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Literature / Mary Bloody Mary

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Mary, Bloody Mary is a Historical Fiction novel aimed at young adults by Carolyn Meyer and the first novel in her Young Royals series. It revolves around Queen Mary I’s early life, from childhood up to young adulthood, and how she goes from a privileged princess, adored by her parents, to an unwanted bastard daughter living in terror of her own father.

Contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: The Duke of Norfolk is blatantly physically and emotionally abusive to his daughter Susan, whilst Henry VIII neglects Mary at best... at worst, he threatens to imprison her for treason, with Mary even fearing he may have her killed.
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  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Lady Susan writes a letter describing Anne throwing things at her in rage, Mary notes that she finds the whole ordeal funny. Particularly Susan saying Anne did more harm to the objects themselves than her.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: At Hatfield, Mary is surrounded by people who despise her, with even fellow servants treating her with contempt.
  • Alpha Bitch: Anne comes across as one in this novel.
  • Altar the Speed: Henry actually marries Anne whilst he’s still technically married to Catherine, due to Anne’s pregnancy, but he soon has his first marriage declared ‘null and void’.
  • Arranged Marriage: Catherine and Henry’s marriage, though it was a Perfectly Arranged Marriage for most of it. Mary is betrothed to both Emperor Charles and King Francis, although these both fall through. Susan is forced to marry the Count of Chichester.
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  • Archenemy: Mary generally considers Anne Boleyn to be hers, blaming her for almost everything that goes wrong with her life. It’s debatable, though, how much of what happens is Anne’s fault directly; Mary’s father is far from blameless either.
  • Artistic License – History: Though the basic plot follows history accurately, some of the private thoughts of Mary and her interactions other characters were obviously made up.
    • Mary was never betrothed to King Francis, but she was briefly betrothed to his son, who was also called Francis.
    • Lady Susan is based on Susan Clarencieux, who was one of Mary's favored maids. She was not, however, a cousin to Anne Boleyn, nor the daughter of Thomas Howard.
    • Mary signing the oath declaring her parents' marriage invalid happened a little later, while Jane Seymour was queen.
    • Mary was not present at Elizabeth's birth, and was at Richmond at the time.
    • The book has Mary being crowned Princess of Wales. In real life she was styled and treated as if she was for a time, but was never formally recognised as such.note 
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    • It was actually Elizabeth to whom Henry didn't send new clothes as she outgrew her old ones. Presumably with Beware Princess Elizabeth covering Elizabeth's teen years, this was given to Mary for Rule of Drama.
    • Before she is crowed queen, Anne is only styled as Lady Anne because she's a merchant's daughter. Her great-grandfather on her father's side was a merchant, but on the other side they were high-ranking aristocrats. Anne could trace her ancestry back to Edward I.
  • Bad Boss: Lady Clere and Lady Shelton, who are outright abusive to Mary.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Mary did eventually become Queen of England, but her reign only lasted five years, was rather unsuccessful, and it didn’t bring her much happiness or closure over her traumatic childhood. Likewise, Anne’s ambition to be Queen brings her only misery and ends in her execution.
  • Beauty Is Bad: The beautiful Anne is depicted as a scheming, selfish bitch, whilst the plainer Mary and Catherine are much more moral and selfless in comparison.
  • Beauty to Beast: Henry starts out as very handsome and fit, with Mary even believing him the most handsome man in the world, but soon loses his looks due to overeating and poor health.
  • Betty and Veronica: Catherine is Betty and Anne is Veronica for King Henry. Anne ends up married to him, but it doesn’t end well for her...
  • Bittersweet Ending: After Anne's execution and Mary renounces her claim to the throne, her situation improves and Jane Seymour attempts to be trying to repair the rift between her and Henry. But most of Mary's friends are dead, and Henry isn't the same father she remembers. The final line notes that the smiling toddler Elizabeth will one day become Mary's enemy.
  • The Bluebeard: Henry becomes something of one; he had both Anne and Catherine Howard executed, and Mary believes he could have poisoned her mother (at the least, him treating her like garbage after twenty years of marriage and forcing her to live in cold, damp houses negatively affected her health).
  • A Boy and His X: Mary gains a pet hawk that she trains. She calls her 'Noisette' and sets her free when her household is dismissed.
  • Broken Bird: Mary by the end.
  • Broken Pedestal: Mary towards Henry over the course of the novel.
  • Brutal Honesty: At one point, Susan speaks quite harshly to Mary, telling her that clinging to her dream of becoming queen is pretty much pointless, as at this time, she has no allies (or none with any real influence anyway) and that her father is preoccupied with Anne and determined to have a son, who will replace her as heir. Mary flips out in response, screaming at Susan to be quiet and Get Out!, but deep down she knows she’s right.
  • Cain and Abel: Mary states in the end that eventually, her sister Elizabeth became “my nightmare, my enemy”. Of course, who is Cain and who is Abel is open to interpretation.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Susan stands up to her father when he insults Mary and callously her she is now a servant, even attempting to physically attack him.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Mary goes from a princess and heir to the throne to a nursemaid to her own half-sister who wears ragged hand-me-downs.
  • Commonality Connection: Between Mary and Reginald Pole.
  • The Corrupter: From Mary’s perspective, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell are this to Henry. Whilst they’re certainly not a good influence, enabling or encouraging his more tyrannical behaviour, it’s unclear how much of it is done from Henry’s own volition.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The historical note reveals that Master Fetherston was burnt alive for heresy, whilst the Countess of Salisbury was sent to the block. However, the terrified old woman refused to go quietly, trying to run from the executioner whilst he hacked at her with the axe.
  • Daddy's Girl: Mary to Henry, at first.
  • Death by Childbirth: To Susan and Jane Seymour.
  • Decadent Court: The English royal court increasingly becomes this.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Near the end, Mary remarks that Anne's aunt Lady Shelton appears to be less grumpy now that she's found a sweetheart.
  • Did Not Get The Guy: Mary and Reginald never did get together, despite her feelings for him (it’s implied he feels the same, too).
  • Doting Parent: Henry is one to Mary... at first. He becomes increasingly alienated from her, until he finally becomes outright hostile to her due to her continued refusal to accept his divorce of her mother. At the end, when she bends to his wishes, he returns to being a doting parent, but Mary doesn't trust him anymore.
  • Double Standard: Highlighted. King Francis requested Mary's portrait to see if he would want to marry her. Mary grumbles that she should have gotten his portrait to see if he pleased her.note 
  • Dude Magnet: Anne attracts the attention of many men. This backfires later, when Henry accuses her of adultery.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Anne really doesn’t like it when she feels people aren’t giving her the respect she believes she’s due as Queen.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: Exploited by Mary, who at one point is wearing a plain dress with no ornaments. This allows her to eavesdrop on some Gossipy Hens - who assume she's a servant rather than the princess.
  • Fallen Princess: Happens to both Mary and her mother Catherine over the course of the novel. Elizabeth, too, eventually suffers this fate, though she isn’t as affected at the time due to being only three and not understanding what’s happening. Anne herself becomes this in the end, falling from the king’s favor and being imprisoned and executed.
  • Fat Bastard: Henry by the end.
  • Femme Fatale: Anne is portrayed as such in this novel. From Mary’s perspective, she’s The Vamp, but given we don’t see Anne’s side and that she seems repentant in the end, she’s more likely closer to this trope.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mary in her youth. The first line of the book is even "I had inherited my father's fiery temper."
  • Food Porn: Whenever Mary is at a banquet, the food is usually described in great detail. The betrothal banquet has a dessert that's actually a replica of Noah's Ark - made entirely of sugar.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Hoo, boy. Catherine of Aragon's utter defiance in the face of Henry's attempt to divorce her, and the fact half the country and the Pope backed her, lead to the divorce being dragged out for years and Henry doing everything in his power to break Catherine's will, splitting with the Catholic Church and establishing himself as head of the English Church (thus allowing him to grant himself a divorce). And even then, Catherine refused to accept it, insisting she was Queen right up to her deathbed.
  • Freudian Excuse: The whole novel serves as one for Mary Tudor, explaining how the Trauma Conga Line she experienced growing up shaped her into the woman she became. Mary herself asks the reader not to judge her before hearing her side of the story.
  • Gold Digger: Anne is all but stated to be one.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Mary's fall from grace in her father's eyes parallels her leaving childhood behind and having to become an adult.
  • Happily Ever Before: The book ends with Mary playing with Elizabeth, noting that the two will become enemies in the future.
  • Happily Married: Henry and Catherine start out as this, but it eventually falls apart, in spectacular fashion. Henry and Anne are for a year or two, but things rapidly go downhill when Anne fails to give him a son.
  • Heel Realization: Anne seemed to have one in regards to her treatment of Mary after being arrested and sentenced to death; before her execution, she is said to have prayed for Mary’s forgiveness. Mary states that, had Anne’s message been delivered to her, she wouldn’t have forgiven her.
  • Heir Club for Men: Henry, and a lot of other people, due to Values Dissonance, believe in this, prompting Henry to try and divorce his aging wife to marry another woman who can bear him a son. However, both Mary and her mother believe she could inherit the throne anyway. Mary in fact ends up becoming the first Queen of England to rule in her own right (rather than being the consort of the king), followed by her half-sister Elizabeth.
  • Heroic Bastard: Mary becomes one after her father has his marriage to her mother annulled.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Mary and Susan, until Susan is forced to leave Mary’s service and get married by her father.
  • The High Queen: Catherine of Aragon is viewed as such, being an intelligent, level-headed and benevolent woman who adores her people (and is loved by them in return) and shows concern for the poor. Mary herself aspires to become this, though sadly, when she did eventually take the throne, she came to be viewed as incompetent at best, a fanatical tyrant at worst.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • Anne Boleyn in reality had a decidedly unfashionable appearance - when it was fashionable to be fair, she was sallow-skinned and small-breasted when voluptuous figures were in. Accounts describe her as someone who had a more alluring personality. Mary frequently describes her as beautiful here.
    • Mary herself is an aversion. She was quite pretty in her youth, and is usually subject to ugliness updates (for obvious reasons, sadly). But her looks are described favourably.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • Mary Tudor, possibly. She’s portrayed here as an innocent victim of her father and Anne Boleyn’s tyranny and ruthless ambition, who only wants what’s best for the people. Of course, this may be justified in that the novel explicitly tells Mary’s side of the story. And she may have been demonized to an extent in real life.
    • Jane Seymour is portrayed as trying to help mend the rift between Henry and Mary once she marries him - and trying to reinstate her as princess. While a popular myth for ages, there's no actual proof she did so. It was under Jane's time as queen that Mary feared for her life if she didn't sign the oaths. She was rather passive during her reign.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Anne Boleyn is portrayed here as a manipulative, vindictive bitch who cares only for her ambition to be queen and an openly antagonistic stepmother to Mary. However, this may have been intentional, seeing as the story is told from Mary’s perspective (indeed, Anne gets a Freudian Excuse and is portrayed more sympathetically in Doomed, Queen Anne). Anne is in fact an off-screen character for most of the story - the majority of information about her coming from gossip and spies. It’s implied in-universe that Mary herself was subjected to this after her death, with historians portraying her as far more violent and brutal than she actually was, or at least suggesting her ruthlessness was exceptional (which it most certainly wasn’t when it came to monarchs of the time period).
  • Honor Before Reason:
  • Ill Girl: Mary regularly suffers from poor health, including headaches, stomach aches, faintness and irregular periods. It gets worse after her parents start having marriage problems, likely due to stress.
  • Insistent Terminology: Catherine continues to refer to herself as the Queen, not Dowager Princess, whilst Mary follows her example and defiantly calls herself Princess, even after the divorce.
  • It's All About Me: Henry in a nutshell. Anne isn’t much better, though she seems repentant by the end of her life for her selfish actions, whilst Henry never considers himself at fault for anything he does. Well, except for ‘committing a sin by marrying his brother’s widow’, but this comes across as more of an excuse for him to divorce Catherine than anything else.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Chapuys notes that Mark Smeaton - one of Anne's supposed lovers - was too broken by torture to climb to the scaffold unassisted.
  • Kick the Dog: An early sign that Henry is changing is when he punishes Catherine by taking three of her most cherished ladies-in-waiting and sending them back to Spain.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mary views Anne's execution as this.
    "She wished for my death long before the executioner's sword glittered above her own neck."
  • Last Girl Wins: Subverted. Anne marries Henry and becomes Queen, but her reign only lasts three years before the marriage breaks down and Henry has her executed for treason. However, Jane - being the last wife in the narrative - does eventually 'win' in the sense that she gives Henry a son (though she dies one week later).
  • Locked into Strangeness: Mary returns to court after a lengthy absence and discovers that her mother's beautiful auburn hair has turned grey - presumably from the stress of the Anne Boleyn business.
  • Love Martyr: Catherine never stopped loving Henry no matter what he did to her.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Near the end of the novel, Mary is praying in her chapel when she hears what she believes is God/Jesus’ voice addressing her, stating she should accept her father as head of the Church for now until the time comes to reclaim the throne and restore Catholicism. It’s unclear if Mary was really hearing God/Jesus’ voice, or if she was hallucinating. Given her later fanaticism, the lack of supernatural/otherworldly elements in the novel and the fact Mary is desperate for some guidance, it’s probably the latter.
  • Missing Mom: Catherine becomes one to Mary, due to Henry forbidding them from seeing each other. They occasionally smuggle letters to each other, but otherwise have no contact with each other and never meet again before Catherine dies.
  • Modest Royalty: Mary puts herself in comparison to her father, who "preferred glittering jewels to my neat stitches."
  • Not So Different: Mary feels this way towards her half-sister Elizabeth in the end; they both went from princesses favored by their father to unwanted bastard daughters whose mothers were both discarded when their father no longer had use for them, and have now lost them forever.
  • Off with His Head!: Anne and many other people Henry comes to see as enemies are executed in this way.
  • Old Man Marrying a Child: The book opens with Mary being betrothed to King Francis - she's ten and he's in his fifties. Thankfully the marriage doesn't come to pass.
  • One Steve Limit: Played with. Anne Boleyn has an aunt also called Anne - but she is referred to by her last name. Both the Countess of Salisbury and Lady Bryan have Margaret as a first name - but they're referred to by their titles.
  • Parental Neglect: Henry to Mary, until the end.
  • Parental Substitute: Salisbury and later Lady Bryan serve as this for Mary, due to her being separated from her mother.
  • Politically Active Princess: Mary attempts to be this, using her lowly status and the fact she’s often mistaken for a servant to spy on the court and gather information. She also attends secret meetings with Salisbury and her other allies, but she has no real power in court and is mostly just trying to survive.
  • Protagonist Title: Mary Tudor is the main protagonist and narrator, although during the story’s timeline, she’s not yet known as Bloody Mary.
  • Rape as Drama: Downplayed in that nothing actually happens, but late in the book Mary fears that her enemies will send men to rape her, as if she loses her virginity out of wedlock, she will be seen as ‘corrupted’ and unfit to inherit the throne. It gets to the point where she starts sleeping with a heavy candlestick next to her bed to defend herself if need be.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Anne's is described in detail, frequently loose instead of being tucked into hoods or nets.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Anne is described as beautiful, with pale skin and black hair.
  • The Resenter: Mary towards Anne. The feeling is mutual.
  • Sadist Teacher: Master Vives comes across as one to Mary, being overly strict, insulting her and forbidding her from reading adventure novels for pleasure. She’s not particularly upset when he dies, though she does feel a bit guilty for that and makes a point of placing a flower on his grave and praying for his soul.
  • Sanity Slippage: Henry becomes increasingly tyrannical and paranoid over the course of the story. Mary herself may even apply, given she occasionally appears to hallucinate or become catatonic, and culminating in her believing God/Jesus is speaking to her.
  • Screaming Birth: Anne has one when she gives birth to Elizabeth.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Mary hopes to marry Reginald Pole. But as England undergoes a reformation, he must go underground as a devout Catholic. Thus, the two can never be together.
  • Start of Darkness: Anne's introduction acts as one for Henry. The book also shows Mary being hardened by the trauma she suffers.
  • Succession Crisis: What Henry wants to avoid and one of his main reasons (though not the only reason) he seeks to divorce Catherine (who can no longer bear children) and marry Anne.
  • Those Two Guys: Anne's aunts Alice Clere and Anne Shelton are always seen together.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Henry. Dear God, Henry. He starts out as a relatively decent king and a loving, if somewhat distant, Family Man... and by the end, he’s a self-indulgent tyrant who’s willing to imprison or kill anyone he perceives as a threat, with even his own daughter fearing for her life.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The entire story is one for Mary, increasingly going From Bad to Worse, until right at the end.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The whole novel is told solely from Mary’s perspective. As a result, certain events and characters are interpreted from her viewpoint only, or she doesn’t have access to all the available information.
  • Unwanted Spouse: Catherine and Anne both become this to Henry, due to neither of them giving him a son. It doesn’t end well for either of them; Catherine ends up dying of illness in a cold, damp castle, never getting to see her daughter again after years of humiliation and hardship, whilst Henry straight up executes Anne on what are implied to be trumped-up charges of treason.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Poor, poor Mary.
  • Villain Respect: When Mary continues to refuse to acknowledge herself as a bastard, Thomas Cromwell states he admires her courage, but still thinks she’s a fool who is throwing away her life.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Mary to her father, at first. Eventually, it becomes less about making him proud and more about not incurring his murderous wrath.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Anne is presented as one to Mary. She is very hostile to her, resenting her very existence, throwing things at her, encourages Henry to ignore or be cruel to her and forces her to be a servant to her own half-sister. Mary in turn despises and looks down on her as little more than a “whore” or even a witch, blaming her for ruining her parents’ marriage and making her own life a living hell. Jane Seymour, in contrast, is very kind and gracious to Mary, and tries to mend her relationship with her father.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The novel seems to indicate Mary was one, though the historical note points out that she wasn’t really any worse than most other monarchs of the time (indeed, her father had a much higher body count when it came to executions).
  • Your Cheating Heart: Henry frequently cheats on Catherine, though she tolerates it as he always comes back to her and she knows they’re only temporary dalliances. Then he meets Anne... He later starts cheating on her as well. She is less forgiving than Catherine. Anne herself is accused of having affairs with five men, including her own brother, and all of them are executed. Mary doesn’t know if it’s true, though she believes at least some of the men are innocent.


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