Queen Mary I: Bloody Mary

WORLD HISTORY | March 4, 2019

Sir Thomas Wyatt dictating terms to Queen Mary in the White Tower, c1553 ( 1840). Artist: George Cruikshank Pictures. Source: (gettyimages.com)

Her Childhood

Queen Mary I was born on February 18, 1516. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. She was their only child. King Henry VIII had his marriage to Catherine annulled when she failed to produce him a son. Mary was then considered illegitimate and unable to take her rightful spot as queen. This increased her rage regarding her father’s break with the Roman Catholic Church, which had forbidden him from divorcing Mary’s mother. If he had obeyed the church’s command, then she would not be illegitimate. Later on, she was restored to the lineage, after her half-brother Edward.

Queen Mary I "Bloody Mary" (1516-1558). Source: (youtube.com)

Queen Mary I Takes The Throne

Prince Edward died in 1553. By this time, Protestantism was gaining ground in England. The leaders of the movement did not want Mary to be queen, as she was loyal to the Catholic Church. One of Mary’s cousins, Lady Jane Grey was put forward as a rival to the throne. The public had some sympathy for Mary because of her childhood so ultimately it was Mary who became queen. Her coronation was on November 30, 1553. Mary immediately began earning her nickname, ‘Bloody Mary’ by having Lady Jane Grey executed to prevent any future power struggle.

Phillip II Of Spain. Source: (youtube.com)

Queen Mary I Takes A Husband

Mary was thirty-seven when she was crowned queen. She desperately wanted a child and she desperately wanted to bring England back to the Catholic Church. She thought she could achieve this by marrying Phillip of Spain. She was advised not to marry him. There were many English noblemen who had received land when King Henry VIII confiscated the Catholic lands and monasteries so they definitely did not want to give up anything back to the Catholic church. When her intention of marrying Phillip became public, a Protestant insurrection broke out, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt.

Illustration in Foxe's Book of Martyrs showing the execution of the first Protestant martyr of Mary. Source: (historyanswers.co.uk)

Burn Them At the Stake!

Queen Mary I, worried by Wyatt’s advance to London, made a speck which roused citizen to fight for her. Wyatt was defeated and executed. Mary went on to wed Phillip. She restored the Catholic creed and re-established laws against heresy. For three bloody years, Protestant rebels were hung and those deemed to have committed heresy, burned at the stake. It was after this three- year period that Mary became known as ‘Bloody Mary’. The public began turning on her.

Queen Mary I ‘Bloody Mary’. Source: (pinterest.com)

Mary was not in the best of health. Although it is hard to know for sure, it is suspected that she suffered from severe depression as well as gynecological disorders. She believed she was pregnant with her heir, even showing physical signs of being pregnant however she did not have a child or miscarriage. She had the same delusion a couple of years later with the same result. She realized that she would not bear a child and had a codicil asking her successor to be selected by law. Mary died on November 17, 1558.

Queen Mary I. Source: (youtube.com)

Did Mary Deserve The Title, 'Bloody Mary’?

Despite her nickname, Queen Mary I was not a cruel ruler. She was extremely kind and generous to the poor people in England. She did not want to have the bloodshed that ensued after she reestablished the heresy laws. But enforcing these laws were necessary, to her and to the Catholic Church. If they were not enforced, then why have them. She also began returning the lands to the Catholic Church, which made her several enemies. These enemies were very good at stirring the pot, which caused many to break the heresy law. Her intentions were good but her judgment is the question.

Tags: 1500s, daughter of King Henry VIII, Queen Mary I, Bloody Mary, England

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.