The Reign of Mary I

Executions under Mary versus Executions under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

                     Mary received the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’ as a result of her persecution of Protestants and the amount of executions that she set forth. However, she did not kill any more people than Henry VIII or Elizabeth I. Both of these rulers executed many people for the benefit of England along with their own benefit.
            The clearest example of this is Henry VIII’s beheading of two of his wives. Anne Boleyn was executed on May 19, 1536 on trumped up charges of adultery and high treason. Henry went from being hopelessly in love with Anne to chopping off her head in a matter of days. Catherine Howard was beheaded on November 23, 1541 also on the account of adultery. He also tried to arrest Katherine Parre because she hung around religious radicals on the Protestant side. He did burn her companion Anne Askew, who was a radical Protestant, at the stake on account of heresy. Henry also executed a number of relatives, such as Edward Stafford in 1521, who also had a claim to the throne because he did not want anyone to challenge him. Where Mary executed Protestants, Henry executed a number of influential Catholics. Thomas More was executed in 1535 because he would not recognize Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church. Henry personally knew More and still executed him. Cromwell. Henry’s chief advisor from 1532 to 1540, was executed on account of heresy in 1540 after he aligned himself with the Lutherans. The reason Henry gave was heresy, but really Cromwell’s fall began when he organized Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves whom Henry did not like because he was not attracted to her.[1] Another group of people that Henry executed were the Lutherans whom he deemed as heretics.
All of this points to the fact that Henry executed a far greater number of people than Mary and had a wide variety of suspicious reasons for doing so. Mary executed people because she though it was the duty given her by God. Henry, on the other hand, was known to have a bad temper and once you got on his bad side you would not get off of it. He executed people if they did not agree with him or if they made his life more difficult. He had personal motives and questionable morals.
            Mary’s sister Elizabeth also executed many people. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth’s cousin, was executed on February 8, 1557 for allegedly being involved in a plot against the Queen. However, the evidence offered was most likely falsified. Elizabeth signed the order to execute Mary, but when it was done she acted as though she had never done so. She eventually admitted that she had done it. Like her father, she also executed a number of Lutherans for heresy. Catholics were persecuted as traitors for not recognizing Elizabeth as the Supreme Head of the Church. In 1581 Father Campion, a Roman Catholic convert who had fled England and wrote “To the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council”, was captured and held in the Tower of London. He was then convicted as a traitor and hung, drawn, and quartered.[2] Elizabeth killed many people in order to establish her authority in England.
[1] Derek Wilson. In the Lion's Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII (St. Martin's Press, 2014)
[2] McLaren, Anne. "Gender, religion, and early modern nationalism: Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, and the genesis of English anti-Catholicism." (The American historical review 107, no. 3 (2002): 739-767.)

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