Inheritance of Queen Mary I
By Samantha Wilcoxson
What do we inherit from our parents? Physical features, personality traits, and possibly a nest egg of carefully gathered wealth? In rare cases, that inheritance includes a crown, and few monarchs were bequeathed quite the collection of mixed blessings as Queen Mary I.
|Mary in 1544.|
From her father came England’s throne after its brief time with her younger brother, Edward. King Henry VIII had changed the course of history and turned his back on Catholicism to avoid having his daughter inherit the kingdom, but it was all for naught. In 1553, Mary became queen after enduring neglect, bastardization, persecution, and heartbreaking losses.
|Portrait of Henry VIII by the workshop of Hans Holbein the Younger.|
What else had Mary inherited from Henry? Some believe that she inherited his fiery temper and willingness to send anyone who stood in his way to the execution block. It is easy to see how people come to this conclusion. Henry executed thousands of people, including one of his best friends, Thomas Moore, the devoted Thomas Cromwell, and two of his wives. When Mary came to the throne of a kingdom struggling with the Reformation, she restored Catholicism and had 286 Protestants burned at the stake. On the surface, one might think this act was revenge for everything she and her fellow Catholics had been put through.
|Queen Mary I, Portrait by Antonis Mor, 1554|
A closer look shows us a different story. Throughout Europe, nations were searching for solutions to the divided church, and each side was persecuted in its turn. In Mary’s case, she believed it was her duty as “mother” of her country to see her children returned to the “true faith” and assured of their salvation. Ridding the land of those who would lead others astray was considered one of her responsibilities, and while burning was a horrible death people of the 16th century saw it as a final mercy, giving heretics one last opportunity to feel the flames of hell while they still had a chance to repent and spend an eternity in heaven.
Whether we agree with Mary’s view of faith, we must admit that the reasons for the deaths during her reign are not the same selfish reasons of her father. On the contrary, much of her boldness of faith was inherited from her mother.
Katherine of Aragon demonstrated her ability to stand firm in the face of adversity when Henry announced that he was seeking an annulment. After more than twenty years of marriage and only a daughter to show for it, Henry was ready to move on to a younger, more fertile wife. Katherine refused to be set aside. Henry hoped she would retire quietly to a nunnery like the submissive wife she had always been, but Katherine insisted that she was Henry’s true wife in the eyes of God, and nothing he could say could change her mind.
|Katherine of Aragon|
This steadfastness of faith, demonstrated to Mary throughout the most turbulent years of her life, was the foundation of her reign. Just like her mother, Mary could not be shaken from what she believed to be God’s will. While Katherine is widely admired for her refusal to denounce her marriage or her faith, Mary is often vilified and her motives questioned. We must ask ourselves what Katherine would have done in Mary’s place. I believe she would have done precisely what her daughter did in an effort to see England’s bond with Rome restored. Both Katherine and Mary could be submissive and pious, believing deeply in the specific roles that God had assigned to them. However, they could each be bold and courageous when they believed God’s will was being thwarted.
Queen Mary tried to make the most of her inheritance. She married late in life to a Spanish cousin, Prince Philip, and reinstated Catholic mass, but her lack of political acumen, failure to conceive an heir, and short reign caused her to leave a country in turmoil to her younger sister, Queen Elizabeth.
The Plantagenet Embers series
By Samantha Wilcoxson
The Plantagenet Embers series explores the lives of the York remnant during the early Tudor era. Whether left in the background or maligned in the intervening centuries, the personal stories of these people help us appreciate their humanity and the difficult choices they were forced to make. Full length novels include the stories of Elizabeth of York, Margaret Pole, and Queen Mary I. The companion novellas take deeper looks at Margaret Beaufort, Elizabeth Woodville, and Reginald Pole. Learn aspects of the Tudors' story that you haven't heard before with these intimately told tales.
Writer of historical fiction and sufferer of wanderlust, Samantha enjoys exploring the lives of historical figures through both research and visiting historic places. Certain that no person is ever purely good or evil, she strives to reveal the deep emotions and motivations of those she writes about, enabling readers to connect with historical figures in a unique way. Samantha is an American writer with British roots and proud mother of three amazing teenagers. She can frequently be found lakeside with a book in one hand and glass of wine in the other.