Queen Mary I’s last will.

Mary I played by Sarah Bolger
Mary I played by Sarah Bolger

On the 30th of March 1558, Queen Mary I made her will believing she was still pregnant and would soon give birth. Bringing a (male) heir would solve many of her problems regarding her religious establishment –which maintained her father’s establishment and differed very little from it. One of her wishes was that her mother’s remains would be moved from St. Peterborough Cathedral to Westminster. After Mary became Queen, she legitimized her status as her parents’ true daughter and her mother’s status as Henry VIII’s true Queen. While this has been criticized by many biographers as proof of her fanaticism, in fact, the decision was a smart one and one she needed to do. Her grandfather, the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII, legitimized his future wife’s (Elizabeth of York) family, therefore making his union to her the following year more symbolic, as a true union of the Houses of Lancaster and York.
Furthermore, before the year was over, in November 7, 1485 during his first Parliament he reaffirmed the Beauforts legitimacy, re-enacting the statue of 1397 by Richard II and overturning the one of 1407 which had barred them from the succession.
Mary’s decision to rebury her mother at Westminster was not so much a religious one as a dynastic one, if she would indeed bear a son, her son needed to have all taint of illegitimacy gone from him and also bare the prestige of a great lineage. And possibly, a personal one, based on how her mother had been humiliated in her later years and buried as a ‘Princess Dowager’; Mary wanted to give her mother the justice she never had in her last years.

This never happened. Mary died months later in November and she was not buried until December. Neither of her wishes to be buried next to her mother or her mother reburied in Westminster were carried out. Instead, Catherine remained buried at Peterborough and she would not be joined by another Queen until decades later by none other than Mary Stewart, Queen of Scotland. Mary lies buried in Westminster Abbey under her sister in a large golden sarcophagus where only her sister Elizabeth’s effigy is visible.
The pregnancy that Mary experienced was another phantom pregnancy

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor history by Claire Ridgway
  • Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen by John Edwards
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