Mary Tudor

Mary I (1516–58, queen of England)

Mary I (Mary Tudor), 1516–58, queen of England (1553–58), daughter of Henry VIII and Katharine of Aragón.

Early Life

While Mary was a child, various husbands were proposed for her—the eldest son of Francis I of France (1518), Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1522), Francis I himself (1527), and several others. She was a pawn in her father's diplomatic intrigues. In 1525 she was given a separate household as the Princess of Wales; but in 1527, Henry began negotiations for a divorce from Katharine, and Mary, remaining loyal to her mother and to the Roman Catholic Church, spent the next nine years in misery. She was separated from Katharine, denied presence at court, treated as illegitimate, and forced to serve her half-sister Elizabeth as lady in waiting. Plans to escape to the Continent failed, and in 1536 Mary was finally forced to acknowledge herself as illegitimate and to repudiate her church, statements from which she was later absolved by the pope.


During the spread of Protestantism in the reign of her half-brother, Edward VI, Mary was steadfastly loyal to her faith, observing Mass in her private chapel in defiance of the Act of Uniformity and appealing to Emperor Charles V for protection. On Edward's death John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, arranged the short-lived usurpation of the throne by Lady Jane Grey; Mary, however, supported by an overwhelming number of loyal subjects, soon ascended the throne.

In the early part of her reign Mary showed considerable clemency toward her political opponents, but she and her advisers were set upon two policies—her marriage to Philip (later Philip II of Spain), son of Emperor Charles, with the consequent Spanish alliance, and the restoration of papal supremacy in England. The former aroused violent opposition, which was focused in the unsuccessful rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, but both the marriage and alliance were carried out in 1554. Late in the same year papal authority was reestablished in England. Early in 1555, Parliament repealed the antipapal laws of Henry VIII and restored the ecclesiastical courts and the laws against heresy, but they refused to restore church property that had been seized.

There then began the religious persecutions that lasted for the rest of the reign. The number burned at the stake amounted almost to 300 and included such eminent figures as Nicholas Ridley, John Rogers, Hugh Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer. The epithet "Bloody Mary" was a result of these acts, though they were less severe than many on the strife-torn Continent.

In 1555, Philip, frustrated by Parliament in his attempt to win coronation, left his wife and went to his dominions in the Netherlands. He returned briefly in 1557, mainly for the purpose of drawing England into the existing war between Spain and France, the chief results of which were the loss (1558) of Calais and the increasing hostility of the English people toward their queen. Mary, whose general ill health may have been aggravated by her grief over Philip's absence, died childless. She was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I.


See biographies by M. Waldman (1972), D. M. Loades (1989 and 2011), J. M. Richards (2008), L. Porter (2009), A. Whitelock (2010), and J. Edwards (2011); E. Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Mary Tudor: Selected full-text books and articles

The Later Tudors: England, 1547-1603 By Penry Williams Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "The Reign of Mary Tudor"
Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers Who Made History By Arnold Blumberg Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Mary Tudor begins on p. 178
The Reign of MARY TUDOR a Reassessment By Hutchings, Michael History Review, March 1999
The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558 By J. D. Mackie Clarendon Press, 1952
Librarian's tip: Chap. XV "The Reign of Mary"
Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy By Sydney Anglo Clarendon Press, 1997 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. IX "Mary, and Philip and Mary"
Tudor England By David Harrison Cassell, vol.1, 1953
Librarian's tip: "Mary and the Return to Rome (1553-8)" begins on p. 139
Who's Who in Europe, 1450-1750 By Henry Kamen Routledge, 2002
Librarian's tip: "Mary I Tudor" begins on p. 197
The Oxford Companion to British History By John Cannon Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Mary I begins on p. 624
Historical Dictionary of the Elizabethan World: Britain, Ireland, Europe, and America By John A. Wagner Oryx Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Mary I begins on p. 196
An Integrated Theory of Moral Development By R. Murray Thomas Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Mary I begins on p. 310
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