It's not every monarch who has a drink named after her nickname. Then again, not every monarch gets the nickname "Bloody", deservedly or not.
England's very first undisputed queen regnantnote , Mary I of England (18 February 1516 — 17 November 1558; reigning July 1553 — her death) was Henry VIII's elder daughter and his only surviving child by Catherine of Aragon.
As a child, she was doted on by her parents, especially her father, whom she shared many physical traits with. Mary inherited her father’s reddish-gold hair, blue eyes and ruddy cheeks, and was short-sighted like her father. Mary was also close with her mother, who was very interested with Mary’s education and impressed with her talents. Mary was just as intelligent as her future half-siblings were, however she never had the same zeal for learning as they did. A lot of her education came from her mother; who encouraged female education and taught her several languages, along with several tutors. Mary’s greatest passion as a child was her music, she inherited her talent from her father. At the age of 4 and a half years old, Mary entertained a visiting French group (there to discuss with Henry about her engagement to the Dauphin of France) with a complex performance of the Virginals. She impressed the visitors greatly and her father boasted with pride. As a young woman, she was said to have a rather loud and deep voice, and a powerful, yet pleasant singing voice.
Despite his affections for Mary, Henry was disappointed with his lack of male heirs. After 1524, it became clear that Catherine, aged 40, was not going to have any more children. Catherine focused on Mary rather than continuing to hope and pray for a son. Catherine encouraged Mary to believe she would be her father’s successor. However, Henry was convinced a male heir was needed, and decided to get a divorce.
Though it took many years, Henry eventually succeeded in a divorce. However, as the Pope had refused to help, Henry converted to the Protestant movement, thus making him Head of the English Church. His new wife, Anne Boleyn, became the new queen. With her parents' marriage declared invalid, Mary was declared a bastard, struck from the succession, stripped of her title as "Princess", instead being titled “the Lady Mary” separated from her mother, and eventually forced into her baby half-sister Elizabeth Tudor’s service as a lady-in-waiting.
Despite Henry VIII and Anne’s love for each other, Henry was disappointed with his lack of male heirs. Anne was 32 when she wed the 42 year old, and gave birth to Elizabeth a few months after the secret wedding. 2 years later Henry had a jousting accident, he was unconscious for 2 hours and nearly died. His athleticism ended due to his wounded leg, and he may have also suffered brain damage. Henry also took up a new mistress, Jane Seymour, (a former loyal lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon) and Anne caught Jane sat on Henry’s knee. Either the shock of the accident, the anger of her husband’s philandering or both caused Anne to miscarry their second child, a son. Henry thought the miscarriage was God’s way of punishing him for divorcing Catherine. Catherine had died by the time Henry wanted Anne out of the picture, so there was no fixing what Henry had done. Anne was subsequently beheaded after 3 years of marriage.
After Anne Boleyn fell from favour, Mary was allowed to leave Elizabeth’s household. After Henry’s third marriage, Jane restored Mary to her father’s favour due to her love for Catherine of Aragon and her hatred of Anne Boleyn (who hadn’t treated Mary well). While Elizabeth was ignored, Mary and her father became close again; though Mary never forgot her father’s cruel treatment of her mother. Jane hoped to legitimise Mary, so that Mary would be in the Line of Succession after Jane’s sons and their children. However, Jane died of an infection 12 days after the birth of her only child, Edward. Mary had an odd relationship with her fourth stepmother, Anne of Cleves. Mary had hated Anne Boleyn because her mother despised her, Anne disliked Mary and of course because she lost her access to the throne because of Anne. Mary got on well with Jane Seymour because of her kindness to Mary. However, with Anne of Cleves their relationship started badly. As Anne had started learning English, she now understood what her husband was saying, and Anne was jealous when Henry invited Mary to return to court. However, after Henry told Anne he wanted a divorce, Mary and Anne bonded over their shared rejection. They were soon very close. Despite Anne’s religion being Lutheranism (unlike devout Catholic Mary) the pair became great friends, it helped that Anne was only a few years older than Mary. Anne was part of Mary’s coronation and converted to Catholicism when Mary became Queen. Mary’s reason for her dislike of Catherine Howard is not well known, but could be due to Catherine being younger than Mary as well as Catherine’s relation to Anne Boleyn.
However, Mary was very close to Catherine Parr. Catherine helped Mary and her younger half-sister Elizabeth be restored to the succession after their younger brother Edward. Though they were technically legitimised when it came to the Succession, they remained with the title “Lady” rather than “Princess” until their father died. However, during their brother's reign they became known to some as “Princess Mary” and “Princess Elizabeth” despite technically being considered illegitimate.
Like the rest of the Tudors, Mary was very intelligent and well-educated, but she never showed the same zeal for learning as Elizabeth or Edward. While she lacked the charisma that characterized her father and sister, she was capable of inspiring great loyalty, especially among her friends and servants. A very generous, motherly woman, Mary was often asked by friends to stand godmother to their children, and also acted as a substitute mother figure to her much younger siblings (neither of whom ever knew their own actual mothers).
Her path to the throne did not run smoothly. Edward unexpectedly changed the succession in their father's will in a new will drafted shortly before his death that excluded Mary from the throne because he didn’t want a Catholic to succeed him. However, his advisors told him that he couldn’t exclude one sister unless he excluded Elizabeth as well. The reason they used to stop Mary from becoming Queen was because her parents were divorced, however the issue with that was that Elizabeth (Edward’s preferred successor) was considered just as illegitimate as Mary; her mother had been beheaded by their father. As such, Edward passed them both over in favour of the royal siblings' Protestant cousin, Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor and daughter-in-law of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, Edward’s regent.note Queen Jane took the throne on Edward's death, but Mary was popular with the commoners and nobles and this made Jane's position untenable, and Jane was deposed by Mary nine days later. Mary was greeted by crowds of thousands of cheering subjects as she rode into London and took her rightful throne.
Her original intent was to punish only those she saw as responsible for the near-usurpation of the throne - mainly the Duke of Northumberland and his cronies - and release the comparatively innocent Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley as soon as the situation had stabilized; she wasn't stupid enough to truly consider either of them as the leaders of the coup - Jane was a naive, nerdy 16 year old Bookworm, after all! Unfortunately for Jane and Guildford, a rebellion led by Thomas Wyatt with the intention of restoring Jane to the throne opposed her fiancé from travelling to England, which caused Mary to sign the death warrant which led both of them to the block.note Mary regretted executing her cousin for the rest of her life.
As a devout Roman Catholic, Mary was determined to bring England back into the arms of Rome. As the first queen of England to remain monarch long enough to be crowned, she needed a husband. Many suitors were considered but Mary ultimately chose her cousin once removed Philip of Austria, King of Naples, Jerusalem and the heir to the throne of Spain - and brought her cousin Reginald Cardinal Pole back to England as Archbishop of Canterbury. Edward Courtenay, a suitor and longtime friend of Mary's, took the news poorly and actually cooperated with Wyatt's Rebellion, despite being a Catholic himself. After Mary and Philip married, he was titled as king and named her co-monarchnote , and as such worked with Parliament to repeal the Protestant laws passed in the time of Henry and Edward and reinstate the Heresy Acts. Their marriage was happy only on her side, though, as Philip, being significantly younger and having different tastes in women, failed to return her infatuation. He had accepted the marriage solely out of political reasons (his father Charles V intended to potentially unify England and the Netherlands under an English Habsburg dynasty), and ultimately considered his time in England a great sacrifice. To further complicate things, Philip's advisors in England were The Duke of Alba and the Prince of Eboli, who were bitter enemies with opposite stances towards the whole thing.
She might have succeeded in returning England to Catholicism had she borne a child to carry on her works, but that was not to be. She is thought to have become pregnant once, but although her abdomen swelled she never delivered a child. The most likely explanation is a molar pregnancy proceeding to choriocarcinoma, but some medical historians believe it was ovarian cancer. It was once suggested that she might have suffered a "phantom pregnancy",note but modern historians are confident that her condition was primarily physical in nature, as phantom pregnancy is far rarer in real life than doctors of the 1930s realized. Also, it isn't fatal. Mary was happy for many months, believing she’d give birth to a child that would be a Catholic King or Queen of England. Her physician told her a baby would come in May, but no baby came. Nobody really batted an eye, it was instead announced the baby was due in June. However, no child arrived. This was when some began to speculate the Queen wasn’t pregnant. However, some thought Mary would deliver a child in July. It didn’t happen. Mary said that a baby would come in August, by then she was probably the only person who thought she was expecting a child. On the August 2, Mary’s belly had reduced and she accepted she wasn’t going to give birth. By September, Mary was back to her normal size, very thin.
Mary was humiliated and so was her husband, who had to leave England to go to Spain. She was strong when she said goodbye to him, but after he had gone she was visibly upset. Mary believed God had punished her for tolerating Protestants. Mary thought there was only one way to gain God’s forgiveness. She ordered that at least 280 Protestants be burned at the stake, including bishops Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer (who actually converted to Catholicism to avoid execution, but Mary ordered his burning anyway). These men and women became known as the "Protestant Martyrs". There were 283 of them in all, and it is for their deaths that she's known as Bloody Mary (a term coined well after her death, though). In reality, she killed fewer subjects in her entire reign than her father did in any single year of his. Shows what happens when you're on the wrong side of history. Not only that, but Mary genuinely believed she was helping the Protestants she had burned, as she believed the immensely painful death of burning alive would be enough to make the Protestants convert to Catholicism to avoid spending eternity burning in the flames of hell.
In 1557, Philip returned to England having been made King of Spain (his father Charles had abdicated for him out of royal burnout) and asked for support against the France of Henry II. Mary was lovesick and agreed, she was just thrilled Philip had returned to her. He left with English soldiers to battle with the French troops, obtaining a crushing victory in the subsequent Battle of St. Quentin, but in turn, England lost Calais back to France in a surprise attack. Although Philip eventually forced Henry II to sue for peace after another victory in Gravelines, it was not possible to recover Calais in Mary's lifetime, making her famously say, “when I am dead and opened, you shall find Philip and Calais lying in my heart”. Mary did get a bit of good news, however. Though sad over Philip returning to Spain so he could rule, she and a couple of physicians believed that she might be pregnant again. Most of England thought it was unlikely and they were right. Mary was nearly 42, and the prospect of her giving birth to a child at that age in that era was almost impossible. Her swelling was most likely cancer. This time, the swelling didn’t reduce. Mary soon accepted that she wouldn’t have children. This was one of the hardest things she would ever accept, as she genuinely loved children and didn’t just want to have a child to have a Catholic heir, but to also simply be a mother and love and dote on her own family.
By the time Mary died in 1558 aged 42, most of the crowds who cheered her five years earlier were heaving sighs of relief at her passing. She died surrounded by only her most loyal servants and ladies-in-waiting, as most of her court had left to try and gain favor with her half-sister. Her greatest ally, Cardinal Pole, survived her by only twelve hours; with the two of them dead, so too was any chance of a restoration of the Catholic faith with the English populace. She was succeeded by her younger half-sister, Elizabeth.
Tropes associated with Mary Tudor in fiction:
- Abusive Parents: In several portrayals, regardless of how sympathetic they may be to her, especially The Tudors, Mary is depicted as the victim of this. In this adaptation, Mary's father first bastardizes her, then forces her to work as a servant for her new half-sister Princess Elizabeth as a punishment for refusing to accept her parents' divorce. She is not allowed to see or even write to her mother, even on her deathbed. Similarly, her stepmother Anne Boleyn campaigns for her execution so as to prevent Mary from contesting her own children's claims and inheritances. This line of thinking has been questioned in recent years.
- Awful Wedded Life: Philip of Spain is usually portrayed as having only married her for her title, and the fact that he spent more time in Spain during their marriage lends credence to this notion. It should be noted that while Philip was not in love with Mary, he respected her and was attentive to her; it's just he disliked England because it was cold and dreary compared to his home country, and this, along with his tight schedule in his empire, was a factor in why he spent far more time in Spain than with his wife.
- Bastard Bastard: Many if not most portrayals of Mary present her bitterness at being made illegitimate as the main reason she became so tyrannical.
- Break the Cutie: Some works portray her life under Anne Boleyn's tenure as queen as this kind of process. In The Tudors especialy, Mary goes from a sweet and caring Princess Classic to a bitter, cynical fanatic as a result of her father's cruel and neglectful treatment of her after he divorces her mother.
- Daddy's Girl: Mary used to be one to her father, Henry VIII. Of course, after his divorce from Mary’s beloved mother, their relationship was never the same again. However, after Jane Seymour encouraged Henry to see Mary again, they did become close again, but not like they used to be. However, compared to her sister, Mary was Henry’s preferred daughter, being his second favorite child, with their half-brother Edward being his favorite (for obvious reasons) and Elizabeth being his least favorite (though he still did hold some affection for her).
- Freudian Excuse: The Tudors explores Mary's life from early childhood right up until the death of her father Henry VIII. Her whole arc more or less serves as an explanation of how she became so fanatical in her beliefs and hatefulness towards Protestants.
- Foil: She often serves as one to her half-sister Elizabeth. Mary was a Catholic who wanted to undo the policies of her father, got married, and was intolerant towards non-Catholics. By contrast, Elizabeth never married, wanted to build on her father's policies with the Church Of England, and is depicted as being mostly tolerant of non-Protestants.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Due to the brutality of her reign and her nickname "Bloody Mary", England often gets portrayed as a Crapsack World in works set while she's on the throne.
- Historical Beauty Update: This one is subject to inversions. Mary is often portrayed as old and ugly at the time of her reign, and most portrayals before The Tudors came along forgot that she was reportedly very pretty in her youth.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: She's infamously known as "Bloody Mary" for being a fanatical Catholic who had three hundred Protestants burned during her reign, and is accordingly treated as a tyrannical villain in contrast to the more highly regarded Elizabeth I. In reality, she wasn't particularly worse than other rulers of the time or afterwards, and she was the one who originated policies for navy expansion and financial reform that were later finished under Elizabeth.
- Kissing Cousins: She was originally meant to marry her first cousin Charles V when she was a child, but he married a Portuguese princess. She was briefly married to the same cousin’s son, Philip, later.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Her failed attempts at providing England with an heir are explored in Elizabeth and Carlos, Rey Emperador.
- Modest Royalty: Mary reportedly didn't like wearing too many ornaments or finery, so her gowns were usually quite simple. Mary, Bloody Mary shows her using this to her advantage - eavesdropping on some Gossipy Hens who assume the plainly dressed young woman in the room is a servant rather than the princess.
- Out of Focus: Mary gets considerably less pop culture attention than her father or Elizabeth. Whenever she appears in Historical Fiction, it's usually in relation to either Henry or Elizabeth.
- Perpetual Frowner: Her eyebrows were arranged in such a way that she appeared to be frowning all the time. As she is in the famous portrait of her.
- Tyrant Takes the Helm: Her reign is portrayed as this happening to England.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Reports of her describe her as a precocious child, and works that feature her show her child self being a nice and sweet girl who slowly became more resentful and bitter as she suffered one traumatizing thing after another.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Some works present Mary this way. When she's not being depicted as outright evil and wicked, she's usually treated as someone who genuinely thinks she's doing the right thing, however terrible the reality is.
- We Used to Be Friends: Mary doted on Elizabeth in her youth, but their relationship soured as they got older, and Mary saw Elizabeth as a rival to the throne. Elizabeth depicts Mary as being incredibly reluctant to sign Elizabeth's death warrant, in a Pet the Dog moment.
Portrayals of Mary Tudor in fiction:
- Anne of the Thousand Days falsely shows Mary being at her mother's deathbed - when in reality she lived far away attending to Elizabeth and had not seen her mother in years. Henry VIII featured this too.
- Kathy Burke plays Mary at the beginning of Elizabeth. She's shown as a rather maniacal ruler and yet pitiable at the same time, seemingly unable to go through with executing her own sister.
- Carolyn Meyer wrote two books, Mary Bloody Mary and Beware, Princess Elizabeth, about Mary and Elizabeth respectively. The first book covers Mary's childhood from a fictitious betrothal to King Francisnote up until the months after Anne's execution. The second starts at Henry's death and ends when Elizabeth is crowned queen.
- Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl wrote a more sympathetic take on her rise to power - The Queen's Fool. The POV is from a young girl called Hannah who acts as Mary's servant and remains loyal to her despite the horror going on around her. This version uniquely portrays Elizabeth harsher - depicting her as a Fille Fatale.
- Mary cameos in the film version of The Other Boleyn Girl in a scene where her mother gives birth to a stillborn baby, played by Constance Stride.
- Sarah Bolger plays her in The Tudors. This was another unusually positive portrayal of Mary. Blathnaid McKeown plays her as a child.
- Lisa plays Mary in an episode of The Simpsons where Marge narrates the story of Henry VIII and his wives.
- An section based on Mary is in the London Dungeon, where the guests are told about the burnings of Protestants. A guest is usually invited on stage to be burnt at the stake.
- The Sixth Doctor meets Mary in the Big Finish Doctor Who serial "The Marian Conspiracy". The Doctor realises that he and Mary are not so different in some ways, and how there's not much he can do to help anyone in a religious conflict where everyone is convinced they're justified.
- Lady Jane has Mary as the chief antagonist and Anti-Villain. Played by Jane Lapotaire, Mary tries to save her cousin from execution several times, but eventually bows to pressure and seems deeply remorseful as she sends Jane to the scaffold.
- The historical fictional book Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir presents Mary through the eyes of her adoring mother Katherine. Here, Mary is seen as a long-suffering victim of Anne Boleyn when she rises to power. By contrast, the book's follow-up Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession portrays her through the eyes of her stepmother, who sees her initially as a smart-mouthed, disobedient brat and continuously advocates for her father to punish or execute her... up until the end, where, herself about to be executed, Anne openly repents over her treatment of Mary and begs one of her ladies-in-waiting to send her apologies.
- Much like the above, Wolf Hall portrays Mary as a terrorised young girl whose life has been turned upside down by the king's divorce to her mother. She's shown to be sickly, vulnerable, and deeply pitiable.
- On Good Eats, she appears in the "Good Eats Bar" enjoying the beverage that was named after her, which Alton feels has been ruined by the modern bar industry.
- Like Alison Weir, Norah Lofts wrote books about both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. In The King's Pleasure, Katherine sees Mary as loyal and precocious, and is alarmed by her grasp of affairs. The Concubine also depicts the scene of Anne begging her lady to go before Mary and apologize for her, hoping to soften her heart towards Elizabeth, since Mary will be the only one in any real position to protect her in the future.
- Mary appears briefly Lucy Worsley's Six Wives docudrama (2016). Here, she is shown awkwardly adjusting to being back in her father's graces after he bastardized her and banished her following his divorce from his mother.
- Another surprisingly positive portrayal of Mary is in the Spanish series Carlos Rey Emperador, which documents the unrequited love she felt for her husband and her tragic failed pregnancies, whilst barely mentioning the burnings that took place during her reign.
- She briefly appears in The Prince and the Pauper, where she's portrayed as a glum and cruel woman, who is disliked by Prince Edward. This is a case of Historical Villain Upgrade, as Edward and Mary actually had a close relationship before he became king.
- Appears in The Royal Diaries book Elizabeth: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, set during the last few weeks of Henry VIII's reign and the first week of Edward VI's. Here, she's portrayed as openly antagonistic toward Elizabeth and possibly scheming with the Spanish Ambassador to steal the throne from Edward, or barring that, marrying the Earl of Arran and helping him usurp the Scottish throne from Mary Queen of Scotsnote , despite the fact that in real life she didn't start hating Elizabeth until during Edward's reign and always acknowledged Edward's right to the throne prior to her own.
- In the The Tudors fanfic Handmaid, because Anne Boleyn is serving as Henry and Katherine's handmaid, bearing Henry's children on Katherine's behalf, Henry never divorces Katherine and Mary is never declared illegitimate. Mary was initially distrustful of Anne, seeing her as a usurper, but after Katherine explained that Anne becoming a handmaid was her idea and she did it specifically to safeguard Mary's life and legitimacy, Mary warms up to Anne and adores her half-siblings. She eventually falls in love with and marries the Duke of Bavaria (after Katherine extracts a promise from him that he won't force Mary to change her religion) and has two children, Katherine and Phillip, briefly returning to England to attend her half-brother King Edmund's wedding (and meeting youngest sibling Owen for the first time).
- In the Puella Magi Madoka Magica fic A History of Magic Mary had contracted to become a Puella Magi, her wish being to bring England back to the Catholic Church. She ends up fighting Lady Jane Grey about a week before Jane's execution to see who was the moral victor (a fight Mary ends up winning). Mary dies (or possibly becomes a witch), knowing her wish only lasted five years. She's hated by her people, and Elizabeth (who notably doesn't contract with Kyubey) mocks her, saying Mary would have been better off wishing for a son or for Phillip's love. Mary concludes that Jane Grey had the happier life because she died so young.