Thursday, 29 December 2011

New Work on the Wardrobe of Mary I

Over a year ago I posted a rather simplistic account of the fashion of Mary I. Very little had been done on this subject except Alison J. Carter’s ‘Mary Tudor’s Wardrobe of Robes: Documentary and Visual Evidence of Mary’s Dress Style as Princess, 1516-1553, and as Mary I, Queen of England’, MA thesis., (Coutauld Institute of Art, 1983). Now there is a new study and one available online. It’s Hilary Doda, ‘Of Crymsen Tissue: The Construction of a Queen. Identity, Legitimacy and the Wardrobe of Mary Tudor’, MA thesis, (Dalhousie University, 2011). According to the abstract:

‘Clothing, together with other bodily adornments, is a valuable tool for communicating loyalty, identity and status. The coded messages inherent in the interplay between garments, bodies and society play a fundamental role in political culture, and the early modern era was no exception. The example of Mary I of England and her wardrobe choices demonstrates precisely how useful this tool could be. Through examination of previously-unpublished warrants, information from Privy Purse records, contemporary accounts and portraiture, this thesis analyzes the contents of and changes in Mary I’s wardrobe through the course of her adult life. By examining what the queen wore and when, patterns emerge that correlate with important parts of her political strategies. The first queen regnant, Mary used her wardrobe as a vital tool in the construction of her identity and self-representation, and as a means of navigating through the political and domestic upheavals that threatened her authority.’ (p. ix)

You read the work here.

(Image - Design for a medallion with a representation of the Trinity by Hans Holbein the Younger, c.1532-43. Pen and black ink with green and red wash. Inscribed ‘TRINITATIS GLORIA SATIABIMUR’ (‘We will be filled with the glory of the Trinity’). The British Museum.

The inclusion of marigolds may indicate that the item was intended for Princess Mary. The 1542 inventory of jewels belonging to Mary recorded that she possessed ‘a grene Tablett garneshed with golde havyng the Picture of the trinite in it’).

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Review of Harry Kelsey's Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign (2011)

Harry Kelsey, Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011), 288pp. £18.99.

There have been several calls for a study of Philip of Spain’s time as King of England over recent years. This is hardly surprising. Present-day scholarship of Mary’s reign is continuously growing, drawing attention to remaining overlooked areas. Interest in queenship, especially during the Tudor period, has increased. Yet examinations of Mary’s status as England’s first crowned queen regnant can only progress so far without a comprehensive study of her consort. Research into the Marian Church is also somewhat affected by the lack of work on Philip. We have come to recognise the influence some within Philip’s retinue exerted. The decision to return to Rome under Mary was certainly not the policy of these men alone, nor were they chiefly responsible for the measures implemented by the queen and her government, but the case of Friar Bartolomé Carranza alone indicates the significant role some played.1 An oversight of a more important figure – Mary’s own husband – is nonsensical. Finally, Philip was England’s first king-consort. Matilda in the twelfth-century and Jane Grey/Dudley in 1553 both were married at the time they made a bid for the throne but neither were crowned and Jane, acknowledged as queen at one point, never conferred upon her husband the title of ‘king’. Philip, on the other hand, married Mary around year after she became queen, was acknowledged as her lawful husband and thus king by all. Yet he was also refused a coronation, faced numerous limitations on his powers and had a complex relationship with his new subjects the English that continued long after Mary’s death. This is interesting stuff and should be examined in its own right.

So Philip Kelsey’s study, Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign, should be a welcomed addition to the numerous works already published on Mary’s reign. Anna Whitelock’s review on the dust-jacket promises the book to be ‘a timely attempt to place him [Philip] centre stage’. Sadly I was unable to agree.

This is not an in-depth study of Philip’s role as King of England. The book is 162 pages long (of main text) and though book-lengths aren’t everything this is clearly a rather fast-paced observation. Often the basics are covered with little attempt to divulge further. An example of this can be found in Kelsey’s account of Mary and Philip’s wedding. It amounts to just four pages and is concerned chiefly with providing a literal description, from who said what to who stood where. Kelsey does not elaborate upon the fact that contemporary accounts state Mary was placed on the right and Philip on the left during the service – a reversal of the typical positions for bride and groom – and that Mary sat on a larger throne. As Alexander Samson put it, ‘the positioning of Philip and Mary in the church was designed to underline Mary’s continuous precedence over Philip as English sovereign, even in the context of her marriage to him, by placing her in the space traditionally reserved for a king and Philip in that of a queen consort’.2 Nonetheless there were similarities in their dress leading to the theory that ‘a kind of equality between them in terms of power’ was being suggesting here.3 None of this is discussed by Kelsey. He does mention in a footnote that ‘the various descriptions of the ceremony differ considerably. I have relied largely on Figueroa, who wrote his report the next day, while events were fresh in his mind’ (fn 12, p. 188). But he does not discuss why such contradictions existed; why English chroniclers suggesting one thing, and Spanish observers claimed another.

Kelsey’s rather constrained examination of issues regarding female rule at that time is evident throughout this book. Of Mary’s speech at the Guildhall, London in 1554, he provides the rudiments, namely Mary’s arguments that prospective husband Philip would be able to defend England against its foreign enemies (pp. 68-9). What he does not mention is arguably the most famous aspect of the speech – when Mary referred to herself as ‘wedded to the realm’, with her coronation ring being her ‘spousal ring’ signifying the enduring bond between herself and the people. Mary’s own perceptions about her upcoming marriage and the impact it would have upon her powers and relationship with her subjects is overlooked. References to studies on queenship are thin on the ground. The only two of significance used are Glyn Redworth, ‘‘Matters Impertinent to Women’: Male and Female Monarchy under Philip and Mary’, English Historical Review, 112, 447 (1997), pp. 597-613 and Judith Richards, ‘Mary Tudor as ‘Sole Queen’? Gendering Tudor Monarchy’, Historical Journal, 40 (1997), pp. 895-924.

This leads to a major issue of the book. When exactly was it written? It was published only last month (November 2011), though reads as if it was completed around five or so years ago. The bibliography only confirms this. The most up-to-date studies I could find there were Eamon Duffy and David Loades (eds.), The Church of Mary Tudor (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006) and Elizabeth Svoboda, ‘All the Signs of Pregnancy Except One: A Baby’, New York Times, 5 December 2006 (an article concerning pseudocyesis – ‘phantom pregnancy’ – a condition that Mary may have experienced twice). If this was completed around, let’s say 2006-8, then Kelsey may be forgiven for his overlooking recent works. I acknowledge that the gap in writing to publication may be out of Kelsey’s hands but surely concerns were raised about the status of the book in the wake of a spate of works into Mary and her reign? And, if we accept it was written just past the mid-2000s this still doesn’t explain why Kelsey ignored several studies, some dating to the 1990s, that are of vital importance to any historian writing on Philip as King of England. I am thinking mainly here of the research of Alexander Samson. Samson’s PhD thesis, ‘The Marriage of Philip of Habsburg and Mary Tudor and Anti-Spanish Sentiment in England’ (University of London, 1999) is undoubtedly useful, especially Samson’s diligent consultation of both Spanish and English sources. If Kelsey had issues in obtaining the thesis, this does not excuse the oversight of Samson’s article, ‘Changing Places: the Marriage and Royal Entry of Philip, Prince of Austria, and Mary Tudor, July-August 1554’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, 36, 3 (2005), pp. 761-84. There was also no reference to David Loades’s work on ‘Philip II as King of England’, nor to a collection of articles on Friar Bartolomé Carranza’s role in the Marian Church which provides evidence of Spanish influence in the English church naturally initiated by Philip’s marriage to Mary.4 Why ignore research with obvious relevance to your own study?

There were some other issues I had with particular details in the book. Apologises if this all sounds too pedantic...

Kelsey implies Mary was unused to government. After all, she had never been raised to be monarch; Henry VIII’s desire to produce a son and secure a male succession is well known. But Kelsey goes too far in asserting that Mary ‘was never allowed to participate in government or to learn the intricacies of court politics’ (p. 27). Mary may have not been granted political office during her father’s lifetime, but at a young age had been created as the de facto princess of Wales and made head of a vice-regal household sent to the Welsh Marches. Yes, Mary was young and not expected to govern independently, but the Crown was still to be represented through her person and Mary was to engage in a ceremonial and symbolic role. Ultimately it was a role, however confined that may be and, ironically, it was a greater experience in matters of government than her siblings received during their father’s lifetime. I also find it incredibly hard to assert that Mary was unused to the intricacies, and intrigues, of the court. An argument for Mary striving to keep in her father’s good graces unattached to any particular faction at court can be made for 1536 onwards, but the idea she was completely unused to the whole concept of court politics (which was in essence court life) makes little sense. Mary maintained a complex network of affiliates, with court reformers and conservatives alike, and was able to call upon the assistance of many of these individuals during her bid for the throne in July 1553. But simple, she was a witness and member of the Henrician court. She may have been barred from it during her years of disgrace (c.1533-6), but the 1540s was a different story. Kelsey even contradicts himself on this point. He later writes that ‘some historians now argue that Mary deliberately created much of her reputation as an ineffective ruler in order to achieve the goals she wanted, as well as to deflect attention from herself and blame others for the more intractable problems that plagued her government’ (p. 124). Admittedly I do not think this interesting argument is a credible one, but whether we wish to believe it or not it must be acknowledged that this strategy is highly calculating and impractical to carry though by someone unfamiliar to participation in government and ‘the intricacies of court politics’. Kelsey toys with the idea that Mary was astute and manipulative and in doing so makes her appear a far more impressive political player than he implies her education allowed her to be.

Kelsey notes that Henry VIII made the infant princess Elizabeth ‘Princess of Wales, reducing Mary to the status of lady-in-waiting’ (p. 29). Mary never occupied such a role; the imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys gave raise to fears she would be made to be some servant to Elizabeth but this irrational accusation turned out to be false. Additionally Elizabeth was never officially created princess of Wales. Kelsey dates the third Act of Succession (that re-included Mary and Elizabeth into the line of succession) to 1543 when it was ratified in 1544 (p. 33). Philip’s fourth wife is named as his ‘cousin’ Anne of Austria, though she was his niece (p. 139). Kelsey mentions that Bishop Stephen Gardiner wanted Mary to marry an English candidate, including Cardinal Reginald Pole but this was not possible for by her accession Pole had received Holy Orders (p. 53). This seems highly unlikely. Gardiner’s support for Pole as archbishop of Canterbury at this time was begrudgingly given at best. Gardiner clearly favoured Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon as Mary’s prospective husband, not Pole. As one of Gardiner’s biographers put it, Gardiner was ultimately prepared to see Pole as the next archbishop for this ‘would have the added advantage of ensuring that he could not rival Courtenay as the indigenous candidate for Mary’s hand’.5 On the issue of Philip’s status upon his marriage to Mary, Kelsey notes that Charles V gave his son the kingdom of Naples and dukedom of Milan as wedding gifts (p. 77). Yet in a separate footnote, Kelsey mentions that around the same time Philip asked a herald not to mention his status as duke of Milan for he had been given it back in the early 1540s so it was ‘old stuff’ (fn 15, p. 189). He also mentions earlier on that Charles had named Philip the duke back in 1546 (p. 27). An explanation of the rather complicated history surrounding Philip’s investiture as duke of Milan is not provided for the reader. Philip had been invested with the title in 1541 and 1546 though Charles had not relinquished control over the duchy. It was transferred again to Philip in 1554 at the time of his marriage, though it was a title he regarded as having been his for some years.6 Finally, Kelsey mentions the possibility that Elizabeth I ‘suffered from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome’, a condition whereby ‘a male child has the external features of a female but with shallow vagina and undeveloped ovaries’. Evidence for this, we are told, ‘is contradictory’ (p. 156). ‘Contradictory’ is too diplomatic a term; I would just go with ‘absurd’.

So far I have dwelled on the negatives, and in truth I believe they overwhelm the qualities of the book. However I take to heart the advice that if you do not have anything nice to say (or write) then say nothing at all! This isn’t all bad. Kelsey’s writing style is good; the reader is not faced with numerous grammatical mistakes or my pet hate – a string of very short paragraphs. Though I have issues with what he references, he does reference frequently so there is no chasing around for sources. There is a good selection of manuscripts used though often Kelsey cites from nineteenth-century transcripts like the State Papers, Foreign and Domestic, etc series. Kelsey gives due consideration to Philip’s personality and upbringing, and his romantic escapades. He cannot be accused of being either blind to Philip’s faults or neglectful of his qualities as many previous historians have been. I was especially interested in Kelsey’s observation of previous treaties between England and Spain, namely the 1542 one which promised aid to in times of conflict. Kelsey shows how this was raised during Mary and Philip’s marriage when the Spanish sought assistance in their war with the French. It is often implied that England entered war with France, and subsequently lost Calais, through the Spanish marriage alone, but the precedent for assistance between the Habsburgs and Tudors is emphasised here (pp. 118 and 129). The book does include illustrations though they are not of exceptional quality and are predominantly much later (including nineteenth-century) images. The maps are useful, but Kelsey fails to incorporate the illustrations into the text. They standalone which some may find absolutely fine, but I think if pictures are included there should be some purpose to them and not used in a decorative-like manner.

In 1570, some 12 years after Mary’s death, Philip claimed that he could give Pope Pius V ‘better information and advice on that kingdom [England], and on its affairs and people, than anyone else’.7 Clearly Philip believed he had not come away from the whole experience empty handed. His relationship with the English was at best complex but he took his role as King of England seriously and, as the quote suggests, believed himself to be an authority on that realm. This book has not proved to be a definitive or substantial account of Philip’s time as King of England. It covers briefly his involvement in the Marian Church and his influence over the direction of foreign policy, but there is no discussion of his improvements of the English navy (which of course backed fired on him in the end!), nor on his interest in another part of Mary’s realm – Ireland. It also suffers from a lack of discussion of recent works. As a result it seems distinct from current scholarship, in sharp contrast with John Edwards’ excellent Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011), which paid due consideration to Philip’s role, used an array of Spanish sources and up-to-date studies. As a result I would recommend Edwards’ biography of Mary over this book when it comes to the issue of Philip’s time as king-consort. More needs to be done though on the Habsburg who became England’s king. Popular knowledge of Philip’s later and troublesome relationship with the English and former sister-in-law Elizabeth I is well known. It is time to shed more light on the origins of that relationship, which was not as fruitless as the events of the 1580s would have us believe.

1 John Edwards and Ronald Truman (eds.), Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor: The Achievments of Friar Bartolomé Carranza (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).
2 Alexander Samson, ‘Changing Places: The Marriage and Royal Entry of Philip, Prince of Austria, and Mary Tudor, July-August 1554’, The Sixteenth Century Journal, 36, 3 (2005), p. 763.
3 Ibid, p. 765.
4 David Loades, ‘Philip II as King of England’, in C. Cross, D. M. Loades and J. J. Scarisbrick (eds.), Law and Government under the Tudors: Essays Presented to Geoffrey Elton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 177-94. For the articles on Carranza see fn 1. Kelsey also ignores John Edwards’ work on Spanish influence in Marian England including Edwards, ‘A Spanish Inquisition? The repression of Protestantism under Mary Tudor’, Reformation and Renaissance Review, iv (2000), pp. 62-74.
5 Glyn Redworth, In Defence of the Church Catholic: The life of Stephen Gardiner (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990), pp. 306-7. We also have to consider that Pole had no intention to marry Mary in 1553 nor was she interested in him.
6 M. J. Rodríguez-Salgado, The Changing Face of Empire: Charles V, Philip II and Habsburg Authority, 1551-1559 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp.103-6.
7 Philip II to Don Guerau de Spes, 30 June 1570, cited from Geoffrey Parker, ‘The Place of Tudor England in the Messianic Vision of Philip II of Spain’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 12 (2002), p. 185.

And on a completely unrelated note - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

17 November 1558: The deaths of Mary I & Archbishop Pole

Funeral effigy of Mary I

On this day in 1558 Queen Mary I died at St James's Palace. She was 42 years old and had reigned for little over five years.

Details of the deathbed scene were provided by John Foxe in the second edition (1570) of the famous Actes and Monuments ('Book of Martyrs'). The 'great afflications fallyung vppon this Realme' under Mary, 'wherin so many mē, women, and children were burned, many imprisoned and in prisons starued, diuers exiled, some spoyled of goods and possessions, a great number driuen from house and home, so many weepyng eyes, so many sobbyng hartes, so many childrē made fatherles, so many fathers bereft of their wiues and children so many vexed in conscience' (you get the drift), came to an abrupt end in the winter of 1558,

'...after all this (I say) now we are come at length (the Lord be praysed) to the xvij. day of Nouember, day as it brought to the persecuted members of Christ, rest from their carefull mourning, so it easeth me somwhat likewise of my laborious writyng, by the death I meane of Queene Mary. Who beyng long sicke before, vpō the sayd xvij. day of Nouember, in the yeare aboue sayd, about iij. or iiij. a clocke in the mornyng, yelded her life to nature, and her kyngdome to Queene Elizabeth her sister.'

[Foxe, Actes and Monuments, 1570 edn., Book 12, p. 2336].

Foxe recorded that 'some said that she dyed of a Tympany', a diagnosis that has proved enduring though seems to have lost favor in recent years. But he also speculated whether 'by her much sighing before her death, supposed she dyed of thought and sorow.'

What of the famous tale that the dying queen declared that when she was gone, and her body opened, the word 'Calais' would be found engraved upon her heart? Here too Foxe comes to the rescue; the story is first mentioned in the second edition of Actes and Monuments. Though it is a highly improbable claim it nonetheless perfectly sums up popular perceptions of Mary and her reign. For subsequent centuries Mary has been regarded as an incompetent ruler - one of England's worst - best remembered for her spectacular failings in government, the church and in war. The loss of Calais, England's last remaining territory in France, in early 1558 has frequently been selected as a good example of how utterly disastrous her reign was. So why not incorporate it somehow into her deathbed speech? Especially as such a loss was for many of Mary's opponents, not least Foxe, explicit evidence of divine disapproval of this queen and her religious policies.

'Wherupon her Counsell seyng her sighing, and desirous to know the cause, to the end they might minister the more ready cōsolation vnto her, feared, as they sayd, that she tooke that thought for the kynges Maiestie her husband, which was gone from her. To whom she aunswering againe: In deede (sayd she) that may be one cause, but that is not the greatest woūd that pearceth my oppressed minde: but what that was she would not expresse to them. Albeit, afterward she opened the matter more playnely to M. Rise and Mistres Clarentius (if it be true that they told me, which heard it of M. Ryse him selfe) who then beyng most familiar with her, and most bolde about her, tolde her that they feared she tooke thought for king Philips departing frō her. Not that onely (sayd she) but when I am dead & opened, you shall find Calyce lying in my hart....'

[Foxe, Actes and Monuments, 1570 edn., Book 12, p. 2336-7].

Foxe and co had another cause of celebration. Christmas came early for the Protestants as Archbishop Reginald Pole died that same day. In a matter of hours England lost its last Catholic monarch who governed an England united with Rome (unlike James II) and its last Catholic archbishop of Canterbury. It would be complete wrong of me not to make some mention of the death of one of the most brilliant, albeit controversial and divisive, churchmen of the sixteenth-century, if not the early modern period.

Reginald Pole by unknown artist, c.1550? Lambeth Palace, London.

Like Mary, Pole had been suffering ill health since the late summer of 1558. Though Foxe claims Mary died sometime between 3-4am, we know from Alvise Priuli, Pole's close confidante who was with him to the end, that she 'died at 7 after midnight on 17th' [around 7am]. So she passed away before Pole who died at 7pm. News of the queen's death reached him though initially his attendants thought it best to keep the news secret lest it quicken his demise. As Priuli wrote to his brother on 27 November, someone went 'against this order' and all was revealed.[1] Naturally Pole was 'very worried about results of her death', but was nonetheless preoccupied with his own impending end.[2] With the support of attendants, Pole left his bed and bowed his head almost to the floor where he engaged in prayers.[3] He died a few hours later.

Three days before he died Pole wrote to Princess Elizabeth declaring that he thought it best 'to leave all persons satisfied of me especially you, thanks to God's providence' before making a futile plea for his chaplain to converse privately with her on religious matters.[4] For Elizabeth, the deaths of the Catholic sister and archbishop of Canterbury in rapid succession was a godsend. When the coup to place Jane Grey on the throne failed in July 1553 Mary was quick to declare God's hand in her succession. Like her namesake she was favored; God had established her on the throne so she may oversee the restoration of true religion. It was now Elizabeth's, and the Protestants', time to rejoice in the mercy of the Lord. Thus the new young queen when informed of her succession is supposed to have declared 'A Dominum factum est illud, et est mirabile in oculis nostris'. It is this the lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.


2008 marked the 450th anniversaries of the deaths of Mary and Pole. Mary's demise went largely unmarked; Pole's ecclesiastical position appears to have secured him some recognition. For an example of this see the Requiem Mass 'offered for the repose of the soul of Reginald Cardinal Pole' held in the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford (Pole's own college), in 2008:

[1] Priuli's letter to his brother Antonio, 27 November 1558. Thomas F. Mayer (ed.), The Correspondence of Reginald Pole: Volume 3. A Calendar, 1555-1558: Restoring the English Church (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Priuli's letter to the archbishop of Toledo, aft. 15 December 1558. Ibid, pp. 588-90.

[4] Pole's letter to Princess Elizabeth, written from Lambeth, 14 November 1558. Ibid, p. 579.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

10 facts about Mary I’s coronation

Rejoice! On this day in 1553 Mary I became England’s first crowned queen regnant with her coronation in Westminster Abbey. Here are ten facts about this momentous occasion, not just for Mary, but for contemporaries who were evidently amazed at the sight of a woman being crowned as monarch.

1. Mary did not wish to be anointed with the holy oils consecrated by Edwardian ministers – men whose views she deemed as heretical. So she had the bishop of Arras in Brussels send ‘untainted’ oils. The bishop sent three lots though apologised about the rather plain vessels encasing them. Had I longer than three weeks to send them I would have commissioned some nicer cases, he told the Imperial ambassador Simon Renard.

2. The archbishop of Canterbury did not preside over the coronation ceremony, as was customary. Instead Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester took lead. The reason? The current archbishop was her loathed enemy, Thomas Cranmer, then imprisoned in the Tower. Ally Gardiner was a safer bet.

3. Mary’s coronation was naturally unique given she was first woman crowned as monarch in her own right. So during the ceremony she held, as Gianfrancesco Commendone records, ‘in her hands two Sceptres; the one of the King, the other bearing a dove which, by custom, is given to the Queen [queen consorts]’. It would have been the same dove-topped sceptre her mother, Katherine of Aragon, held during her coronation alongside husband Henry VIII in 1509.

4. Mary’s crown was carried in the abbey by the aged Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk (who had recently been released from the Tower). His steward was his grandson and heir, Thomas. The duke’s estranged wife, Elizabeth, helped carry the train of Mary’s magnificent coronation robes.

5. Mary progressed to the abbey under a ‘rich canapye of Bawdkyn’ carried ‘by the barouns of the v ports’ (i.e. the Barons of the Cinque Ports). This was completely in line with tradition and was identical to the one used in her father’s coronation in 1509.

6. In order to ensure the entire congregation could witness Mary’s crowning, a platform was erected within the abbey. It was twenty steps high, and Mary had to ascend a further ten steps to get to the throne situated on its own dais.

7. To the abbey Mary wore ‘her parlement robes of crymsyn veluit’ (as traditional) which covered her ‘gown of blew velvett’. During the ceremony she changed and wore a ‘mayntell of Crymsyn velvit bordered with Ermyn with buttons and tasiles of sylke and golde’.

8. Mary was the second (not the first as sometimes stated) English monarch to be crowned with three crowns. They included St Edward the Confessor’s crown, the imperial crown commissioned by Henry VIII, and a crown ‘purposlie made for her grace’. The first monarch crowned in such a manner was her predecessor, and brother, Edward VI.

9. The queen’s champion – the man whose task it was to boldly announce he would fight any man who refused to recognise Mary as the sovereign– was Sir Edmund Dymoke. He appeared during the coronation banquet on horseback dressed in full armour and flung down his gauntlet daring anyone to accept the challenge. In gratitude Mary gave him her gold drinking cup filled with wine.

10. 7,112 dishes were served at Mary’s coronation banquet. The lady herself was served over 312 dishes. Of these numerous dishes around 4,900 were listed in records as ‘waste’.

But before you shake your head at such excess and greed, it seems the remaining dishes were distributed to Londoners. And Londoners appreciated the freebies. There was a desperate scramble for the food (as there was for the bits of carpet Mary walked on and the rails constructed to keep the crowd in line). The kitchens were soon emptied. But not just of food. The celebratory mood caught fire and soon even bits of furniture were ripped from the kitchens. Such vandalising and looting in London! Thank goodness we live in more civilised times...

For more on the coronation see,

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (London and New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011), pp. 123-34.

Alice Hunt, ‘’What art thou, thou idol ceremony?’: Tudor coronations and literary representations, 1509-1559’, PhD thesis, Birbeck, University of London, 2005.

Alexander Samson, ‘The marriage of Philip of Habsburg and Mary Tudor and anti-Spanish sentiment in England: political economies and culture 1553-1557’, PhD thesis, Queen Mary, University of London, 1999), pp. 54-67.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review of John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (2011)

Last week’s holiday provided me with the perfect chance to read the latest biography of Mary. Perhaps not ideal beside-the-pool reading, but I wasn’t disappointed...

John Edwards, Mary I: England’s Catholic Queen (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2011), 387pp. £25.

Works on Mary I and her reign do not reach the number of studies on her father and half-sister. Still, she is the subject of a fair number of biographies. Compare this to biographies of Henry VIII; Scarisbrick’s Henry VIII, first published in 1968, still remains the leading account of this monarch’s life. Mary, on the other hand, has at least five biographies to her name published since 2006 (not counting reprints), all of which are readily available in mainstream book shops. This includes the latest offering, by John Edwards, which has already been heralded as ‘the first time we have a proper account of her with a fully European-wide perspective’ (Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch) and ‘the best scholarly biography of Mary I’ (Professor Ethan Shagan). And such comments are not far off the mark.

John Edwards’ book forms part of the Yale English Monarchs Series which already includes separate biographies of the Tudor kings. The works, or at least the ones I have read, act as introductory texts yet are also incredibly valuable to those rather clued up on the various figures. Having read nearly all the biographies of Mary published in modern times, it is easy to get – dare I say this? – slightly bored of reading lengthy discussions on Mary’s parental and maternal ancestry at the beginning of each biography along with a very detailed account of Katherine of Aragon’s time in England before her daughter’s birth, her marriage to Prince Arthur, then to Henry VIII, the accompanying treaties, etc. Edwards is particularly skilled in providing the reader with the necessary details, naturally of great benefit to those new to Tudor history, whilst not diverting from his subject. It is a very subtle way of dealing with the always essential but sometimes burdensome context.

It’s best to start with the positives of this book and there are many. Undoubtedly this biography is the most important one of Mary in regards to her marriage, her husband’s role as King of England, and Anglo-Spanish relations in general throughout the course of Mary’s lifetime. Edwards is a Modern Languages Faculty Research Fellow in Spanish at Oxford University and specialises in Early Modern Spain. He has already written a joint biography on Mary’s maternal grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, along with a separate one on Isabella. He is an authority on the Spanish Inquisition and Spanish religious influence in mid-Tudor England. His knowledge of Spanish sources of this period shines through this book. Not only has he exhausted Spanish archives for primary sources (some of which are not used in other works on Mary) but he is mindful of secondary Spanish sources. I was impressed (and jealous) that he got hold of María Jesús Pérez Martín’s María Tudor: La gran reina desconocida (Madrid: Ediciones Rialp, 2008) which clearly helped guide him to certain primarily materials in Spain. The result of such wide-ranging research, unconfined to the libraries and archives in the UK, is a marvellous account of Mary’s relationship with her Habsburg relations. Or, as Diarmaid MacCulloch nicely put it, Mary as ‘a Trastamara princess as well as a Tudor’.

There is ample information on Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain, namely the complicated route to the union, Philip’s attitudes to becoming King of England, and of the grand plans Philip’s father Charles V had for his dynasty. The personalities of these Spanish figures and their relationships with one another are discussed in more detail than I have seen elsewhere in works on Mary. I’ll give you an example of this – Edwards points out that by the early 1550s Philip and Charles’ relationship was suffering somewhat, that Philip, understandable for his age, wished for more independence, and his plans for this often put him at odds with his father. We are also told that Philip, who wished to marry Maria of Portugal by the time Mary became queen came to understand his father’s desire for him to marry the new queen of England and instead of assenting to his father’s plans he decided not to lose face by turning the situation around and announcing to Charles that he had decided to break off marriage talks with Portugal through his own initiative (p. 147). It feels as if a battle of wills was in effect here, with Mary’s marriage being the policy of several characters – Mary, Charles, Philip – all of whom liked to think they were in control of the entire affair. A very insightful and personal account of the road to Mary’s marriage.

Edwards’ discussion of Philip’s own role as Mary’s consort is superb. Philip’s own anger at the terms of the marriage treaty, his involvement in English affairs, his recognition of the implications the Habsburg conflict with France had on England, and his admiration and later frustration with the English is laid out well. Alongside this is plenty of analysis of how Philip’s Spanish attendants regarded Mary’s realm. We are reminded of how highly the Spanish regarded English history and myth (Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table especially). Philip was also committed to such tales and ‘fully shared the popular taste of western Europeans for the romances of chivalry’ (p. 185). Upon marrying Mary ‘he seems to have slipped immediately and naturally into the chivalric role’ that the monarchs, male always before Mary, were expected to adopt (p. 210). This leads to some interesting questions about the negotiation of roles between Mary and Philip as well as how Mary was able to maintain her authority and declare her powers as queen regnant to be equally to that of a king’s, yet recognise that certain aspects of rule had been appropriated by her male counterparts. The sense I got from Edwards’ work is that Mary and Philip were a productive partnership with Mary perceiving her husband to be useful in carrying out the tasks denied to her sex (whether it was associated with chivalric orders and their rituals or, more pressingly, the matter of the battlefield). That is not say Edwards ignores the blatant conflicts that the marriage caused, including Philip’s own exasperation at the marriage treaty that placed great restrictions on his involvement in English affairs. Edwards also believes there was a sense of a culture clash that led to confusion and outright hostility between the Spanish visitors and the English. Occasionally he provides some amusing antidotes to highlight the problems in Anglo-Spanish relations. When, for example, the high-ranking Spanish noblewomen, the duchess of Alba, was greeted in Southampton alongside the recently arrived Philip, the earl of Derby attempted to welcome her in the English custom by kissing her on the lips (p. 185). Such was not the practice in Spain and it led to an awkward moment where the lady stiffened before politely accepting such informal English etiquette.

As already noted, Edwards has written about the Spanish Inquisition and Spanish religious influence in Marian England. These themes are further explored in this book. The reader is provided with an excellent overview of the legacy of heresy trials in England by the time of Mary’s reign, along with an understanding of contemporary attitudes towards heresy on the continent (especially pp. 254-8). Like several recent historians, including Thomas Freeman, Edwards does not seek to ignore Mary’s own support for the infamous heresy trials. His work is also in line with the arguments of the late William Wizeman in seeking to perceive the religious policies of Mary’s reign as part of the so called Counter Reformation in Europe. Mary’s church was not a standalone example to be examined as such but part of the wider Catholic Church influenced deeply by European churchmen including the many that formed part of Philip’s entourage. This in essence is the argument of Edwards’ book. Mary’s reign should not be examined merely in context with events that occurred in England beforehand, including Henry VIII’s break from Rome in the 1530s and even the Tudors whole establishment on the throne in 1485. The actions of previous Tudor monarchs especially in regards to the church are certainly important but a deeper understanding of the European political stage, papal affairs throughout these years, and the role European religious and political thinkers had in Mary’s England is imperative in our understanding of the first Tudor queen’s reign.

That being said there were some aspects I had issues with.

When discussing Mary’s decision to conform to her father Henry VIII’s demands in 1536 – to recognise her father as head of the church, his marriage to her mother Katherine as unlawful and thus herself as illegitimate – Edwards argues that Mary’s ‘emotional prop in the succeeding years’ was the pope and not her cousin Charles V (p. 50). But he fails to provide sufficient evidence to show such a connection between Mary and the pope. We are told that Paul III allowed Mary’s confessors to absolve her in secret (Edwards seems to be relying upon ambassador Chapuys’s letters for this though it should be noted that Chapuys was inconsistent in his claims that a) Mary was concerned about seeking papal approval for her actions and b) that the papacy was that directly involved). Edwards then fails to discuss the papacy much in the following pages. When he refers to the pope does he specifically mean Paul III? If so there really is little evidence in this book that Paul III was ever an ‘emotional prop’ for Mary. Paul III may have (allegedly) allowed Mary that one concession but, as Edwards also mentions, he ‘would not give her licence to renounce secretly her submission to her father, and hence continue to be regarded as a Catholic in the eyes of the Church’ (p.50). He even credits this unfavourable decision as adding to Mary’s turmoil over the rejection of her faith (p.52). Some emotional prop.

On the same issue, Edwards also appears to contradict himself about Mary’s religious views from c.1536-47 and her attitude towards her submission. Clearly he regards the submission as disingenuous and stresses that Mary wished for the pope to absolve her in secret so she could be a practising Nicodemite. He mentions this, for example, on p. 68. On the bottom of the same page he goes on to state that ‘it is particularly important to note that Mary seems at this time to have accepted the state and nature of the Church as Henry left it’ (pp. 68-9). What he is referring to here is the conservative nature of many aspects of Henrician doctrine which suited both Henry VIII and Mary. I entirely agree with Edwards on this point, and it is an argument that Judith Richards promoted with great effect in her book Mary Tudor. But Edwards’ recognition that Mary could worship in her father’s church and was accepting of the nature of it does conflict with his previous arguments that its state was so unpleasant to her – in danger, she believed, of threatening her soul – that she sought papal approval and was distraught at the problems she encountered in this. His repeated comparison between Mary and Nicodemus is not a neat one. Mary’s own religious approach was much more complex as was her attitude to papal authority. It would certainly have helped had Edwards mentioned Richards’ work and tackled it head on, and/or discussed more of the nature of Henry VIII’s church.

Then there are the errors. I’m rather forgiving of the odd slip-up because I’m certainly prone to them (and not just the odd one!). But Edwards has the misfortune of repeating some of these mistakes. On at least two occasions he states that Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and Mary’s aunt, was the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots (p. 63, p. 76). Remarkable given Margaret had died the year before granddaughter Mary of Scotland’s birth. What makes this mistake even sillier is that earlier he correctly identified the Scottish queen’s mother as Marie de Guise and later on talks about Marie’s role as regent. Edwards also states that Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon was Cardinal Reginald Pole’s nephew (p. 149). He was not. Edwards names Mary’s sister-in-law, the widowed duchess of Richmond, as ‘Elizabeth Howard’ though she was another Mary (p. 102).At one point Edwards refers to a letter by Jane Grey ‘apparently written to Mary’ (pp. 115-6), which was actually a conversation Jane had with an individual in the Tower recorded by one ‘Lea’ (probably Richard Lea, a London goldsmith). The text in question is discussed well in Eric Ives, Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. (Thanks to the Lady Jane Grey Reference Guide for pointing that error out to me.)

The book jacket declares the biography to be ‘original and deeply researched’, offering ‘fresh understandings of her religious faith and policies, as well as her historical significance in England and beyond’. It succeeds in this and it is certainly a biography that should be consulted by any Mary/Tudor scholar. Those looking for a biography that merely discusses Mary’s personal history – who wish for another presentation of what Edwards’s brilliantly calls the ‘‘little woman’ approach’ to Mary (p. 105), that dwells on her ‘tragedies’ and purports an image of her as a domesticated queen denying her of any acumen and unable of governing decisively – will be disappointed. But it is his refusal to support such an image that attracts me to this book. It manages to cover a wide range of themes, contains an excellent bibliography and regular footnoting (though I felt at times Edward could have referenced more). The seventeen illustrations, though in black and white, have very detailed labels. The Mary that emerges from this book is a queen convinced that God favoured ‘and done great things for her, by bringing her to both throne and marriage’ (p. 347). It was such ideas that encouraged Mary’s steadfastness and determination, not always wisely pursued but nonetheless apparent and sometimes courageous. But it is not admiration of Mary that Edwards seems to seek. It is the recognition that she was monarch with achievements, long since ‘undermined and attacked’ but nonetheless present and necessary to appraise. He is neither the first nor the last historian to recognise the successes of Mary’s reign and to defend her ability to govern. But he is one of the first to have taken her role as a Habsburg wife very seriously.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Mother and Husband to the Realm? How Mary’s Speech as Queen Helped Elizabeth I

Yesterday I came across an article by Cristy Beemer published only a month ago on ‘The Female Monarchy: Rhetorical Strategy of Early Modern Rule’ (Rhetoric Review, 30, 8, pp. 258-74). The article explores the manner in which Mary and Elizabeth, England’s first queen regnants, presented themselves to a kingdom accustomed only to male rulers. Beemer identified Mary and Elizabeth’s tendencies to employ ‘the figures of the spouse, the mother, and the maiden to embody conventional roles for women in Tudor society’ (p. 259) though naturally these two occupied very remarkable roles for women of that age. Unlike other ‘mothers’ and ‘maidens’ they were not answerable to a male figure. Like their fellow Tudor monarchs, they expected to be recognised as the superior authority in the realm. Their bodies, Beemer argues, naturally invoked traditional gendered roles but at the same time their speech denied such roles. In other words, Mary and Elizabeth did not adopt submissive language but rather formulated speech that demonstrated their authority, their independence as rulers – their right to govern as powerfully and freely as their male predecessors.

But it is Beemer’s specific focus on Mary’s speech that I wanted to draw attention to. Like several recent historians, namely Judith Richards, Beemer argues that Elizabeth had a lot to thank her sister for as Mary of course governed first, challenged preconceived notions of female rule first, tested the waters so to speak, and made mistakes which proved equally valuable for Elizabeth. It is Mary’s speech before the Guildhall in 1554 that Beemer focuses on specifically. In 1554 the rebels of Wyatt’s uprising (primarily a protest against Mary’s prospective marriage to Philip of Spain) marched towards the city of London and the authorities were anxious that they would receive a warm reception once they got there or at least could not be held outside the city. Mary, who was advised to leave the capital, decided to stay and give a rousing speech at the Guildhall, which won her acclaim and plenty of support. During the speech, Mary declared that she was,

‘...wedded to the realm and laws of the same (the spousal ring whereof I have on my finger, which never hitherto was, nor hereafter shall be left off), you promised allegiance and obedience to me’ (p. 263).

Beemer points out that Mary very deliberately avoided calling herself a ‘wife’. She is ‘wedded’ to her kingdom but she employs the word ‘spouse’. She does not cast herself in the submissive role of a wife who was expected to obey her husband duly. Thus Mary gives her subjects no reason to believe they hold the power to command her; ‘Mary takes on the role as the person to whom obedience is sworn’ (p. 264). Beemer concludes ‘in one of the first examples of the strategy of gender play that female monarchs used to establish ethos, Mary will not be a wife to England, but rather, a husband’ (ibid).

In the same speech Mary went on to refer to herself as a ‘prince and governor’ instead of just using the term ‘queen’. Beemer points out (and I never noticed this before), that the Oxford English Dictionary attributes the first reference to a female sovereign as ‘prince’ to Geste’s 1560 sermon where he is referencing to Elizabeth I.* But Mary endorsed this term as early as 1554 (Beemer does point out rightly that the Guildhall speech was first recorded after Mary’s death but if accurate, and there is wide consensus that the speech is correct, it was still said by Mary six years before Geste used the term). Elizabeth described herself as ‘prince’ on numerous occasions. She was obviously supporting existing terminology advanced earlier by Mary who was keen to emphasise her similarity to male counterparts.

As everyone knows, Mary went on to marry and hoped the union would produce children, namely that longed for Catholic Tudor-Habsburg heir. How did a pregnant queen, or one who hoped of bearing heirs in the immediate future, continue with her image as a ruler whose power and rights matched a king’s? Beemer points out again that Mary continued this dual role; she emphasised her female body, namely her ability to produce children but in the same breath she explained that she hoped to continue the dynastic line like ‘my progenitors have done before’ (p. 265). Beemer explains that ‘Mary’s careful choice of the word progenitors is rhetorically savvy. Unlike the neutral gender marking of the Latin origin of prince, princeps, the term progenitors is gendered masculine in the Latin. Like the male princes before her, Mary’s ruling progenitors are exclusively male. Evoking a history of men, the discussion of succession is changed. Mary places her fertility on a level playing field with the men who came before her; the issue is one of succession only and not complicated by her gender. Although her female body signifies difference, her single status is no more problematic than any of the single men who ruled before her.’ (Ibid). The rest of the article chiefly concerns Elizabeth ‘mirroring’ her sister. And if we credit Beemer’s arguments, she was a useful model of queenship to follow.

Beemer’s article is well worth reading and I probably haven’t done it enough justice here. She is not the first, nor probably the last historian to draw attention to the legacy Mary left to Elizabeth, an inheritance which has forever been seen in a negative fashion (loss of Calais, religious turmoil, etc), but which was more fruitful than many have liked to admit.

Full article: Cristy Beemer, ‘The Female Monarchy: Rhetorical Strategy of Early Modern Rule’, Rhetoric Review, 30, 8 (2011), pp. 258-74.

* For those who don’t have a subscription to the OxfordED, here is the relevant entry:

Applied to a female sovereign. Obs.

1560 Geste Serm. in H. G. Dugdale Life (1840) App. i. 191 Let us low our prince [sc. Q. Eliz.],‥nothing thinking sayeng or doyng that may turne to hyr dyshonor, prayeng all way for hyr long and prosperus reigne.

Monday, 8 August 2011

New books, talks & an exhibition

Unfortunately I have to start this post with bad news. As reported yesterday in the Telegraph, hundreds of documents have been ‘mislaid’ in The National Archives. Worse, from our perspective, they include documents relating to the sixteenth-century. The article only comments on the loss of works from the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, but this may be the usual offhand way of saying Tudor dynasty as a whole (if they put ‘and the court of Mary I’, they are unlikely to elicit the same outrage from the average reader than stating we have lost records from Henry and Elizabeth’s reigns. Sigh). How many documents of Mary’s reign have also been lost is yet to be seen.

On to more pleasant matters; there are several upcoming books of interest. John Edward’s biography of Mary is due out the end of this month (more info here). Several studies of Mary’s kin are in the works. They include:

Patrick Williams, Catherine of Aragon: A Life (Amberley Publishing). Confusingly two dates have been supplied for this – one being the 15th of this month, the other June 2012. This ‘monumental new biography’ claims to be ‘the first to make full use of the Spanish Royal Archives’. Hopefully it will be akin to Eric Ives’s masterly study of Anne Boleyn.

At last we have a full scale study of Mary’s husband’s time as, well, her husband. Harry Kelsey’s Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign (I.B. Tauris), is out on 30/11/2011. The synopsis:

‘The Spanish Armada conjures up images of age-old rivalries, bravery and treachery. However the same Spanish monarch who sent the Armada to invade England in 1588 was, just a few years previously, the King of England and husband of Mary Tudor. This important new book sheds new light on Philip II of Spain, England's forgotten sovereign. Previous accounts of Mary's brief reign have focused on the martyrdom of Protestant dissenters, the loss of English territory, as well as Mary's infamous personality, meaning that her husband Philip has remained in the shadows. In this book, Harry Kelsey uncovers Philip's life - from his childhood and education in Spain, to his marriage to Mary and the political manoeuvrings involved in the marriage contract, to the tumultuous aftermath of Mary's death which ultimately led to hostile relations between Queen Elizabeth and Philip, culminating in the Armada. Focusing especially on the period of Philip's marriage to Mary, Kelsey shows that Philip was, in fact, an active King of England and took a keen interest in the rule of his wife's kingdom. Casting fresh light on both Mary and Philip, as well as European history more generally, this book will be essential reading for anyone interested in the Tudor era.’

Kelsey is not the only one to focus on this issue. For some years now Glyn Redworth has been researching Philip’s time as King of England. I’m always checking his Manchester University page to see whether he has a study on this coming out, but as yet no word. Back in late 2009 he mentioned he was writing an account of ‘The Short Reign of King Philip the Brief of England (Philip I, 1554-1558’) –‘Philip the brief’, love it! He is doing a talk on this matter for a conference on prince consorts at the IHR this December. I’m very tempted to attend despite this talk being the only one of interest to me in the whole programme. If you are interested in this conference, the programme and registration details will be confirmed on 1st Sept.

A study of Mary’s aunt and namesake, Mary Tudor (youngest daughter of Henry VII; consort of Louis XII of France and the grandmother of Lady Jane Grey) is currently being written by Jennifer Kewley Draskau. The biography entitled, The Tudor Rose: Princess Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s Sister, will be published by The History Press Ltd in May 2013.

Kelly Hart has got books on two Tudor women connected to Mary out (one due next year). One is on Katherine Brandon, duchess of Suffolk. Despite going into exile during Mary’s reign, the duchess and Mary were on good terms for a number of years (as Mary’s expense records attest; plenty of trips to see the duchess for some serious gambling. Tut tut!). The study will focus on the rather overblown (in my opinion) one-time rumour that Henry VIII considered ditching sixth wife Katherine Parr and making the duchess his next missus. There already exists a superb study of the duchess and her religious affiliations by Melissa Franklin-Harkrider, so I’m not sure this new book will make much of an impact.
Hart’s other biography will be on Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife and Mary’s stepmother. Mary and Jane were of course on good terms, and I imagine the nature of their relationship will be explored fully. Apparently the book is out in March.

The ever productive David Loades has yet another book out soon. This time it is a new overview of the Tudor dynasty. Lets hope his section on Mary pays careful consideration to the works on her reign that have been published in recent years. Loades’s book, The Tudors: History of a Dynasty (Continuum Publishing Corporation) is out in March.

Finally the exhibition, Making History: Antiquaries in Britain, which celebrates the achievements of the Society of Antiquaries of London, will be coming to the US. The exhibition will first be held at the McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, from 4 September 2011 to 11 December, then will move to the Yale Centre for British Art from 2 February 2012 to 27 May. Why do I mention this? Well amongst the many fascinating gems on display, is one of the most important and famous portraits of Mary (by Hans Eworth):

So make sure you see it!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Review of Doran and Freeman (eds.), Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives

Oh, I have waited for this book for so long!...

Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman (eds.), Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 345pp. £15.99.

In the wake of an revival of interest in Mary Tudor, namely in her personal history and the religious policies of her reign, it is refreshing to have a study that steps back and reconsiders the foundations of the belief that Mary’s life and reign were abject failures. Readers of this blog do not need to be told that Mary has long been considered a disappointment – worse still, as a tyrannical or hysterical queen whose rule was marked by indefensible cruelty. Biographies of Mary briefly discuss the origins of this reputation but there has not been a full study into the history of Mary’s posthumous reputation and the changing nature of scholarship on her.

Fortunately ten historians have addressed this gap and produced one of the most important studies on Mary in recent years. This volume consists of a series of articles and an introduction, all original, nearly all controversial. Which naturally makes this book an impressive and exciting read!

The scope of topics is varied. The book is divided into two sections, with the first examining the reputation of Mary and her reign after her death, and the second offering new examinations into aspects of her life and rule ‘which were distorted by centuries of myth and misrepresentation’ (p. 15). Mary’s religious policies are naturally a hot topic but it is by no means the singular issue. Her education, relationships, and her ability to govern independently and decisively, along with that pressing and often neglected issue of Mary’s role as England’s first crowned queen regnant, are all considered with fresh new perspectives offered.

The book starts with a bold claim that sets the tone perfectly for the volume. The reader is told that had Mary the fortune of living longer – let’s say another decade – ‘almost certainly, England would be Catholic and probably Scotland as well, since the Scottish Protestants would not have had the crucial backing from England that they received at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign’ (p. 1). Susan Doran and Thomas Freeman even undermine the argument that Elizabeth I’s accession was a sure thing, saying that had Mary lived longer providing time for Mary, Queen of Scots to be widowed and back in Scotland, there was the possibility of the young Scottish queen having the chance to claim the succession, or even Lord Darnley, the son of Mary I’s favourite, Margaret Douglas. Fortunately this book is not a series of ‘what ifs’ that are useful in reiterating the success of Mary’s policies up till her death and even longer had she lived on but can prove tedious, if not futile, arguments. The contributors are all concerned in placing matters in the context they occurred to prove Mary’s accomplishments and make a case for how unjustifiable this poor image of herself and her reign is.

The first article is by Doran and appropriately examines the perception of Mary through the eyes of Elizabethan Protestants. Doran indicates how Mary was perceived in a rather complex way by these Protestant writers; clearly there was no standard view of her. They may have all agreed in the ‘absurdity’ and sacrilegious nature of her religious views and policies, but quite a few conceded that she was an amiable figure, if not weak willed and thus no tyrant. Consequently others, namely Mary’s bishops, were selected as scapegoats for the persecutions of that reign. There were of course exceptions to this – as the work of John Foxe clearly illustrates – but Doran makes the excellent point that in the late sixteenth-century Mary was not perceived as the ‘bloody’ queen we are so familiar with. We can thank developments in the seventeenth-century for that (a time when, Freeman notes in another article, the term ‘Bloody Mary’ was used repeatedly and thus popularised). Doran also refers to the often lack of references to Mary in Elizabethan works, attributing this to a conscientious desire by some writers to focus their narratives on the Marian martyrs. By ignoring Mary they were denying her the glory and fame that was seen as the rightful properties of those she had persecuted.

Victor Houliston continues the focus on the Elizabethan period, albeit he is concerned with Elizabethan Catholics and their perceptions of Mary. He examines the usual suspects – prominent Catholic polemists like Allen, Persons and Sanders – many of whom naturally felt an affinity to Mary’s reign and were keen to preserve her reputation as a godly, charitable and virtuous woman. A particular point I found interesting is reference to some Elizabethan Catholics being uncomfortable with the policies of Mary’s reign, namely the burnings. Houliston mentions that Sanders, writing in the 1560s, argued that some fellow Catholics assumed an ‘air of pity’ and condemned the persecutions (p. 43). Houliston’s end point, that there existed an ‘icon’ of Mary who ‘reflected the glory of Catholic Europe’ is certainly one to consider though I came away from the article intrigued by Catholic disapproval in Mary than her status as an exemplary figure. Though maybe any disdain for Mary was worn away by the persecutions that Catholics themselves faced throughout Elizabeth’s reign. Critical comments dating to the 1560s could easily be transformed after decades of hardship prompting nostalgia for Mary’s ‘Catholic England’.

Paulina Kewes and Teresa Grant’s respective articles both consider contemporary political developments and their effect on the reputation of Mary. Kewes examines the legacy of the 1553 succession crisis during Elizabeth’s reign when the absence of an acknowledged heir led not only to speculation and intrigue about who should succeed Elizabeth, but even to notions that the next sovereign should be appointed, ‘elected’, by the elite. The memory of Mary was a powerful tool to use here. Though those who advanced the idea of an elected monarch did not want to say that Edward VI’s own appointment of Lady Jane Grey was a good thing, for that would have greatly offended Elizabeth as it had done Mary, they did use the example of Mary’s reign as reason enough not to have another Catholic monarch. And given that the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots was practically Elizabeth’s heir in all but name for many years, it is easy to see why Protestant polemists would drag up the example of Mary Tudor to advance their argument that they should have some say in the appointment of the next king or queen.

Grant meanwhile looks at the slightly later years – the rule of the Stuarts – where the memory of Mary was equally important. Anti-Spanish feeling was rife at certain periods especially post Gunpowder Plot (1605). This naturally led to criticisms of Mary, characterised as subservient to Spain and to her husband, Philip. But Grant also identified attacks on Mary’s personality as well. In the early seventeenth-century play, Sir Thomas Wyatt, she is depicted as materialistic (linking, of course, to the then prevailing stereotype of Catholicism as a worldly faith marred by avarice), as well as being insincere. She is first presented to the audience as like a ‘nun’, steadfast in her faith, only to swiftly agree to marriage and adopting a fixation with her frequently absent husband. She was by now seen as a woman who lacked judgment and sought poor counsel.

The theme of Mary as a woman who was unprepared to act independently, and when she did she failed miserably, is one which has widely been supported in works on Mary till present day (as we are reminded on several occasions in this book). One of the most controversial issues relating to this is Mary’s involvement, or more accurately her responsibility, in the notorious burnings of the Protestants. Here two of the contributors of this volume disagree. In his article on the Marian persecutions, Thomas Freeman’s argues for Mary’s zealous backing of the policy, noting her ‘acute interest in and oversight of the burnings’ (p. 172). This is at odds with Judith Richard’s article which seeks to stress the involvement of local authorities in the process of trying heretics. Richards does not deny Mary’s support for the policy but her insistence on the role of others in the effort conflicts with the rest of her article. Firstly her claim is not backed with nearly enough evidence as Freeman backs his own with. Secondly, Richard’s article principally concerns Mary’s abilities as queen, her thorough grounding of the law, and her often astute, if not reasonable, way of handling situations. It is clear that local authorities played a role – no one could claim Mary was alone in enforcing and defending the policy – but her support for the decision and even her interventions in the process are documented more than once. Arguably Richards’ view is inconsistent – maybe too favourable? But she does raise several other excellent points, not least that the perception that Mary’s actions were controlled by her ‘hysteria’ is an absurd, prejudicial view, with little historical basis. Worrying, this grossly outdated view is still being voiced. Richards observed that only recently the Wikipedia page for Mary presented as fact that her probable phantom pregnancies and the alleged trauma or ‘hysteria’ that such an event procured, was the reason for Mary’s persecutions of the Protestants!

Mary’s role in the affairs of her reign is also discussed in the late William Wizeman’s article on the religious policies of her reign. In many respects the article is an excellent summary of recent works into the vitality and successes of the Marian Church, not least the Eamon Duffy’s impressive Fires of Faith. Wizeman also advances the argument he has made previously – that Mary’s church was not an insular establishment, but important to consider in context of the ‘Counter Reformation’ sweeping Europe. He provides ample examples of Mary’s England being a breeding ground for Catholic talents, many of whom would later emerge as significant figures of the ‘Counter Reformation’. Unlike Duffy who ascribes Cardinal Pole as the leading figure of Mary’s church, Wizeman recognises Mary’s initiative and believes she was self-consciously presenting herself as a ‘chief model of the faithful and devout layperson’ (p. 167). This is an appealing point. As Mary shunned the headship of the church and acknowledged papal supremacy, her role as that of the exemplary follower instead makes a lot of sense. One thing that Wizeman leaves open for others to examine further is whether Mary was involved in ‘self-fashioning’. I found this fascinating not least because it is something I touched upon in my MA work in regards to the way in which Mary presented herself prior to her succession. Certainly it would be too cynical to say that every act of charity and good deed was committed by Mary consciously to cultivate a specific image, but like many contemporary monarchs and especially Elizabeth I later, she was deeply concerned with her image and of the need to encourage support for herself and her policies.

Mary’s education has frequently been ignored or touched upon lightly in biographies, but two articles in this volume seek to address the prevailing crude notion that Mary was, in the words of Geoffrey Elton, ‘rather stupid’. Andrew Taylor’s assessment of the young Mary’s education and knowledge of humanist texts is admittedly stifled by the lack of evidence we have on this in the years before the collapse of her parents’ marriage. Yet both Taylor and Aysha Pollnitz make the comparison between Mary and her great grandmother Margaret Beaufort, a patroness of renowned learning. The influence Katherine of Aragon had on her daughter has long been recognised and is backed by Taylor and Pollintz, but the impact of Beaufort (dead before Mary’s birth) is a new and intriguing one. It was Margaret, Pollintz argues, who set a standard for subsequent aristocratic women in devotional habits and patronage of scholars and colleges. Mary was the true heir of this legacy. Pollintz uses as example of this Mary’s involvement in the translation of Erasmus’ Paraphrase on John, encouraged by stepmother Katherine Parr, then at the centre of a remarkable scholarly circle of court women. The uncompleted translation proved Mary’s competence as translator along with her ability to exploit her position as a royal female to help advance the ‘enstruccion and edifynge of whole realms in the knowleage of god’, a view strongly felt by Parr (p. 132). Pollintz shows it was a belief that Mary continued to take very seriously as queen.

What though of the pitfalls, if any, of this book? The articles largely focus on Mary’s posthumous reputation in text throughout the centuries, including some fascinating discussions on presentations of her in children’s textbook from the nineteenth-century onwards. But there is no exploration of the way in which she was portrayed through images. It should be remembered that significant developments in the production of prints, especially in techniques in the late seventeenth-century and throughout the eighteenth century, led to the mass production of cheap prints of images. There began a roaring trade of prints of prominent persons, including past English monarchs and other royals. Countless images of Mary were produced for popular consummation and not all were mere copies of contemporary portraits of her. Portraits of her prints started to introduce references to the burnings; she became immortalised as ‘Bloody Mary’, her name forever linked to the most scandalous aspect of her reign. Along with portraiture, perhaps we should also address Mary’s reputation in film and TV, which reaches large audiences and frequently affects popular perceptions of her more so than academic studies, as well as her appearance in historical fiction.

That said there is little to complain about this book. It is undoubtedly an important text in our understanding of Mary and her reign and draws attention to areas where there is so much potential for further research (particularly the question of gender and Mary I, as Thomas Betteridge notes in his article). In the appendix is provided a thorough list of the Marian martyrs (with plenty of footnotes; always a good sign!) Will this book make much of an impact? I sincerely hope so and, given the names involved in this book, the relatively low price of it, and the original nature of its focus, it will attract attention. But can we ever put aside longstanding anxieties about Mary’s reign that have plagued accounts of it? As Freeman notes, Mary ‘has continually been judged by the standards of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and not surprising, has been found wanting’ (p. 100). The authors are correct that is about time we form our own understanding, but it is a difficult process, unsettling for some, that perhaps is not as easy as Freeman’s allegory to the art restorer ‘carefully removing the layers of overpainting to reveal as much as possible of the original portrait that lies beneath’. The question of course – can we ever find the real Mary?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

New Mary biography

Finally Yale University Press’s English Monarchs Series has included Mary! The upcoming biography on the queen had been written by Dr John Edwards, Modern Languages Faculty Research Fellow in Spanish, University of Oxford, and is due out in August/Sept. Edwards has written extensively on early modern Spain, Catholicism and Mary’s grandparents, the famous Catholic monarchs Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. He was one of the editors of Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor: The Achievements of Friar Bartolomé Carranza (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005) – a must read for Mary enthusiasts.

The synopsis:

‘The lifestory of Mary I—daughter of Henry VIII and his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon—is often distilled to a few dramatic episodes: her victory over the attempted coup by Lady Jane Grey, the imprisonment of her half-sister Elizabeth, the bloody burning of Protestants, her short marriage to Philip of Spain. This original and deeply researched biography paints a far more detailed portrait of Mary and offers a fresh understanding of her religious faith and policies as well as her historical significance in England and beyond.

John Edwards, a leading scholar of English and Spanish history, is the first to make full use of Continental archives in this context, especially Spanish ones, to demonstrate how Mary's culture, Catholic faith, and politics were thoroughly Spanish. Edwards begins with Mary's origins, follows her as she battles her increasingly erratic father, and focuses particular attention on her notorious religious policies, some of which went horribly wrong from her point of view. The book concludes with a consideration of Mary's five-year reign and the frustrations that plagued her final years. Childless, ill, deserted by her husband, Mary died in the full knowledge that her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth would undo her religious work and, without acknowledging her sister, would reap the benefits of Mary's achievements in government.’

I have a feeling it will rank alongside Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life and Richards, Mary Tudor. I want it!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

On This Day in 1558 – Mary Makes Her Will

Sir Henry Bedingfield, by unknown artist, 1573. Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk.
Bedingfield, one of Mary's longterm supporters, was a witness of her will.

During her reign, Mary perceived herself to be pregnant on two occasions. The final time was in 1557-8, the last years of Mary’s life and reign. Philip left England in July 1557, and by December Mary was confident enough of her pregnancy to write to him of the news.

On this day in 1558, Mary made her will believing the birth was fast approaching (a due date of early/mid April appears to have been given). This was a customary procedure. Childbirth was rife with danger, so the prospect of the queen and her infant dying in the process was daunting though certainly not unthinkable.

The will can be read in its entirely in David Loades, Mary Tudor: A Life (Oxford, 1989), pp. 370-80. I have broken it down into the key sections:

1. Declaration of faith (standard statement placed at beginning of early modern wills. Provides insight into Mary’s faith)

Fyrste I do commend my Soulle to the mercye of Almighty God the maker and Redeemer thereof, and to the good prayers and helpe of the most puer and blessed Virgin our Lady St. Mary, and all of the Holy Companye of Heven. My body I will to be buried at the discression of my executors: the interment of my sayd body to be made in such order and with such godly prayers, Suffrages and Ceremonies as with consideracyon of my estate and the laudable usage of Christ’s Church shall seme to my executors most decent and convenient. Also my mynde and will ys, that during the tyme of my interment, and within oon moneth after my decesse owte of this transitory lyfe, ther be distributed almes, the summe of oone thousand pownds, the same to be given to the relefe of pore prisoners, and other pore men and whomen by the discression of my executors’.

2. States her desire to have her mother’s remains brought to Westminster Abbey so the pair may rest together.

And further I will that the body of the vertuous Lady and my most dere and well-beloved mother of happy memory, Quene Kateryn, whych lyeth now buried at Peterborowh, shall within as short tyme as conveniently yt may after my burial, be removed, brought and layde nye the place of my sepulture, In wch place I will my Executors to cawse to be made honorable tombs or monuments for a decent memory of us’.

3. Grants of money to religious houses re-established during her reign, namely the continuation in funds to ‘the oon of Monks of th’ order of Carthusians and th’ other of Nunns Ordines of Stae Brigittae’. Also that ‘the said Religious howses of Shene and Sion’ by granted ‘the summe of five hundred pownds of lawfully money of Englond’, along with other financial provisions. Later she provides assistance to the observant friars of Greenwich (the chapel of which she was baptised in), and to Savoy Hospital founded by her grandfather, Henry VII.

4. Requests for masses to be sung for her soul, her husband’s after the occasion of his death, her mother’s and her royal predecessors ‘namely the said Kynge Henry 5’.

5. Five hundred pounds to the ‘pore Scolers in ether of the Universities of Oxinford and Cambridge’.

6. Asks that her executors ‘provide some convenient howse within or nye the Suburbs of the Cite of London’ which will have ‘onn Master and two Brotherne’ (so three priests). This ‘howse or Hospitall’ would be endowed with lands and money and would be dedicated to aiding the ‘pore, impotent and aged Souldiers’ and those who had fallen into extreme poverty.

7.Asks that all her debts be paid, and all debts accumulated during the reigns of her father, Henry VIII, and brother, Edward VI.

8. States that it is her ‘dewtie to God’ to return to the Church various former church lands where permissible. Mentions Cardinal Pole’s efforts in the return to Rome and commends him to continue this after her demise. (Ironically Pole died on the same day as Mary).

9. Money to be given to her ‘pore Servants’, distrusted at a time when her executors saw fit.

10. Now the important part – her successor. She leaves her realm to the ‘heyres, issewe and frewte of my bodye accordyng to the laws of this Realme’. So her successor is her supposed unborn child. Aware of the possibility of leaving the throne to an infant, Mary provides a regent. This was to be ‘my saide most Dere and well beloved Husband’. She lists her husband’s many virtues, especially his dedication to the Church. She asks for the loyalty shown unto her by her subjects to be transferred to her husband on the occasion of his regency.

11. Near the end of the document she asks her husband to keep several jewels in her memory. This included on ‘table dyamond’ that had been sent to her by Philip’s father, and Mary’s cousin, Charles V. She notes that Philip may do what he wished with these items, including possibly later given them to their child that she believed she carried.

12.Cardinal Pole is given a thousand pounds. Money is also left to various noblemen and other churchmen. Longstanding household attendants are also remembered.

The 'wytnesses' of the will were men who had served her for a number of years and had been her most ardent supporters during her attempts to gain the throne in 1553 (naturally they were also devout Catholics) –

Henry Bedingfield
Thomas Wharton
John Throckmorton
Richard Wilbrahm

So ‘the’ Imperiall Crowne of this Realme’ (Mary does not completely abandon her father’s views), is left to her unborn child and Elizabeth is not mentioned throughout. The following month, Mary realised she was not pregnant. On 28 October 1558, her will was extended to accommodate the change in circumstances. Yet again Elizabeth is specifically not named. Her right is approved indirectly, for Mary states that her successor’s was according to the ‘Laws and Statues of this Realme’. So the 1544 Act of Succession and Henry VIII’s will remained, facilitating the accession of the last, and longest reigning, Tudor monarch.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

New book, Elizabeth Taylor and Royal Weddings!

Mary I by Hans Eworth, c.1554. The portrait was purchased for the National Portrait Gallery with the assistance of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (who passed away yesterday).

My first blog of 2011 focused upon upcoming works on Mary. Unfortunately I have little else to report on that front. I did forget to mention one publication – C.S. Knighton and David Loades, The Navy of Edward VI and Mary I (Ashgate, 2011). More information here:

Yesterday one of my favourite stars, Elizabeth Taylor, passed away in Los Angeles. You may wonder why I mention this on a blog on Mary Tudor. In her vast collection of jewels, Taylor owned a pearl believed to be "La Peregrina”, given to Mary by Philip of Spain upon the occasion of their marriage in 1554. Taylor and Richard Burton also helped purchased a Hans Eworth portrait of Mary (depicted wearing the pearl) for the National Portrait Gallery. Hope Walker, a PhD Student currently working on the works of Hans Eworth, has posted a fabulous article on Taylor’s contributions to the arts on her site:

I don’t need to reminder readers of this blog that we have a Royal Wedding fast approaching. Naturally this has prompted the publication of several books on royal marriages, including one by Shire Publications. I imagine that Mary and Philip’s wedding will be covered. Little fact for you all – Mary was the first of only two English/British queen regnants who married during her reign. After Mary (who married Philip in 1554), the next was Queen Victoria who married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. The other queen regnants married before their accessions or in the case of Elizabeth I remained unmarried.

And speaking of Elizabeth – today marks the 408th anniversary of her death. She died in the early hours of the morning at Richmond Palace with the archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, by her side. She was subsequently buried in Westminster Abbey with Mary (can’t imagine either lady appreciated this. Oh well!)

On a personal note, I have recently gained a place for my PhD and have been awarded full funding. I am thrilled about starting this autumn! My thesis will not be on Mary because, whilst researching my MA dissertation on her (it was on Mary and her associates during the years c.1533-53), I noticed the lack of in-depth work on religious conservatives at court. I will therefore be working on this area, with my proposed time frame being c.1530s to 1558. Obviously Mary will play an important role in my research (I’m particular interested in the nature of support for her often synonymous with ardent loyalty to the Crown). One issue I look forward to researching is the supposed existence of a ‘Catholic party’ during Edward VI’s reign that wanted to make Mary the regent until the boy king came of age to govern independently. It is a fascinating concept but one I believe (so far) that Mary never supported.

Finally, congratulations to Gareth Russell on the 1st anniversary of his blog! His series of articles documenting Anne Boleyn’s downfall are a wonderful read.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Henry VIII's funeral

Today in 1547, Henry VIII was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, next to wife number three, Jane Seymour. The poor pallbearers had some difficulty in handling the oversized coffin; we are told that it took sixteenth yeomen and ‘four strong linen towels’ to lower the coffin into the crypt. As was the custom, the accession of the next king, Edward VI, was pronounced at the ceremony. Mary was now heir to the throne.

A few months back I consulted several documents regarding Henry’s death in the National Archives, amongst them his will (TNA E/23/4/1). Mary’s position within the succession was approved in the third Act of Succession (1544) – ‘the saide Imperall Crowne and all other the p’misses shallbe to the Ladye Marie the Kinges Highness Daughter’[1]. The Act also allowed Henry to name additional successors in his will or by letters patent, which he duly did. In the will, the throne was left to the heirs of Frances Grey if is his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, died childless. Frances’s children, Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey, were the granddaughters of Henry VIII’s younger sister, the other Mary Tudor. So Henry bypassed the heirs of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland which included, by 1547, the young Mary, Queen of Scots and Margaret Stewart, Countess of Lennox (who was good friends with our Mary Tudor, so much so that it was rumoured, during Mary’s reign, that she would make Margaret her heir and deny Elizabeth the throne).

Here is page eight of the will. After leaving the throne to Edward, Mary is named as the next in line:

Notice the tiny error made – the clerk put down first that the crown was to be left to ‘our sayd doughter Mary lawfully begotten’, then quickly adding in before ‘lawfully’ – ‘and the heyres of her body’. Mary’s children had to be legitimate in order to succeed her. She, on the other hand, could inherit as the King’s illegitimate daughter. It then goes on to state that any marriage she entered into must have the approval of the Privy Council. Failing to secure their consent, she risked being denied the throne.

Now only was Mary an heiress, she was also a wealthy one:

Further our will is that from the furst hower of our death until such tyme as the sayd Counsaillours canne provide either of them [Mary and Elizabeth] or bothe of sum honorable mariages they shall have eche of them thre thousand poundes ultra reprisas to lyve on...’

Both also inherited properties and precious goods; Mary received over thirty properties in the south-east. She continued to acquire estates, the most significant being Framlingham Castle, Suffolk, granted to her by the Crown in mid 1553. Framlingham played an important role during her campaign for the throne in the same year.

We do not know for sure whether Mary attended her father’s funeral. Katherine Parr certainly did, witnessing the burial from the Queen’s Closet that had once been constructed for Henry’s first wife, and Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon. There are records though for materials, namely yards of black velvet, needed for Mary and her household who were now in mourning. The National Archives holds the Lord Chamberlain’s account of ‘The precedente of the Buriall of oure late Soveragane lorde kynge henry the eighte’ (LC 2/2). It lists the ladies, gentlewomen, gentlemen, ushers, and other household staff attending Mary, providing all with suitable mourning clothes. Many of the individuals mentioned served Mary for many years, including Susan Clarencius, Mary Finch and Beatrice ap Rhys the laundress (who had been in Mary’s household by the early 1520s).

(Ladies and gentlewomen attending Mary)

For further information on Henry's will, see J. L McIntosh, From Heads of Households to Heads of State: The Preaccession Households of Mary and Elizabeth Tudor, 1516-1558 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), pp. 201-17, which can be read online:

[1] The Statutes of the Realm, vol. III (London, 1817), p. 955.