Mary I of England or Bloody Mary, as she is often known, is remembered for her reversal of the English Reformation and the execution of those she considered heretics.
Here are 12 spine-chilling facts about the infamous Bloody Mary
1. She was only named Bloody Mary years after her death
History will always remember Queen Mary I, the daughter of Henry the Eighth and Catherine of Aragon, as Bloody Mary.
However, this was not a term that was used during her lifetime.
Mary’s notoriety started to grow after the publication of John Foxe‘s famous book Actes and Monuments, which is better known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It was first published in 1563, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Of the 57 illustrations of executions in the book, 30 of those were depictions of people put to death during Mary’s reign.
Join her short reign of five years; around 280 Protestants were burned at the stake for what Mary considered heresy.
The term Bloody Mary was undoubtedly given to the Queen after her death. It possibly only became popular in the 17th century.
Despite her Bloody Mary’s reputation, it is interesting to note that Elizabeth put to death far more Catholics during her reign than Mary executed protestants.
2. She was the first Queen of England
Mary I ruled England from the 17th November 1558 to the 1st October 1553.
She was the first woman to rule England in her own right. Only six women have done so.
Mary is considered one of the forgotten Tudors. Her reign is overshadowed by the giants of English history in her father, Henry VIII and her sister, Elizabeth I.
She is best remembered for overturning her brother Edward VI’s reformation. However, Elizabeth brought the country back to the Protestant faith on Mary’s death.
3. Mary didn’t speak to her father, Henry VIII, for over three years
Mary fully supported her mother, Catherine of Aragon, in the “King’s Great Matter.” She believed that her parents were rightfully married.
Even when her father had married Anne Boleyn, she insisted that her mother was the rightful Queen. After her parents’ divorce, she was declared illegitimate, and the title of Princess was removed from her. She refused to accept this or her new title of Lady Mary.
Such was her stubbornness; she fell out with the father that once adored her. The pair did not speak for over three years. The relationship was in such a poor state that her father refused her permission to visit her mother when she was dying.
Only after Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, the relationship began to heal. Mary finally conceded, in writing, that Henry was head of the church in England and that the marriage of her parents was unlawful.
4. She imprisoned her sister, Elizabeth, in the Tower of London
Mary was just as paranoid as her father, Henry VIII. She believed that her sister Elizabeth was plotting to take her crown.
After Wyatt’s rebellion, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 18 March 1554. She was questioned and remained in the Tower until the 22nd of May, when she was taken to Woodstock, still under house arrest.
Elizabeth must have felt great fear, knowing that her mother had been imprisoned and died within those very walls. It shows how vindictive Mary could be when she had been advised that it was implausible that Elizabeth had conspired with the rebels.
5. Mary was engaged twice during her childhood
As a princess of England, Mary was a valuable prize on the marriage market.
Henry VIII looked to secure alliances with the hand of his young daughter.
However, as Henry’s alliances changed, so did Mary’s future husband.
Firstly, she was contracted to marry the Dauphain of France, Francis.
Three years later, that plan was scrapped, and she was promised to her cousin Charles V. Charles was twenty-two and Mary was just six. It was ludicrous to think that Charles would wait long enough for the marriage to occur.
There was then talk of a marriage to the King of Scotland, but it never reached an agreement.
6. She acted as a servant to her sister Elizabeth
Anne Boleyn never liked Mary (and the feeling was mutual); she considered her a considerable threat to her daughter, Elizabeth’s prospects.
So much so that Anne suggested to Henry VIII that the Lady Mary be placed in Elizabeth’s household.
Effectively becoming a servant to the new Royal Princess.
Henry, only too happy to please his Queen, agreed. It was possibly this that explains the animosity she felt towards her sister when she became Queen.
7. She executed Jane Grey so she could get married
Before Mary could take up her throne, she had to put down a coup to put her cousin Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Jane Grey will always be remembered as the nine-day Queen.
However, Mary didn’t immediately execute her cousin. She rightly believed that Jane was simply a political pawn. She executed those she considered behind the coup, like Edmund Dudley, but Jane was held a prisoner in the Tower.
Jane was a devout protestant, which was why she was nominated by Edward VI to succeed him. He didn’t want Mary to become Queen, as he knew that she would reverse his religious changes.
Mary made repeated attempts to convert her cousin to Catholicism but failed.
After it became general knowledge that Mary was seriously considering marrying Prince Philip of Spain, rebellions broke out. Even though they were put down, the Spanish were highly sceptical of allowing Philip to marry Mary while Jane Grey lived.
They believed that Jane would always be a figurehead for future rebellions.
To secure her marriage, Mary ordered the death of her nineteen-year-old cousin.
8. Bloody Mary showed no mercy to Archbishop Cranmer
Along with Lady Jane Grey, Archbishop Cranmer is probably the most famous victim of Bloody Mary.
Mary had always hated Cranmer. She knew that he was a driving force in her father’s break from Rome and her parent’s divorce.
He appeared in the infamous Star Chamber on the 14th September 1553 and was taken straight to the Tower of London afterward. With Bishop’s Ridley and Latimer, he was taken to Oxford and tried for heresy.
On the 16th of October, Cranmer was forced to watch the burning of his friends.
Cranmer actually recanted his faith on several occasions. But this wasn’t enough for Mary, and he was burnt at the stake on the 21st March 1556. Beforehand he had been allowed to deliver a sermon, in which he had been expected to recant his faith again. However, instead, he deviated from the script. He said that his right hand, which had signed recantation statements, would be punished by being burnt first.
9. Mary often insisted Elizabeth was the offspring of Mark Smeaton
Despite riding into London to claim her throne with her sister at her side, Mary had a deep-seated suspicion about Elizabeth.
As we have already discussed, Elizabeth was imprisoned at the Tower and then held in house arrest at various country houses.
At times Mary would be known to talk about her suspicions regarding Elizabeth’s paternity. She would suggest that she resembled the musician Mark Smeaton.
Smeaton was one of the men accused and executed for adultery with Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn.
However, modern historians lay little credibility with the charges brought against Anne. There is little doubt that Elizabeth was Henry VIII’s daughter and Mary was just being vindictive.
10. Bloody Mary held the most titles of any Monarch in English history
When Mary married Philip of Spain, she became the monarch who held the most titles in history.
When she became Queen, her title was Mary, by the Grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and of Ireland on Earth Supreme Head.
However, Mary soon dropped the Supreme Head title as it did not sit with her catholic faith.
After her marriage to Philip, the pair were formally titled: Philip and Mary, by the grace of God, King and Queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem, and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Princes of Spain and Sicily, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders, and Tyrol.
After Philip became King of Spain, the title was altered once again reflect this: Philip and Mary, by the Grace of God King and Queen of England, Spain, France, both the Sicilies, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defenders of the Faith, Archdukes of Austria, Dukes of Burgundy, Milan and Brabant, Counts of Habsburg, Flanders, and Tyro.
11. Mary probably died of cancer
Mary suffered several false pregnancies after her marriage. She grew weaker and weaker during her final year. This suggests that she was probably suffering from some form of ovarian cancer.
She died on the 17th November 1558 at St James Palace in London.
12. Bloody Mary is buried with her sister, Elizabeth
Mary wanted to be buried next to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, in Peterborough Cathedral. However, Elizabeth buried her in Westminster Abbey.
After Elizabeth’s death, James I eventually buried Elizabeth in the same tomb as her sister. However, the tomb that was created only depicts Elizabeth. The inscription, however, reads, “Consorts in realm and tomb, we sisters Elizabeth and Mary here lie down to sleep in hope of the resurrection.”
It is strange how the two sisters have been buried together, considering their turbulent relationship.