The Reign of Mary I

Mary's Lack of Political Prowess

      Mary originally had a lot of public support because she was seen as a legitimate child. The public had always felt that her mother, Catherine of Aragon, was the true Queen of England. A lot of the public did not agree when Henry VIII voided their marriage. When Mary came to the throne in 1553, she was welcomed by her subjects.
            However, Mary read the public support as her subjects wanting to return to Catholicism. At first she issued a statement that said she would not force any of her subjects to follow her religion. However, by the end of September 1553 she had imprisoned many leading Protestant churchmen, including Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer. Although there were people who still followed the Catholic Church many of the English subjects had finally gotten used to Protestantism and did not want to change affiliations yet again. The constant back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism was confusing to the public. They were not sure what the right way was to follow God and ensure their spot in heaven. Instead of realizing this, Mary pushed for religious reform. She began repealing anti-Rome legislation in five sessions of Parliament passed ten laws. She nullified Cranmer’s prayer book, married Priests were kicked out of the church, and she tried to reclaim church property and money on the order of the Pope. This created an even bigger problem because the church land had been given to the new Protestant elite. These nobleman did not want to give up their land and resented Mary for this.
            Mary tried reinstituted Papal authority over the Church. This meant that bishops were brought back, monastic orders were reinstated and rebuilt, mass was celebrated in Latin, and heresy laws were revived. Mary did all of this while still holding the title of the Supreme Head of the Church. When she accepted the title of Queen she also accepted this title. She saw no inconsistency with using this Protestant office to reconstruct a relationship with Rome. Again, this was confusing to the public and support for her waned. A rebellion called Wyatt’s Rebellion was started by Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger in response to the marriage and there were simultaneous uprisings around the country. Although they were easily squashed, it was evident that the public was not happy.
            Mary’s second mistake was marrying Philip II of Spain on July 25, 1554. She was easily persuaded by people and especially by her cousin Charles V the Holy Roman Emperor. She listened to him when he told her to marry his son and did so. This was not a good move because England was anti-Catholic and anti-Spain. Philip II “was presumably able to be the Supreme Head of the English Church”[1] because in marriage the husband presides over the wife. Although Parliament, much to Philip’s contempt, limited his power as much as possible, the idea of a Catholic Spaniard in control of the English church did not sit well with the public. Her support greatly dropped after this marriage as people were afraid that they would fall under Spanish rule. The country was thrown into Spanish affairs such as being involved in a war with France because it was Spanish policy. What Edward VI had been trying to avoid by putting Jane on the throne had happened.
[1] Glyn Redworth, "'Matters Impertinent to Women': Male and Female Monarchy under Philip and Mary." (The English Historical Review 112, no. 447 (1997): 597-613.)

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