Mary I - 1553-1558
Though she has gone down in history as a merciless and despotic queen, Mary was more a victim of her times and circumstances than a cruel woman. As the daughter of Catherine of Aragon she had suffered from her father's rejection of her mother and had felt the subsequent humiliation deeply.
When her half-brother nominated Lady Jane Grey as his heir, her bitterness grew, and when Edward died and Lady Jane acceded to the throne she marched to London and got rid of her rival.
Mary now set about restoring Catholicism in England and her first step was to marry the most Catholic monarch in Europe, Philip of Spain. This proved to be unpopular with her subjects and soon there were protests from leading clerics.
Mary put these down energetically and Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were burned at the stake in Oxford. In order to affirm her position, Mary now claimed that she expected an heir. But Philip, her husband, was occupied with a challenge to his domains in the Low Countries and it became evident that his marriage to Mary had been to ensure that he had an ally on his northern flank.
To add to Mary's anxieties, the French now took back Calais, the last English possession in France.
In a state of great mental anguish Mary declared that she was pregnant again and, when this was shown to be untrue, had to recant. She died soon after on a November day in 1558, a sad and despairing woman whose impossible dream had crumbled into ashes.
Mary died most piously, as she had always lived, a few hours before her staunch friend, Cardinal Pole. Her good qualities were many. To the very end she was a woman capable of inspiring affection in those who came in contact with her.
Modern historians are almost unanimous in regarding the sad story of this noble but disappointed woman as one of the most tragic in history.
Key Events during the Reign of Mary I
1553 - Lady Jane Grey is proclaimed Queen by the Protector, Northumberland. After only nine days, Mary arrives in London, Lady Jane Grey is arrested and Mary is crowned. Edward VI dies of tuberculosis at Greenwich.
1554 After Mary declares her intention to marry Philip of Spain, Sir Thomas Wyatt leads a revolt to depose her. Wyatt's rebellion is crushed. Wyatt, Lady Jane Grey and her husband are executed. Mary marries Philip of Spain in Winchester Cathedral. The persecution of Protestants begins, the heresy laws are revived and England is reconciled to Papal authority.
1555 - The Protestant bishops Ridley and Latimer are burned at the stake at Oxford for heresy.
1556 - Cardinal Reginald Pole is made Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas Cranmer, former Archbishop of Canterbury, is burned at the stake at Oxford for heresy.
1557 - England declares war on France.
1558 - The port of Calais — the last English possession in France - is captured by the French.
1558 - Mary dies at St James's Palace in London.