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Published on June 24th, 2015 | by Sarah Jubb

Bloody Mary And The Virgin Queen

The reign of the Tudor men was officially over and the removal of Lady Jane Grey from the throne meant that the latter half of the 16th century was ruled by the Tudor Queens. After centuries of being ruled by kings, England had its first queen regnant in Queen Mary whose reign was filled with infamy.

Queen Mary I

Mary was the daughter, and only living child, of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Despite her father splitting from the Roman Catholic Church, she retained her Catholic beliefs. Due to her being older than her half sister, Elizabeth, Mary was the next in line to inherit the throne after Edward VI.

As seen in our previous article, Edward was staunchly Protestant and sought to see England become a Protestant state. Due to their differing beliefs, he and Mary were repeatedly at odds as Mary refused to give up her Catholic beliefs. To prevent Mary taking the throne and bringing back Catholicism, Edward sought the Succession Act that excluded both Mary and Elizabeth from the line of succession.

As a result, Lady Jane Grey inherited the throne upon Edward’s death in 1553, but support for Mary had risen and only days later Jane was deposed and Mary was placed onto the throne.  In 1554 Queen Mary married Prince Philip of Spain, the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

Bloody Mary

Mary’s fervent belief in Catholicism saw her reinstate Roman Catholic bishops as well as reviving laws against heresy. These laws saw hundreds of Protestants executed for their religious beliefs over the next three years, including many being burnt at the stake. This ruthless determination to convert the country back to Catholicism gave rise to the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ in later years.

It also resulted in Mary’s support falling drastically in England as people became disillusioned with her and which gave rise to anti-Catholic feelings. The executed Protestants also became martyrs, showing their willingness to die for their religion. This feeling of unhappiness with Mary was only exacerbated when her husband, the already unpopular Philip, dragged England into a war with France.

The Downfall of a Queen

The final straw for the English though was in 1558 when France took Calais, an English holding that had remained in English hands for centuries. This loss resulted in even further unhappiness with the Queen as Calais had been the final holding England had on the mainland.

By 1558 Mary was still childless, despite her desperate wishes to produce an heir that would keep her Protestant sister, Elizabeth, from the throne. She had wanted to ensure that England would remain Catholic, but she died without an heir at St James’s Palace in 1558. As such, the crown passed to Elizabeth, leaving England in Protestant hands once more.

Queen Elizabeth I

The last monarch of the Tudor dynasty was Queen Elizabeth I who ascended to the throne in 1558 after her half-sisters death. Unlike her sister, Elizabeth’s reign was far more subdued and she sought to create a more Protestant England without offending the Catholics. This saw the formation of the Church of England with Elizabeth as the head.

She became famous for not marrying and producing an heir, giving her the nickname ‘The Virgin Queen’.  Despite receiving many offers of marriage from both domestic and foreign suitors, she remained unmarried until her death.

Defeating the Armada

It was under Elizabeth that England employed a defensive foreign policy that saw the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Philip, her half-sister’s husband when she had been alive, had decided to bring war to England with an armada of over a hundred Spanish ships. His plan failed however with English and Dutch ships driving the Armada back after the Battle of Gravelines. This, combined with North Atlantic storms, meant the Armada limped back to Spain with only a third of the ships that set out.

As well this, England began to look beyond Europe with Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the glove from 1577 to 1680 and other influential people such as Walter Raleigh who helped to colonise the Americas. This was the beginning of the age of colonisation for England, which would eventually lead to the largest Empire ever seen.

Elizabeth eventually died in 1603, leaving no heirs to succeed her to the throne. She was mourned extensively as she had been a very popular monarch in her earlier years and was eventually interred in Westminster Abbey in a tomb with her half-sister, Mary. Her death without an heir led to the end of the Tudor dynasty and resulted in James VI of Scotland becoming king.

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