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Mary I of England
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Mary I of England

Mary I, Mary Tudor (February 18, 1516 - November 17, 1558) was Queen of England who reigned from July 19, 1553 to November 17, 1558).


Early life

Mary I, commonly known as Bloody Mary, was born in the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the only one from that union to survive infancy. She was alienated from her father, however, during the annulment of her parent's marriage, when she was 17. As her parents' marriage was deemed null and void, Mary was then deemed illegitimate and thus deprived for a time of her status as an heir to the throne, instead having to submit to her infant younger sister, Elizabeth (who would later become Queen Elizabeth), as well as having to give up most of her wealth, jewels, etc. She was also forcibly separated from her mother. Mary's relations with her first step-mother, Anne Boleyn, were particularly poor. Anne's overtures of friendships were rejected, and Mary even encouraged rumours that Anne had attempted to poison her. Relations with Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife, were warmer, but Jane died in 1537. Mary also managed to offend Queen Catherine Howard, whom her father married in 1540. Mary never departed from the devout Catholicism with which she had been brought up, and thus was the only Catholic child of Henry VIII. By the time of Henry's death in 1547 she had been restored as second in line to the throne, after her half-brother Edward, who was physically weak.

Ascension to the throne

It was not until 1553 that Edward died, however, by which time Protestantism had gained such ground that a rival claimant to the throne was put forward; Mary's cousin Lady Jane Grey. Public sympathy remained with Mary, and she soon overcame resistance to her accession. By July 19 Jane Grey had been deposed and Mary was the undisputed Queen. Her official coronation came on November 30, 1553. It is generally believed that Mary would have spared Jane's life if it had not been for the intervention of the Spanish diplomats who conditioned Mary's marriage to their king on her executing Jane.

Persecution of the Protestants

Mary had always rejected the break with Rome that her father had instituted and the establishment of the Anglican Church that had flowed from her half-brother's protestantism, and now she tried to turn England back to Roman Catholicism. This effort was carried out by force, and a number of Protestant leaders were executed. The first was John Rogers, followed notably by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. This earned the queen the title of Bloody Mary. Modern scholars have pointed out that fewer Protestants died under Mary than Catholics under Mary's half-sister and successor Elizabeth but admit that, averaged over the lengths of their reigns, the Marian death toll was indeed higher. During her five year reign 227 men and 56 women were burned at the stake – twice as many as had suffered this fate in England in the previous 150 years, and a faster rate of execution than that achieved by the contemporary Spanish Inquisition. Her restoration of Catholicism was remarkably successful in some ways: Where only one bishop -- John Fisher of Rochester -- had resisted Henry's changes to the point that Henry had him executed, most of Mary's bishops refused to conform to the restored Protestantism under Elizabeth I and died under house arrest.

Subsequent reforms

Mary also set in motion currency reform to counteract the dramatic devaluation of the currency that characterized the last few years of Henry VIII's reign and the reign of Edward VI. However, they were largely unsuccessful and it was only under Elizabeth that economic catastrophe was prevented. Mary's deep religious convictions also inspired her to institute social reforms, although these were largely unsuccessful. Her marriage to Philip II of Spain, on July 25, 1554 at Winchester Cathedral, was unpopular even with her Catholic subjects; Philip spent little time with her once it became apparent she was beyond the possibility of conceiving a child. She was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth I, who quickly undid many of Mary's changes. She died in London on November 17, 1558 aged 42 of uterine or ovarian cancer. She is buried in Westminster Abbey.

Mary I of England is sometimes confused with her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived at the same time.

=Folklore & popular culture=

Many scholars trace the nursery rhyme "Mary, Mary, quite contrary" to her unpopular attempts to bring Roman Catholicism back to England, identfying the "cockle shells" with for example, the symbol of pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James in Spain and the "pretty maids all in a row" with nuns. However, there is also a school of thought which believes it was based on the life of Mary's cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.

In Film

Mary has appeared several times in Tudor-related movies. She made a cameo appearance in the 1953 movie Young Bess, when she was played by Ann Tyrrell, starring Charles Laughton as Henry VIII and Jean Simmons as a young Elizabeth I. Deborah Kerr appeared as Mary's final step-mother Catherine Parr and Stewart Granger played Admiral Thomas Seymour.

In 1969 Mary's character (played by Nicola Pagett) made a brief appearance in a fictitious scene based around Catherine of Aragon's deathbed (historically, Mary wasn't present at the time) opposite Greek actress Irene Papas as Queen Catherine. The film itself was the lavish Oscar-winning drama Anne of the Thousand Days, starring Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn and Richard Burton as Henry VIII.

Two years later, the BBC ran a six-part series called The Six Wives of Henry VIII. In Part One, Catherine of Aragon a young Princess Mary was played by Verina Greenlaw, opposite Annette Crosbie as Catherine and Keith Michell as Henry VIII. Mary's character appeared again in Part Three (Jane Seymour) and Part Six (Catherine Parr) where a teenage Mary was played by Alison Frazer.

The sequel to the series was Elizabeth R, and a middle-aged Mary was played by Daphne Slater in Part One The Lion's Cub, opposite Glenda Jackson as Elizabeth and Peter Jeffreys as Mary's husband [[Philip II] of Spain.

In 1998, British actress Kathy Burke broke from her usual comedy roles to play a painfully demented and unhappy Mary in the lavish costume drama Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I and Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham.

In 2003 a British television drama starring Ray Winstone in the title role was premiered, simply entitled Henry VIII. Lara Belmont played Mary in both parts of the series, although she appeared only briefly in Part One (which follows Henry's life from the birth of his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy in 1519 until the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536), but she had a larger role in Part 2, which followed Henry's life from his marriage to Jane Seymour (played by Emilia Fox) until his funeral in 1547.

=See also= For Mary Tudor (March 28, 1496 - June 25, 1533),the youngest daughter of Henry VII of England see Mary Tudor.

Palace of Beaulieu

Preceded by:
Queen of England Succeeded by:
Elizabeth I
Queen of Ireland