Queen Mary I bids her husband farewell

Mary I Tudor and Philip of Spain collage 1

On the 29th of August, 1555, Mary bid her husband farewell. After he departed by water from Greenwich to Dover where he stayed for a few more days until the weather cleared up in September, to travel to the Low  Countries. Mary had reluctantly agreed to her father-in-law and cousin Charles’ request to send Philip away, she had previously written to Charles expressing her fears that he would be gone for a long time. In this, she was not mistaken. Philip did not arrive until October of the following year, by then King of Spain and lord of the Netherlands after his father’s abdication. According to the Venetian Ambassador Michieli, Mary had insisted on accompanying Philip in a glorious ceremony through London three days prior and on the day of his departure:

Mary I and Philip of Spain coat of arms

“The Queen really on this occasion showed proper grief for a woman and a woman clothed as she was with royal state and dignity. There was no external manifestation of agitation, although it was evident she was in great trouble, and she chose to accompany the King through all the chambers and halls, as far as the head of the staircase: all the way she had a struggle to command herself and prevent any exhibition inconsistent with her high position from being perceptible to so many persons. But she was affected by the kissing of hands by the Spanish lords and especially at seeing the ladies taking leave of the King in tears, who, according to the custom of the country, kissed them one by one. On returning however to her apartments she lent on her elbows at a window overlooking the river, and there, not supposing herself any longer seen or observed by anyone, it was perceived that she gave free vent to her grief in floods of tears. She did not stir from the spot until she had seen the King embark and depart; looking till the last sight of him; he mounted on a raised and open part of the barge, so as to be better visible as long as he was in sight of the window, kept on raising his hat and making salutes with the most affectionate gestures.”

Michieli’s reports were exaggerated but they did convey a level of truth in expressing Mary’s anguish. Previously, Mary had written a letter to her father-in-law and cousin, Charles, expressing deep concern over Philip’s absence: “I firmly hope that the King’s absence will be brief … his presence in this kingdom has done much good and is of great importance for the good governance of this country.” 

Mary I full view portrait

Mary wanted her country to benefit from the opportunities Spain offered and expand foreign policy, but she also needed Philip by her side to give her a male heir. Philip’s absence and new position complicated things. Boader, his secretary, expressed that he would not return until she agreed to share power with him -Something that our Queen, for all her sentimentalism, was not prepared to do. She was Queen of her realm and just as Philip was going to rule Spain, she was going to be her country’s sole ruler.

This was the beginning of the end for Mary. She would not die deposed or unopposed. As the rest of her family, she’d die as she lived, fighting until her last breath to hold everything together, under no illusions of what awaited her supporters and how she’d be remembered.

PORTRAIT OF MARY TUDOR artist not known but in the style of Flicke, Painted onto wood, found at Anglesey Abbey

Always the pragmatist, but also a woman who was in need of allies and wished to make England one of the greatest nations in the world, as well as secure the Tudor Dynasty, Mary was aware that her union with Philip was becoming more unstable and if she didn’t give the appearance that things were okay then it would give her enemies another excuse to attack.

Sources:

  • Porter,  Linda. The First Queen of England: The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin’s Press 2008.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Erickson, Carolly. Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor. Robson  Books. 2001.
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The Death of King Philip II of Spain

Portrait_of_Philip_II_of_Spain_by_Sofonisba_Anguissola_-_002b

On the 13th of September 1598, King Philip II of Spain died at the Palace of Escorial. His last act as king was giving a written permission for one of his two favorite offspring, Isabel Clara Eugenia to marry. From his bed, he continued to sign document and meet with his advisers but it was clear to everybody that their king was dying and that his son (also named Philip) would become their new king.

His daughter, the Infanta Isabel, remained by his side, screaming at him that somebody was touching the relics that had brought him so much comfort during his agony, so he would wake up and keep him from dying. Unfortunately by the twelfth, he was too sick to do anything and when his ministers thought he died, he laughed softly to assure them that he was still alive and finding some dark humor in the fact that he was not long for this world. He asked for his parents’ crucifix and “kissed it several times and afterwards he also held a consecrated candle from our Lady of Montserrat … and kissed it too.” On the next day, his ministers watched as their king gave his last breath before “his saintly spirit left him to enjoy eternal life”.

Philip II's Black Legend is perpetuated in "Elizabeth the Golden Age" where he is played by Jordi Mola
Philip II’s Black Legend is perpetuated in “Elizabeth the Golden Age” where he is played by Jordi Molla

To this day Philip II continues to be a controversial figure. The image of the “Black Legend” remains and it is not likely to go away very soon. As a monarch, Philip was no different than others. It can be said that he bled his country dry for his expensive wars, and although there was some justification in some of these, others were just for the same reason his enemies engaged in war: for pure demonstration of might.

Historians such as Henry Kamen defend him, exculpating him from his mistakes, pointing out that although in the latter half of the century in which he reigned “much had changed”, the economic problems at the end of his reign were the result of events that were completely out of his control. And these came to light after his death, receiving great criticism from people who had once praised and served him faithfully.

“Philip was never at any time in adequate control of events, or of his kingdoms, or even of his own destiny. It follows that he cannot be held responsible for more than a small part of what eventually transpired during his reign … He imprisoned within a destiny in which he himself had little hand’. He could do little more than play the dice available to him. Condemned to spend his days sorting out the workings of his vast web of a monarchy, he was among the few who had access to a broad perspective on its problems. But he was unable to turn that perspective into a vision that might inspire his people… Eminently efficient and practical, he struggled always with the immediate and the possible.” (Kamen)

And although Henry Kamen has a point, historians Geoffrey Parker and Hugh Thomas make more valid ones. Geoffrey Parker is fair in his assessment, denoting his flaws as well as his achievements and giving us a king who was flawed, efficient, and full of many contradictions while Hugh Thomas shows us how vast his empire was.

Philip II and his second wife, Mary (I) Tudor of England. Although he showed her deep respect in public and in their letters, in private was another matter.
Philip II and his second wife, Mary (I) Tudor of England. Although he showed her deep respect in public and in their letters, in private was another matter.

As a man Philip was pious in the sense that he was highly spiritual and cared deeply for his soul and on his last days, he refused to grant the pope one request because it went against his conscience. Despite this deep passion though, he was not above bullying his own church to get what he wanted and this is eerily similar from what his father and maternal grandmother did. And like so many kings during this period, there was a cruel streak in him. His contemporaries didn’t flinch from punishing their own people with the excuse that they were punishing enemies of the state (heretics, rebels, etc) and sending their troops against them. His father’s on and off ally and rival, Henry VIII did it on several occasions, and so did his offspring (one to whom he was married). Philip II made a public exhibition of an execution in October of 1568 where he hundreds of heretics were burned at the stake.
He was called the “Prudent King” by many because he showed a deep humility that they found lacking in many monarchs, and despite his piety, he allowed Protestant chaplains in some of his battles out of the Continent and refused to let the Jews be expelled from his non-Spanish domains (but he finally agreed in 1597) and more than his predecessors, he read every document that was put on his table.

Philip II daughters
As a man though, he was deeply devoted to his children, especially his daughters, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Michaela. Both were some of the most educated and illustrious women of their day, and Philip’s letters to her survive to this day.

When Philip died, the Venetian Ambassador, Soranzo, wrote that “rich and poor universally show great grief” and acknowledged that he also grieved the King and that “for many the weeping will not end until life itself ends” adding that “he was a prince who fought with gold rather than with steel. Profoundly religious, he loved peace and quiet … He held his desires in absolute control and showed an immutable and unalterable temper.”

Philip II was buried the following day on Monday morning, in the church of San Lorenzo. Less than two months later, the criticisms began, largely by Franciscan friars and former members of his inner circle.

“Our Catholic King died after a drought that lasted almost nine months without a break, revealing that the earth had declared itself bankrupt –just like an unsuccessful merchant. At the same time, the price of everything in Castile increased as supplies ran short, coinciding with the collapse of public health throughout the kingdom and opening the door to plague in many areas … These disasters were harbingers of the greatest catastrophe Spain has even suffered since our Patriarch Tubal, grandson of Noah settled here.”-Fray Lorenzo de Ayala

Even one of the members of the Inquisition, the lawyer Martin Gonzales de Cellorigo, wrote that the decline of Spain had begun with Philip and that he:
“Grieved to see that, because we lack the funds, we undertake campaigns with such weak forces that they serve more to irritate our enemies than to punish them; and the worst is that, whatever we may say, we eternalize the wars so that they become an infinite burden, and the problems that stem from these wars are both major and endless.”

And yet, not to condone or to exculpate him and all other kings from their responsibilities, something Philip II comes to mind and that is that even for a person who had this much power, he was incapable of doing everything at once. “I don’t think that human strength is capable of everything least of all mine which is very feeble.” To his son, he once wrote that kingship is like a prison, and it is for the points already mentioned, but it is the burden they feel they have to carry, and in Philip’s case, he felt it was his duty to do the impossible to protect his kingdom.

Sources:

  • Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker
  • Philip of Spain by Henry Kamen
  • World Without End by Hugh Thomas
  • Isabella: Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

The Wedding of the Century Part I: Mary I and Philip of Spain

Mary I and Philip of Spain

Mary married Philip on the 25th of July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral. The marriage was officiated by Stephen Gardiner. There is no source that speaks about the color of Mary’s dress, but thanks to the inventory, we know that her dress was one of rich purple (purple as everyone will remember, was a color reserved for royalty) with her husband-to-be wearing a robe “ornamented with pearls and precious stones” wearing the collar of the Garter, his breeches and doublet white “and over all a mantle of rich cloth of gold”. Mary’s train was the last one to arrive at half past ten “with all her council and nobility before her”. Her train was carried by the Marchioness of Winchester who was assisted by Sir John Gage, her lord chamberlain. The sword of state was carried by the Earl of Derby and she was attended by a “great company of ladies and gentlewomen very richly appareled.” Philip for his part was attended by the great noblemen of his Spanish court (the Grandees) and other courtiers who “were richly attired that neither His Majesty’s nor his Highness’ court ever saw the like.”

0Mary I dress

Even the heavy rain could not offset the glorious spectacle that was witnessed by English and Spanish courtier, and other guests of honor alike. While pop culture has been unkind to Queen Mary (I) Tudor, it is important to remember that Mary was the first Queen Regnant and as such, she was the subject of many attacks. But she was not a love-sick girl or crazy fanatic. Her policies, although ruthless, reflected the grim reality of the period. And her marriage with Philip reflects her own independence. Before the wedding began, the Bishop of Winchester made a speech in which he reminded his Spanish guests about the marriage treaty which clearly stated that although Philip was Prince of Asturias and King of Naples, he would have little control over English affairs, unless he was given royal permission. He also added that the wedding had been approved by parliament and was done in accordance to the wishes of the realm.

Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, Stephen Gardiner. Left (Tudors), right (Wolf Hall).
Bishop of Winchester and Chancellor of England, Stephen Gardiner. Left (Tudors), right (Wolf Hall).

“With a loud voice Gardiner said that, if there be any man that knoweth any lawful impediment between these two parties, that they should not go together according to the contract concluded between both realms, that they should come forth, and they should be heard.” Then he asked “in English and Latin” who should give the Queen away and the “Marchioness of Winchester, the Earls of Derby, Bedford and Pembroke” gave her away “in the name of the whole realm.”

Afterwards, they heard Mass then went to the Bishop’s Palace where they “dined most sumptuously together” and enjoyed the rest of the celebrations. Over the following weeks, it was reported by a Spaniard visiting the English court, that Mary and Philip appeared “the happiest couple in the world, more in love than words can say” adding that he never left her side “and when they are on the road he is ever by her side, helping her to mount and dismount.” Philip played his role to perfection, as did his wife. But as the weeks turned to months and these turned to years, it became evident that the couple was anything but happy.

Sources:

  • Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation and Murder by Leanda de Lisle

A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God’s Truth in England

Queen Mary I of England, Ireland and France
Queen Mary I of England, Ireland and France

On July 20th, 1554, John Knox published a controversial pamphlet in which he not only denounced the Catholic Church and England’s first Queen Regnant, Mary (I) Tudor. The pamphlet titled “A Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God’s Truth in England” accused the Queen of being an “incestuous bastard” and compared her actions (of restoring the Catholic Mass) to those of Queen Jezebel. For those who can’t remember, Jezebel was the queen of the biblical King, Ahab. The prophet Elijah denounced her pagan ways and warned the King not to let her invite her priests to their land, but the King was so enchanted with her that he refused. So after her “reign of terror” began against the good God-fearing people of Israel, Elijah began plotting against her. One day he found the answer to his prayers by throwing her out the window. When she fell, the dogs came forward to lick her blood off her corpse. It was a gruesome end to this pagan queen.

John Know was the leading figure of the Evangelical movement in Scotland, he was a pupil of the late George Wishart who died for his beliefs in 1546, this event angered many in Scotland and led to Cardinal Beaton's brutal murder and left Knox as the leader of the movement.
John Know was the leading figure of the Evangelical movement in Scotland, he was a pupil of the late George Wishart who died for his beliefs in 1546, this event angered many in Scotland and led to Cardinal Beaton’s brutal murder and left Knox as the leader of the movement.

Clearly, John Knox was comparing himself to the prophet Elijah, and Mary to Jezebel. To many Protestants, the Catholics were pagans because they worshiped idols and people like Mary, had to be stopped. But there was also a misogynist element to it. Mary was the first woman to ever rule England –the only other woman who came this close was her ancestor, Lady Matilda. And because of this she was constantly under attack. When John Knox accused her of being another Jezebel, he said she was worse than the original pagan queen, because she (Jezebel) had “never erected half so many gallows in all of Israel, as mischievous as Mary has done in London alone.” And he went on to criticize her intended marriage with Philip of Spain (who coincidentally arrived on England that day), saying:

“Oh England! If you obstinately will return into Egypt:  That is, if you contract marriage, confederacy or league, with such princess as maintain and advance idolatry … if for the pleasure and friendship of such princes, you return to your old abominations, before used under the Popery, then assuredly, Oh England! You shall be plagued and brought to desolation by means of those whose favors you seek, and by whom you are procured to fall from Christ and to serve the Antichrist.”

Queen Jezebel
Queen Jezebel

Knox’s use of the bible was enough to scare any follower and turn them against their new Queen and her intended marriage with the Prince of Asturias and King of Naples. But as her father. Mary was determined to get her own way.

Sources:

  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor byy Anna Whitelock