Mary I of England

Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 to 1558

Mary I of England (February 18 1516November 17 1558), also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents, was Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII. Her attempt to restore to the Church the property confiscated in the previous two reigns was largely thwarted by Parliament, but during her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions.

Mary I of England

Quotes edit

  • Priest! Priest! Music! Music!
    • Said at the age of two to the organist Friar Memmo
  • I recognize no Queen but my mother. But if the King's Mistress would intercede with the King on my behalf, then I would be grateful.
  • While my father lives I shall be only the Lady Mary, the most unhappy lady in Christendom.
  • This natural life of ours is but a pilgrimage from this wandering world, and exile from our own country: that is to say, a way from all misery to thee (Lord) which art our whole felicity. And lest the pleasantness and commodity of this life should withdraw us from the going to the right and speedy way to thee, thou dost stir and provoke us forward, and as yet ward prick us with thorns, to the intent we should covet a quiet rest, and end of our journey. Therefore sickness, weepings, sorrow, mourning, and in conclusion all adversities be unto us as spurs; with the which we being dull horses, or rather very asses, are forced not to remain long in this transitory way. Wherefore Lord, give us grace to forget this wayfaring journey, and to remember our proper and true country. And if thou do add a weight of adversity, add thereunto strength, that we shall not be overcome with that burden: but having our minds continually erected and lift up to thee, we may be able to strongly bear it. Lord! all things be thine; therefore do with all things, without any exception, as shall seem convenient to thine unsearchable wisdom. And give us grace never to will but as thou wilt. So be it.
    • A meditation touching adversity, written by Mary in 1549
  • Her majesty, being now in possession of her imperial crown and estate pertaining to it, cannot forsake that faith that the whole world knows her to have followed and practiced since her birth; she desires, rather, by God's grace, to preserve it till her death; and she desires greatly that her subjects may come to embrace the same faith quietly and with charity, whereby she shall receive great happiness.
    • Proclamation concerning Religion (1553-08-18).
  • When I am dead and opened, you shall find Calais lying in my head.
    • Said during her final illness, referring to England's loss of Calais to France.
    • Raphael Holinshed, The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, vol. III, page 1160 (1587).
  • And so am not I.
    • Reply to Jane Dormer telling her that she was no longer sick.

Quotes about Mary I of England edit

  • It was an ancient and commonly received practice, (derived from the civil law, and which also to this day obtains in the Kingdom of France) that, as counsel was not allowed to any prisoner accused of a capital crime, so neither should he be suffered to exculpate himself by the testimony of any witnesses. And therefore it deserves to be remembered, to the honour of Mary I, (whose early sentiments, till her marriage with Philip of Spain, seem to have been humane and generous) that when she appointed sir Richard Morgan chief justice of the common-pleas, she injoined him, “that notwithstanding the old error, which did not admit any witness to speak, or any other matter to be heard, in favour of the adversary, her majesty being party; her highness' pleasure was, that whatsoever could be brought in favour of the subject should be admitted to be heard: and moreover, that the justices should not persuade themselves to sit in judgment otherwise for her highness than for her subject."
  • The English people had rallied to Mary because she was the offspring of Henry VIII and next in line for the throne, not because she was Catholic, or the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, and certainly not because she was a woman. Mary's great tragedy was that she failed to draw the obvious lessons from this. Her Tudor blood was an advantage to be exploited to the full while her Spanish lineage and gender were, at best, neutral factors in the eyes of most of her subjects. As for her Catholicism, it divided her people: some loved it, some hated it. But Mary subordinated her strong Tudor personality to the demands of her religion, her Spanish sympathies, and contemporary expectations of her gender. The result was the only Tudor reign that could truly be called tragic, even pathetic.
    • Richard Bucholz and Newton Key, Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History (2009), p. 108
  • And yet, like her father and grandfather, Mary possessed many traits which should have fit her for a successful reign. Like all Tudors, she was intelligent, courageous, dignified, ad resilient. These qualities had ensured her survival during her father's and brother's reigns. She was well educated: in addition to her native tongue, she spoke Spanish, French, and Latin and could read Greek and Latin. Nor was she entirely serious: she danced and played the lute. Finally, Mary was not without mercy. Apart from Northumberland, few died for the plot to usurp the throne. Even Lady Jane Gray and Guildford Dudley were allowed to live, for the time being, albeit as close prisoners in the Tower. Unfortunately, she was at her accession naive in politics and inexperienced in government, having been repudiated by her father and, thus, never groomed to succeed. Without training or experience, she was forced to rely on her conscience and her faith. In the end, she had too much of the one and was too inflexible in the other for her own or the country's good. More specifically, she was half-Spanish and all Catholic and so saw it as her God-given duty to ally her country with the Spanish Empire and undo the "heresies" of the previous 20 years by restoring the Roman Catholic Church in England at any cost. Both policies would bring misery to her people.
    • Richard Bucholz and Newton Key, Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History (2009), p. 108-109
  • The reign of Mary Tudor lasted only five years, but it left an indelible impression. Positive achievements there were none: Pollard declared that sterility was its conclusive note, and this is a verdict with which the dispassionate observer must agree. ... She was personally gentle and inclined to mercy. ... She was also sensible and generous. ... But all her good qualities went for nought because she lacked the essentials. Two things dominated her mind—her religion and her Spanish descent. In the place of the Tudor secular temper, cool political sense, and firm identification with England and the English, she put a passionate devotion to the catholic religion and to Rome, absence of political guile, and pride in being Spanish. The result cannot surprise. Welcomed by the nation as a Tudor and a relief from the ambitions of selfish politicians and the extravagances of reforming divines, she died only five years later execrated by nearly all. Her life was one of almost unrelieved tragedy, but the pity which this naturally excites must not obscure the obstinate wrong-headedness of her rule.
    • Geoffrey Elton, England Under the Tudors (3rd edn., 1991), pp. 214-215
  • Mary burned few as compared with continental practice, but for English conditions and traditions her activities were unprecedented and left an ineradicable memory. More than all the denunciations of Henry VIII, the fires of Smithfield and the like places all over southern England created an undying hatred of the pope and of Roman Catholicism which became one of the marked characteristics of the English for some 350 years. This in itself is an adequate comment on the activities of these earnest and good and rather stupid fanatics, and an answer to those who would always judge people's place in history by their personal morals rather than by the work they did.
  • Religious devotion led Queen Mary - the first woman to rule England in her own name - to commit the atrocities which have blackened her reputation and obliterated the memory of her many acts of clemency and generosity. Mary started life as a princess and heir to the throne, but fell into disgrace and saw her beloved Catholic church dismantled by her father and brother. As Queen, she was determined to restore Catholic worship, but her heavy-handed methods, combined with a bitterly unpopular marriage and her inability to produce an heir, doomed her to failure.
    • Clive Foss, The Tyrants: 2,500 Years of Absolute Power and Corruption (2006), p. 84
  • [W]e shall never find any reign of any prince in this land or any other, which did ever show in it (for the proportion of time), so many arguments of God's great wrath and displeasure, as were to be seen in the reign of this queen Mary; whether we behold the shortness of her time, or the unfortunate event of all her purposes, who seemed never to purpose any thing that came luckily to pass, neither did any thing frame to her purpose, whatsoever she took in hand, touching her own private affairs.
  • Everyone who commented upon Mary's conduct of public affairs remarked upon her diligence and her piety. She rose before dawn, heard mass every day, ate frugally and transacted business incessantly, often until after midnight. ... She was generous to petitioners, and had the reputation for never turning away anyone with a story of grievance or oppression.
  • Whatever the issue, her response was shaped and motivated by the dictates of her conscience. ... She was incapable of political manipulation, and of self-interest in the normal sense. Hysterically indecisive when her conscience was not engaged, she could be both obstinate and ruthless when she saw a clear path of duty before her.
  • The essence of Mary's faith lay in the sacraments, and particularly in the mass.
  • Mary Tudor, queen of England and Ireland from 1553 until 1558, the first woman to rule England in her own right, was the notorious ‘Bloody Mary’ who placed her realm at the feet of the Spanish king and presided over a pitiless religious terror, burning dissidents at the stake, to enforce and restore Catholicism. Bitterly preoccupied with the past, she tried to reverse the Protestant Reformation started by her father, Henry VIII. Yet her own life was tragic, her marriage childless, her health ultimately fragile, her mind increasingly deranged; while her reign, both in her repression and foreign policy, failed utterly.
  • Commonwealth schoolchildren are often taught one of the key events in British history with the help of a mnemonic: "King Henry the Eighth, to six wives he was wedded: One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded." Beheaded! In 1536 Henry had his wife Anne Boleyn decapitated on trumped-up charges of adultery and treason because she gave him a son that did not survive, and he had become attracted to one of her ladies-in-waiting. Two wives later he suspected Catherine Howard of adultery and sent her to the ax as well. (Tourists visiting the Tower of London can see the chopping block for themselves.) Henry was clearly the jealous type: he also had an old boyfriend of Catherine’s drawn and quartered, which is to say hanged by the neck, taken down while still alive, disemboweled, castrated, decapitated, and cut into four. The throne passed to Henry’s son Edward, then to Henry’s daughter Mary, and then to another daughter, Elizabeth. “Bloody Mary” did not get her nickname by putting tomato juice in her vodka but by having three hundred religious dissenters burned at the stake. And both sisters kept up the family tradition for how to resolve domestic squabbles: Mary imprisoned Elizabeth and presided over the execution of their cousin, Lady Jane Grey, and Elizabeth executed another cousin, Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth also had 123 priests drawn and quartered, and had other enemies tortured with bone-crushing manacles, another attraction on display in the Tower. Today the British royal family is excoriated for shortcomings ranging from rudeness to infidelity. You’d think people would give them credit for not having had a single relative decapitated, nor a single rival drawn and quartered.
  • The nobility have gone off to the country, entirely disposed to take up arms as they know the people are harbouring evil intentions. When I ask the reasons of all this, I am told that the people say the King [Philip II] will not be served by Englishmen although this point was settled by the articles... They assert that the King is sending for 10,000 Germans and 10,000 Spaniards to land in this country; that it is intended to set up the monastaries again...and the Bishop of Rome is going to command in religious matters. The foreigners, they complain, are making Englishmen feel strangers in their own homes, and have taken to managing everything since they landed... They proclaim loudly that they see they are going to be enslaved, for the Queen is a Spanish woman at heart and thinks nothing of Englishmen, but only of Spaniards and bishops. Her idea, they say, is to have the King crowned by force and deprive the Lady Elizabeth of her right, making the operation of the law subject to her own will.
    • Simon Renard to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (18 September 1554), quoted in Calendar of Letters, Despatches and State Papers Relating to the Negotiations Between England and Spain: Philip and Mary, July, 1554—Nov., 1558 (1954), p. 49
  • The Queen, being born of a Spanish mother, was always inclined towards that nation, scorning to be English and boasting of her descent from Spain.
    • Giacomo Soranzo, Venetian ambassador, report of England made to the Senate (18 August 1554), quoted in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Affairs Existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice and in Other Libraries of Northern Italy, Vol. V. 1534—1554 (1873), p. 560
  • I verily believe the poorest creature in al this city feared not God more than she did. She had the love, commendation, and admiration of al the world. In this church she maried herself unto this realm, and in token of faith and fidelity did put a ring with a diamond upon her finger; which I understand she never put off after, during her life, whatsoever succes things had: for that is in the hand of God only. She was never unmindful or uncareful of her promise to her realm. She used singular mercy toward offenders. She used much pity and compassion towards the poor and oppressed. She used clemency among her nobles. She restored more noble houses decayed, than ever did prince of this realm, or I pray God ever shal have the like occasion to do hereafter. She restored to the church such ornaments as in the time of schism were taken away and spoiled. She found the realm poisoned with heresy, and purged it; and remembring herself to be a member of Christ's Church, refused to write herself head thereof.
    • John White, Bishop of Winchester, sermon preached at the funeral of Queen Mary (14 December 1558), quoted in John Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, Related Chiefly to Religion, and the Reformation of it, and the Emergencies of the Church of England, under King Hnry VIII. King Edward VI. and Queen Mary I., Vol. III. Part II (1822), p. 546

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