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Queen Mary I PictureWhen King Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, Mary Tudor was stripped of her title 'Princess' and referred to as the Lady Mary. There was a lot of change before Mary became Queen at thirty-seven. 

Her mother, Catherine of Aragon died in 1536, as did Anne Boleyn leaving a sister, Elizabeth. Lady Mary would also see her new brother, Edward crowned before his death at a young age. His attempts to make Lady Jane Grey his successor meant she had to fight to become Queen of England.

Lady Mary

In January 1533 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were secretly married. Later that same year the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon to be invalid.  Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was legitimised by Act of Parliament.  Mary was now illegitimate and was officially removed from the line of succession. She was no longer to be called the Princess Mary but the Lady Mary.

In September 1533 Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Mary refused to give up her title of Princess as she didn’t consider herself to be illegitimate. Neither would she acknowledge Anne Boleyn as Queen.  Mary’s household was broken up and she was separated from some of her most trusted friends and companions, including the Countess of Salisbury. Instead, Mary was sent to live at Hatfield House in the household of her half-sister the Princess Elizabeth.

Mary had a difficult relationship with the members of Elizabeth’s household, including Lady Shelton, Anne Boleyn’s aunt. Mary’s refusal to acknowledge Elizabeth as taking precedence over her, or to refrain from calling herself the Princess Mary, led to many disagreements. Mary would be locked in her room when Henry and Anne came to visit Elizabeth and she was allowed fewer and fewer visitors. She even considered escaping abroad.  Eustace Chapuys, the Ambassador to England for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V became her most trusted advisor. Mary was frequently ill with stomach pains and rumours were spread that she was being poisoned.

In January 1536 Mary was told of the death of her mother Catherine of Aragon. Mary was forbidden to attend the funeral.

Accepting the Annulment of Henry VIII and Catherine - The Articles of Submission

Mary had been under increasing pressure to recognise the marriage between her mother and father as invalid.  In doing this Mary would also accept that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne. As a devout Roman Catholic, Mary had also refused to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England. Mary still considered the Pope in Rome to be the head of the Church.

In June 1536 a deputation of Council members led by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, visited Mary at Hundson to persuade her to sign the Articles of Submission. A week later, Mary relented to the pressure and signed the Articles. Eustace Chapuys had advised her to sign the document for her own safety.

Mary acknowledged Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church of England and ‘utterly refused’ the Pope’s ‘pretended authority’. Mary also recognised that the marriage between her mother and father ‘was by God’s law and man’s law incestuous and unlawful’.

Eustace Chapuys reported that Mary was in a state of despair after signing the Submission as she had gone against her conscience.

Mary was given her own household again, and began to make more frequent visits to Court. By this time Henry VIII had married Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn having been executed in May 1536.

The birth of Prince Edward took some of the pressure off Mary as there was now a male heir to the throne. Mary stood as Edward’s godmother and as chief mourner at Jane Seymour’s funeral.

Mary was often at Court in the last few years of Henry’s reign. Catherine Parr, her father’s sixth wife had a harmonious relationship with all of Henry’s children and brought Mary, Elizabeth and Edward closer together. Catherine Parr and Mary although of different religious faiths shared common interests and got on well with each other.

Her half-brother becomes King - The Reign of Edward VI

Henry VIII died in January 1547. In his will, Henry gave Mary several estates in East Anglia and other properties including her favoured Hunsdon. The will also put Mary back into the line of succession after her brother Edward VI.

As Edward was only nine years old when he succeeded to the throne, England was ruled by a Regency Council. Edward was a Protestant as were leading members of his Council. They decided to continue the Protestant Reformation begun by Henry VIII.

Mary as a devout Catholic objected to these religious changes.  In defiance of the Act of Uniformity 1549 Mary continued to celebrate Mass with her household which led to increasing disagreements between her and the Regency Council. Her brother King Edward VI also began to put pressure on Mary to conform to England’s new religious laws. Mary refused to change her faith as ‘her soul was God’s’.

A Complicated Succession - Mary fights for the crown

By the beginning of 1553, King Edward was seriously ill. Edward wrote his Devise which removed Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession on the grounds of illegitimacy. Edward did not want Mary as his heir because she was a Catholic. Instead Edward named the male heirs of his cousin, the Protestant Lady Jane Grey as his successors. When it became obvious that Edward was dying, the Devise was altered to read Lady Jane Grey and her male heirs.

On 6 July 1553 King Edward VI died. The news was initially kept secret. Mary had already been warned that her brother was critically ill and she had fled to her estates in East Anglia. Here, her supporters rallied an army. Mary believed herself to be the rightful Queen and summoned the leading nobles of England to defend her claim.  Around 10,000 men joined her forces at Framlingham Castle. The Duke of Northumberland led an army out of London to meet her but they stopped at Cambridge, overwhelmed by the size of Mary’s forces.

Mary’s popularity persuaded many of the Council in London to change their minds and declare their loyalty to Mary instead of Lady Jane Grey. Mary was proclaimed Queen on the 19 July 1553.

On 3 August 1553 the thirty seven year old Mary entered London to cheering crowds. The royal procession included her sister Elizabeth.

Despite being guilty of Treason, only a few of the conspirators were executed, among those beheaded was the Duke of Northumberland. Lady Jane Grey was imprisoned in the Tower.