Childhood & Early Life
Mary I was born on February 18, 1516, at Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, London, to King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon. Three days later, she was baptized as a Catholic. She was the only child of the couple to survive infancy.
Queen Catherine provided Mary much of her early education. The young girl was well versed in Latin, French, Spanish, and Greek. She also became proficient in music and dance.
In 1525, she was sent to Wales to preside over the ‘Council of Wales and the Marches.’ She even received royal prerogatives, reserved primarily for the Prince of Wales. Three years later, she returned to London.
The period of adolescence was tough for Mary as the rising conflict between her parents took a toll on her health. She suffered from constant stress and depression. Mary was unable to meet her mother who was sent away from court.
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Accession & Reign
The inability to produce a male heir led to the separation of her parents. In 1533, her father, King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn. With this marriage, the marriage of Catherine and King Henry VIII was declared void. Subsequently, Mary was deemed the illegitimate child of King Henry VIII. From being ‘Princess Mary,’ she became known as ‘The Lady Mary.’
Mary’s refusal to accept Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England strained her relationship with her father as well. Her movements were restricted which in turn caused her great discomfort. The personal turmoil deteriorated her health which worsened in the days to follow.
In 1536, when Queen Anne was beheaded, Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth was downgraded to the status of ‘Lady’ as well. King Henry VIII went on to marry Jane Seymour. It was upon Seymour’s request that the king reconciled with his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. The two sisters resumed their place at the court and were granted household.
It was after Mary’s acceptance into the court that a rebellion broke out in North England, which was led by Mary’s former Chamberlain Lord Hussey. Known as the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace,’ the rebel was in favor of making Mary the legitimate heir of King Henry.
Following Queen Jane Seymour’s death in 1537, Mary became the godmother to her half-brother Edward. Meanwhile, King Henry married Anne and later Catherine Howard. In 1543, Henry married Catherine Parr, his sixth wife, who in turn brought Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession through the introduction of the ‘Act of Succession of 1544.’
When King Henry died, Edward ascended the throne. During his reign, Protestantism prevailed. Religious differences crept in between Mary and her brother as she was a staunch Roman Catholic.
In 1553, King Edward VI died from lung infection. Fearing the restoration of Catholicism if Mary ascended the throne, Edward, before his death, excluded both Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession and instead named his cousin Lady Jane Grey as the queen of England.
Lady Jane Grey’s rule as the queen of England lasted for only nine days. She was dethroned, following a swell in popular support for Mary. Following Grey’s imprisonment, Mary ascended the British throne as the queen of England on August 3, 1553.
Upon being crowned as the queen of England, Mary’s first work was to find herself a suitable match and produce off springs. This was basically to consolidate her religious reforms and avert her half-sister Elizabeth from direct succession. After a lot of considerations, she finally betrothed Prince Philip of Spain, son of her uncle Holy Emperor Charles V.
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Mary’s decision to marry Philip invited lot of criticism, and became a parliamentary topic of debate. After much discussion, conditions were imposed that limited Philip’s role in the royal matters. It was only upon fulfilment of these terms that the marriage between the two was guaranteed.
Following her enthronement, Mary carried out a number of reformations. She validated the marriage of her parents and abolished former King Edward’s religious law. Furthermore, Church doctrine was restored to its original form.
It was under her rule that English Church returned to Roman jurisdiction. A strict ‘Heresy Act’ was revived, under which people of protestant faith were either exiled or executed by burning. Protestants were decaled as heretics. This gave rise to anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish feelings among the English people.
The marriage of Mary and Philip brought little benefit to the state. Philip spent most of his time in the Continent, away from England. Furthermore, England obtained no share in the Spanish monopolies in New World trade. Furthermore, an alliance with Spain directly resulted in England being dragged to military war with France.
In 1558, dissatisfaction amongst the English people rose when Calais, England’s only remaining possession on the European mainland, was taken over by the French forces. The annexation served as a big blow to Queen Mary’s reputation and prestige.
During Mary’s reign, instability in revenue and finances became dominant. Never-ending rain led to flood and famine. Additionally, there marked a decline in Antwerp cloth trade. Also, revenue generated from taxation, imports, and dues were extremely low, while spending was high.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ever since Mary’s birth, King Henry VIII looked for a potential future groom for her. Her marriage was proposed to a number of courtiers, including Dauphin, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King Francis I, Henry Duke of Orleans, and so on.
It was only after her accession to the British throne that marriage became a serious consideration for Mary, as she wanted to remove her half-sister Elizabeth from direct line of succession. As such, she betrothed Prince Philip of Spain, son of Holy Emperor Charles V.
Her decision to marry Philip was highly unpopular. Despite the negative response, she stuck to her decision. After much parliamentary debate and the imposition of certain restrictions, the two were allowed to marry. The marriage took place at Winchester Palace on July 25, 1554. The union did not produce any children.
In 1558, Queen Mary’s health deteriorated. She died of influenza epidemic on November 17, 1558, at St James Palace. Her mortal remains were buried next to her mother at Westminster Abbey. Mary was succeeded by her half-sister Elizabeth.