Mary I: the first Queen of England

Mary I was the first queen to rule England in her own right and made quite an impact on the country and her people, with her brutal rule earning her the sobriquet ‘Bloody Mary’

Mary Tudor, Britain magazine
Queen Mary I. Credit: Wikipedia

Mary was born to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. on 18 February 1516, in Greenwich.

Her father and mother’s separation is well documented as the marital split that ruptured the Catholic Church in England. Henry divorced Catherine when Mary was young, with a desire to marry his lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. As this was not allowed under Catholic law, Henry effectively broke from Rome and set the wheels in motion for the Church of England.

Sadly for Mary, her father declared her an illegitimate child, which resulted in her harsh upbringing. She was destitute, isolated and stripped of her titles. To add insult to injury, when she was slightly older, in order to be accepted again, she had to agree to recognise her father as King and ruler of the new church. For this he rewarded her with a place in court and a household.

Despite remaining a devout Catholic in the face of a new-found Protestantism, Mary I was named as the heir to the throne after her younger brother, Edward VI.

Although it was Lady Jane Grey (Henry VIII’s great-granddaughter) who assumed the throne after Edward’s death, it was a short-lived reign. Jane had been appointed in a bid to continue the Protestant rule but Mary won the throne back after nine days as she declared herself the rightful queen.

Once in power, Mary attempted to bring back the Catholic traditions that her father had tried to abolish. This, teamed with her desire to marry King Philip II of Spain, made her immediately unpopular.

Instead of succumbing and trying to regain the approval of her people, Mary then also revived the old heresy laws. These laws meant that anyone who did not believe in the same religion as the Sovereign would ultimately be committing treason.

In an attempt to enforce her rule, Mary began to burn those heretics deemed as defiant and disloyal, thus earning her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ – around 300 people were burnt during her bloody rampage.

Any lingering approval from the people disappeared when Mary lost control of the last remaining British territory in France, Calais, in 1558.
The remainder of her rule for this year was dogged with bad health and Mary died after a childless marriage to Philip, leaving the throne to her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I.

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