7 Comments

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever read that she is considered evil, or has been so for some time. Embittered perhaps, and certainly both ill-advised and not capable of knowing that, yes. Essentially, in over her head. But not malicious.

  2. Marge

    She never left England at all. Too bad she didn’t because then she could have visited Spain or Austria.

  3. Marion

    She did bad things no denying it,but Elizabeth did many killings and evil things too. A book on Irish history said that King Henry VIII was despicable to the Irish but Elizabeth was worse.
    Both daughters had a terrible childhood. Maybe both would have turned out nicer and happier.
    Marion

  4. CJ

    Let’s give her a break. Everyone but her mother did her wrong. And even her dying wish, to be laid beside her mother was not given to her. Poor woman.

  5. Banditqueen

    Mary was required by the people she ruled, still mainly Catholic and by the general attitudes of the time to take a hard line against heresy, which was considered extremely dangerous. Having said that death by fire was a cruel death, although hanging drawing and quartering for treason was no picnic either. People accused of the crimes of heresy were not always executed. Punishment included penance, prison and even being confined to a religious order. People may only face the death penalty for serious heresy on a second or third arrest, after they had previously recanted and if they recanted again, this normally saved their life. The most famous exception to the latter was the case of Thomas Cranmer, who was also guilty of high treason. He was also held to have been responsible for the country being converted to the reformation in the first place and obviously he was responsible for the divorce of Katherine of Aragon and Henry Viii when Mary was just seventeen. Whether she took revenge on Cranmer is subjective, because we cannot know her mind, but it certainly has started some lively debate. I believe there is evidence to suggest she wasn’t bitter and he was proceeded against over a three years period through various legal stages. His appeal to have his case heard in Rome was allowed and his various changes of mind occurred to gain better conditions of his less than strict imprisonment. There is, however, controversy over his final set of recanted declarations, which on the face of it, accepted what the government wanted, but in fact he had made changes to them. His last submission should have been made in public the day he was due to die but he withdrew it and made a brave declaration of faith. This was because Mary had signed his death penalty in any event and he probably thought stuff it. He went to his death bravely. Mary had a personal book of prayer which had been given to Katherine Parr by Cranmer which still contained a letter of dedication to her by the Archbishop and she kept it all of her life. Mary also practised a evangelical form of Catholicism and was not as traditional as her mother. Her Church sought and encouraged preaching, teaching and renewal and was one of beautiful and lively liturgical ritual. Although she brought in legislation in her first Parliament, the enforcement of the English heresy laws were delayed for some time to encourage people to understand what was happening and to return voluntarily to the Catholic Faith. A campaign of publication and education and preaching followed. The laws and unfortunate enforcement which started in 1555 are not unusual as it was standard practice in most parts of Europe and under every Tudor monarch. However, what is stunning is the number, 280 in just a few years. That I believe more than anything hurt Mary’s reputation as well as the horrible depiction of the executions by John Fox under Elizabeth I.

    Heresy is a crime which was feared as a direct attack on the authorities of Church and State and the local community. It was prosecuted in the main by local magistrates in parishes under their jurisdiction and with little or no involvement of the crown. In certain high profile cases we know Mary was involved, but the law mostly allowed local prosecutions to attend to themselves. The death by fire, and I apologise for this idea, was believed to be not cruel but was to cleanse the soul of the sinner being punished in the hope they would repent and avoid the more painful fires of hell. Yes, of course this is barbaric, all forms of execution were and a number of even petty crimes could carry the death sentence well into the 1800s, the reaction was sometimes sympathy, sometimes it was silence, some people actually baited the victims. The harsh reality was that the majority of people found this acceptable and Mary would have been hard pushed had she attempted tolerance.

    Now I don’t believe she was evil but a number of life events made her more determined perhaps to prosecute and hopefully succeed in making England Catholic again. Mary even compromised, restoring the religious orders and some Church land but not wholescale taking back land already plundered from its new owners. I believe Mary had a sincere, active and deeply personal religious faith and did care about her subjects. She reformed the social care and she reformed fiscal policy. She also reformed naval financial organisation. She was actually very popular and it’s an Elizabethan myth that she wasn’t loved or mourned. The loss of Calais was right at the end of her reign and probably saved the English crown a small fortune. Earlier we took place in one of the greatest victories on French soil, the Battle of Saint Quentin. She restored the authority of the crown and established the gender neutral succession. Elizabeth would never have been accepted had Mary not done so and fought for her rightful place as Queen. Mary was far more merciful to rebels and traitors than most of her fellow monarchies, her father or her siblings. She pardoned most of those involved with the Jane Grey affair until the Duke of Suffolk rebelled a second time and only executed the unfortunate Jane reluctantly. She pardoned the majority of ordinary people and even some leaders in the Wyatt Rebellion, taking pity on 500 condemned prisoners in one day. Her reign saw pageantry and tournaments and the review of the Gentleman Pensioners and the arts and even exploration as it did later on. Elizabeth I was lucky to come to throne at 25,_ not 37, when her menstruating had become unpredictable. Her age did see a flowering of the arts and literature and discovery and architecture, but it also saw the persecution of Catholic subjects and Puritan none conformist groups and crippling wars with Spain and Ireland. It was not a golden age for all. Mary has to be judged on a balance of everything and original source evidence, not propaganda. I am pleased to see a number of historians have done just that in recent years. Linda Porter, Anna Whitelock and Professor Edwards provided well documented and balanced reassessments of her life and reign and it is wonderful to find great articles like this one which do the same.
    LynMarie Taylor

  6. Natasja Peeters

    An interesting post, thank you. I have been reading various biographies on Philip for a project recently (my focus is Habsburg…). I do agree fully that several 16th-century ladies need a fresh look at whatever material that is there. The other day I was looking into Margaret of Parma, and I realised that most of the research about her is somewhat dated. All these ladies (Tudor and other) could do with a passionate researcher (professional or not), if only to rescue them from oblivion. And because they have a story to tell. Thankfully we can rely on good work done on 16th C ladies like Margaret of Austria, Elisabeth I, Mencia de Mendoza and a few others. Researchers who have the courage to sift through the debris of past times, can read between the lines ànd present an balanced picture have all my admiration! So thank you again for your post!

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