Thursday, November 17, 2011

History Note - Mary Tudor

       Today (Nov. 17) marks the anniversary of the death of Queen Mary Tudor.

      Mary has gone down in history with the label "Bloody Mary," attached to her by later English who were themselves of a Protestant viewpoint.  

      Life was in many respects not good to Mary.  The only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, she grew up within and firmly believed in her mother's strict Spanish Catholicicism.  As Henry withdrew England from obedience to the Pope as a mechanism for achieving the "divorce," obvious strains arose between Mary and her father.  That marriage being ultimately declared invalid, Mary found her position changed from Princess to a bastard unable to inherit the throne.  The birth of the presumably legitimate Princess Elizabeth further cut Mary off from her expected inheritance.  Enmity between Mary and Anne Boleyn made the situation even more difficult, Mary being required to serve Elizabeth even as a member of the Boleyn family, who likewise was against Mary, was in charge of the household.  While Boleyn's execution and the declaration of the invalidity of her marriage to Henry as well rendered Elizabeth illegitimate,  the birth of Edward (ultimately Edward VI) removed her even further from the throne.

     After the death of Edward VI Mary finally succeeded to the throne, but her reign was at best troubled.  Believing herself to be duty bound to undo the "reforms" of her father and their expansion under her brother, Mary reaffirmed the obedience of the English Church to Rome, recalled Cardinal Pole and made him Archbishop of Canterbury, and set about the return of the Catholic faith.  As demonstrated by the work of A.J. Scarisbrick and Eamon Duffy, this was for the most part a small task - the overlay and substitution of what we today consider to be "Protestant" aspects of faith were a thin facade.  Still, there were "true believers" who were executed, most notably Cramner, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

   Her marriage to Philip of Spain was a disaster, especially on a personal level.  

   While Tom Petty tells us "Its good to be king," at many levels Mary's refrain might have been "Its not good to be a king's daughter or to be queen."

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