Thursday 2 January 2020

#HistoricalFiction author, Judith Arnopp, is taking a look at Life in the Time of Mary Tudor @JudithArnopp

Life in the Time of Mary Tudor
By Judith Arnopp

I’ve written about many prominent Tudor women and the obstacles they faced. Margaret Beaufort lived a long and challenging life, battling her way through, and ultimately winning, the war of the roses to become the most powerful woman in the realm. Elizabeth of York showed great resilience in the face of adversity; Catherine of Aragon possessed enormous courage, Anne Boleyn bore herself with intelligence and wit, Katheryn Parr was dutiful, educated and wise. They were all admirable and history has at last come to recognise the part they played. The only woman I have written of so far who is not yet afforded this respect is Mary Tudor, and Mary is the one for whom I feel the most pity.
In her infancy, Mary was the ‘pearl’ of her father’s world but once he sought a divorce and Catherine and Mary refused to play the king’s game, she fell from favour. Labelled a bastard, forced to serve her infant half-sister, Elizabeth, Mary’s story deteriorates into a dark fairy tale. But Mary had no fairy godmother. She had to fight single handed for everything she held dear: her title, her mother’s reputation, her position, her religion – and ultimately her kingdom. Fighting can make a person defensive and edgy and desperate for love and Mary was no exception.
She longed for her father’s approval but although she was eventually welcomed back to court via the intervention of her stepmothers, Jane Seymour and later Katherine Parr, she never again reached the ‘adored’ status of her infancy. The friendliness of the courtiers ebbed and flowed around Mary governed by the tide of the king’s favour. She lived a life of uncertainty on a knife edge of fear.
Reading between the lines of history, I feel Mary never forgave herself for agreeing, under unbearable pressure, that her parent’s marriage was illegal, branding herself illegitimate. The break-up between Henry and Catherine was the scandal of Europe, the gossip of the taverns. Wherever she went she would have heard, or at least imagined, whispers against her. Notoriety is difficult in any circumstances but Mary’s private life was bandied about the world. Steeped in unhappiness, her later paranoia becomes more understandable.

Even after Henry’s death, Mary was afforded little peace. She may have imagined she’d be allowed to retire to the vast properties left to her by her father but instead she was continuously pressured into adhering to Edward VI’s strictly Protestant laws. Mass was forbidden, the carrying of rosaries was prohibited yet Mary was defiant and refused to listen. She risk arrest and imprisonment by brazenly flouting the law and her brother’s authority.
Edward was a young man and Mary had no reason to believe his rule would not be long; in all likelihood he would marry and have many heirs. She had no hope or expectation of ever becoming queen. Her future in Protestant England must have seemed bleak yet she fought on with no support for what she saw as right.
On his death, with the crown waiting to fall into her hands, Mary’s future at last seemed rosy; she must have imagined a grand coronation, the people of England finally able to turn back to the true church but Mary reckoned without the dishonest schemes of John Dudley.
Several months earlier, Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, had arranged a marriage between his eldest son and Mary’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey and then persuaded King Edward to name Jane heir in Mary’s stead. Just when Mary thought her trials were over, she was faced with the greatest battle of all – the fight for her throne.
Mary’s reign is now regarded as a failure. She married against the will of the people. She failed to understand the desire of the people to worship in the manner in which they chose. She failed to provide an heir, suffering phantom pregnancies and dying before her innovative plans for England came to fruition. Yet some of those plans were promising. She began many policies that have since been laid at Elizabeth’s door; reforms to the economy, naval expansion, and colonial exploration and had her reign been longer, she may have been remembered very differently. As with her father, Mary is remembered for her worst very acts yet there was much more to her than religious persecution and brutality.
Overall, Mary was a kind woman, generous, effusive and motherly to those closest to her. It was only the question of religion that brought out her intractable side. For Mary, matters of faith were black and white. As far as she was concerned, to argue against Catholic tradition was to argue against God. There was just one true church; one way of doing things. Her father’s break with Rome was as emotionally damaging to Mary as his break from her mother.  She feared for his soul and she feared for the souls of the English subjects who followed his lead. Her fight against heresy was not a matter of cruelty or vindictiveness. She did not grudge Protestants in the way that you grudge someone from an opposing football team. Once she was queen, the Protestants of England were as much her subjects as the Catholics and she feared for their immortal souls. She saw it as her duty to lead them away from sin. The burning of heretics was standard punishment and to Mary, doomed as heretics were to burn in hellfire, it served as a deterrent.
From childhood, Mary was isolated and usually out of royal favour. Her nebulous status made her unmarriageable so her fertile years were over by the time she made the disastrous marriage with Philip of Spain.  She had no equals, and apart from her most loyal servants, no real friends. She died knowing she had failed. In the company of her favoured servants her last days were spent in great pain, almost completely blind, and tortured by the necessity of leaving her beloved subjects in the hands of her Protestant sister, Elizabeth.

The Heretic Wind:

The Life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

By Judith Arnopp
Adored by her parents and pampered by the court, the infant Princess Mary’s life changes suddenly and drastically when her father’s eye is taken by the enigmatic Anne Boleyn.

Mary stands firm against her father’s determination to destroy both her mother’s reputation, and the Catholic church. It is a battle that will last throughout both her father’s and her brother’s reign, until, she is almost broken by persecution. When King Edward falls ill and dies Mary expects to be crowned queen.

But she has reckoned without John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, who before Mary can act, usurps her crown and places it on the head of her Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey.

Furious and determined not to be beaten, Mary musters a vast army at Framlingham Castle; a force so strong that Jane Grey’s supporters crumble in the face of it, and Mary is at last crowned Queen of England.

But her troubles are only just beginning. Rebellion and heresy take their toll both on Mary’s health, and on the English people. Suspecting she is fatally ill, and desperate to save her people from heresy, Mary steps up her campaign to compel her subjects to turn back to the Catholic faith.

All who resist will face punishment for heresy in the flames of the Smithfield fires.

The Heretic Wind: the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of England will be released on January 27th 2020. The Kindle version is available for pre-order now and paperback and audiobook will follow.

Pre-order your copy TODAY!
Released 27th January

Judith Arnopp

Judith Arnopp writes historical fiction set mainly in the late medieval and Tudor period. Her work includes:
The Heretic Wind: the story of Mary Tudor, Queen of England

Connect with Judith: Facebook • Twitter • Website  • Blog. 

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post. I am only just delving into the Tudors, it all very fascinating.


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