MARY I  1553 - 1558  (called Bloody Mary)  (M1)  Lived 1516 - 1558


Lady Jane Grey reigns for nine days. She is imprisoned and beheaded the following year.


A large force, led by Sir Thomas Wyatt, marches on London to prevent Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain, or to put Princess Elizabeth on the throne. The Wyatt Rebellion fails.

The renowned Venetian artist Titian completes one of his major works, Venus and Adonis. His style and technique has a marked effect upon the development of European art.

The Italian goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, renowned for the beautiful salt cellar he made for the French king, Francis I, completes his masterpiece, the large bronze statue of Perseus.

Under their leader Suleyman I, the Ottoman Turks continue their conquest of the North African coast and increase their naval presence in the western Mediterranean.

One of the most beautiful masses in Roman Catholic church music, Miss ecce sacerdos, is composed by the Italian chapel-master Giovanni Palestrina.


By the Peace of Augsburg princes in the Holy Roman Empire are given the freedom to choose between the Lutheran and Catholic forms of faith. Protestantism is thus made legal.

In England, Bishops Ridley and Latimer are burnt at the stake for refusing to deny their protestant faith. During this reign some 300 “heretics” are put to death by “bloody Mary”.

The Muscovy Company is founded to promote trade with Russia and proves very successful. A further attempt is made to discover a Northeast passage but it ends in failure.

The French physician and astrologer Nostradamus writes Centuries, a book of obscure prophecies in verse in which he claims to predict events up to the end of the world in 3797.


Thomas Cranmer, one of the architects of the English reformation, is burnt at the stake.

His death and those of the Protestants Ridley and Latimer cause widespread discontent.

Following the death of Humayun, Akbar, aged 13, becomes the third Mughal Emperor. He takes over control of the government in 1560 and starts the conquest of northern India.

The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V abdicates and his vast Empire, symbolised by the double-headed eagle, is divided between his brother, Ferdinand, who becomes emperor, and his son, Philip - husband of Queen Mary - who becomes Philip II of Spain.


While supporting the Spanish in their war against France, England loses the valuable port of Calais, the last English possession on the European mainland.

Mary I dies of a fever and is succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I, amid general relief and Protestant rejoicing.


Mary I: by Master John (active 1544-1550), 1544 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Philip II: by the Netherlandish painter Antonio Mor (or Moro) (c1516-1577) – Prado Museum, Madrid. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan –


xxxxxMary Tudor was born at Greenwich in 1516, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon. Following her mother's divorce she was harshly treated by her father's new wife Anne Boleyn. She was forbidden to see her parents - she never saw her mother again -, stripped of her title, and obliged to act as a lady-in-waiting to the young Elizabeth. After Anne Boleyn's fall from favour, however, Mary was allowed to return to Court in 1544, and, having acknowledged Henry VIII as head of the English church, was granted succession to the throne after her half-brother Edward. Although still a devout Roman Catholic at heart, she thus survived the six years of Edward's reign and, upon his untimely death in 1553, was in a position to restore publicly the faith she had retained in private.

xxxxxAs we have seen, upon the death of Edward in 1553 (E6), Mary was regarded as the rightful heir to the throne, and she had no real difficulty in toppling Lady Jane Grey from the seat of power within a matter of days. But her popularity was to be short-lived. Once crowned as Queen - the first one to rule England in her own right - she immediately set about reversing the Protestant reforms introduced by her father and half-brother. Papal supremacy and the Mass were restored, and she instigated a religious purge that was to earn her the title of "Bloody Mary", besides a great deal of enmity. Some 280 "heretics" were burnt at the stake, including such leading Protestant churchmen as Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, many in the "Smithfield fires" in London.  

xxxxxNor was her foreign policy any more successful. In July 1554 her marriage to the Catholic Prince Philip (illustrated), heir to the Spanish throne, proved immensely unpopular, and led directly to a serious rebellion under the leadership of Sir Thomas Wyatt. And it also led to a humiliating defeat on the battlefield. In the final year of her reign Mary was obliged to support her husband in a war against the French. In the conflict that followed, England lost its only remaining possession on the continent, the valuable port of Calais.

xxxxxThus it was that Mary's five-year reign was little short of a disaster. The fears over her unpopular marriage, the defeat at the hands of the French, and the persecution of many Protestant "heretics", including leading churchmen, caused widespread discontent and, at times, open rebellion. Against this background, her death in November 1558 without a direct heir came as a great relief. She died of a fever and, it must be said, there were many in the land who were pleased at her passing. Indeed, we are told that the announcement of her death and the accession of her half-sister, Elizabeth, were greeted by the ringing of bells and the lighting of bonfires.















Snippets During Mary 1 reign Synopsis of Mary 1 Reign

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