Just Who Was Mary I of England?

King Henry VIII is perhaps the best-known English monarch, yet few are familiar with his daughter, Mary I of England.

Mary I of England was also known as Mary Tudor and is best remembered for her vigorous attempts to reverse English Reformation.

The only child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, she became known as ‘Bloody Mary’ and here’s a look at why.

Early Life

Mary I of England was born in 1516 on the 18th of February in the Palace of Placentia, Greenwich, England.

She was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine Aragon, as all previous pregnancies had resulted in stillbirths.

Throughout her childhood, Henry negotiated future marriages for her, and from just two years of age, she was promised to Francis III, Duke of Brittany, the infant son of Francis I of France.

Bloody Mary

Despite being the first Queen of England to rule in her own right, Mary I of England became known as Bloody Mary.

This nickname came about as a result of her persecution of ‘protestant heretics’, of whom were burnt at the stake in their hundreds on her orders.

This is largely down to the fact that she was a Catholic monarch who was succeeded by a protestant Queen in a country which essentially remained Protestant.

She reigned for 5 years and during this time she had over 300 religious dissenters burnt at the stake, which was a typical punishment for heresy.

This was deliberate because the idea was that the heretic’s corpse had to be totally destroyed in order to prevent parts of the body remaining and being used for relics. As a result, most heretics were burnt and their ashes thrown into the river. 

One of Mary’s very first actions as Queen of England was to order the release of Stephen Gardiner and the Duke of Norfolk – both of whom were Catholics, from the Tower of London.

False Pregnancy And Death

In the year 1557, Mary believed that she was pregnant. This was the second time she had believed this, and she decreed in her will that her husband, Phillip, would be regent during the minority of their child.

But alas, she didn’t give birth to a child.

In 1558, Mary became weak and ill and died on the 17th of November, 1558, at the age of 42. It is thought that she died from uterine cancer, ovarian cysts, or even possibly flu, as there was a flu outbreak at the time.