Saturday, 21 May 2011

Mary I, the interesting Tudor?

Okay we all know about Henry VIII and his Six Wives, or the Virgin Queen Elizabeth I, but what about the often misunderstood Tudor, Mary I? Or as history calls her, “Bloody Mary”.

Fervently Catholic Mary had almost 300 Protestants burned at the stake in her short 5 year reign. Her marriageto a Spaniard was very unpopular and her religious policies left her people feeling very resentful at a time of bad harvests and military defeats.

So what led to Mary getting such a reputation? Was she really the tyrant that history would have us believe? Or was she a victim of circumstance?

In recent years people are coming round to the idea that she may not have been evil at all. I have read a couple of books which argue that England’s first reigning queen became what she did because of her upbringing.

The only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, Mary was adored as an infant princess. However Henry had his marriage to Catherine annulled when she continually failed to produce a male heir, so Mary fell from favour and was bastardised.

As well as never being allowed to see her mother, she also had to watch as Henry cast out her beloved religion, Catholicism and separate his country from Papal authority in Rome. All so he could marry one of Catherine’s ladies in waiting, Anne Boleyn in the hopes of producing a male heir.

As a teenager Mary was sent to attend her infant half sister, Elizabeth. Now just called Lady Mary, she was expected to even curtsey to the Princess Elizabeth. However throughout the dissolution of the Catholic monasteries and seeing her father marry another 4 women, Mary never gave up on the one thing she held most dear, her faith.

All this would have had a massive impact on Mary. She may not have handled it in the best way, but does that mean she was evil?

Further reading on the life of Mary and what led her to become what she did can be found in ‘Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen’ by Anna Whitelock.

I hope this proves just a little, my point that Mary was just as interesting and fascinating as more famous father and half-sister.

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