Mary I of England

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Apr 4, 2024

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Mary I (English Mary I or Mary Tudor), also Mary Tudor, Mary the Catholic or Mary the Bloody († November 17, 1558 at St James's Palace), was Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 to 1558 and the fourth monarch of the House of Tudor. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. When her father had the marriage annulled by the English clergy and married Anne Boleyn, Mary was permanently separated from her mother, declared a royal bastard, and excluded from the succession. Because of her refusal to recognize Henry as head of the Church of England and herself as an illegitimate daughter, Mary fell into disfavor for years and only escaped condemnation as a traitor by her eventual submission. Henry readmitted her to the throne in 1544, but did not legitimize her.

After the early death of her younger half-brother King Edward VI, Mary prevailed over her Protestant grandniece and rival Jane Grey and was crowned the first queen of England in her own right, marking the first time in English history that a woman exercised the unrestricted rights of a sovereign, apart from the controversial reign of the emperor's widow Matilda as mistress of England. Mary's reign was marked by great confessional tensions as Mary sought to re-establish Catholicism as the state religion. Under her reign, nearly three hundred Protestants were executed. As a result, posterity referred to her by the epithets "the Catholic" or "the Bloody" (Bloody Mary in English), depending on one's point of view. Mary's Protestant half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I, reversed Mary's religious policies.

Early years

Mary Tudor was born on February 18, 1516, the fifth child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, at the Palace of Placentia near Greenwich. Three days after her birth she was baptized in the nearby Church of the Observant Friars, held by a close friend of the future Queen Anne, Elizabeth Howard, wife of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. Her godparents included the influential Cardinal Wolsey and her relatives Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury and Katherine of York. Her namesake was her aunt Mary Tudor.

Unlike the rest of Catherine's children, Maria survived the first months of life. The Venetian ambassador Sebastian Giustiniani congratulated the king "on the birth of his daughter and the well-being of her serene mother, the queen," even though it "would have been even more gratifying if the child had been a son." Henry, however, was not discouraged. "We are both young; if it was a daughter this time, with God's grace sons will follow." The king made no secret of his affection for his daughter and proudly told Giustiniani, "By God, this child never cries."

In the first two years of her life, Mary was cared for by governesses and wet nurses, as was customary for royal children. She was under the supervision of a former lady-in-waiting to the queen, Lady Margaret Bryan, who was later also responsible for the upbringing of Mary's younger half-siblings Elizabeth and Edward. From 1520, this role fell to Margaret Pole. Despite her tender age, however, Mary was already an important player in the marriage market. She was the only heiress so far, but Henry continued to hope for a son as heir to the throne. Although England did not in principle exclude women from succession to the throne, the reign of Matilda, the only regent so far, had been marked by unrest and war. A crowned queen in her own right had not previously existed in England, and the idea raised questions about whether the nobility would accept her, whether she should marry a foreign monarch, and the extent to which such a marriage would make England politically dependent. In light of these problems, Henry hesitated to officially name Mary heir to the throne. Instead, his daughter was to marry to cement her father's political alliances. Thus, at the age of two, she was betrothed to the Dauphin Francis, the son of the French King Francis I. To this end, a betrothal took place by proxy, during which the little princess is said to have asked Guillaume Bonnivet, the Dauphin's deputy: "Are you the Dauphin? If so, I would like to kiss you." After three years, however, the connection was broken.

As early as 1522, Henry forged a second marriage alliance with the Treaty of Windsor. Mary's new husband-to-be was her first cousin and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Catherine gave this betrothal her full support by demonstrating her daughter's abilities to the Spanish envoy in March 1522. The latter wrote to Charles V with admiration that Mary possessed the elegance, skills, and self-control of a twenty-year-old. From that time on, Mary often wore a brooch with the inscription The Emperour 'the Emperor'. Nevertheless, marriage had to wait until Maria was twelve, the minimum age for marriages at the time. Mary was only five years old, Charles already twenty-one. This marriage vow also lost its meaning a few years later, when Charles married the Princess Isabella of Portugal instead.

As a princess, Maria enjoyed a well-rounded education under the guidance of her educator, Margaret Pole. In addition to her native English, she learned Latin, French and Italian. The young Maria was also taught music and introduced to the sciences by scholars such as Erasmus of Rotterdam. Much of her early education was due to her mother, who regularly reviewed her studies and succeeded in bringing the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives to the English court. At Catherine's command, Vives wrote De institutione feminae christianae and De ratione studii puerilis, the first doctrinal works for future queens. At his suggestion, Mary read the works of Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, and Plato, as well as Erasmus' Institutio Principis Christiani and Utopia by Thomas More.

In 1525, the king granted Mary the privilege of her own court at Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches, which served as the seat of the Council of Wales and Marches, the center of power in the Principality of Wales, and often as the seat of the Prince of Wales, the heir to the throne. She was thus treated as an heir to the throne. However, she was not made Princess of Wales, as was actually customary. Her father simultaneously elevated his bastard son Henry Fitzroy to Duke of Richmond and Somerset, showered him with royal offices, and sent him to the northern borders of the realm like a prince. The king had no hope of a legitimate male heir to the throne. The queen was extremely upset with Fitzroy's elevation and protested, "No bastard should be elevated over a queen's daughter." Voices were raised that the king might consider making Fitzroy heir to the throne instead of Mary. The king, however, behaved ambiguously and at first made no decision concerning the succession to the throne.

In 1526, at the suggestion of Cardinal Wolsey, a proposal was made to the French to marry the princess not to the Dauphin, but to his father, King Francis I of France. Such a union was to result in an alliance of the two countries. Since Francis already had sons from his first marriage, it was proposed, the successions of England and France would remain separate and, if Henry remained without further descendants, Mary's children would inherit the English throne. A new marriage pledge was signed providing for Mary's marriage to Francis I or his second son Henry, the Duke of Orleans. For two weeks French envoys stayed in England, to whom the princess was presented and who were impressed by her. However, they pointed out that she was "so thin, delicate and small that it would be impossible to marry her off within the next three years.

Beginning in 1527, Henry VIII sought an ecclesiastical declaration that his marriage to Catherine was null and void. The king himself claimed that the Bishop of Orleans had asked him whether his marriage to Catherine was valid, since Catherine had previously been married to Henry's brother Arthur Tudor. If the marriage was invalid, Mary would also have been declared illegitimate and would not have been considered a suitable match for a French prince. Henry hoped to marry Catherine's lady-in-waiting Anne Boleyn and have sons with her. Catherine steadfastly refused to agree to Henry's plans.

Despite the marital difficulties, Henry and Catherine still spent time together with their daughter, including in the summer of 1528, at Christmas 1530, and in March 1531. However, it became apparent early on that Anne Boleyn distrusted Mary. When the king visited Mary in July 1530, Anne Boleyn sent servants with him to learn what he was discussing with his daughter. The Spanish ambassador Eustace Chapuys also reported to Charles V that the king was considering marrying Mary to Anne's relatives, the Howards.

Although Pope Clement VII strictly rejected the annulment of the marriage, Henry VIII separated from Catherine in July 1531. He subsequently no longer recognized the primacy of the pope and, with the approval of Parliament, declared himself head of the Church of England by means of the Act of Supremacy, which was thus ultimately to transform itself into the Anglican Church.

In January 1533, the king married his now pregnant mistress Anne Boleyn. Since their child was not to be born illegitimate, Henry needed an ecclesiastical decree of nullity for his first marriage. After a hearing on May 23, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, declared the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon invalid. This declaration was to make Mary an irreconcilable enemy of Cranmer.

After his first marriage was declared null and void, Henry forbade Mary and Catherine to have any contact with each other. Nevertheless, the two continued to write letters to each other in secret, carried by faithful servants or by chapuys. In these letters, Catherine implored her daughter to be obedient to the king in everything, as long as she did not sin against God and her own conscience in the process. Mary first learned of Henry's second marriage in late April. After Anne Boleyn was crowned the new Queen of England in May, Henry VIII no longer recognized Catherine as queen and ordered Mary to give up her jewels. Chapuys also heard Anne Boleyn boast publicly that she would make Mary her servant.

When Anne Boleyn gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth, instead of the expected boy in September, Henry no longer recognized Mary as a legitimate daughter. She consequently lost her status as heir to the throne and, as the king's illegitimate daughter, bore only the title of Lady. However, Mary refused to grant her half-sister the title that was rightfully hers. Like her mother and the Roman Catholic Church, she considered the marriage between Catherine and Henry to have been validly contracted and therefore herself to be Henry's legitimate daughter. "If I agreed to the contrary, I offended God," she declared, calling herself "in all other things your obedient daughter."

As long as Catherine and Mary opposed him, Henry saw no way to convince the conservative nobility and royal houses of Europe of the legitimacy of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. For this reason, he now took tougher action against his daughter. He dissolved her household and sent her to Hatfield to the household of her newborn half-sister, to whom she was to serve as lady-in-waiting. Mary now reported directly to Lady Shelton, an aunt of Anne Boleyn's, and was separated from her old friends. Henry possibly feared that her friends would encourage Mary, and did everything he could to isolate his daughter. Mary, as well as the populace, attributed this treatment to the influence of the unpopular Queen Anne. Anne Boleyn demonstrably instructed Lady Shelton to treat Mary severely and to slap her if she dared to call herself a princess. Also, according to Chapuys, Mary inhabited the worst room in the entire house.

The poor treatment of the former princess by the king and queen brought Mary sympathy among the common people, who continued to see her as the legitimate heir to the throne. Thus they cheered Mary whenever they saw her, and in Yorkshire a young girl named Mary pretended to be the princess, claiming that it had been foretold to her by her aunt Mary Tudor that she would have to go begging at some point in her life. Members of the conservative nobility also remained friendly to Mary, such as Nicholas Carew, Sir Francis Bryan, and the king's cousin Henry Courtenay, 1st Marquess of Exeter. Nevertheless, even they could not prevent Henry from having Parliament pass the First Act of Succession on March 23, 1534, which recognized only Anne Boleyn's descendants as rightful heirs to the throne and prohibited all attempts to restore Mary to the succession on pain of death. Those who refused to take the oath to this act were executed as traitors, such as Bishop John Fisher and former Lord Chancellor Thomas More.

Mary steadfastly refused to take the oath to the act and showed recalcitrance whenever she was asked to give way to her half-sister. As a result, her fear of an attempt on her life by poison grew. During this time Chapuys became her closest friend and confidant, and she asked him several times to persuade Charles V to come to her aid. In 1535, therefore, there were several plans to smuggle her out of England, but they came to nothing.

Although Henry was determined to break his daughter's defiance, every now and then it became apparent that he still felt affection for Mary. When the French ambassador praised her skills, tears came to the king's eyes. He sent her his personal physician, William Butts, when she became ill, and also allowed Catherine's physician and apothecary to examine his daughter. In January 1536, Catherine finally died without seeing her daughter again. Because her autopsy revealed a black discoloration of her heart, many, including Mary, believed that Catherine had been poisoned.

Anne Boleyn, who had so far failed to secure her status by giving birth to a male heir to the throne, regarded Mary as a real threat. Increasingly desperate, she said of Mary, "She is my death and I am hers." After Catherine's death, Mary felt more insecure than ever, since under the law of the time, if a marriage to Anne were invalid, Henry might have had to resume conjugal life with Catherine. Several times Anne offered Mary to mediate between her and her father if Mary would only recognize her as queen. However, Mary refused to accept anyone other than her mother as queen. When Anne realized she was pregnant again, she felt safe again. As soon as her son was born, the queen said, she would know what would happen to Mary. However, she suffered a miscarriage on the same day that Catherine was buried.

When Anne Boleyn also lost the king's favor in 1536 and was executed for alleged adultery, Mary hoped her situation would improve. Jane Seymour, the new wife in Henry's life, had previously assured her that she would do her best to assist her. Encouraged by this, Mary wrote to the king congratulating him on his new marriage; however, Henry did not reply. As long as Mary did not recognize him as head of the Church of England and herself as illegitimate, he refused to treat her as his daughter. Mary's half-sister Elizabeth now fared similarly to her a few years earlier: she lost her place in the line of succession and was demoted to Lady. This made it clear that Mary's difficult situation had been brought about primarily by her father and not solely by Queen Anne.

To regain Henry VIII's favor, Mary was willing to make concessions. She swore to serve the king faithfully, "directly after God," but refused to take the oath to him as head of the Church of England. She viewed the Protestant faith as iconoclasm and the expropriation of the Church, whose possessions went into the pockets of the opportunistic nobility. An exchange of letters developed between her and the minister Thomas Cromwell, in which Mary asked him on the one hand to mediate in the conflict with her father, and on the other insisted that she could make no further concessions. Secret letters from her mother encouraged her not to make decisions based on political necessities, but to regard God and her conscience as the highest authority. In conflict with her father, therefore, she repeatedly argued that "my conscience does not allow me to agree." Henry, however, was unwilling to accept a conditional surrender and increased the pressure on Mary's friends at court. Among others, Francis Bryan was interrogated as to whether he had planned to restore Mary to the succession, and Henry Courtenay lost his position as gentleman of the Privy Chamber. It was also brought to Mary's attention that if she continued to resist, she would be arrested and tried as a traitor.

Cromwell, angry with Mary and under pressure from Henry, told Mary that if she did not give in, she would lose his support forever. He angrily called her "the most thick-headed, stiff-necked woman that ever was." Chapuy's and Mary's friends implored her to submit to the king. Finally, Mary gave in. On June 22, 1536, she signed a document drafted by Cromwell Lady Mary's Submission 'Lady Mary's Submission,' accepting the invalidity of her parents' marriage and her status as an illegitimate daughter, and acknowledging the king as head of the church. In doing so, she had saved her life and the lives of her friends, but at the same time, everything she and her mother had fought for was undone. Secretly, she instructed Chapuys to get her a papal absolution. Chapuys wrote anxiously to Charles V: "This matter of the princess has caused her greater anguish than you think." Historians believe that this crisis led Mary to defend her conscience and faith uncompromisingly in later years.

Three weeks later, Mary saw her father for the first time in five years and on this occasion met her new stepmother, Jane Seymour, for the first time. Jane had interceded several times with the king on Maria's behalf, and a friendly relationship developed between the two. Now that Mary had given in, Henry welcomed her back to court, he once again gave her her own household, and there was even talk of a new betrothal for her. But although Mary was again treated as the king's daughter, she retained the illegitimate status that excluded her from any succession under the law of the time. Finally, in the fall of 1537, the long-awaited heir to the throne, Edward, was born and Mary became his godmother. Only a little later his mother Jane Seymour died. Mary was given the honor of riding ahead of the funeral procession on a black horse. In the course, she cared for little Edward, who, according to a report by courtier Jane Dormer, "asked her many questions, promised her secrecy, and showed her such respect and reverence as if she were his mother."

Jane Seymour's death was not Mary's only loss. In 1538, the Pole family came under suspicion of conspiring against Henry in the so-called Exeter Conspiracy, including Margaret Pole, Mary's former governess. Mary's old friends Henry Courtenay, Henry Pole, and Nicholas Carew were executed as traitors, and Margaret Pole was imprisoned in the Tower of London and also beheaded in 1541. Cromwell warned Mary not to accept strangers into her household during this time, as she remained a focus for resistance to the king's religious policies.

She also experienced further marriages of her father during these years. Henry divorced his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, after only a short time in 1540. The fifth, Catherine Howard, a cousin of Anne Boleyn, was several years younger than Mary. Initially, there was tension between the two over Mary's alleged disrespect for the new queen, culminating in Catherine nearly dismissing two of Mary's ladies-in-waiting. Nevertheless, Mary succeeded in reconciling Catherine. She received permission from the king to stay permanently at court. In 1541 she accompanied Henry and Catherine on their journey to the north. Catherine ended up on the scaffold in 1542, like Anne Boleyn before her.

Catherine Parr, Henry's sixth and last wife, further improved Mary's situation at court and brought father and daughter closer together. Mary seems to have spent the rest of Henry's reign at court in the company of Catherine Parr. She and Catherine Parr had many interests in common. She and her stepmother translated Erasmus of Rotterdam and read humanist books together. She was also a gifted horsewoman and enjoyed hunting. She was known for her fondness for fashion, jewels and card games, where she sometimes wagered large sums. Her passion for dancing caused a rebuke from her younger brother Edward, who wrote to Catherine Parr that Mary should no longer participate in foreign dances and general amusements, as it was not proper for a Christian princess. She was also passionate about music.

In 1544, Henry finally established the succession to the throne in the third Act of Succession and had it ratified by Parliament. Both Mary and Elizabeth were reinstated in the line of succession, Mary second and Elizabeth third after Edward. However, although the two thus had their place in the succession again, Henry still did not legitimize his daughters, a glaring contradiction in those days. According to the law of the time, bastards were not allowed to inherit the throne, which was to lead to various attempts to exclude both Mary and Elizabeth completely from the succession.

After King Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, his still minor son Edward inherited the throne. The Catholic countries abroad initially waited to see whether Edward would be recognized as king at all. Since he had been born after Henry's excommunication, the Catholic countries considered him illegitimate and Mary the rightful heir. Charles V did not consider it impossible for Mary to assert her claim. However, she accepted Edward as king. In the early years of his childhood, Edward and his half-sisters had been very close, and their closeness is reflected in the letter of condolence that Edward wrote to his elder sister: "We should not lament the death of our father, since it is His will that works all things for good. As far as it is possible for me, I will be the best brother to you and overflow with kindness."

Three months after her father's death, Mary left the household of Catherine Parr, with whom she had lived until then. In his will, Henry had bequeathed to Mary 32 manors as well as lands in Anglia and around London, along with an annual income of 3,000 pounds. In the event of her marriage, she was to receive a dowry of 10,000 pounds. At 31, Mary was now a wealthy, independent woman, and she surrounded herself with Catholic servants and friends. As a result, she soon became the focus of the new regime. The king, only nine years old, ruled nominally but was under the influence of his uncle and guardian, Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who followed a strict Protestant course. Thus, Mary's household became a rallying point for Catholics. Nevertheless, Edward Seymour behaved quite kindly toward her. He himself had served Charles V for a time, and his wife Anne Seymour was a friend of Mary.

In January 1549, Holy Mass in the Roman rite was abolished, the feast days of many saints were canceled, and new dress codes for the clergy were enacted. When the government passed Protestant laws, Mary protested that Henry's religious laws should not be abolished until Edward was of age. Seymour countered that Henry had died before he could complete his reform. In the spring, she asked Charles V for help, who demanded that Seymour not prevent Mary from practicing her religion. Although Seymour stated that he would not openly violate any law, he allowed Mary to follow her faith in her household. Nevertheless, there were many critical voices demanding Maria's submission. When uprisings broke out against the new religious laws, Mary came under suspicion of sympathizing with and supporting the rebels. Seymour, not wanting to anger Charles V, sought to conciliate. "If she does not want to conform, let her do what she wants quietly and without scandal." Edward, however, disagreed and wrote to Mary:

On October 14, 1549, Edward Seymour was overthrown by the nobility. As the new guardian, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, gained decisive influence over the king. Clearly more radical in his views than Seymour, Dudley quickly made himself unpopular with Mary. She considered him "the most volatile man in England," which is why she "wished himself out of this kingdom." Again, Charles V demanded a guarantee from the Crown Council that his cousin would not be hindered in the practice of her religion. Mary was convinced that her life was in danger and begged Charles V to help her escape from England. In June 1550, Charles V dispatched three ships to take Mary to the continent, to his sister's court in the Netherlands. But now Mary was dithering. Her auditor, Rochester, questioned the entire plan, claiming that the English had tightened their guard on the coasts. Mary panicked and interrupted the deliberations between him and Charles's envoys several times with her desperate cries of "What shall we do? What is to become of me?" In the course of the hectic deliberations, she finally decided against flight, which would have meant the loss of her right to the throne, to boot.

At Christmas 1550, Maria finally arrived back at court, where Edward reproached her for still going to Mass. Mary argued that he was not old enough to know enough about the faith. The argument ended with both of them in tears. In January 1551, Edward again demanded that she recognize the new religious laws. Mary, still relying on Seymour's promise, was deeply affected that her brother considered her a lawbreaker and an instigator of disobedience. In March, she and he had another altercation that resulted in Mary's friends and servants being arrested for attending Mass. As a result, Charles V threatened war. Diplomatic tensions arose between England and Spain. The Crown Council sought to resolve the conflict by ordering Mary's servants to convert the princess and forbidding her to attend Mass in her household. However, Mary declared that she would rather die for her faith than be converted.

When war broke out between France and Spain, pressure on Mary lessened. Many feared that Charles V would invade England, and the Crown Council sought reconciliation with Mary. In March 1552 her servants were dismissed from the Tower, and two months later she visited her brother at court. In the winter Edward became ill. Mary visited him one last time in February 1553, but had no idea that he was already terminally ill, possibly from tuberculosis. Dudley, well aware that Mary was the rightful heir to the throne in the event of Edward's death, received her with all honors, but kept her brother's condition a secret from her. In fact, Mary believed that Edward was on the road to recovery, but in June it became apparent that he would soon die.


In view of the constant religious conflicts, Edward rightly feared that Mary would reverse all reforms after his death and bring England back under the rule of the pope. For this reason, Edward broke with his father Henry's succession arrangement to exclude Mary from the throne on the grounds that she had never again been recognized as Henry's legitimate daughter. In addition, there was the possibility of her marrying a foreigner who would subsequently seize power in England. Since this also applied to his sister Elizabeth, she too was excluded from the succession. Instead, Edward bequeathed the crown to Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant granddaughter of his late aunt Mary Tudor, who had married John Dudley's son Guildford shortly before. The extent to which John Dudley was responsible for the change in succession to the throne is disputed among scholars. While it is traditionally assumed that Dudley persuaded Edward to change his will in favor of Jane Grey out of ambition, Eric Ives is of the opinion that Dudley merely pointed out weaknesses in Edward's succession plan and that Edward independently decided in favor of Jane as heiress.

On July 2, at a church service, Mary and Elizabeth were excluded for the first time from the prayers for the royal family. A day later, Mary, who was on her way to London, received a warning that Edward's death was imminent and that there were plans to imprison her. On the night of July 4, Mary then rode in haste to Kenninghall in Norfolk, where she could rally supporters and, in case of doubt, flee to Flanders. John Dudley, underestimating her willingness to fight for the throne, dispatched his son Robert Dudley to capture Mary. Historians suggest that Dudley either did not care much for a woman's plans or hoped that Mary would flee the country with the help of Charles V and thus give up her throne. Robert Dudley, however, failed to catch up with Mary and had to be content with preventing her supporters from joining her at Kenninghall. Even the Spanish ambassador thought it unlikely that Mary would be able to assert her claim.

On July 9, Mary wrote to Jane's Crown Council proclaiming herself Queen of England. For the Crown Council, the letter constituted a declaration of war. Therefore, an army was raised to move to East Anglia under the leadership of John Dudley and capture Mary as a rebel against the crown. Pamphlets were also printed in London declaring Mary to be a bastard and warning that if she seized power she would bring "papists and Spaniards" into the country. But for the majority of the population, Mary was the rightful heir to the throne, religious concerns notwithstanding. Supported by her friends and servants, Mary mobilized the landed gentry, who provided her with their armed bodyguards, known as retainers. Among her highest-ranking allies were Henry Radclyffe, 4th Earl of Sussex, and John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath. On July 12, she and her growing band of followers moved to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, a well-defended fortress. Her supporters proclaimed her queen in various English towns. The enthusiastic approval of the population allowed Mary to win over even towns that had previously declared themselves in favor of Jane. Gradually, the tide turned in Mary's favor. Ship crews mutinied against their superiors and defected to Mary.

On July 15, Dudley's army approached Framlingham. Mary's commanders prepared their troops, and the princess herself mobilized her supporters with a flaming speech, according to which John Dudley "treacherously, by long-continued treachery, planned and still plans the destruction of her royal person, the nobility, and the general welfare of this kingdom." The regime collapsed on July 18. The Council of State in London overthrew Dudley in his absence and offered large rewards on his capture. The council members wanted to side with Mary in time, whose popular approval was steadily increasing. On July 19, support for Dudley dwindled entirely as various nobles left the Tower, and with it Jane Grey, and met at Baynard's Castle to prepare Mary's succession. Among them were George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and Henry FitzAlan, 19th Earl of Arundel. On the evening of July 20, their heralds in London proclaimed Mary Queen of England and Ireland. John Dudley in Cambridge then resigned and likewise proclaimed Mary Queen. A little later he was arrested by Arundel. On July 25, he was brought to London with his sons Ambrose and Henry and imprisoned in the Tower.

On August 3, Mary triumphantly entered London with her sister Elizabeth, who had supported her claim to the throne, and ceremonially took possession of the Tower. As was customary at the inauguration of a new monarch, she pardoned numerous prisoners imprisoned in the Tower, including the high-ranking Catholics Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon, and Stephen Gardiner. She appointed the latter as her Lord Chancellor. Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley, on the other hand, who had been in the Tower since Jane's proclamation, were placed under arrest. Initially, Jane's father Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk was also a prisoner of the Crown, but he was released after Jane's mother Frances Brandon, Mary's cousin, petitioned the Queen on behalf of her family. Having been persuaded by Frances and later Jane that Jane had accepted the crown only under pressure from Dudley, Mary initially pardoned her young relative and her father. Unlike Henry Grey, Jane and Guildford nevertheless remained under arrest. John Dudley, on the other hand, was charged with high treason and executed on August 22.

Mary reigned de jure from July 6, but de facto only since July 19, due to the 1544 succession rule. On September 27, she and Elizabeth entered the Tower, as was the custom shortly before the coronation of a new monarch. On September 30, they moved into the Palace of Westminster in a grand procession that included her stepmother Anne of Cleves. According to eyewitnesses, Mary's crown was very heavy, which is why she had to support her head with her hands. She also appeared noticeably stiff and restrained, while her sister Elizabeth enjoyed bathing in the crowd. On October 1, 1553, Mary was crowned queen in Westminster Abbey. Since it was the first coronation of a queen in her own right in England, the ceremony differed from the coronation of a royal consort. Thus, as was customary in the coronation of male monarchs, she was ceremonially presented with a sword and spurs, as well as the scepters of both king and queen.

Despite the demonstrated unity of Mary and Elizabeth, there were strong tensions between the sisters, mainly because of their different confessions. To ensure a Catholic dynasty, Mary sought a Catholic husband. Her crown council also implored her to marry, not only to ensure succession, but also because it was still believed that a woman could not rule alone. At the same time, however, there was a legitimate concern that Mary, as a married woman, would be obedient to her husband. For this reason, the question of whom she would marry was of great importance to the English, since marrying a foreigner would have meant foreign influence on English politics. Many nobles, including Stephen Gardiner, therefore hoped for a marriage between Mary and her distant relative Edward Courtenay, who was of royal descent and English birth.

Mary, however, had no interest in marrying Courtenay, partly because she did not want to marry any of her subjects. As so often in her life, she attached great value to the advice of the Spanish ambassador, in this case Simon Renard. The reason for this is probably to be found in her youth, when the only one to whom she could always turn was Charles V. She could no longer trust the English nobility after all her experiences; therefore, she was more inclined to follow the advice of the Spanish ambassadors. Renard, knowing well how valuable an alliance with England would be, proposed to her, with Charles V's approval, the Spanish crown prince Philip on October 10. On the one hand, this would secure passage to the Netherlands; on the other, such a marriage would counterbalance Mary Stuart's marriage to the Dauphin of France. Mary's reaction was joyful, but at the same time apprehensive, since she was eleven years older than Philip. She also made it clear to Renard that Philip would not gain too much political influence, since the English nobility would not tolerate foreign interference.

In fact, the groom met with great disapproval from the English. Even Mary's own Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the House of Commons feared that England would come under strong Spanish influence. Both he and Mary's loyal clerks, who had campaigned with her against Jane Grey, implored her to marry Courtenay instead. Although Mary stood her ground with them, she was nonetheless agitated and undecided for a long time. Finally, on October 29, she made her decision. She sent for Renard and accepted his proposal to marry Philip on the grounds that "God had inspired her to become Prince Philip's wife." Renard wrote to Charles V reporting:

In November, the nobility once again tried unsuccessfully to dissuade Mary from marrying Philip. As a result, some nobles conspired against the queen. On the one hand, the aim was to prevent the unpopular marriage, and on the other, the Protestant nobility was concerned about the confessional changes that Mary was reintroducing. The conspirators included Sir Thomas Wyatt, Edward Courtenay, Jane Grey's father Henry Grey, and a close friend of the Grey family, Nicholas Throckmorton. Wyatt, in the Wyatt Conspiracy named after him, assembled a force at Kent in early 1554 to fight the queen, whom he himself had helped to the throne. The royal army did not defeat Wyatt's forces until they reached the gates of London, and the rebellion was crushed outright. Henry Grey, who had taken part in the uprising, was arrested again. Along with his daughter Jane and son-in-law Guildford, who were still imprisoned in the Tower, he was found guilty of high treason and beheaded. Since the revolt had taken place in Elizabeth's name, Mary now suspected her sister of having aided the revolt against her and had her imprisoned in the Tower. After Wyatt exonerated Elizabeth on the scaffold, Mary commuted the sentence to house arrest after two months.

The queen finally married Philip in Winchester Cathedral on July 25, 1554. The night before, Charles V had proclaimed his son King of Naples. According to the marriage contract, Philip received the title of King of England, but his real power was more limited to the functions of a prince consort. He was allowed to help Mary with the administration, but not to make any changes in the laws of England. Should children result from the marriage, a daughter would rule England and the Netherlands, and a son would inherit England as well as Philip's territories in southern Germany and Burgundy. Both the queen and any children were to leave the country only with the consent of the nobility. In addition, a clause in the marriage contract secured England against becoming involved in Habsburg wars or having to make payments to the empire. Also, no Spaniards were to join the Crown Council.

The treaty was one of the most advantageous ever concluded by England, but Philip himself was incensed by his reduced role. Privately, he declared that he did not consider himself bound by an agreement that had come about without his consent. He would sign, Philip said, only so that the marriage could take place, "but by no means to bind himself and his heirs to keep the paragraphs, especially those that would burden his conscience." Despite his reservations, Philip showed himself to be a dutiful, kind husband to Mary, and the queen fell violently in love with him. She wrote to Charles V:

Philip's close confidants, on the other hand, painted a different picture of the marriage. His friend Ruy Gomez, for example, described the queen unflatteringly as a "good soul, older than we were told" and wrote about her to a friend:

Barely two months after the wedding, Renard heard that the queen was pregnant. According to her, she suffered from morning sickness, her belly swelled and she felt the movements of her child. Nevertheless, doubts arose because she was already 39 years old and often ill. The birth was expected in April 1555, around Easter. However, when July passed without Mary giving birth, let alone feeling any contractions, it became obvious that she was suffering from either an illness or a false pregnancy. In August, the queen also finally accepted the truth. In addition, Philip was urgently needed in the Netherlands. Only the prospect of the birth of an heir had kept him in England. On August 19, 1555, Philip temporarily left England to the great grief of his wife. Mary was not to see him again until March 1557.

Mary had always rejected her father's decision to split the English Church from the Roman Catholic Church. As queen, she therefore devoted herself primarily to religious policy. At the beginning of her reign, however, Mary was interested in understanding and tolerance, contrary to her reputation. In her first proclamation, she had it proclaimed:

Nevertheless, Mary was already taking the first steps toward reconciliation with Rome. In August 1553, she wrote to Pope Julius III to obtain a lifting of the ecclesiastical ban that had been on England since Henry VIII, assuring the pope that she would repeal by act of parliament "many perverse laws created by my predecessors." The pope then appointed Cardinal Reginald Pole as papal legate to England. Pole was a distant relative of Mary, the son of her governess Margaret Pole, who was in Rome at the time of her accession. Mary did not want to make religious changes without a parliamentary decree and therefore initially tolerated Protestants. One exception, however, was her sister Elizabeth, who wanted to convert Mary to Catholicism for political reasons. As long as Mary was unmarried and childless, Elizabeth was the heir to the throne, and Mary wanted to ensure a Catholic succession. Since Elizabeth attended Mass only under pressure, Mary for a time seriously considered naming her Catholic cousin Margaret Douglas as her successor instead.

In her first parliamentary session, Mary not only had her parents' marriage declared valid, but also had Edward's religious laws repealed. This meant that the church laws from the last years of Henry VIII's reign once again applied. However, while Parliament had no problem reintroducing rites and customs, it was vehemently opposed to recognizing the Pope's sovereignty again and returning church lands. Many of the parliamentarians had profited from these lands and saw a restoration of papal authority as a threat to their own prosperity. Thus, Mary first returned to Franciscans and Dominicans the monastic lands confiscated by Henry VIII in the course of the dissolution of the English monasteries, which were still in the possession of the crown. She was also forced to remain the head of the English Church for the time being, against her will, due to the opposition of Parliament.

One of the great difficulties Mary faced was the fact that there were few clergymen who met her standards. Under Edward there had been no systematic training of the clergy, and many of the Protestant clergy were married. She was supported in her efforts by Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of London Edmund Bonner, and, at first in letters and from 1554 in person, by Reginald Pole, whom she appointed Archbishop of Canterbury upon his arrival. On November 30, 1554, Pole officially granted absolution to England as papal envoy and welcomed the country back into the fold of the Church. With the help of the Council of Trent, Pole hoped to reform clerical education and give England a well-educated Catholic priesthood. However, these reforms took time.

Both Pole and Mary were convinced that the population had been seduced into Protestantism by only a few. Therefore, in 1555, the heresy laws from the 14th century were reintroduced. The first Protestants were condemned for heresy and burned. Some of the Protestant bishops who had not fled abroad met their end at the stake, most notably the married priest John Rogers, the Bishop of Gloucester John Hooper, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. In 1556 they were followed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, whom Mary had never forgiven for annulling her parents' marriage. He was the only known victim of the burnings on whose death Mary explicitly insisted, despite his recantation and recognition of papal authority. In all other executions, Mary insisted that they be carried out without vindictiveness and in accordance with the law. She also insisted that one member of her council be present as a witness at each of the burnings and that religious services be held during the executions.

Nevertheless, it quickly became apparent that the burning of its leaders alone would not be enough to eradicate Protestantism. The reintroduction of Catholicism found it harder to gain a foothold in ordinary communities than the queen had believed. There was also a lack of money to re-equip individual parish churches to Catholic standards. Many parishes were unable to purchase stone altars, priestly vestments, and precious vessels, and refused to cooperate with Mary's envoys.

The persecutions extended to the ordinary population. Bonner, in particular, quickly made a name for himself among Protestants as a heresy hunter, since from the beginning he wanted to know the names of those who were inattentive during Mass, did not participate in processions, or broke the Lenten dietary commandments. While the bishops took charge of the interrogation of the accused, the arrests and ultimately the burnings were carried out by the local secular authorities, who performed their task with varying degrees of care. Thus, of the approximately 290 victims, 113 were burned in London alone. In other cases, the secular authorities proved very unwilling and could only be persuaded to carry out burnings under pressure from the Crown Council. In all, nearly 300 people met their deaths at the stake. However, the deterrence intended by the public burnings did not take hold. Instead, the population increasingly felt sympathy for the Protestant martyrs, whose persecution continued for over three years. Inside and outside England, the number of Mary's opponents grew, especially through the writings and printed matter of Protestant exiles. This was also evident in the degree of their networking, which was by no means limited to the island kingdom but extended to the continent as well.

In 16th century England, denominational persecutions were not uncommon. Under Edward VI as well as Elizabeth I, Catholics were persecuted and executed, while under Henry VIII, both Protestants and Catholics loyal to the Pope were. On the whole, confessional persecutions were no more pronounced in England than on the Continent. However, they occurred much more frequently in England in the 1550s than in other countries. Also, those condemned were not the extremists and fanatics who ended up at the stake on the Continent, but ordinary believers. Additionally, the burnings took on a political dimension. Because of Mary's unpopular marriage to Philip, unwelcome changes were often blamed on the Spanish. Thus, Protestants who refused to recant quickly became a symbol of resistance by patriotic Englishmen against the hated Spain. However, the Spanish cannot be held entirely responsible for the religious policy, as Philip's confessor, Alfonso de Castro, attacked the burnings with Philip's permission in a church service. "They did not learn from the Scriptures to burn anyone for conscience sake, but on the contrary that those should live and be converted."

Historians disagree about who was actually responsible for the burnings. John Foxe considered Bonner one of the worst heresy hunters, however Bonner was more interested in persuading suspects to recant than in burning them. Pole did invoke the burnings to prove to the new Pope Paul IV that he himself was not a heretic, but was himself described by Foxe as "not one of the bloody, cruel sort of papists." Pole realized quite quickly how unpopular the executions were. However, Prescott criticizes that he also made no attempt to influence the queen in this regard, who always placed great value on his advice. Gardiner, who was very keen to restore the old order, did vote for the reintroduction of the heresy laws, but withdrew from the heresy hunt after the burning of the most important Protestants.

On some occasions, the secular authorities clearly showed themselves to be more vigorous in their hunt for heretics than the clergy. Prescott points out that in the first six months of heresy persecutions, bishops were reprimanded by the crown for alleged laziness, while various secular magistrates and sheriffs made a name for themselves as zealous heresy hunters. The Crown Council also appeared at least tolerant of the executions, as council members encouraged Bonner to continue the persecutions. Peter Marshall points to the possibility that the burnings developed a momentum of their own after the execution of the prominent Protestants, mainly because there was no clear direction.

To what extent Mary was personally involved in the burnings can no longer be determined with certainty. According to her own words, she was in favor of burning the ringleaders, but she preferred to gently convert the common people. Marshall indicates that she deeply abhorred heresy and harbored a personal grudge against Cranmer because of the humiliations of her youth. Also, the Venetian ambassador Soranzo reported how steadfastly Mary had refused to renounce her faith under her brother. "Her faith, into which she was born, is so strong that she would have displayed it at the stake had the opportunity arisen." It is therefore quite possible that Mary personally pushed for the burnings. A royal order to Bonner dated May 24, 1555, told him to proceed more quickly with heretics and not to waste time. However, it is argued by Prescott that by this time Mary had already withdrawn from all affairs of state for the birth of her child. This raises the possibility that, at least during this period, all royal orders were passed by Philip and the Crown Council. What is certain is that the queen could have ended the persecutions at any time. In Protestant propaganda, she was therefore nicknamed Bloody Mary.

Mary had inherited a lot of debt from her father and brother, and the government finances were almost out of control. The reason for this was the still medieval economic system, which no longer suited the modern royal state. John Baker, Marquess of Winchester and Sir Walter Mildmay tried to reorganize the treasury, but their reforms would take a long time. The royal budget was also thoroughly examined to find ways to save money. The report showed that the queen paid her servants and subordinates much more generously than her father ever had, and that the largest amounts were spent on royal wardrobe.

The decline in the value of money, which had already begun in the last years of Henry VIII's reign, further fueled the crisis. Inflation was not decisively combated by Henry's financier Thomas Gresham and worsened under Edward VI. Mary tried to counteract the dramatic fall in the value of money. Thus, drastic measures were taken against counterfeiters, and the Crown Council discussed monetary reform. Due to the wars in Mary's last two years of reign, no reform took place, but Elizabeth was to draw on the experience of Mary's financial councils in her own monetary reform in 1560-61.

Nevertheless, Mary was able to achieve small successes. She radically reformed the customs and monopoly tax system, which led to more revenue for the crown and the publication of the new Book of Rates. It was to remain in force unchanged until 1604. Thus, the collection of customs duties was centralized in order to pay the money directly to the crown and prevent customs officials from enriching themselves. Mary also specifically promoted English trade by taxing imported goods more heavily than goods produced in England. However, this brought her into conflict with the German Hanseatic League, which did not want to give up its privileged position. However, since the Hanseatic League had lent money to the English crown several times, Mary was willing to make concessions. The Hanseatic League paid the same dues as other merchants for two years, and in return it was allowed to purchase cloth in England, which it had not been able to do before. However, since the measure was very unpopular with English merchants, it was reversed after two years.

Since there was strong competition in the European markets, Mary tried to open up new markets overseas. Despite her marriage to Philip, England had not been granted access to the treasures of the New World, so Mary's attention turned to the East. As early as June 1553, in the last days under Edward VI, an expedition had set out to find a northeast passage to the Orient. While the commander, Sir Hugh Willoughby, died, his second-in-command, Richard Chancellor, managed to reach the Russian city of Arkhangelsk via the White Sea. From there he toured Russia and was met in Moscow by Ivan the Terrible. Ivan was interested in a trade agreement with England, and on April 5, 1555, Mary and Philip signed a letter of thanks to Ivan, confirming their intentions to trade with him.

In the same year, the Muscovy Company was founded, which was granted a monopoly on trade between England and Moscow and was to last as a trade organization until the Russian Revolution in 1917. From Russia, England received materials for shipbuilding, while England exported spices, wool and metal goods. At about the same time, the Queen Mary Atlas was commissioned, a collection of magnificent, accurate maps that included Europe, Africa, and Asia, as well as South America and the northeastern coast of North America. Of the approximately 14-15 maps, nine still survive today.

In addition, Mary pushed social reforms and distributed almost twice as many charters and founding charters as her predecessors. Among other things, she promoted the incorporation of cities and districts, which increased the efficiency of both administration and industry. Its efforts made it possible for cities to appear before the law as corporations. In this way, cities could own lands in their own right and use their proceeds for educational programs, poor relief, and public works. Municipal ordinances could also now be enacted, giving cities a framework for local jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, famine and waves of disease occurred among the ordinary population due to crop failures. The reforms needed time to take effect. To centralize care for the poor, Mary had five charities in London alone merged so that poor people throughout the city could be cared for. Proclamations were issued to let the starving population know where grain was being distributed. Those who hoarded grain faced severe penalties, and supplies were checked regularly. Although the measures initiated did not yet show the desired result under Mary's reign, her successor Elizabeth was to benefit from them in the long term.

Mary sought to bring England closer to Spain in order to build a strong counterweight to France. One reason for this was the fact that her Scottish cousin Mary Stuart was engaged to the French heir to the throne. Since Mary Stuart also had a claim to the English throne, she was an important pawn for the French. King Philip therefore influenced his wife to reconcile with her sister Elizabeth and not to exclude her from the succession, although various plots took place in her name. Had Elizabeth been excluded and Mary died childless, the English throne would have gone to Mary Stuart and thus to the French royal house, a scenario Philip wanted to avoid. Instead, he tried to marry Elizabeth to the Duke of Savoy Emanuel Philibert, his distant relative. In this way, the English throne would have remained under Philip's control even in Mary's death. Elizabeth resisted this marriage, however, and Mary resisted Philip's pressure to marry her sister without the consent of Parliament.

Spain and France were regularly involved in wars with each other. Since there was always a danger of England being drawn into the conflict, Mary tried to mediate between the contending parties. On her behalf, Reginald Pole brought the opposing parties to the negotiating table at Gravelines in 1555 and sought conciliation. However, Spain and France refused to compromise and the negotiations failed. To the great humiliation of England, France and Spain signed a peace treaty in February 1556 without English mediation, but both honored it only until their forces had recovered.

In September, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba and Philip's viceroy of Naples, attacked the papal states. As a result, Pope Paul IV allied himself with King Henry II of France and declared war on Philip and Charles V. The situation became threatening for England, since France was allied with Scotland through the Auld Alliance, and in the event of war there was always the danger of a Scottish invasion. Mary therefore prepared the country for war, had troops raised and ships afloat. In addition, the Crown Council reluctantly agreed to send troops to Philip in case the Netherlands were attacked. The pope, incensed by Mary's solidarity with Philip, then stripped Cardinal Pole of his powers as papal envoy and ordered him to return to Rome to face charges of heresy. Mary, however, refused to consent to Pole's departure and demanded that, if anything, an English court judge him. Otherwise, she threatened to withdraw her ambassador from Rome. Contemporaries feared that England was facing another schism.

In March of 1557, Philip II, by now after his father's abdication, returned to Mary in England to request English support. He stayed until July and persuaded Mary to assist Spain in the war against France. In doing so, England was to attack the French coast to give the troops in Italy breathing space. During his first stay in England, Philip had already arranged for the enlargement and repair of the English navy. Mary assured the Spanish of her support against the wishes of the English people. The Crown Council strongly resisted, invoking the marriage contract. It also strongly advised Mary that England was in no condition to issue a declaration of war, since the treasury was empty and a war with France would end or severely hamper trade relations. According to French ambassador Antoine de Noailles, in private conversations Mary threatened some council members "with death, others with the loss of all their possessions and lands, if they did not submit to the will of their spouse."

Nevertheless, a declaration of war was not made until the Protestant exile Thomas Stafford landed in England with French ships in April, captured Scarborough Castle, and declared that he wanted to rid the country of Mary, who had forfeited her claim to the throne by marrying a Spaniard. Philip left England again on July 6, and a few days later English troops followed him to the continent. To everyone's relief, Philip made peace with the Pope in September, but this did not affect the war with France. Initially, the English managed to win victories against the French and inflict severe defeats on Henry II. At the turn of the year, however, it became their undoing that in winter it was customary to refrain from acts of war. Contrary to all expectations, the French attacked on New Year's Day, and the city of Calais, England's last bastion on the mainland, fell to France in January 1558. It was a severe blow to national self-confidence. Cardinal Pole called the loss "this sudden, painful catastrophe," yet the Crown Council agreed that recapture was almost impossible and priceless, much to the chagrin of Philip, for whom Calais had been of great strategic importance against France.

Death and succession

In her last years, the queen was in poor health, both physically and emotionally. While she had been an acknowledged beauty in her youth, in her last years she was often described as looking older than she was, according to contemporaries due to worries. She often suffered from depressive moods, and her unpopularity troubled her. Venetian ambassador Giovanni Michieli reported how great a difference there was from the beginning of her reign, when she enjoyed such popularity among the people "as has never been shown to any ruler of this kingdom." In addition, there were health problems that plagued Mary since her youth, including severe menstrual cramps. In her later years, she was often bled for these ailments, which often left her looking pale and emaciated.

Despite her failing health, Maria continued to hope to give birth to a child. After Philip's visit to England, Maria experienced a second false pregnancy. This time she did not inform him of her condition until she was 6 months along according to her calculations. Philip, who was still on the continent, expressed his joy in a letter, but acted in a wait-and-see manner, since many people in England had doubts about the pregnancy. As the 9th month approached, Mary wrote her will on May 30, 1558, in case of her death during childbirth. In it, she designated her baby as her successor and appointed Philip as regent until the heir to the throne came of age. Since this time there were doubts about pregnancy from the beginning, no birthing rooms were prepared.

Maria's health deteriorated visibly. She suffered from fever attacks, insomnia, headaches and vision problems. In August she fell ill with influenza and was taken to St James's Palace. There she wrote an addendum to her will admitting that she was not pregnant and that the crown should go to whoever was entitled to it according to the laws of the land. She still hesitated to name Elizabeth as her heir, although she was urged to do so by the Spanish and their parliament, who wanted to avoid Mary Stuart inheriting the throne. On November 6, Mary finally relented and officially named Elizabeth as her heir and successor to the throne. Shortly before midnight on November 16, she received the last rites. She died between five and six in the morning on November 17, 1558, at the age of forty-two. Six hours after her death Elizabeth was proclaimed queen, and another six hours later Mary's old friend Reginald Pole also died.

Mary's body was embalmed, as was customary at the time, and laid out for three weeks. On December 13, in a grand procession and with all the honors befitting a queen, she was transferred to Westminster Abbey, where the actual funeral took place the next day. The funeral procession was led by her beloved cousin Margaret Douglas. The Bishop of Winchester, John White, delivered a warm obituary about her strengths and merits, her bravery in critical situations, and her social conscience toward the disadvantaged. However, in this speech he also made subtle criticisms of Elizabeth, for which she had him placed under house arrest the next day.

Elizabeth herself was also buried in Westminster Abbey in 1603. Three years later, her successor, James I, ordered a transfer of her body, claiming her burial place for himself alongside Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Instead, Elizabeth was buried in Mary's tomb, above her sister's coffin. Jacob donated a large monument to Elizabeth, on which Mary is mentioned only in passing. The Latin inscription on her tombstones reads:

With her accession to the throne, Mary was proclaimed Queen with the same title as her immediate predecessors Henry VIII and Edward VI:Mary, by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, Preserver of the Faith and Head of the Church of England and Ireland. The title of King of France had been claimed by the kings of England since 1328, when Edward III assumed it as part of the Hundred Years' War. Although the title was retained until 1802, the English monarch did not exercise any power in France.

After marrying Philip of Spain, the couple was titled King and Queen. The official joint title was:Mary and Philip, by the Grace of God King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.

With Philip's accession to the throne, the title changed again:Mary and Philip, by the Grace of God King and Queen of England, Spain, France, Both Sicily, Jerusalem and Ireland, Preservers of the Faith, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.

For a long time, Mary's name was almost exclusively associated with the brutal persecution of Protestants. One reason for this is the strongly anti-Catholic attitude that arose in England after her reign. Protestantism was seen as part of the English identity, Catholicism as part of foreign domination, either by the Spanish or by Rome. An important factor in this was Mary's unpopular marriage to Philip. Mary's bad reputation as a bloodthirsty Protestant murderer was mainly due to Protestant propaganda, as carried out by John Foxe in particular. In the 17th century, the Catholic King James II solidified the opinion that a Catholic ruler was disastrous for the country. In the 19th century, moreover, England, now Protestant, experienced a period in which English greatness was seen as preordained, which automatically stamped Catholic Mary as the antagonist in the writing of history.

Nowadays, historians paint a somewhat more nuanced picture of Mary. Despite the persecutions, Mary was very tolerant of matters of faith at the beginning of her reign and did not attempt to convert the people by coercion without the consent of Parliament. However, Mary lacked the personal charisma and natural closeness to the people that Elizabeth possessed. In this way, she misjudged the religio-political situation and especially the people's reaction to it. Nevertheless, it took Elizabeth more than five years to reverse her sister's changes, which Ann Weikl sees as evidence that Catholicism was indeed beginning to regain a foothold despite the persecution of Protestants.

Mary is also often accused of having failed as Queen of England, in contrast to her successful sister. Her contemporaries mainly criticized that her marriage had brought England under the "yoke of Spain." Unlike Elizabeth, however, Mary had no predecessor in the form of a queen in her own right from whose mistakes she could learn, since her rival Jane Grey exercised no real power during her short time as nominal queen. The only tradition to which she could refer was that of king's consort. In parliamentary sessions and debates with the Crown Council, Mary usually appeared cooperative and willing to compromise. Tensions between her and the Council arose mainly from the latter's refusal to crown Philip and return formerly ecclesiastical lands. Problematic for her was that her advisors were at odds and thus she could not fully trust anyone. The war with France was often blamed as her biggest mistake, mainly because of the loss of Calais.

Nevertheless, modern historical research is predominantly of the opinion that Mary's reign cannot be considered a complete failure. She won her throne against all odds and thus secured the rule of the Tudor dynasty. Although England had always feared a queen in her own right, Mary ruled well enough that the scholar John Aylmer, tutor to Jane Grey, wrote of her: "In England it is not so dangerous a thing to have a female ruler as men think." During her time as queen, she initiated social as well as economic and administrative reforms from which Elizabeth, who took over some of Mary's advisors, benefited in a lasting way. Elizabeth also learned from Mary's mistakes and was able to avoid them during her reign, such as marrying a foreign prince and the unpopularity of religious persecutions. As the first queen of England in her own right, Mary laid the decisive foundation for female monarchs to exercise the same rights and duties as male monarchs.

Gold medal

In 1554, the future Philip II commissioned the medalist Jacopo Nizzola da Trezzo to make a gold medal of Mary. The medal had a diameter of 6.7 centimeters and a mass of 183 grams. On the obverse is the image of Mary wearing a large pearl pendant on a chain, a gift from Philip. The reverse shows Mary burning weapons. This side of the medal bears the inscription CECIS VISUS - TIMIDIS QUIES (German: den Blinden die Sehkraft - den Ängstlichen die Ruhe). One copy of this medal is in the British Museum, another copy is in private hands in the USA (as of January 2010).

Theater and opera

In the 19th century, the life of Mary Tudor served as the model for Victor Hugo's play Mary Tudor, which was set to music by Rudolf Wagner-Régeny under the title Der Günstling and premiered in Dresden in 1935. The libretto was written by Caspar Neher using the translation by Georg Büchner. The play Queen Mary by Alfred Tennyson was written at approximately the same time. Also based on Hugo's original is the opera Maria Tudor by Antônio Carlos Gomes, which was premiered at La Scala in Milan on March 27, 1879. The libretto for this opera was written by Emilio Praga. Giovanni Pacini wrote an opera about Queen Maria in 1847 with the title Maria Regina d'Inghilterra.

Film and television

The character Maria Tudor appears in numerous films. Among the most famous are:


Mary is the subject of English historical novels, some of which have been translated into German:

She also appears in historical novels from German-speaking countries.

In 2021, the graphic novel Bloody Mary by Kristina Gehrmann was published, tracing the life story of Mary from her youth until her death, with Carolly Erickson's biography as the main source.


  1. Mary I of England
  2. Maria I. (England)
  3. Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor. England’s First Queen. Bloomsbury 2010, S. 7
  4. Linda Porter: Mary Tudor. The First Queen. Piatkus 2009, S. 13
  5. a b Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor. England’s First Queen. Bloomsbury 2010, S. 10
  6. Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor. England’s First Queen. Bloomsbury 2010, S. 17
  7. H. F. M. Prescott: Mary Tudor. The Spanish Tudor. Phoenix 2003, S. 40
  8. a b c Debido a la disputada sucesión de Eduardo VI, se conservan varias fechas en las fuentes sobre el ascenso de María al trono. La lista de monarcas ingleses del Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004) indica el inicio del reinado de María el 6 de julio —la fecha de la muerte de su medio hermano—, así como la de Juana I.[4]​ Por otro lado, según el Handbook of British Chronology (1986), en la que se basa la fuente anterior, señala que su reinado comenzó después de la caída de Juana I (19 de julio).[5]​ Sus años de reinado se cuentan desde el 24 de julio, cuando María fue notificada en su residencia en Framlingham sobre la decisión del consejo privado el 19 de julio.[6]​
  9. También conocida por su nombre sin su número regnal: María Tudor (en inglés, Mary Tudor).[2]​[3]​
  10. La cita en latín es Domine Orator, per Deum immortalem, ista puella nunquam plorat.[25]​
  11. A partir de 1525, era mencionada formalmente como «princesa de Gales» en documentos oficiales, si bien no tuvo ceremonia oficial.[31]​
  12. Em inglês: Bloody Mary.
  13. ^ Edward VI died on 6 July. Mary was proclaimed his successor in London on 19 July; sources differ on whether her regnal years were dated from 24 July[1] or 6 July.[2]

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