Mary I: England's Catholic Queen

Article excerpt

Mary I: England's Catholic Queen. By John Edwards. [Yale English Monarchs Series.] (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2011. Pp. xviii, 387. $35.00. ISBN 978-0-300-11810-0.)

This is a thoroughly researched biography of Mary I that gives due weight to the queen's international situation and Spanish heritage. Mary's international connections and later marriage alliance with Philip ? of Spain made her into a cosmopolitan figure. Unlike her half-sister Elizabeth, who boasted of being "mere English," Mary took her place on the European stage as the linchpin in the restoration of England to the rest of Catholic Christendom. It is, however, hard to identify the specific audience for this work. It is a bit technical and verbose for a popular audience while too little engaged with recent Marian scholarship to be of much use to specialists.

John Edwards sees many parallels between Mary's political career and that of her maternal grandmother, Isabel of Castile. They were blood relations, female monarchs in patriarchal states, and married to men who were kings in their own right. All this is certainly true. Yet it is hard to see how these similarities provide any insight into Mary's situation. After all, she shared these similarities with her Scottish cousin, Mary Stuart; yet there is little to be gained by noting this. Mary did not publicly identify herself with Isabel, nor did she even bother to learn enough Spanish so she could converse with her husband in his native tongue. The one lesson that Mary appeared to have picked up from her Spanish mother, Catherine of Aragon, was to cherish her Habsburg relatives but identify her interests and future with that of England, not Spain.

This biography is reminiscent of H. F. M. Prescott's inexplicably influential Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor (London, 1940). Prescott described Mary as a simple housewife at heart, and Edwards concludes that such an assessment "is not wide of the mark" (p. …


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