Queen Mary I’s Death

Mary I Tudor painting

On the 17th of November 1558, Queen Mary I passed away at St. James Palace. She was forty two. Immediately, her coronation ring was taken to Elizabeth I who upon receiving quoted from one of the psalms declaring, quite coincidentally under an oak tree as one of her namesakes supposedly had been under when Edward IV found her, that “this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Elizabeth was the new queen, she would go on to become the longest reigning monarch of the Tudor dynasty, and with her the reign of her sister would become less and less important and remembered only for the persecutions.

But before everyone is quick to judge, and the expense of being preachy, we must remember the times she lived in. Her actions should not –by any means- be condoned, but neither should the acts of her predecessors and successors be justified or overlooked because of their success. In her short reign, Mary managed to institute a new coinage, refounded universities, as well as instituted a curriculum that was inspired by the Humanist ideals she’d grown up with, and took a page from her brother’s book of common prayer where religious books were concerned. However, as more Protestants rose up against her, and condemned her for her religious inclination as well as her decision to marry a foreign (Catholic) Prince, her policies which once promised would respect everyone’s faith (as long they practiced it in “quiet charity”) became the opposite.

When the Lady Elizabeth had heard of her sister’s failing health by her sister’s servants and Count de Feria, she was very hostile towards them. Although she appreciated her sister making a codicil to her will acknowledging that she would respect her father’s will, guaranteeing Elizabeth’s place in history as England’s next Queen; she remarked to the Count that regardless of what her brother-in-law had done for her, she would not be in any way grateful to him since she had done nothing wrong. Many decades after her death, Jane Dormer would recall that meeting, claiming that she had also been sent there to deliver some of Mary’s jewels to her. Whether she did or did not, it is possible that Mary sought to reconcile herself with her sister. After all, when Mary had reclaimed the crown, she did so, stating that it wasn’t only her right but her sister’s as well.

Close to death, Mary asked to hear mass before midnight, then at night of the next morning she slipped away.

0Reginald

“So peaceful was her passing” Linda Porter writes “that those around her did not realize, at first, that she was gone.” Mary had endured a lot in her life, and she persevered. Yet, just as in life, she was never to know peace. Shortly after she died, the news was delivered to her friend and distant cousin, Reginald Pole who also lay dying. When he heard the news “though his spirit was great, the blow nevertheless having entered his flesh, brought on paroxysm earlier, and with more intense cold.”

“She like himself, “had been harassed during many years for one and the same cause, and afterwards, when it pleased God to raise her to the throne, he had greatly participated in all her other troubles entailed by that elevation.” Just twelve hours after Mary’s passing, he too died, unreconciled with and condemned by the pope.” (Whitelock)

Mary I and Reginald Pole tried something similar her maternal grandmother had done in Castile which was root out corruption in the Church, this as we can imagine probably wasn’t very popular with some clerics. But the pope’s discontent largely has to do with England’s religious landscape. England would never be a Catholic kingdom. Almost a decade later when their cousin, Margaret Douglas, conspired to have her eldest son married to the Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I’s men spread rumors that she tried to have Mary alter their father’s will so she would be name her heir in place of Elizabeth. In another effort to further slander her name, she was also accused as being the main culprit behind the sister’s rivalry.

“Within hours of Mary’s death, the preparation of her body began. Her heart and bowels were removed, her belly opened and filled with preservative herbs and spices.” (Whitelock)

She remained at St James for almost a month until her funeral in mid-December. Elizabeth spared no expense for the funeral. A beautiful eulogy was written for Mary titled ‘The Epitaph upon the death of our late virtuous Quene Marie deceased’ which read the following:

Mary Tudor coronation

“How many noble men restored and other states also
Well showed her princely liberal heart,
which gave both friend and foe.
As princely was her birth, so princely was her life,
Constant, courtise, modest and mild;
a chaste and chosen wife.
Oh mirror of all womanhood!
Oh Queen of virtues pure! Oh constant Marie!
Filled with grace no age can thee obscure.”

This however was altered, as ordered by Elizabeth, to include the new Tudor Queen and create a starch contrast between the sisters, where Mary is praised but so is Elizabeth who it is implied will be a greater monarch than her predecessor.

Elizabeth and Mary

“Marie now dead, Elizabeth lives,
our just and lawful Queen

In whom her sister’s virtues rare,
abundantly are seen.
Obey our Queen as we are bound,
pray God her to preserve

And send her grace lie long and fruit,
and subjects truth to serve.”

This wasn’t the only thing that was changed. John White, Bishop of Winchester delivered the funeral sermon praising Mary’s virtues, saying that “she was a king’s daughter, she was a King’s sister, she was King’s wife. She was a Queen and by the same title a King also” concluding with wishing Elizabeth a prosperous reign “in peace and tranquility if it be God’s will.” That last sentence sealed his fate and he was placed under house arrest.

Elizabeth I’s successor went a step further and ordered a great effigy for the Tudor Queen, and also ordered that two sisters be put together. Mary I’s tomb was once marked, and although it still is, only one of the two sisters is remembered in this great monument and that is Elizabeth.

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary
The plaque on their joint tombs reads: ‘Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we, two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the resurrection.’

Perhaps it is the romantic in all of us that wish that these two troubled sisters found peace in the afterlife, but given their loss and struggle, especially Mary’s whose reign is still obscured and seen through one lens, it is impossible that they ever will. History is written by the victors, they say and that couldn’t be truer. Mary’s achievement which were continued (albeit some of these improved) by her sister, are nearly forgotten.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Mary Tudor by HFM Prescott
  • Mary Tudor by David Loades
  • Passion. Murder. Manipulation by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway.
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Mary Tudor and Jane Grey: The Battle for the Crown

Jane and Mary

Between the 12th and 15th of July 1553, things in the Mary Tudor and Jane Grey camp were getting tenser. On the 12th, Jane issued a proclamation, calling everyone to fight for their rightful queen by giving them an incentive of twelve pence a day. For her part, Mary was sending messaged to the important barons in East Anglia who remained undecided. Most of these men were Protestant and they did not wish to be on the wrong side of things. Some of them had sided with Jane. As with their great ancestor, Henry Tudor, they were determined to fight to the bitter end.

The Lady Jane

Because of the high stakes, Jane to delay her coronation for another three weeks. At the same time that Jane was doing this, Mary was issuing her own proclamations, declaring herself the one and true Queen in Norfolk and Suffolk. Her tenants carried her message throughout the countryside, calling the lesser lords to side with her but many, like the nobles during the time of her great-grandfather –Henry, Earl of Richmond’s- invasion, did not wish to risk everything. What if Mary lost? Mary was without foreign support. Her cousin did not believe she could win. Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond had won thanks to French support and foreign mercenaries. What did Mary have besides the commons? And what if the commons were not enough? The Emperor was not going to risk a good opportunity to turn the Duke of Northumberland, whom he believed would control Jane once she was crowned, away from a French alliance. But Mary was resolute.

Mary I historical

“The miserable indecisive princess who could not quite bring herself to cut her ties with England in 1550 was nowhere to be seen. Instead, she had rediscovered the implacable girl who resisted, for three years, a king’s determination to make her deny who she was … Mary was not the sort of woman who sat in the background where matters of such importance were concerned.” (Porter)

She continued to send missives throughout East Anglia, and soon as she advanced further south, throughout the country, demanding people’s loyalty and signing her letters with ‘Mary the Quene’. In Mary, the people remembered her beloved mother, who had been so popular with the commons. They remembered the girl, as Porter pointed out, who rebelled against her father, and stayed true to her beliefs until she was forced to sign an admission that saved her from a certain death. By the time she became mistress of her own household, the kindness for which her mother had been known, had been shown to her tenants as well. She knew their names, she interacted with them at a personal level, and was godmother to most of their children. This relationship earned her a degree of success –on where she could take the crown without bloodshed. Something that was unheard of at the time.

John Dudley

Meanwhile, Jane, her father-in-law, her father and their supporters were busy making sure they were prepared for when Mary’s army came. Foreigners were so certain of Jane’s success that some, like the French Ambassador, were beginning to refer to her husband as “the new King” in their letters. The papal envoy, Giovanni Francesco, however, shows that Jane had no desire to make her husband King and that they quarreled as a result of this. After she agreed to his wishes, she changed her mind again and called the Earls of Arundel and Pembroke that she felt better if her husband were “a duke, but not a King.” Jane was showing (probably to the frustration of her would-be-controllers) that she was her own person, and that as her cousin Mary Tudor, there would be no other ruler in England but her. It could also be that the envoy might have been exaggerating things, showing the Protestant side as a house divided in contrast to Mary’s side where everyone was united. It did not help matters that there were already some rumors that the Duke of Northumberland (Jane’s father-in-law) was looking for an alternative route –in case Jane’s regime did not work- in where he would substitute Jane with another teenager, Mary, Queen of Scots. It was no secret that Dudley had always sided with the French and had actively spoken against Edward Seymour’s savage incursions into their Northern neighbor’s Southern border. After he heard that Mary of Guise had become a widow and her daughter an orphan and the new Queen of Scots, he had spoken against his (then) King, Henry VIII’s proclamation to lead a campaign to kidnap the infant queen of Scots; Dudley vehemently opposed it. The Imperial Ambassadors, pressing Dudley to side with the Emperor instead, were getting frustrated and it is very possible that they added more fuel to the rumors as Dudley showed very little interest in an Anglo-Imperial alliance. It could be during this time that they began to look more positively on Mary’s candidacy.

Suspecting that the Council might be of the same mind after they advised him to leave the city to defend the country (in case Mary thought of an escape), John Dudley gave a passionate speech on the thirteenth reminding them of “the holy oath of allegiance made freely by you to this virtuous lady the Queen’s highness” whose crown they helped her win. His message was clear ‘If I go down, you go down with me’. He ended it with a last reminder that if Jane failed, their religion failed and as a consequence, God’s vengeance would wash down on them. He then went to see his daughter-in-law who trusted him completely with the task ahead and “beseeched him to use his diligence” against Mary. Dudley promised that he would do all that he could.

Mary I and Jane Grey Nine day

The following day, on the 14th, he left London with the “the fairest band of gentlemen” and a “fearsome” artillery train. He was confident that he could still win; but at Mary had gained another ally. Lord Wentworth flocked to her side “clad in splendid armor” and he was not along, accompanied “by a not inconsiderable military force”. More counties started joining her, including some of the Protestant elite which had previously sided with Jane.

John Dudley and William Parr, the Marques of Northampton, met with other veterans at Durham House on the 15th where they planned their offensive against the Lady Mary. In London, Jane faced problems of a different sort, when she received dire news that fifteen of her ships guarding the Eastern Coast had mutinied. Unpaid and forced to work under deplorable conditions, they chose to abandon Jane to side with Mary.
Once again, history would prove that the most unlikely of contender, would win the English throne.

Sources:

  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Mary Tudor by Anna Whitelock