ;
reinstituted the laws against Lollards that had been done away with in
Edward VIs reign, and decreed
“…an act made for the speaking of words; that whoever should speak any thing against the king or queen , or that might move any sedition or rebellion, at the first time to have one of his ears cut off, or to forfeit one hundred marks; and at the second time to have both his ears cut off , or else to forfeit one hundred pounds; and whosoever should write, cipher or print any of the premises, to have their right hand cut off..”
In this way the country and its people, of all persuasions and rank, were sold into slavery.
There was however, some saving grace in that the submission of England to
the Pope was never ratified. Julius III died and Paul IV, his
successor, was hostile to Philip of Spain and to Cardinal Pole. The
submission was repudiated as unacceptable without the surrender of the
church lands, so carefully omitted. Before it rose in January the
Reconciliation Parliament as it was called , made a clean sweep of the
ecclesiastical legislation of Henry VIII. Only two things the members
refused to do – to restore the Abbey and other church lands; and to
set aside the succession of Elizabeth to the throne.
Meanwhile at the end of November there
had been the bizarre story of Mary having become pregnant and “was quick with child”. One Member of Parliament, a Richard Southwell, set the hare running with
” What talk ye of these matters. I would have you take some order for our young master that is now coming into the world apace, lest he find us unprovided, ”
This generated considerable expressions of concern, both for and against the possibility of a catholic heir; and an act of parliament for Queen Mary`s Issue. There followed a great many prayers thrown up by the clergy with injunctions to the people to do the same.
28 March 1555 Mary made a declaration concerning the abbey lands and monasteries of which Henry VIII, through Thomas Cromwell, had taken possession, and gave them away to the discretion of the pope:
“I here expressly refuse either to claim or to retain the said lands to mine; but with all my heart, freely and willingly, without all paction and condition, here , and before God; I do surrender and relinquish the said lands and possessions, or inheritances whatsoever, and do renounce the same with this mind and purpose , that order and disposition thereof may be taken as shall seem best liking to our most holy lord the pope, or else his legate the lord cardinal , ..”
There was however a stumbling block – the stubborness of the barons and nobles who had possession of the lands. The
Pope issued a bull that delivered instant excommunication to those who would not yield. But it was not put into action by the prelates because they feared retaliation.
In June following, the due time for the birth of the queen`s child passed, there were all sorts of expectation and rumour, with one priest at St Anne`s, Aldgate, waxing loud about the fair son that had been born. The rumours even reached Antwerp where English ships in the river fired a royal salute. But it was all for nothing, Mary was not pregnant but possibly just wishful. Rumours again ran that the pregnancy was a matter of policy , and the claim arose that courtiers had tried to obtain a baby for the queen. This concerned an Isabel Malt, living in Horn Alley, off of Aldergate Street. She had been delivered of a boy on 11 June 1555, and had been visited by a Lord North and another lord she did not know. They had demanded that she give them the child and he would be well looked after; she too would be well rewarded. She refused to let the child go. It is strange how history repeats itself as a similar rumour of `false pregnancy` for a
Catholic heir, arose concerning the birth of a son to King James II over a century later.
Mary died on 17 November 1558, unloved, and hated by most of the population. A footnote in Foxes Monuments, vol 8 p 625 cites Weavers Monuments.:
Thus died this popish princess: “in the heat of whose flames were burnt to ashes five bishops, one and twenty divines, eight gentlemen, eighty four artificers, and hundred husbandmen, servants and labourers, twenty six wives, twenty widows, nine virgins, two boys and two infants; one of them whipped to death by Bonner, and the other springing out of the mother`s
womb from the stake as she burned, thrown again into the fire. Sixty
four more were persecuted for their profession of faith; whereof seven
were whipped , sixteen perished in prison, twelve were buried in dung hills.
Many lay in captivity, condemned, but were released and saved by
the auspicious entrance of peaceable Elizabeth.” See Weavers
Monuments, page 116. Ed.
Is it any wonder that John Knox wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women intending it to be against the likes of “Bloody” Mary.