Queen Mary I Family Tree showing:
Princess Mary was given her own household which was run by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. She was well educated and studied Latin, French, Spanish as well as music, dancing, needlework and riding.
At the age of nine years, she was sent to Ludlow Castle, traditional residence of the Prince of Wales. Although she was never formally invested as Princess of Wales, many courtiers gave her that name.
From the time of her birth to her parent’s divorce, Mary was used as a political pawn and repeatedly betrothed to seal treaties made with either France or Spain:
1518, 5th October – Mary was betrothed to Henri, son of King Francis I of France, to seal the Treaty of London. Mary’s father broke off the engagement in 1521.
1522, 19th June – As part of the Treaty of Windsor agreed between England and Spain, Mary was betrothed to Charles V, son of Philip I of Spain. Charles V broke the betrothal by marrying Isabella of Portugal in 1525.
1524, August – Negotiations for a possible marriage between Mary and King James V of Scotland began but came to nothing.
1527, 18th August – A marriage was agreed between Mary and Henri, second son of King Francis I was agreed to seal the Treaty of Amiens.
1539, December – Philip of Bavaria, Protestant son of the Elector of the Palatine, asked for Mary’s hand in marriage. Negotiations broke down and Philip returned home.
By 1527, King Henry VIII was having doubts regarding the validity of his marriage to Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon. He believed that his lack of male heir was a punishment from God for marrying his brother’s wife.
Catherine of Aragon refused to agree to a divorce and as tensions between her parents worsened, so did Mary’s health. In a bid to force Catherine of Aragon to comply with his wishes, he announced that Mary would no longer be able to see her mother.
In March 1531, Henry relented and allowed Mary, whose health had worsened, to visit her mother. It was the last time they would meet. After Henry married Anne Boleyn in 1533, Mary’s requests to visit her mother were all denied, even when it was clear her mother was dying.
Loss of Status
After the birth of her half-sister, Elizabeth, in September 1533, a new Act of Succession was drawn up which declared Mary illegitimate and excluded her from the succession. Like everyone in the country, Mary was required to swear the Oath of Succession, but she steadfastly refused to do so. She lost her status as Princess and was to be titled Lady Mary.
To add insult to injury, Mary was told that her household would be disbanded and that she was to be Maid of Honour to Princess Elizabeth. Although she was horrified at having to serve her half-sister, Mary grew to love her.
After Anne Boleyn’s execution in 1536, Elizabeth was also declared illegitimate and the succession was settled on the children of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.
Mary was persuaded to swear the Oath of Succession by the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, after being assured that the Pope would forgive her because her conscience believed otherwise.
After signing the document, Mary returned to court.
Path to the Throne
In February 1544, a new Act of Succession was drawn up. The act settled the succession on Henry’s son, Edward with any children from his present marriage being next in line. If he were to die without issue then Lady Mary and Lady Elizabeth were next in line.
King Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 and his will bequeathed Mary properties in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. Mary’s half-brother, Edward succeeded as King Edward VI but because he was a minor, the country was governed by a regency council headed by Edward Seymour. Seymour was removed from power by John Dudley and executed in 1552.
Both Seymour and Dudley were committed Protestants who were in favour of church reform. With Edward’s full permission Seymour introduced the Act of Uniformity in 1549. This act introduced the Protestant Book of Common Prayer.
Throughout Edward’s reign, Mary, a committed Roman Catholic, kept a low profile. However, she vowed that if she became Queen she would return England to the Catholic faith.
Knowing Mary’s intentions, neither Edward, nor John Dudley wished her to succeed. When, in 1553, it became clear that Edward was dying, a document known as the Devise for the Succession was drawn up. This document, signed by Edward, provided for Protestant Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister Mary, to succeed to the throne. In a bid to keep power, Dudley married his son, Guildford to Jane Grey.
King Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. Prior to the announcement of the King’s death, Dudley had tried to capture Mary but had not been successful. As planned he announced the succession of Jane Grey, but this was not well received and when Mary raised her standard she was supported by thousands of men. Enough to see Dudley’s forces surrender.
Queen Mary I of England
Mary was proclaimed Queen Mary I of England, Ireland and Wales on 19th July 1553. On the same day members of the Dudley family were imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Aged 37 years at the time of her accession, Queen Mary I knew that she had to marry before her child-bearing days were over. The man she chose was Philip of Spain, son of King Charles V. However, the news was not well-received and there were protests against the marriage with many fearing England would become the vassal of Spain.
Queen Mary I and Philip of Spain were married on 25th July 1554. Within two months, Mary believed she was pregnant and showed all the signs of pregnancy but there was no baby. She experienced a second phantom pregnancy in 1558.
Philip proved to be far from the loving husband desired by Queen Mary I. Rather he spent a minimal amount of time in England returning to the continent often. After his father abdicated in his favour in 1556, Philip turned his attention to war and repeatedly begged Mary to commit English troops to support him. The resultant war with France saw the loss of Calais, England’s last possession in France.
Queen Mary I earned this nickname for the bloodshed caused by her persecution of heretics.
Mary began undoing the Protestant reforms of her brother’s reign within months of her accession. In November 1554 the Heresy Acts were revived which made it a capital crime to deny the established religion.
From early 1555, Protestants were arrested and charged with heresy. those that would not renounce their faith were burnt at the stake. During Queen Mary I’s reign around 300 Protestants lost their lives in this way.
Death and Succession
After her two phantom pregnancies, Mary’s health began to deteriorate and by October 1558 it was clear that she was dying. Queen Mary I died on 17th November 1558. She was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth who took the throne as Queen Elizabeth I.
First published 2020; updated and republished Feb 16 2022 @ 2:27 p.m. – Updated –
Harvard Reference for Queen Mary I Family Tree:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2020-2022). Queen Mary I Family Tree (1516-1558). Available: https://www.treesofblue.com/queen-mary-i-1516-1558. Last accessed November 7th, 2023