The Reign of Mary I

Mary's Persecution of Protestants

                        Mary initially wanted to be lenient to her subjects and allowed a number of high profile Protestants and reformers to leave the country. She sought to have Reginald Cardinal Pole return to England and run the Church. In November 1554, he came to Mary’s court as an official Papal envoy. He shared Mary’s dream to reassert papal authority of England. Although Mary wanted to be lenient at first, she and Pole started burning Protestants as heretics under the heresy laws. She started burning heretics at the urging of her husband and Pole and not of her own accord.
            What made this so offensive to the public is that she was burning the little people of England. Mary’s regime “was convinced that it had to break the back of Protestant resistance.”[1] She and Pole were going after ordinary people who had no effect on Mary’s rule. The big, important men of the Protestant Church were left alone and even allowed to leave the country. To reconcile this problem, Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake. He was pressured to recant his Protestant beliefs and he did. He denounced the Protestant faith and swore that Catholicism was the only true form of Christianity. Presumably he did so to save his own life. He did not necessarily believe it. However, he was still burned at the stake in March of 1556 and went back on his renunciation, turning back to Protestantism at the end. Other bishops such as Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were also burned as heretics. Mary and Pole were burning Protestants to show that it was not just the little, ordinary people of England that were being burned, but all Protestants. She ended up burning three-hundred people at the stake over a span of five years. However, the anti-Spain and anti-Catholic sentiment only increased.
            Mary did not burn Protestants out of cruelty or her search for power, but because she honestly believed that the only way that England could be one of the top nations was through Catholicism. Her upbringing within a strong Catholic faith and her ties from Spain since childhood (Catherine of Aragon was Spanish as well as her cousin/father-in-law Charles V and her husband Philip II). She truly thought that people would come around and see that she was right. It was a religious mission.[2]
            However, it seems that her persecution of Protestants only led to a stronger base and push for Protestantism. The so-called heretics that Mary burned at the stake went down as Martyrs in Foxes Book of Martyrs. It consolidated the Protestant system and offered propaganda against Mary and her Catholicism.
[1] Eamon Duffy, 2009
[2] Linda Porter. The first queen of England: the myth of" Bloody Mary" (Macmillan, 2007.)

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