On the 17th November 1558 the first English Queen Regnant, Queen Mary I, died at St James’ Palace. At her funeral service, the Bishop of Winchester summed up her life quite aptly: “She was a King’s daughter, she was a King’s sister, she was a King’s wife. She was a Queen and by the same title a King also”. Some may argue that Mary’s legacy was only one of evil and violence, something which earned her the sobriquet ‘Bloody Mary’. However, recent scholarship by the likes of Judith Richards and Anna Whitelock has revealed that Mary was certainly not as ‘bloody’ as people once thought.
Queen Mary’s accession to the throne was not an easy one – she first had to depose her very young cousin, Lady Jane Grey, who had been left the throne by King Edward VI. Though the nation was sympathetic towards Mary in her attempts to remove Lady Jane Grey, it could be argued that peoples’ perception of Mary had diminished slightly by the end of reign after the burning of heretics and being dragged into a costly war against the French.
After getting married to Philip of Spain in 1554, Mary saw it as her duty and a necessity to have a child. Mary needed an heir, for if she was to die childless then England would fall into the hands of her half-sister Elizabeth who, in Mary’s eyes, would return her realm back to Protestantism and what she considered as heresy.
It was believed that Mary was pregnant in March 1558. The months passed and there were no signs that The Queen would imminently give birth. At a mere 42 years old, Mary was extremely worn out, her eyesight was fading and she was overcome with the illnesses that beset her. As well as the probable cancer, which possibly made Mary feel and look pregnant, it has been suggested that the Tudor Queen was also suffering from other forms of diseases and flu.
In the Autumn of 1558 Queen Mary slipped into a coma, only rousing to name Elizabeth as her successor (after all, there was nobody else who could be considered). Mary received her last rites and died on 17th November 1558 at St James’s Palace and, contrary to her wishes, she was buried in Westminster Abbey. As for England, the country returned to Protestantism with the accession of Elizabeth I. Little did English know, they were about to enter a Golden Age that the country had never experienced before, in my opinion.
Although some of her actions have been contested, Queen Mary I was the first woman to successfully claim the Throne of England and, despite competing claims and opposition, the early parts of her reign saw Mary enjoy popular support. Here is a Queen who will not be forgotten and, although she may be one of this country’s more controversial monarchs, she is certainly one whose legacy will live on forever.