Friday, 23 October 2009

Article on Mary in the BBC History Magazine

I have various articles on Mary that may be of interest to readers of this blog. Here is one published in March 2006 in the BBC History Magazine. The article is by David Loades and provides his assessment of Mary’s reign and of her character. Just click on each scan to enlarge the picture to read.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Mary’s speech in the Guildhall (1554) and photos

On 1st February 1554, Queen Mary I rode to the Guildhall in London to rally the citizens to her cause against Wyatt’s rebellion. The rebels were advancing to the city and Mary needed to ensure that they were not met with a sympathetic crowd once they got there. She had refused to abandon the city for her own safety, believing that her presence was necessary and that a direct speech to the citizens would prompt demonstrations of loyalty. Though often presented as a queen who lacked political aptitude, Mary’s decision was highly pragmatic. She ‘did so wonderfully enamour the hearts of the hearers as it was world to hear with what shouts they exalted the honour and magnanimity of Queen Mary’, so wrote the contemporary John Proctor in his account of the rebellion [1].

Last month I visited the Guildhall during London’s Open House weekend [2]. The present building dates between 1411 and 1430 though various parts of the structure have been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666 and by bombing during World War Two (in 1940 monuments, windows and galleries were destroyed in a single night). The Guildhall was restored in 1954.

The Great Hall within was the scene of Mary’s speech to the citizens of London. Her speech began with a denouncement of the actions of Thomas Wyatt and the rebels, presenting their cause as treasonous. She maintained that her decision to marry Philip of Spain was one supported by her Council and that the marriage was to the benefit of the realm. Then, Proctor writes, she stated to the crowd:

“For I am already married to this Common Weal and the faithful members of the same; the spousal ring whereof I have on my finger: which never hitherto was, nor hereafter shall be, left off. Protesting unto you nothing to more acceptable to my heart, nor more answerable to my will, then your advancement in wealth and welfare, with the furtherance of GOD’S glory” [3].

With that, Proctor asserts, Mary stated that owing to her ‘tender and princely heart toward them’, she would remain near ‘and prest adventure the spense [shedding] of her royal blood in defence of them’ [4].

Those familiar with the reign of Elizabeth I will probably detect the notable similarities between Mary’s speech here and Elizabeth’s speech of 1559 concerning the subject of her marriage, along with the Tilbury Speech of 1588. Just as Mary would use her coronation ring to symbolise the mystical union that bound her to her kingdom so Elizabeth, some five years later, would employ the same technique. Mary however applied this rhetoric in her arguments for the right and necessity of the queen regnant marrying; she did not see her union with the realm being affected by acquiring a husband. Elizabeth would of course adopt the theme of a union in a different manner, by portraying it as a perfectly acceptable alternative to a temporal marriage. Regardless of the differences both had to the approach to marriage, the ‘borrowing’ of rhetoric concerning the subject of the female sovereign’s union with her realm arguably illustrates the lack of originality in Elizabeth’s own speech. It is often presumed that Elizabeth merely learnt from her sister’s mistakes, thus Mary was an example of how a queen regnant ought not to be. The idea that Elizabeth may have taken more positive lessons from her predecessor, including endorsing her points and adapting them to an opposing argument, is one that needs much consideration.

Aside from Mary’s speech the Great Hall was also the scene of Lady Jane Grey and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s trial in 1554, during which both were condemned to death. Today a plaque is placed within the hall listing notable trials from the early modern period that took place at the location:

More pics:

The only window within the Great Hall that survived the bombing. It dates to the fifteenth-century

Remains of a medieval wall in the crypt – believed to be part of the fifteenth-century building

Lovely stained glass window of Thomas More in the east crypt


Another version of Mary's Guildhall speech is supplied by John Foxe, and this version has recently been endorsed by Anna Whitelock in her book, Mary Tudor: England's First Queen. The speech Foxe provides is similar in structure to the one provided by Proctor though the language endorsed is dissimilar. I have decided to use Proctor's account given that he was actually in England at the time of Wyatt's rebellion, unlike Foxe. Though Foxe may have been supplied with reliable information regarding the event, and the fact that his account of the speech is so similar to Proctor’s indicates that he was well-informed to a degree, I ultimately feel that Proctor’s firsthand account needs to be consulted. As the Oxford DNB article on Proctor notes that:

‘He was also very close to the events which he described, and his work has always been accepted as an informed source about the events of late January and early February 1554, particularly in Kent.’
(David Loades, ‘Proctor, John (1521–1558)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004).


[1] John Proctor, The Historie of Wyates Rebellion (1554), in David Loades, The Chronicles of the Tudor Queens (Gloucestershire, 2002), p. 36.

[2] For more information on the Guildhall from the Open House London site:

[3] Proctor, The Historie of Wyates Rebellion (1554), in Loades, The Chronicles of the Tudor Queens, p. 36.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Course on Tudor Queens at Oxford and other news

I have been neglecting this blog though certainly not due to any lack of interest in Mary Tudor. I have busy starting university and with this have moved to a new city, hence no time to update this site. However a few weeks back I noticed that there is to be a one day course at Oxford University on the subject of queenship in Tudor England (entitled Tudor Queens: Myth and Actuality), which involves two lectures including the example of Mary. Anna Whitelock, whose biography of Mary came out this year, will be speaking. I’m going and will post information regarding the discussions on this blog. The website states that places are still available:

Since my last entry I have noticed a date for the upcoming book, Alice Hunt and Anna Whitelock (eds.), Tudor Queens: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth (Palgrave - I have noticed the title of this book is listed differently on various sites). Apparently it is due out in May 2010 and is 256 pages long. Whitelock has also contributed an article in the recently released book, Liz Oakley-Brown and Louise Wilkinson (eds.), Rituals and Rhetoric of Queenship (Four Courts Press, 2009). The article is entitled ‘Mary: the First Queen of England’.In the same book, S.L. Müller, has written an article entitled ‘Representing the body of Mary Tudor’, which sounds really interesting:

There seems to be a succession of works relating to female rule in early modern Europe, some of which will hopeful discuss Mary. One to look out for is Sharon L. Jansen, The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Female Rulers in Early Modern Europe (out Feb 2010).

Monday, 17 August 2009

Possible portrait of Mary?

Over on Blog, there is an interesting post on a portrait of an unknown woman which some believe to depict Mary. I believe the current owner of the portrait is trying to find evidence to prove that it is of Mary and then he intends to sell.

I agree with other posters on the blog in their criticism of the claim. It seems to me that the owner of the portrait, and historian Linda Porter, primarily want the portrait to be of Mary and lack compelling evidence to back this assertion. Porter’s statement that, ‘Plus which, to me at least, it looks like her’, is not valid evidence to be used for the case that this painting depicts England’s first anointed queen regnant. It is ultimately a rather empty statement that doesn’t contribute anything to be the debate. Porter also argues that a portrait once believed to depict Katherine Howard which was then questioned by historians and now accepted is proof that identify of sitters can come full circle, with historians now accepting long established judgments. [1] In this I would also disagree considering the ‘Katherine Howard’ portrait is still debated amongst historians, with many rejecting the idea that it is of Katherine. In fact that National Portrait Gallery have decided to label the portrait as ‘unknown woman, formerly known as Catherine Howard’. Though the portrait was recently used in the Hampton Court exhibit on the six wives of Henry VIII, the curator Brett Dolman noted that there are ‘no undisputed portraits of Katherine’.[2]

As a poster on the Blog has pointed out, the portrait dates to the 1550s and therefore does not date to c.1537 (the date which the owner of the portrait believes it to belong to). So we can dismiss the notion that is of Mary at the time of her brother’s birth. And I think, owing to the lack of evidence and the presence of a degree of personal interest in this (after all a portrait of a major Tudor royal is going to fetch quite a bit!), we can dismiss the notion that is of Mary. Perhaps the possibility that the portrait depicts Margaret Douglas, countess of Lennox should be explored further.[3]

The full article, from The Times, can be read here:


[1] Porter is directly referring to the current debate surrounding the portrait of an unknown woman by Hans Holbein the Younger, a version of which is housed in the National Portrait Gallery, London. For some time the sitter was believed to depict Katherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife and Mary’s fourth step-mother.

[2] Statement made in an interview Dolman did with the BBC History Magazine on the exhibit (Vol. 10, no 4; April 2009). Dolman does provide evidence for the portrait being of Katherine but certainly does not present this as something determined, which Porter implies.

[3] Margaret Douglas was first cousin to Mary. Margaret mother was Margaret Tudor, consort to James IV of Scotland and sister to Henry VIII. Mary and Margaret were very close, to the degree that Mary wished Margaret to be her heir and not Elizabeth.

Princess Mary’s lodgings at Whitehall Palace

A while back I made a post on Mary’s connection to Beaulieu Palace, including a recent archaeological dig there that has unearthed a nursery that was probably made for Mary.

This short post looks at evidence of another residence used by Mary – her apartments at Whitehall Palace. The extravagance of her apartments gives us some indication of the way in which Mary was treated and regarded by her father, Henry VIII, who constructed the rooms for her.

The images depicted here are from two paintings of Whitehall Palace. The image on the top comes from a painting of Whitehall made in c.1700 whilst the other is from The Lord Mayor’s Procession on the River Thames (artist unknown, mid-seventeenth century). The building focused upon is the lodgings of Mary which were situated by the riverside gallery and were completed in 1543, five years prior to the death of her father. Her Whitehall lodging consisted of a small courtyard house which the building accounts describe as ‘my lady maries newe lodging’.[1] It was built on the two southernmost bastions of the river wall which were used as bases for two-storey bay windows, with oriel windows set at first-floor level. The intervening wall space was also filled with windows to make the east wall of the lodgings more or less entirely glass on the first floor.

The splendour of Mary’s apartments indicates the favour she enjoyed from her royal father. It was during this year that Mary was re-included in Henry’s succession via a parliamentary statue, despite her illegitimacy. The lodgings may also be a symbol of the steady harmonious relationship between Henry and Mary, which had initially been wrecked by Henry’s repudiation of Katherine of Aragon, his break from Rome, Mary’s own downgrade in status, and Mary’s refusal to recognise the legality of her father’s actions. In June 1536 Henry managed to break Mary’s resolve, and after swearing to recognise Henry’s ecclesiastical status, the invalidity of her parent’s marriage and her own illegitimate status, Mary set to present herself as the king’s obedient daughter. Furthermore it seems that Henry enjoyed Mary’s company and that Mary had established a place for herself at court. Interestingly 1543 was the year Henry married Katherine Parr who was a member of Mary’s household. It is possible that Henry began to take notice of Katherine during visits with his daughter. Such visits were frequent; by February 1543 one contemporary noted that the king ‘was calling at [the princess’] apartments two or three times a day’ [2]. It is therefore possible that these lodgings provided a setting for Henry’s pursuit of his last wife.

On my YouTube channel I have posted a video on Whitehall which features Simon Thurley. It gives some idea of what the palace was like during Henry VIII’s reign:


[1] Source from Simon Thurley, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England: Architecture and Court Life, 1460-1547 (New Haven and London, 1993), p. 79.

[2] Susan James, Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love (Gloucestershire, 2009), p. 77.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Retracing Mary’s steps

A few weeks ago I travelled to the city of Gloucester, one of several places Mary stayed during her route to Ludlow in 1525. Mary was nine years old when she started her journey to the Marches of Wales to represent the monarch in this region. For nineteen months Mary travelled to, stayed in and left Ludlow. Details of her itinerary still survive, although there is some uncertainty regarding the length of visits to various places. However the journal of Prior William More of Worcester Cathedral provides detail about Mary’s stay in that city.

Nearly two weeks ago I travelled to Worcester to see the cathedral in which Mary took mass on at least two separate occasions in 1526. In front of the High Altar is the tomb of King John, an English monarch who like Mary has not enjoyed a fantastic historical reputation!

The Quire with the High Altar in the back

According to Prior More’s account, the young princess made an offering at the mass he conducted in mid to late January 1526 and again on Easter Day of that year.

The High Altar, at which the young Mary celebrated mass.

King John’s tomb in front of the High Altar. Prince Arthur’s chantry is in the background

As Mary was celebrating mass, a controversial figure connected closely to her parents rested nearby. To the south of the high altar is the chantry chapel of Prince Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII, eldest brother to Mary’s father, Henry VIII, and the first husband of Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon. Arthur was not a controversial figure in his own right, but his marriage to Katherine of Aragon would prove to be a contentious matter when Henry VIII wished to annul his marriage to Katherine. By 1526 Henry VIII already seems to have fallen for Anne Boleyn and his doubts concerning his first marriage appears to have formulated since his failure to produce a living male heir with Katherine. Little did Mary know that the memory of Prince Arthur, whose tomb she had prayed by, would be evoked the following year for means that would change her life and the course of English history...


I've posted images of Arthur, prince of Wales's tomb on my Flickr page:

New book out on Mary’s historical reputation

The book cover for Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman (eds.), Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives is now available to see. The book is out this October in the US and out in December in the UK.

The book consists of a collection of essays examining Mary Tudor’s reputation, formed from the reign of Elizabeth I to present day. The book aims to present a ‘more balanced, objective portrait of England’s last Catholic, and first female monarch’.[1]

The articles included:


S. Doran, 'A 'Sharp Rod' of Chastisement: Mary I Through Protestant Eyes During the Reign of Elizabeth I'.

V. Houliston, 'Her Majesty, Which is Now in Heaven: Mary Tudor and the Elizabethan Catholics'.

P. Kewes, 'The Exclusion Crisis of 1553 and the Elizabethan Succession'.

T. Grant, ''Thus Like A Nun, Not Like a Princess Born': Dramatic Representations of Mary Tudor in the Early Years of the Seventeenth Century'.

T. Freeman, 'Inventing 'Bloody Mary': Perceptions of Mary Tudor from Restoration to the Twentieth Century'.


A.W. Taylor, 'Ad Omne Virtutum Genus?: Mary Between Piety, Pedagogy and Praise in Early-Tudor Humanism'.

A. Pollnitz, 'Religion and Translation at the Court of Henry VIII: Princess Mary, Katherine Parr and the Paraphrases of Erasmus'.

T. Betteridge, 'Maids and Wives: Representing Female Rule during the Reign of Mary Tudor'.

W.Wizeman, SJ, 'The Religious Policy of Mary I'.

T.Freeman, 'Bloody Mary? Mary Tudor and the Prosecution of Heresy'.

J.Richards, 'Reassessing Mary Tudor: Some Concluding Points'.

Appendix: List of the Marian martyrs

It is certainly worth looking out for!


[1] This description comes from Whilst Mary, as the synopsis states, was a Catholic monarch, she was technically not the last English monarch who belonged to this faith. James II, who governed the Kingdoms of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, converted to Catholicism prior to his accession and did not recant his beliefs to inherit the throne. However James ruled a country that had broken from the Catholic Church and in which a separate church (to which James was supposed to head) was established. Mary inherited a country that was officially broken from Rome although she was the last English monarch who oversaw her realm return to the Catholic Church.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Can historians now agree on the successes of Mary’s reign?

Peter Marshall has written an interesting article on the latest works on Mary’s reign (including Eamon Duffy’s engrossing study on the Marian Church):

The article ends on an optimistic note, and one I wish to share. But is Marshall correct when stating that scholars of this period can now be sure that had Mary not died in November 1558, her reign would not have been the disaster which has long been alleged?

Judith Richards, Eamon Duffy, Linda Porter and Anna Whitelock are not the first historians to advance favorable views of Mary or of aspects of her reign. They are not the first to challenge the assumption that her reign was one of complete sterility or the common longstanding belief that the Marian Church was bound to fail. Richards and Duffy in particular have constructed sound arguments that have contributed immeasurably to the perception of Marian regime as competent, but will their works be widely credited? Will historians of this period listen to these new ideas?

I am bit of a cynical person so my instant conclusion was that the new arguments, whilst encouraging, will not be as quickly and as widely credited as Marshall asserts. When Duffy’s book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor had just been released, a review by David Starkey emerged in The Sunday Times. The review was somewhat hostile, accusing Duffy of lacking much sympathy for the persecuted Protestants of Mary’s reign. A positive review was found in The Telegraph, but the reaction of the paper’s readers hardly reflected the praise. One reader, clearly perturbed by Duffy’s (and the reviewer’s) tone, stated:

So adding a 'renaissance' storey to a mediaeval tomb acquits Bloody Mary of being a backward-looking religious tyrant does it? Anyone, but anyone, who advocates the burning alive of someone else whose opinion differs from theirs, far from being an emblem of 'modernity', is in fact a throw-back to the barbarian hordes."

Furthermore even scholars of Mary’s reign are not in agreement over the argument that a lack of time was Mary’s failure, not her policies. The prime example is that of David Loades, who has worked on Mary’s reign for decades. In his latest work on Mary’s life, Loades concludes that her reign ‘was a failure in terms or her own aims and proprieties’ (Loades, Mary Tudor: The Tragical history of the first queen of England, p. 212). He admits that she could not help being childless, could not avoid the poor harvests and certainly could not prevent dying only after five years on the throne. But he still focuses on the incompetency of certain policies and overall asserts that problems would have persisted had Mary lived longer than she did.

As someone planning to examine Mary's reign for my MA dissertation, I am naturally exciting about the new works and hope they will have a wide impact on scholarship not only of Mary’s reign but of sixteenth-century English religious, political and social history as a whole. But I think it will take some time for these views to be widely endorsed by certain academics and unfortunately much longer for the public as a whole to start adopting these ideas. The legend of ‘Bloody Mary’ will not go away easily.


David Starkey’s review of Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor:

Christopher Howse’s article on Mary’s reputation and Duffy’s latest work, in the Telegraph:

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Hooper Stake

I grew up near a number of Tudor-related places in South Gloucestershire. Fortunately several of these places have a connection to Mary I, primarily by her visit through parts of this region in 1525. The city of Gloucester is one such place. She stayed there, aged nine-years old, for several days in September 1525. [1] But Mary’s connection to the city is today remembered in another way. On 9th February 1555, Bishop John Hooper was burnt at the stake on St Mary’s street. Mary sent specific instructions regarding his death, stating he was to be burnt in his diocese, ‘for the example and terror of suche as he hath caused there seduced and mistaught, and bycause he hath done moste harme there’. [2] He was the first of the Protestant bishops to die, and unfortunately his demise was not quick. On the 5th February he was sent from London to Gloucester, having been officially condemned for heresy. About nine o’clock in the morning of the 9th he was led to the stake with, John Foxe alleged, 7000 persons watching. The number is extravagant, but the emphasis on the large crowds may have been accurate as Foxe notes that Hooper’s entry into the city had been witnessed by many. If the crowds wanted a spectacle then they could not have wished for a bloodier one. Apparently not enough wood have been set about him, and the wind blew the flames from Hooper. Foxe recorded that,

Within a space after, a fewe drie faggots wer brought, & a new fire kindled wt faggots, (for ther wer no more redes): & that burned at the nether partes, but had smal power aboue bicause of the winde, sauing þt it did burne his heare & swel his skin a litle. In the time of the which fire, euē as at the first flame he prayed, saying mildely and not very loud (but as one without paines:) O Iesus the sonne of Dauid haue mercy vpon me, and receaue my soule. After the second was spent he dyd wype both his eyes with his handes, and beholding the people he said with an indifferent loude voice: For gods loue (good people) let me haue more fire: and all this while his nether partes did burne. For the faggots were so fewe, that the flame did not burn strongly at his vpper partes. The third fyre was kindled within a while after, which was more extreme thē the other two: and then the bledders of gonnepowder brake, which did him small good, they were so put, and the wind had such power. In the which fire he praied, with somwhat a loud voice: Lord Iesu haue mercy vpon me: Lorde Iesu haue mercy vpō me. Lord Iesus receaue my spirite. And they were the last wordes he was herd to sound: but when he was blacke in the mouth, and his tonge swollen, that he could not speake: yet his lippes went, till they wer shrounke to the gommes: & he did knocke his brest with his hands vntill one of his armes fel of, and then knocked still with the other, what time the fat, water, and bloud dropped out at his fingers endes, vntil by renewing of the fire, his strength was gonne, and his hand did cleaue fast in knocking, to the the yron vpon his brest. So immediatly bowing forwardes, he yelded vp his spirite.

Thus was he thre quarters of an hower or more in the fire, euen as a lambe: patiently he abode the extremity therof, neither mouing forwards, backwardes, or to any of the sides: but hauing his nether partes burned, and his bowels fallen out, he died as quietly as a child in his bed...

Today a monument stands in memory of Hooper, built in 1862. It is one of several nineteenth-century monuments built to the Protestant martyrs. The creation of this memorial comes with an interesting story. During excavation to build the base of the monument, an item was found lodged in the ground. It was a stump of a charred stake.

The charred piece of wood is normally housed in the Folk Museum on nearby Westgate Street. The museum is situated in the sixteenth-century building in which Hooper is alleged to have been held the night before his execution..Access to the museum is free and the alleged piece of stake, along with other artefacts connected to Hooper, are usually on display. However when I last visited, the items had been moved to storage to make way for an exhibit on Gloucester during the English civil war. Fortunately the people who worked at the museum were extremely helpful and one employee allowed me into the storage room. I assumed that the stake was held in a glass cabinet but it was rather unceremoniously placed on someone’s desk!

The piece of wood has a plaque attached to it, stating:

This is a portion of the stake to which bishop Hooper was chained when he was burned to death in Gloucestershire in 1555. It is indentified by the position in which it was found, rammed round with stone below the surface on the spot described in Foxe’s Martyrology as that on which Hooper suffered and on which the Monument to him now stands. Its history from the time of its discovery being known, it has been purchased for presentation to the Museum at Gloucester at the joint expense of

W. P. Price. Commissioner of railways for the United Kingdom, and formerly M.P. for Gloucester
W.K. Wait. M.P. for Gloucester
C.J. Monk. Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester and Bristol and M.P. for Gloucester
Charles H. Hooper. Manufacturer Eastington. Stonehouse

It is impossible to determine whether the stake was actually used at Hooper’s execution, particularly as the same site was used for two subsequent burnings. If genuine, then it is certainly one of the most unusual, disturbing and poignant artefacts connected to Mary’s reign that I have ever seen.


[1] Mary probably stayed in St. Peter’s abbey (now the Cathedral) for an unknown number of days. W.R.B. Robinson, ‘Princess Mary’s Itinerary in the Marches of Wales 1525-1527: a Provisional Record’, Historical Research, 71, 175 (June 1998), p. 244.

[2] Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (New Haven and London, 2009), p. 115.

[3] Full text can be read here:

Friday, 10 July 2009

Did Jane Grey have a good claim to the throne?

On this day in 1553, Jane Grey, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and great-niece of Henry VIII, was publicly proclaimed as queen of England in London. Amidst ‘a trompet blohying’, two heralds declared that the ‘lade Mary was unlawfully be-gotten’ thus Jane was now queen.[1]

Traditionally Edward VI’s ‘devise’ for the succession which deprived Mary and Elizabeth of the throne primarily on grounds of their illegitimacy and granted the kingdom to Jane, has been regarded as unlawful. The typical approach taken on this issue can be found in David Loades, Mary Tudor: The Tragical history of the first queen of England (2006), when he states:

‘Not only was parliamentary consent required for the change that he [Edward] was proposing, but as a minor he was not even capable of making a valid will. As the days ticked by Northumberland became increasingly desperate, even threatening violence against the obstructers. Eventually it was agreed that the only way to proceed was by letters patent, which would have to be retrospectively confirmed. Such letters were drawn up, but they never passed the seals, and thus were never properly validated, and so remained technically invalid.’ [2]

In such a narrative the actions of Edward, the duke of Northumberland and the conspirators remains highly dubious. Since Mary’s right to succeed was confirmed in a parliamentary statue (the Act of Succession of 1544, 35 Hen. VIII, c. 1), then the same administrative body was expected to be endorsed in the occasion that the monarch wished to remove Mary from the succession. Could the 1544 act be overturned just by Edward VI’s will? Or did parliament need to be included in all this?

In an article on Tudor dynastic problems, Eric Ives noted that Edward ‘was clearly copying his father’.[3] Many know of Henry VIII’s obsession with the succession that resulted in a string of marriages, and three separate parliamentary statutes explicitly concerning this subject. Cleary Henry believed that the monarch held the right to decide who his heirs should be and implement parliament to confirm this. His belief in the crown’s prerogative in matters of the succession went even further. The 1544 Act stated that the king ‘myght by the auctoritie of the saide acte give and dispose the ... crown ... by his letters patentes ... or by his last will ... to any person or persons’.[4] In other words if Henry, after endorsing parliament to confirm the succession, wished to subsequently change his heirs he had the power to make such an amendment by letters patent or in his will. In the end Henry chose to confirm the details of the 1544 act in his final will by stating again that all three of his children had a place in the succession. But he still held the power to state otherwise if he wished.

Edward's 'devise for the succession', 1553. Notice the change made on line four - after 'L Jane', Edward has inserted 'and her' so the line reads 'L Jane and her heires masles' instead of just 'L Jane heires masles'.

Although Edward laid out his succession in the ‘devise’ (which had to be modified because the first draft left the crown to Jane's ‘heirs masles’ and not actually to Jane herself), he did use letters patent to support such changes. Loades states that they were ‘never properly validated’, and certainly Edward came across opposition to his actions.[5] Nonetheless the letters patent were signed by many prominent figures in government, by judges and certain leading citizens of London.[6] But does this mean that Edward’s actions were entirely legal and that he reserved the right to change the succession purely because he was the monarch?

To argue that Edward did have the right to remove Mary and make Jane his heir is to infer that the 1544 act which allowed Henry to change his mind was a privilege that extended to subsequent monarchs. But when Henry oversaw the passing of the 1544 act did he ever intend for the clause that the monarch ‘myght by the auctoritie of the saide acte give and dispose the ... crown ... by his letters patentes ... or by his last will ... to any person or persons’ to be a power for all future kings (or queens) of England ? Or was he just concerned with himself?

Then there is another problem. Was Edward of a suitable age to make such actions? In 1544 Henry was a monarch in his fifties, who had exercised power for over thirty years. There was no outcry when he had this act passed. But Edward, though highly precocious for his age and concerned with administrative and particularly religious affairs, was only fifteen years old by the spring of 1553 and the country still had a lord president and a council that governed for him. When attempting to avoid conforming to the religious policies of her brother’s reign, Mary asserted that she would not recognise the laws owing to her brother’s tender age. For Mary, Edward’s policies were actually his councillors and she would not comply until he came of age to decide for himself. But her argument was not necessarily shared by all, and maybe Mary did not entirely endorse it. After all, Mary’s protests were all part of her attempts to avoid changing her own religious practise and to resist adopting the new policies which she regarded as heretical. It was therefore pragmatic to argue that these new laws were not legitimate and subsequently she should carry on endorsing the religious practise of her father’s reign. But many others did not show such defiance. Its notable how one contemporary judge, Edward Montagu, claimed that he had been troubled by the fact that Edward’s ‘devise’ conflicted with an act of parliament but Montagu did not state that he felt Edward was wrong in enforcing his royal will.[7] Rather, the judge argued, there were legal niceties that needed to be observed in order for Edward to go about appointing his own successors and in this circumstance they were not met. But even Montagu agreed to Edward’s changes in the end.

This post is full of questions and provides few answers. This ambiguity is caused by the fact that work on this subject is forthcoming and until publication it is hard to establish a definite position. The work in question is Eric Ives, Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery (WileyBlackwell, Oct 2009) that is to propose that Jane had strong legal grounds for her succession. Whilst scouring the internet for any information about this study I came across the book’s table of contents. One chapter is entitled ‘The rebellion of Mary Tudor’ and relates to Mary’s accession and Jane’s downfall. It is certainly an interesting way of looking at this subject. Was Mary the rebel who overthrew Jane the queen?

Admittedly I have always perceived matters the other way around. Jane the imposter, Mary the rightful claimant. And I still question whether Edward’s actions can be regarded as legal owing to the absence of parliament in all this. Edward could of course not help the fact that his heath was rapidly declining and that he did not have the time to call parliament immediately to verify his changes. There is evidence, as Ives points out, that Montagu urged for a parliament to convene in September 1553 to authorise Edward’s actions which does indicate the importance placed upon using parliament to overturn the 1544 act and remove Mary’s right to succeed.[8] Nonetheless Ives’s future work raises interesting questions about the royal prerogative and whether Henry set a precedent for his heir to decide outside of parliament how the succession was to be determined.


[1] The diary of Henry Machyn, citizen and merchant-taylor of London, from AD 1550 to AD 1563, ed. J. G. Nichols, CS, 42 (1848), cited from David Loades, The Chronicles of the Tudor Queens (Gloucestershire, 2002), p. 5.

[2] David Loades, Mary Tudor: The Tragical history of the first queen of England (The National Archives, 2006), p. 97.

[3] Eric Ives, ‘Tudor dynastic problems revisited’, Historical Research, 81, 212 (May 2008), p. 268.

[4] Extract from 35 Hen. VIII, c. 1), cited in Ives, ‘Tudor dynastic problems revisited’, p. 265.

[5] According to contemporary chronicler Robert Wingfield, two lawyers (John Hales, the justice of the common pleas and John Gosnold, solicitor general), opposed the scheme.

[6] Jennifer Loach, Edward VI (New Haven and London, 1999), p. 165.

[7] Ives, ‘Tudor dynastic problems revisited’, p. 269-70.

[8] Ives, ‘Tudor dynastic problems revisited’, p. 270.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Review of Judith Richards, Mary Tudor (2008)

I wanted to find a detailed, excellently written review of Judith M. Richards’s biography on Mary. Unfortunately such reviews have been published in journals which, though I can access, I am not allowed to post elsewhere owing to tedious copyright issues! So I have decided not to be lazy and have written my own review. Needless to say it is not of the calibre of the others!


Judith M. Richards, Mary Tudor (Routledge, London and New York, 2008)

In 1557 the Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, wrote a lengthy report on the appearance and personality of Queen Mary I, that has become a valuable source in the examination of this figure. Mary was, he claimed, a woman of ‘wonderful grandeur and dignity, knowing what became the dignity of a sovereign as well as any of the most consummate statesmen in her service’. Yet despite such praise Michiel still argued that because Mary was ‘of a sex which cannot becomingly take more than a moderate part’ in administrative affairs, she must have therefore taken a more passive role in government. The ambassador’s claims show us the prejudice that Mary as a female ruler encountered throughout her reign, problems which Richards explores exceptionally well in this work.

Richard’s biography is superb in analysing the subject of female rule in the sixteenth-century and in the context of the reign of Mary Tudor. Previous work on English female rule has focused almost predominately on Elizabeth I. Yet as Richards identifies, Mary preceded Elizabeth and successful met challenges including attempting to curb the power of her consort, Philip of Spain. Richards effectively pushes aside the traditional notion of a weak-willed Mary who was under her husband’s thumb. Instead Mary appears as a ruler who was very wary of others encroaching upon her authority.

Aside from the useful discussions on queenship, there is also a revised and in-depth analysis of Mary’s faith and religious policies. Richards rejects the notion that Mary was the blindly devoted Catholic of Protestant myth. Instead Mary actually encountered problems with the papacy and ultimately defied the pope by refusing to send Cardinal Reginald Pole back to Rome so he may be tried on charges of heresy. As Richards notes, ‘her obedience to the Holy Father was always tempted by a strong sense of the proper limitations of papal authority within her kingdom’ (p.218). Overall subtle comparisons between Mary and her father Henry VIII, are made. It has never been popular to consider that the pair had much in common, particularly in regards to religion. But as Richards shows, Mary was also favourable to the English Bible having encouraged the preparation of another during her reign. She also agreed with the Henrician settlement on certain points; for example she and Henry were in agreement on the subject of clerical celibacy and the absolute necessity of recognising the real presence at the mass. And of course both conflicted with the papacy, albeit in varying degrees.

Mary’s relationship with France is covered well, and Richards presents the image of a queen who faced a rather hostile and often unreasonable French monarch. Richards implies that part of Henri II’s disdain was over Mary’s sex, reinforcing further the tribulations Mary faced as a queen regnant. Richards also argues that when England did go to war with the French, something historians have attacked as absolutely disastrous, there was a significant degree of support in England for the move. The biography also illustrates the alleged and genuine frustrations the English government had with the French prior to the declaration of war that indicates that decision to enter conflict was not solely or even mainly to do with support for the Hapsburgs.

However the biography is not without faults. I would have liked a larger section on the Marian persecutions as owing to its controversy and the fact that for many it has defined Mary and her reign, it is therefore a subject that needs much analysis. But perhaps Richards was making a point with the fact that only ten pages in her book are specifically dedicated to this. Her use of comparisons, between Mary’s reign and the rest of Catholic Europe (and Protestant Europe), and with the reign of Elizabeth I, was very useful. Arguably she could have gone further in such comparisons in her general argument that the Marian burnings were not incredibly unique. Overall Richards clearly indicates Mary’s role in the burnings and reveals an image of a queen who was actively involved in the policies of her reign. I think this is important to assert as Mary is a figure that can be liable to (and has actually been) represented in an extremely malicious or even very saintly fashion, both such views being gross exaggerations. Instead, as Richards shows us, she was an active sixteenth-century monarch like her father and her sister and just as we must recognise her participation in the successes of her reign, so we must identify her role in the actions which we are repulsed by.

In her own review of this book, Dr Lucy Wooding argued that more detail could have been included on the last three years of Mary’s reign. This is a valid point as some things are skipped over. If I am not mistaken Richards failed to mention the formation of the Muscovy Company in 1555, which marked significant trade links between England and Russia. Overall Ireland and Wales are rarely (if ever in regards to the latter) mentioned in this work.

Despite these criticisms, Judith Richards work on Mary is an engrossing, innovative study which has enriched scholarship on this period and will be extremely useful for historians and students of this era. It is a shame that this book has not received much publicity, whilst another and less superior recent biography on Mary has. This book, though useful for academics, is also accessible for those who know little about Mary and her reign and want a well written and fascinating biography. It lacks the syrupy sentimental language of popular history books, yet still provides us with excellent detail about Mary’s private life and character as well as the politics of her reign.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Contemporary ballad celebrating Mary’s ‘pregnancy’

Here is a sixteenth-century ballad, dating to Mary’s reign, that celebrates her ‘pregnancy’ of 1554-1555. The ballad, which I have posted here in the original early modern English, is evidently joyful in tone and regards the news of a prospective Catholic heir to indicate divine approval for Mary and her cause, and overall as a significant symbol of hope. The ballad also attacks those who are cynical of the news and who harbour malicious intentions. This was a reference to Protestant opponents who doubted that Mary could conceive and bear a living child. This ballad indicates a level of concern for such talk and also a sense of achievement as the supporters of the piece feel that Mary’s pregnancy ultimately means the end of the Protestant cause in England.

The ballad was designed to be sung and thus broadcasted to many. Such a way of spreading news was necessary in an age where most could not read. The ballad allowed for some individuals who were gifted in reading to memorise it, sing to others and they too could learn the lyrics and communicate it to others. The ballad was printed in London and perhaps the ballad was confined to this area, although the Council at this time was making sure that reports of the pregnancy were sent to bishops across the realm so they could tell the populace. Perhaps part of their campaign involved spreading literature like this across the country?

The Ballad of Joy,
upon the publication of
Q. Mary, wife of King Philip,
her being with Child,
Anno Dom(ni) .15- . [1]

Now singe, now springe, our care is exiled.
Our vertuous Quene is quickned with child.

Nowe englande is happie, and happie in dede,
That god of his goodness, dothe prospir here seede:
Therefore let us praie, it was never more nede,
God prosper her highnes, god send her good sped.

How manie good people, were longe in dispaire,
That this letel
(little) englane, shold lacke a right heire:
But nowe the swet marigold, springeth to fayre,
That England triumpheth, without anie care.

How manie greate thraldoms, in englande were seene,
Before that her highness, was pwblyshed
(published) as quene:
The bewtye
(beauty) of England, was banished clene,
With wringing, and wrongynge, & sorrowes betwen.

And yet synce her highness was planted in peace,
Her subjects wer doubtful of her highness increase
But nowe the recofort, their murmour doth cease,
They have their owne wyshynge
(wishing) their woes do release.

And suche as envied, the matche and the make
And in their proceedings, stoode styffe as a stake:
Are now reconciled, their malis doth slake,
And all men are wilinge, theyr partes for to take.

Our doutes be dissolved, our fancies contented,
The marriage is joyfull, that many lamented:
And suche as envied, like foles
(fools) have repented,
The errours & terrours, that they have invented.

But God dothe worke, more wonders then this,
For he is Auther, and Father of blysse:
he is the defender, his working it is,
And where he doth favoure, they fare not amys

Therefore let us praye, to the father of myght
To prosper her highness, and shelde her in ryghte:
With joye to deliver, that when she is lighte,
Both she and her people, maie Joye without flight.

God prosper her highnes, in every thinge,
Her noble spouse, our fortunate kynge:
And that noble blossome, that is planetd to springe,
Amen swete Jesus, we hartely singe.

Blysse thou swete Jesus, our comforters three,
Oure kynge, our Quene, our Prince that shal be:
That they three as one, or one as all three,
May govern thy people, to the plesure of thee.

Imprinted at London in Lumbarde strete
Signe of the Eagle, by
Wyllyam Ryddaell.


[1] The year is not specified although it obviously dates to Mary’s 'pregnancy'. Her condition was widely known by November 1554, so this ballad must date to sometime after then and before early August 1555 (when Mary fully came out of confinement having realised that the pregnancy was not real).

[2] When the Queen Regnant (or as it had been before Mary, the Queen Consort) was pregnant, it was customary for Te Deums to be ordered in churches across the realm for the safety of the woman and child. Childbirth was notoriously dangerous in Tudor England and there were genuine concerns that Mary and/or her child could die. This provoked discussion about who would act as regent of the country if Mary died and the child lived, and it was decided that the role was Philip’s. However several drafts of the agreement concerning his regency had to be drawn up; the final act deemed that in the case of Mary’s death and the child’s survival, Philip would become de facto ruler of England until the child was of an age to rule. Mary supported this.

[3] ‘Lumbarde strete’, today known as Lombard Street, is situated south east of Gracechurch Street in the City of London. By 1556 only two printers were situated there compared to the fifteen that lived in St Paul’s Churchyard.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Ten random facts about Mary

1) In June 1520, when Mary was just four years old, she was sufficiently skilled on the virginals that her audience were ‘greatly marvelled and rejoiced’. She was also skilled on the lute and harpsichord.

2) During Jane Seymour’s pregnancy with the future Edward VI, Mary sent her cucumbers from her garden to satisfy Jane’s pregnancy cravings.

3) Mary was referred to as the ‘princess of Wales’ by contemporaries during her youth, although Henry never officially bestowed the title upon her.[1]

4) Mary’s godparents were Katherine, Countess of Devon (Edward IV’s daughter and therefore Mary’s great-aunt), Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (who would become Mary’s governess and close friend), Agnes Howard, duchess of Norfolk and Thomas Wolsey, archbishop of York and Henry VIII’s leading minister.

5) Mary was quite short-sighted.

6) In May 1546, Prince Edward (Mary’s half-brother) wrote to his stepmother Katherine Parr imploring her to admonish Mary about her dancing. He asked that Mary ‘attend no longer to foreign dances and merriments, which do not become a most Christian Princess’.

7) Mary first met her husband Philip of Spain in the gardens of Wolvesey, the Bishop’s Palace at Winchester in the evening of the 23rd July 1554. During this relatively private and short meeting (lasting half an hour) Philip spoke Spanish whilst Mary replied in French, having lost the ability to speak Spanish fluently. The couple married two days later at Winchester Cathedral.

8) Mary loved her clothes and tended to prefer expensive and sumptuous fabrics. In the first years of her reign the annual cost of the Great Wardrobe was considerable high owing to her coronation and wedding (at £18,000) but it dropped thereafter to £6,000 which was slightly less than her father’s expenses during the last years of his reign.

9) In June 1536 Mary submitted to her father by agreeing that her parent’s marriage had been invalid, that she was therefore illegitimate and that her father was Supreme Head of the Church. As a reward Henry gave her a ring which contained an image of himself and his new wife Jane Seymour with, on the back, this inscription (in Latin):

‘Obedience leads to unity, unity to constancy and a quiet mind, and these are treasures of inestimable worth. For God so valued humility that he gave his only son, a prefect exemplar of modesty, who in his obedience to his divine father, taught lessons of obedience and devotion’.

10) Mary is not a popular historical figure and is infrequently represented in film and TV productions. However she has been played by a notable character...
Lisa Simpson! The comical portrayal featured in the episode ‘Margical History Tour’; Homer Simpson plays Henry VIII and Marge Simpsons features as ‘Margerine of Aragon’!


[1] Mary was recorded as ‘Marie Principisse Wallie’ in a formal royal document (letters patent of 14 August 1525 granting Sir Giles Greville the chamberlainship of South Wales) but this seems to be incorrectly used. Ultimately she went though no formal ceremony for this title and thus was not style as the ‘princess of Wales’.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Mary and the royal manor of Beaulieu

A few months back, Channel 4 aired a fantastic documentary on Henry VIII’s palaces, which involved the guys from Time Team. They attempted to recover evidence of Henry VIII’s lost palaces and examined the area where the Palace of Beaulieu once stood [1]. Prior to Henry’s building work, the site contained an impressive manor which was granted to Thomas Boteler (or ‘Butler’), Earl of Ormonde by Henry VII in 1491. In 1515 Thomas died and the property was granted to his daughter and coheir, Margaret who had married Sir William Boleyn [2]. William sold the property to Henry VIII sometime in 1515 and by January 1516 the king had already started to rebuild the manor.

When Beaulieu is mentioned in connection to Mary it often concerns her time there as an adolescent or later in life. It was at this royal manor that Mary composed a letter to her father detailing her astonishment that she had lost the title princess owing to his decision to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn in 1533. It was also where the duke of Norfolk was sent to tell Mary that Henry desired her ‘to go to the Court and service of [Elizabeth], whom he named Princess’. In short, this was where Mary was informed that her new half-sister was now considered the king’s legitimate daughter and that she was now the illegitimate ‘Lady Mary’.

In her father’s will Mary was granted Beaulieu along with numerous other properties [3]. And in 1553, just after Mary had been pronounced as queen across the country, Beaulieu was where she was presented with a purse made of crimson velvet and filled with coins from the City of London, as a token of their respect for their new queen.

So Beaulieu became a well favoured residence for Mary. It was also where she declared before the sacrament that she would marry Philip of Spain with the Imperial ambassador and her lady-in-waiting Susan Clarencius being the only ones present. However it is not Mary’s connections as an adolescent or as queen to the royal manor that was examined in the Time Team programme. A much earlier connection was uncovered.

Whilst examining the ruins of the old royal manor in search of Henry VIII’s own apartments, the archaeologists came across another area where the original drainage system was existent and there were signs of previous massive bay windows that characterised the grand rooms of that period. Jonathon Foyle, an architectural historian who was present at the dig, proposed the theory that the rooms found were the royal nursery built for the infant Mary. He argued that the presence of either kitchens or a laundry belonging to rooms above indicated that the chambers belonged to an important individual, like a royal child.

Layout of Beaulieu. The red area to the bottom left marks the spot of the royal nursery.

The dates make sense. Henry purchases the manor in 1515 and work starts in January of 1516. By that point Katherine of Aragon was heavily pregnant and Mary was born in February of that year. Perhaps Henry, anticipating the birth of a male heir, purchased the manor for the child. The home was outside London and situated in the countryside and therefore away from dangers like plague making it a perfect location for the baby. Around £17,000 was spent on the manor between 1516 and 1522, indicating that the improvements were for someone notable [4].

There is also another and more striking indication that the manor has a connection to the infant Mary. Beaulieu is now lost to us but the arms of Henry VIII that formerly belonged to the outer gatehouse of the manor still survives. In the top right a pomegranate is included (the badge of Katherine of Aragon) and instead of being depicted with a slit with seeds poking through to symbolise fertility, a Tudor rose is emerging. It was argued that this represented the birth of a new Tudor, which in 1516 was of course Mary.

The investigation into the manor house provides us with valuable insight into one of Mary’s early residences. The episode can be watched here:
Part 1 -
Part 2 -


[1] Beaulieu is also known as Newhall, Essex.
[2] Sir William Boleyn (c.1451–1505) was Anne Boleyn’s paternal grandfather
[3] For a list of the properties Mary inherited from her father’s will (Beaulieu is given as ‘Newhall):
[4] Figures given in David Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life, p. 138.


Simon Thurley, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England: Architecture and Court Life, 1460-1547 (New Haven and London, 1993), pp. 44-5.

Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen (London, 2009), pp. 56-7, 179.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Medal commemorating the restoration of England to Catholic Communion, 1554 – and possibly Mary’s ‘pregnancy’?

In November 1554, England was officially received back to the Catholic Church. It was the moment Mary had been waiting for and to have this officially confirmed by Cardinal Reginald Pole, a leading churchman, Englishman and close friend of Mary’s, made the event even more significant. It was that month that Pole, after nearly twenty years of exile, returned to England as the papal legate. Mary wished to install him as her archbishop of Canterbury although Thomas Cranmer was still alive at this point thus Mary had to wait till his execution to bestow this on Pole. Nonetheless she did reverse the act of attainder that has been passed against him during Henry VIII’s reign in the parliament that met on the 12th November 1554 [1]. On the 22nd November, Pole landed at Whitehall, having travelled in the royal barge, and met Mary on the steps of the palace. She was accompanied by her new husband Philip and ‘she received him with great signs of respect and affection; both shed tears’ (Porter, p. 331).

The medal depicted here was struck to commemorate England’s return to Rome and Pole’s arrival in England to instigate this. Pole formally absolved the realm of past transgressions on St Andrew’s Day, 30th November, and the ceremony was greeted with much solemnity and emotion by Mary, Philip and the Commons. Mary had achieved the restoration of the old religious order; in the words of her biographer, David Loades, it ‘must have been the greatest moment of her life’ (p. 240). The medal captures this personal triumph.

The medal, made by the Paduan medallist Giovanni Cavino in 1554, depicts an allegorical scene. The symbolic figure of Anglia is depicted knelling before the pope and raising her hand forth, which he supports. By her is Pole wearing full cardinal attire, and to the right of Pole is the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, who was Mary’s cousin, father-in-law and protector throughout much of her life. Charles had been deeply involved in organising Mary’s marriage to his son Philip and in supporting Mary’s decision to restore England to the Catholic Church, which resulted in his presence on the medal. To the right are Mary and Philip, both crowned. Mary’s eyes remain fixed on Anglia, whilst Charles and Philip look pleasantly on at Mary. Above the whole group are the words ‘ANGLIA RESURGES’ – ‘England, you shall arise’.

On the reverse of the medal is an image of Pope Julius III, the contemporary pope, who Mary enjoyed good relations with. Julius had confirmed Pole’s appointment to England and although he initially pressed for former monastic lands to be resorted to the Church, he eventually conceded that ‘it would be far better for all reasons human and divine, to abandon all the Church property [in England], rather than risk the shipwreck of this understanding’ (Whitelock, p. 247). Unfortunately for Mary, a prosperous relationship with the papacy would eventually cease in the last years of her reign owing to the anti-Habsburg policies of Paul IV. [2]

The commemorative tone of the medal is notable. However there is another message, one which is subtle and hopeful. This can be seen in the figure of Mary. Although it is hard to completely establish Mary’s physique owing to the baggy nature of her dress, it is evident that she is depicted with a round stomach which she draws attention by laying her hand upon. All books that I have come across that include an image of this medal overlook the possibility that the medal is also drawing attention to Mary’s ‘pregnancy’ of 1554/1555. Yet it was around the time of the ceremonies which installed England back to the Catholic Church that Mary confirmed her condition. Personal confirmation came on the very day when she greeted Pole on the steps of Whitehall. His first words upon seeing her were, ‘Hail, thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed are thou among women’. Pole later retired and was subsequently greeted by one of Mary’s messengers who claimed that the queen had felt the child in her womb quicken when Pole had spoken the words to her. Quickening, the first moments of the child in the womb, was regarded as a confirmation of pregnancy in the early modern period and also a sign that the child was still alive. For Mary, the possibility of a Catholic heir was a joyous prospect and meant the security of her religious policies. Hence allusions to her pregnancy were entirely appropriate on a medal celebrating England’s return to the Catholic Church. Her condition was made widely known by the end of that month, again indicating the possibility that this medal, created near the end of that year, was purposely drawing attention to her pregnancy.

Unfortunately for Mary, the joy turned to despair when the pregnancy revealed itself to be fake in the summer of 1555 [3]. And with this came significant concerns about the succession and thus the sustainability of her religious policies. However references to the future worries about the succession that would plague the rest of Mary’s reign are practically nonexistent in this insightful medal from Mary’s Annus Mirabilis.

The medal has been recently included in Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (New Haven and London, 2009), plate 4.


[1] The bill of attainder against Reginald Pole was passed on the 19th May 1539. In January of that year his brother, Henry, Baron Montagu had been executed for allegedly plotting against Henry VIII (and he too was included in the bill along with their mother, Margaret Pole). Reginald Pole was in the Observant Franciscan house of Montili at Carpentras when this occurred.

[2] Divisions between Paul IV and Mary were also created when the Pope pressed for Pole to be sent to Rome to be tried on charges of heresy. Mary ultimately refused and her refusal to do so contributed to Paul IV’s demonstrations of gratification when he learnt of her death in November 1558.

[3] Limited work has been done into Mary’s ‘pregnancies’, although historians mostly agree that she suffered from cases of pseudocyesis, otherwise known as ‘phantom pregnancy’, whereby an individual exhibits signs of pregnancy but is ultimately not pregnant. For an interesting discussion into the possible biological and psychological causes of this see Judith Richards, Mary Tudor (Oxon, 2008), p. 173.


Eamon Duffy, Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor (New Haven and London, 2009), pp. 43-5, plate 4.
David Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford, 1992), pp. 237-40.
Linda Porter, Mary Tudor: The First Queen (London, 2007), p. 331-33.
Judith Richards, Mary Tudor (Oxon, 2008), pp. 169-73.
Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen (London, 2009), pp. 247-53.