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Mary I
1553-1558 AD

Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, was born in 1516 and suffered through a terrible childhood of neglect, intolerance, and ill-health. She was a staunch catholic from birth, constantly resisting pressure from others to renounce her faith, a request she steadfastly refused. She married Philip II of Spain in 1555, but was unable to produce a child.

Mary began her tumultuous reign at 37 years of age, arriving in London amid a scene of great rejoicing. Following the disarray created by Edward VI's passing of the succession to Lady Jane Grey (Jane lasted only nine days), Mary's first act was to repeal the Protestant legislation of her brother, Edward VI, hurling England into a phase of severe religious persecution. Her major goal was the re-establishment of Catholicism in England, a goal to which she was totally committed. Persecution came more from a desire for purity in faith than from vengeance, yet the fact remains that nearly 300 people (including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer and many of the most prominent members of society) were burned at the stake for heresy, earning Mary the nickname, "Bloody Mary."

Mary's marriage to the militant Catholic Philip was again designed to enforce Roman Catholicism on the realm. Unfortunately for Mary, two factors compelled opposition to her plans: the English people hated foreigners - especially the Spanish - and twenty years of Protestantism had soured the English on popery. She met with resistance at every level of society, and, unlike her father and brother, failed to conform society into one ideological pattern. Philip II, cold and indifferent to both Mary and her realm, remained in England for only a short time. He coerced Mary to enter into war with France, resulting in defeat and the loss of the last English continental possession, Calais. With the retirement of his father, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, Philip returned to Spain; Mary died a mere ten months later.

England suffered during the reign of Mary I: the economy was in ruin, religious dissent reached a zenith and England lost her last continental territory. Jane Austen wrote this rather scathing commentary about Mary: "This woman had the good luck of being advanced to the throne of England, in spite of the superior pretensions, Merit and Beauty of her Cousins Mary Queen of Scotland and Jane Grey. Nor can I pity the Kingdom for the misfortunes they experienced during her reign, since they fully deserved them..."




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