On This Day: Bloody or not Bloody Mary? 

Mary I of England - Born 18th February 1516

Mary I of England, born exactly 50 years and 1 week after her grandmother, Elizabeth of York (click link for more info), lived as hard a life as those born to vast wealth and privilege ever could. Even in death she could not escape misfortune and her name is continually shrouded in condemnation, Bloody Mary being the most common description of her. Even at best, sadly, she is simply outshone by her glamorous golden-age sister and successor, Elizabeth I (click link for more info). 

Mary I of England

Mary I of England by Antonius Moro, 1554
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Although Mary could hardly be said to have crowned herself in glory, it seems rather unfair to totally write her off as a vindictive disaster. She was after all the first woman to ascend the throne of England. She had a lot of patriarchy to contend with and live up to. She had also lived through a terrifying and scarring childhood: watching her mother subjected to endless torment and cruelty, watch faithful friends sent to the scaffold and even nearly have to walk to the block herself, all on the orders of the man who should have protected and loved her - her selfish and even slightly mad father, the ever charming Henry VIII. She grew up surrounded by fear, afraid to make a friend incase it led to their death, or hers. Is it really any wonder she wasn’t a picture perfect Queen when her time eventually came? 

800px-Mary I by Master John

Mary I by Master John, 1544
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Mary’s was the original family drama that could even nearly put Game of Thrones to shame. A mad father executing wives, friends and allies on a whim. Children who were brought up in different religions and taught to mistrust and conspire against each other from their cradles. Even in adulthood Mary did not settle down to the quiet life, instead marrying the man who would later go on to wage war on her sister. (Philip of Spain for those who are interested) Yes, it does all sound totally bonkers but that was the early modern era for you. Sex, violence and feuds. Lots of feuds. And usually caused by sex or violence. 

800px-Family of Henry VIII c 1545

The scene of a nice little family drama…The Family of Henry VIII 
L-R Mary I, Edward VI, Henry VIII, Jane Seymour (Henry’s third wife), Elizabeth I
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

All things considered Mary has a pretty unfair reputation and I think she would be justified in feeling pretty hard done by. Yes, she did butcher a huge number of people who opposed her ideals but in reality they were all it. Even her golden-reputation sister executed people left, right and centre. As the saying goes: Tudor’s the name, Bloody’s the game. 

© Isla Robertson 2017