Mary I was the first Queen to Rule England in her own right and made quite an impact on the country and her people, with her brutal rule earning, her the sobriquet "Blood Mary".
Mary I, also known as Mary Tudor, and as "Bloody Mary" by her Protestant opponents, was the queen of England from July 1553 until her death. She is best known for her vigorous attempt to reverse the English Reformation, which had begun during the reign of her father, Henry VIII.
Mary was born on 18 February 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. She was the only child of King Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon to survive infancy. Her mother had suffered many miscarriages. Before Mary's birth, four previous pregnancies had resulted in a stillborn daughter and three short-lived or stillborn sons, including Henry, Duke of Cornwall.
Mary was a precocious child. In July 1520, when scarcely four and a half years old, she entertained a visiting French delegation with a performance on the virginals (a type of harpsichord). By the age of nine, Mary could read and write Latin. She studied French, Spanish, music, dance, and perhaps Greek. Henry VIII doted on his daughter and boasted to the Venetian ambassador Sebastian Giustiniani that Mary never cried.
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.
On 5 October 1518, the two-year-old Mary was at Greenwich for a betrothal ceremony to Francois, Dauphin of France, who was also only two at the time. The Lord Admiral of France acted as the Dauphin’s proxy, placing a diamond ring on her finger. Mary is said to have asked, ‘Are you the Dauphin of France? If you are I wish to kiss you’. Two days later, the celebrations at Greenwich included jousts, a pageant in the Hall, and a banquet of 260 dishes. Yet this engagement, like many of Mary’s other engagements, was short-lived. It was cancelled three years later in 1521.
A new treaty arranged a possible marriage to her 22-year-old cousin Charles V, the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor. The following year, Charles spent six weeks in England and was welcomed at Greenwich with even greater ceremony. However, while this visit gave Charles ample time to see the six-year-old Mary, this engagement too was cancelled a few years later.
Henry’s divorce from her mother, his remarriage to Anne Boleyn, and Anne’s execution in 1536 made Mary's childhood highly volatile. Declared illegitimate by her father, she spent time largely confined at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire until Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour promoted reconciliation. From then on Mary returned to spending time at Greenwich along with the other royal palaces. Henry restored her to the line of succession in 1544 under encouragement from his last wife Catherine Parr.
However, with Henry self-proclaimed head of the Church of England, this rehabilitation was a somewhat uneasy one, as Mary remained a loyal Catholic. Her Catholicism would become the guiding principle of her reign - and would define her reputation following her death.
Following the death of Edward VI, there was a bid to place his Protestant cousin Lady Jane Grey on the throne of England. However, nine days after Jane's accession, Mary gathered enough support to ride to London and claim the throne. Jane and her husband Lord Dudley were both executed. Mary was crowned on 1 October 1553, and quickly set about attempting to restore the Roman Catholic faith in England.
One of her first acts was to marry Prince Philip of Spain (the future Philip II) in 1554. She pushed the marriage through a resistant parliament, as she was desperate to conceive a Catholic heir. Philip was given the title of 'King of England' and the pair effectively ruled together.
Upon his death, leading politicians proclaimed Lady Jane Grey as queen. Mary speedily assembled a force in East Anglia and deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda the first queen regnant of England. In 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556.
After Mary's death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I.