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05.12.2013, 20:42

From Princess to bastard

"Bloody Mary" Tudor was born on February 18, 1516. She was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Henry doted on Princess Mary when she was little, calling her "the greatest pearl in the kingdom." The princess received an excellent education, and was carefully sheltered.

In 1522 Henry arranged Mary's betrothal to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Charles was an adult, and Mary was just six years old; the marriage would take place when she was twelve. Mary had met Charles and liked the idea of marrying him. But in 1525 Charles broke off the engagement so that he could marry Princess Isabella of Portugal. That same year Henry sent Princess Mary to live in Wales, as was traditional for the king's heir.

The year 1527 started off well for Princess Mary. She returned to live at her father's court and celebrated her engagement to a son of the king of France. But Henry VIII's attitude toward Mary and her mother had started to change. He had decided that God disapproved of his marriage to Catherine; why else had the queen failed to produce healthy male children? And he was in love with the woman who was to become his second wife: Anne Boleyn.

Soon Mary learned that Henry wanted to annul his marriage to her mother. For this, the king needed the pope's permission. While he waited, he continued to treat Catherine as his queen and Mary as his heir. But Mary's legitimacy was now in doubt, making her less valuable on the marriage market. The French engagement was broken off and no other match was arranged for her, although her father's advisors considered marrying her to King Henry's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. (Fitzroy married someone else. He died young and without heirs.)

Henry grew increasingly angry with Catherine for resisting his attempt to end their marriage. Finally, in 1531, he sent Catherine away from court. After being shuffled between various castles and palaces, the queen ended up a prisoner at Kimbolton Castle, near Huntingdon. Realizing that the pope would never grant his divorce, Henry split from the Catholic church, established the Church of England, had his marriage declared invalid, and married Anne Boleyn. Anne gave birth to a daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in 1533.

Mary was now officially a bastard, called "the lady Mary," but, like her mother, she refused to accept her change in status. Henry was infuriated by his daughter's defiance and threatened to have her executed if she did not stop referring to herself as a princess. When Mary was eighteen, her household was disbanded and she was sent to live in Princess Elizabeth's household, where she was treated badly. Henry refused to see her, but he was not completely indifferent to Mary. Once, glimpsing her at a window, he nodded and touched his hat politely.

Catherine and Mary were not permitted to visit each other, and Catherine died in 1536 without seeing her daughter again. Now Mary was alone. Four months after Catherine's death, however, Mary's greatest enemy toppled from power when Anne Boleyn was arrested on false charges of adultery and executed. Anne had hated Mary and stated that she wanted her dead. With Anne gone, Henry treated his eldest daughter somewhat more kindly. His third, fourth, and sixth wives  were all well-disposed toward Mary. (She got along less well with his teenaged fifth wife, Katherine Howard.) Although she never regained her former status or her father's affection, she was once again part of the royal family.

At first she got along well with the king's other children. As Elizabeth and Edward grew up, however, up their Protestant views put them at odds with Mary, who never swayed from her devout Catholicism. After Henry's death in 1547, Mary's nine-year-old half-brother became King Edward VI. As king, Edward scolded and bullied Mary about her beliefs. On his deathbed he disinherited her in favor of their teenaged cousin Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey did not want to be queen, but that didn't stop her father and his supporters from  trying to seize the throne for her after King Edward's death in 1553. Few people supported "Queen Jane," however. In the end even Jane's ambitious father abandoned her, and Mary was proclaimed queen. After a lifetime of sorrow and danger, the 37-year-old Mary Tudor was now the most powerful person in England.

The unhappy Queen

Soon after her accession, Mary began considering the possibility of marrying Prince Philip of Spain, the son of her former fiance, Emperor Charles V. It worried her that Philip was 11 years her junior because he was "likely to be disposed to be amorous, and such is not my desire, not at my time of life, and never having harbored thoughts of love." With difficulty the emperor's envoy convinced her that Philip was a stable, mature adult who would help protect her kingdom.

Mary's subjects were alarmed to learn of her engagement to the Spanish prince, fearing that England would become part of Spain. The queen, however, had no intention of turning the country over to Philip. He arrived in England on July 20, 1554, and met Mary for the first time on July 23. Mary liked Philip from the start, and he treated her kindly, although he probably found her unattractive. (The men who had accompanied him to England later described Mary as old, badly dressed, and almost toothless.) The wedding took place two days later. Two months later, Mary's doctors told her that she was pregnant.

In December a law was passed that allowed bishops of the Church of England to convict heretics and sentence them to death by burning. Almost 300 people were burned alive during Mary's reign with Mary's full approval, earning her the nickname "Bloody Mary."

By the summer of 1555 it became obvious that Mary was no longer pregnant, if she had ever been. Mary was bitterly disappointed. Philip left England that August, promising Mary that he would soon return. Mary missed him desperately. Philip didn't return to England until March of 1557. During his absence he had become the king of Spain. After a few months in England he left to go to war; Mary never saw him again. She became depressed and paranoid. Tortured by loneliness and unhappiness, Queen Mary fell ill. She died on November 17, 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I.

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