Bloody Mary

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Since we recently spoke of King Henry VIII and that was well received (I will link that post at the bottom of this one in case you missed it, as that really should be read first) I thought we could speak of his daughters. Today we will focus on Mary, the only surviving child of Henry and his first wife, the Spanish Princess Catherine of Aragon. Now, y’all know I love history but only if it’s extra brutal and gory; they did not dub the future Queen “Bloody Mary” for nothing – she truly earned that title!

King Henry Tudor

As a very young child Mary was treated just as you’d expect a young princess to be treated. She was the apple of her parent’s eye, doted on by both the king and the queen. Mary had servants who attended to her every whim, and given everything she’d ever wanted. As she was the only surviving child, Queen Catherine knew that her daughter was destined to rule the kingdom some day, therefore she ensured that her daughter was very well educated. The child attended the same school which many princes before her had; she could read and write fluently not in just English, but Spanish and Latin as well.

It would’ve been a dreamy life for young Mary, but while the princess was away at school, trouble was brewing; one of her father’s concubines had given birth to a son. Henry had always been obsessed with having a male heir, and at this point the King ignorantly believed that the reason he hadn’t been blessed with one must lie with his Queen.

While at court Henry had fallen in love with a woman who refused to bed him; Anne Boleyn had promised that if Henry would make her his wife, she would give him a male heir. When the Catholic Church absolutely refused to grant Henry an annulment, the King did the unthinkable: he started his own Protestant religion called The Church Of England. Henry himself would be the head of this church, and he was free to marry his mistress. It is difficult to express how drastic a change this was; the country had always been Catholic, and they believed that their king was sentencing them all to burn in hell! But Catholicism was outlawed, so they had no choice but to follow along or be put to death – and King Henry took much delight in executing those who disagreed with his drastic decisions. It’s said that the Tower Of London (the place in which prisoners were kept and executions took place) was constantly chock full of those who opposed the king’s drastic decisions.

Suddenly the much loved Catherine of Aragon was shamefully banished from court, while princess Mary was deemed a bastard and stripped of her title. Because Mary refused to accept the divorce and concede to being a bastard, King Henry separated mother from her daughter. On January 7th of 1536, Catherine of Aragon passed away, her Mary had not been allowed at her side. All Mary had left to hold onto was her mother’s precious yet outlawed Catholic religion, and a hateful need for revenge which burned brighter within her by the day.

The 6 wives of king Henry VIII, in order from left to right. A good little rhyme to help remember them. “Divorced beheaded died, divorced beheaded survived”.

To make a long story short, the much despised Queen Anne did give Henry a baby, but karma is a you-know-what and that baby was yet another girl; this princess was known as Elizabeth. It is said that a 17 year old Mary, once doted on princess herself, was brought in to be her baby sister’s maid! If that hadn’t been humiliating enough, Anne had instructed others to beat Mary and threaten her with death whenever she mentioned having been a princess herself. Finally the king gave Mary the option of signing a document stating that she accepted that she was a bastard, and that the Church of England was the true religion. The king told his daughter that if she would not sign, he would have her executed; eventually Mary did concede, she signed the document only to save her life.

Within 1,000 days of her coronation, Henry had Queen Ann beheaded; it didn’t take long for another Queen, this one named Jane Seymour, to take her place. This one actually did give Henry that surviving male heir he’d been so obsessed with; the boy was named Prince Edward VI, but his mother passed away soon after giving birth. Princess Elizabeth, too, was now a motherless child who her father cared very little for; she was sent out into the country to be cared for by relatives. All together Henry made six women his queen, and two of them lost their heads before King Henry VIII himself passed away in January 28th of 1547.

With Henry good and dead, his 9 year old son now ruled the country with the help of a council which Henry had appointed to help with decisions until he became of age. The young King Edward had been a staunch believer in his father’s religion, and it seems that he had nothing but disdain for his older half sisters. When King Edward came down with tuberculosis, he declared his big sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, illegitimate and named a very Protestant young cousin, Lady Jane Grey and her male heirs as his successors! King Edward passed away on July 6th of 1553, he’d been just 15 years of age.

Young King Edward

Lady Jane Grey, who had had the throne thrust upon her on July 10th of 1553, ruled as queen for less than two weeks. Whilst awaiting her coronation she stayed in the Tower of London. Meanwhile Mary wanted that throne and most throughout the country agreed that it was her birthright; she was Henry’s oldest living child, and the people, both Protestant and Catholic, came to really around her. As they began to see the inevitable, Jane’s supporters abandoned her; on July 19th a 37 year old Mary won her crown, and Lady Jane Gray was charged with High Treason. The teenaged Queen who’d resigned for merely 9 days was executed on February 12th of 1554, along with her husband.

Tower of London

Now that she was the undisputed queen, Mary needed a husband and heirs; she’d wanted nothing more than to be a mother, and heaven forbid she pass away and her younger Protestant sister inherit the throne! It was decided that she would wed Philip II of Spain, much to her country’s dismay. The people wanted their Queen to marry an Englishman, as surely it would be the King who would truly rule! Many wanted to see Elizabeth on the throne, not her older sister; this, of course, placed Elizabeth in grave danger! The young princess was arrested and placed in the Tower of London, and Mary wed her Spanish love.

Queen Mary & her Spanish husband

Though at one point Mary believed herself to have been with child, no baby ever came; the first false pregnancy lasted 11 months. There would never be any children for Mary; though she did her best to conceive, Mary was in her late thirties and today it is believed that she’d suffered from endometriosis. When King Philip realize that there would be no heirs, he abandoned his wife and went to Brussels; she would see her love very seldom from then on. If she was bitter before, this pushed the Queen over the edge.

At this time, Mary turned all of her attention towards religion. With love out of the way, she was more determined than ever to bring her mother’s beloved religion back to England, her country would become Catholic once again! But this would not be an easy feat; people had had the Church of England shoved down their throats, and many now believed that this was the true religion. Whoever disagreed with Mary would pay with their lives.

Heretics burnt at the stake

Unlike her father, Mary wasn’t much on beheading those who disagreed with her – no, Mary preferred to burn Protestants at the stake instead! Within two years more than 300 people lost their lives in this way; it was a terribly slow, agonizing death. Sometimes it would take an hour for the “heretic” to pass; the lucky ones had bags of gunpowder strapped around their necks which would ensure that they passed more quickly. Mary, the young princess who had suffered so many wrongs but had overcome, had become a tyrant in her own right.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

One of the best known murders Mary committed was that of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury. Now Cranmer had most certainly not been a good man. He had been Mary’s father and brother’s most trusted advisor; Cranmer had been responsible for annulling King Henry and Queen Catherine’s marriage, turning Mary into a bastard, and helping turn England into a Protestant country. Yeah, Mary definitely had an axe to grind with this man. The Queen gave Cranmer the opportunity to save himself; if he denounced the Protestant Church and his life’s work then the Queen would permit him to live – but Mary had never dreamed that her old enemy would concede! By this time Cranmer had been an older man, he didn’t want to burn at the stake so he begrudgingly did what his queen had asked of him. At the end of the day, this just wasn’t satisfying enough for Mary; she still wanted to watch the man burn! On March 21st of 1556 Thomas Cranmer was burnt at the stake, he had made sure to recant his concession before he was executed.

Depiction of Archbishop Cramner’s death

During the 5 years in which Mary ran the country, the people of England grew to fear Mary just as much as they had her father; in the end, she was held with much disdain. Not only had they witnessed the constant burning of their neighbors at the stake, but for three years in a row there was a famine as even the crops had refused to grow! And then, in 1558 came a great flu epidemic; this is what is believed to have killed the 42 year old Queen Mary Tudor. Her body is interred within a vault in Westminster Abbey.

Queen Mary

It’s safe to say that not many truly mourned Bloody Mary, not even her husband; Philip is said to have done his best to take his sister-in-law as a wife.

Queen Mary Tudor’s tomb. As a final slap in the face, her little sister was ultimately buried atop her. While one is Queen is still celebrated, the same can not be said for the other.

Since Mary had birthed no heirs, Princess Elizabeth now owned the crown. She became everything that her sister, father, and brother had not; later dubbed The Virgin Queen, though she’d not been perfect, Elizabeth’s reign was peaceful. She became very much loved and respect throughout the country, and did her best to heal her country of the damage which her psychopathic family had done. Though she hadn’t an evil bone in her body, Elizabeth’s story is so very interesting; as a matter of fact I would much rather have skipped Mary altogether and written of Elizabeth but if I’m going to write about the Tudors, Mary’s story needed told. Though she is remembered as a genuinely good person, Queen Elizabeth’s story involves plenty of drama, deceit, murder, and outrageous theories which will make your mouth drop! If you’d like to hear my rendition of Elizabeth’s reign, let me know; I’d absolutely loved to tell you all about it!

*The link to the King Henry VIII article, which you may want to read first if you missed it: https://morbidnmacabre.com/2020/04/16/the-savage-king-henry-viii/

*Once again, I was not a history major, I studied criminology. My site contains things I personally find interesting and can write passionately about. If I’m not interested in something, it shows in my writing. While I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work (I have to be, I’m dragged over autocorrect mistakes! I wish people would keep in mind I do all of my work on a cellphone and I don’t have an editor; I’m only one woman and I have a large family to care for as well) and do my absolute best to ensure that every tiny fact is correct, if some date or other small fact is incorrect, please forgive me. I am an American who has learned of the Tudors through documentaries, books, and articles. I also have yet to watch any movies or popular series on this time period, and have decided not to until I am done writing about them. I’m told that the facts are often wrong and I don’t want inconsistencies bouncing around in my head when I write of this subject. My point is, please don’t shoot the messenger 💚

*Disclaimer, I do not own any images on this site; the writing alone is my own.

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2 Replies to “Bloody Mary”

  1. I absolutely love the history of the Royal family. I think you are a amazing writer and I very much enjoy all your stuff! I just found you this morning and haven’t stopped reading yet!! Thank you for everything you do!! My favorite things are history of any kind!! So interesting!! Have a fabulous day and keep up the amazing work!!

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