The Reign of Mary I

Mary's Early Life

            Mary Tudor was born on February 18, 1516 to Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Mary was their only child to survive infancy. Catherine had had four unsuccessful pregnancies before this that resulted in one dead son and three dead daughters. Henry was displeased with their bad reproductive success and badly needed a son to be his heir. Mary’s first mistake was being a female.
            At the time of Mary’s birth Henry VIII had not yet split from the Catholic Church. This meant that she was baptized and educated as a Catholic. Her sponsor for confirmation as well as her governess was the Countess of Salisbury Margaret Pole. Margaret’s son Reginald Pole would later become Mary’s chief advisor. A great influence on her faith was her mother who was from Spain which was a major center of Catholicism at the time. She was a very smart child and educated in the ways of Renaissance Humanism, learning Latin, Greek, music, and dance. This upbringing probably helped to cement her faith in Catholicism.[1]
            Henry showed affection to Mary in the early part of her life although he desperately wanted a son. While he was young child it was still possible that he and Catherine could conceive an heir. However, when Mary was around the age of 9, it was clear that this was not going to happen. In 1525 Mary was sent to Wales to preside as though she were the Prince of Wales and was given some of the same duties. Many marriages were arranged, but they all fell through. Negotiations had been made for her to marry the son of King Francis I of France as well as the King himself because France desperately wanted an alliance with England. However, Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s right-hand man, was able to negotiate an alliance without a marriage. There was also talk of Mary marrying Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor and her cousin in 1522, but this also fell through. Henry never did arrange a marriage for either of his daughters, Mary nor, later, Elizabeth.[2] Presumably this was because he feared that their husbands would gain control of England since married women were under the power of their husbands by the law of coverture. Since the daughters of a King are married to foreign rulers for alliances, this would mean that a foreign power would rule England. It is very likely that this thought persuaded Henry to keep his daughters unwed.  
 As time progressed Henry became more anxious for an heir and his affair with Anne Boleyn began to pick up momentum. He attempted to annul his marriage to Catherine on the basis that it was unclean because she had been married to his brother. However, Catherine claimed that the marriage had never been consummated and Pope Julius II had already annulled Catherine’s marriage to Author. With the refusal of Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage, Henry broke from the Catholic Church in 1533, declared the marriage void, and married Anne Boleyn. This act demoted Catherine to the Dowager Princess of Wales and made Mary illegitimate. Mary was now called “Lady” instead of “Princess” and taken out of the line of succession.
Mary’s relationship with Henry dissolved. She refused to acknowledge Anne as Queen and repeatedly tried to make life hard for Anne. Catherine was sent away and Mary was not permitted to see her mother. Even when Catherine was ill and dying Henry did not allow Mary to go to her. When Catherine died in 1536 Mary was heartbroken and inconsolable. In the same year Anne Boleyn was beheaded and Jane Seymour took her place. She tried to reconcile Henry and Mary, but what really happened was that Mary was bullied into signing a document saying she accepted Henry as Supreme Head of the Church, her mother was never Queen, and she was illegitimate. She “disdainfully set her name to the paper prepared by the judges … and the marked contempt … would serve as an excuse for her in the future.”[3] In 1541 Henry beheaded the Countess of Salisbury, Mary’s former governess, on the basis of a Catholic plot. In 1544 Mary, along with Elizabeth, were reinstated to the line of succession through the Act of Succession, but both still remained legally illegitimate.
All of this points to the fact that Mary had good reason to resent her father. She would want to be the opposite of him and emulate her mother whom was treated wrongly by her husband. Mary’s attitude toward Henry had an effect on her attitude toward Protestantism. Just as her mother Catherine was the only true Queen, Catholicism was the only true religion. Mary had seen Henry do whatever he wanted concerning marriage and religion and Mary had been harmed by all of it. This made her stand even more firmly in her beliefs and influenced her later rule.
[1] Jasper Godwin Ridley, The life and times of Mary Tudor (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1973.)
[2] David Michael Loades, Mary Tudor: a life (Basil Blackwell, 1989.)
[3] James Froude,The Divorce of Catherine of Aragon: The Story as Told by the Imperial Ambassadors Resident at the Court of Henr VIII (Longmans, Green, and Company, 1891.)

This page has paths:

This page references: