Some say the best writing is that what comes out of the passionate pursuits of the writer. Things you are really enthusiastic about. Historical figures are one of my favorite things to read and totally geek out about, so I will share this passion with you. In this edition you will learn about this lady who lived in and ruled England many years ago and by all means, should’ve had an awesome life, but didn’t: Mary I of England
Chances are you have already heard of this lady, perhaps not by her actual name, but by the nickname she came to be known for: Bloody Mary. Yep, turns out that is not just a famous cocktail. You’d think being born a princess to a poweful ruler would be sure why to have a great life, but things were not so happy and shiny for her. Even though her nickname gives you an idea of a ruthless individual, her life is actually a sad one.
Mary was the first daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Oh yeah, you definitely know that guy! The one who had 5 other wives he could’ve gotten beheaded on a whim (which he did to a couple of them, actually). You see, things are not going to be good for Mary from now on. Henry VIII really wanted a son for the continuation of the Tudor dynasty and so far Catherine had only given him one surviving daughter, Mary. Around the time when the Queen was fast moving away from child-bearing age, he became completely infatuated with one sexy young lady called Anne Boleyn. To justify the lack of male sons, he got into his head his marriage to Catherine was not valid because she had previously been married to his brother Arthur, hence he had been cursed to not have a male heir. Catherine claimed the marriage was never consummated and even got a Papal dispensation to go ahead with the marriage to Henry. But it was to no avail. Horny Henry had a chance with a seemingly fertile young thing, and he was not going to let go of it. When the Church would not give an annulment, he broke with Rome and the Pope, thus creating the Church of England with him as its head and granted himself the annulment he seeked. Ah! The things men do when they let their penises do their thinking!
Mary was only a teenager when these events unfolded, and rather than being occupied with the prospect of marriage (most ladies of her status would’ve been engaged to a random royal from age 2), her whole existance was deemed pointless! To make matters worse, her mother was sent away and she was never, ever allowed to see her, and her Catholic faith met the stink eye of everyone in court. And to add insult to injury, when the new Queen Anne gave birth to princess Elizabeth, she was deemed illegitimate and downgraded from “Princess” to ” Lady”. Sure, it could’ve been worse (she could’ve gone from royal princess to royal buttwiper, for example), but alas, it couldn’t have been pleasant to get shunned by your own father that way. And you tweens out there suffer for not being girlfriends to the One Direction guys…
Eventually Queen Anne fell from grace when she couldn’t produce a male heir and after being beheaded, princess Elizabeth met the same faith of her older sister. However, thanks to Henry’s third wife (the one that finally gave him a male heir, prince Edward), he sort of made amends with the two girls and they played a somewhat important role in court. Catholics were heavily prosecuted during this period and people Mary had been raised by or associated with in her faith were executed. There were times when there was progress in finding her a nice boy to marry, but the King’s penis always took precedence and when you thought there’d be a match, the King was in the middle of getting a new wife of killing Catholic infidels, or something of the sort. By the time Henry was married to his last wife, all was well with the family, and Mary, although still considered illegitimate, was back in the line of succession after her brother Edward.
You’d think by now, Mary would get her happy ending, or at least some sort of peaceful existance, but, oh no. Things were going to get a whole new level of crazy! Edward’s reign was not very long and after a short illness, the young king died at age 15. Sad stuff, but good news for Mary, for if you remember, she was next in line. However; Edward’s minders were concerned their protestant interests were going to be crushed by Mary’s Catholic ways, so they convinced Edward to forgo the act of succession and instead place the crown on his cousin, Lady Jane Grey as Queen. Dumb move, though, as Mary had plenty of supporters who saw her as the righful heir. Poor Lady Jane lasted only 9 days as Queen and subsequently sent to the Tower of London. The Lady Mary, finally gets a kingdom as a reward for all her previous suffering! The people and other noble supporters had very high expectations for the new Queen and things were looking up, until her very poor choice in men proved to be her undoing.
Mary was 37 years-old when she ascended to the throne of England. Emphasis on old. A 37 year-old in the 16th century was not the same as a 37 year-old woman today. Mary was an unmarried 37 year-old who, reports claimed, had already lost most of her teeth. In this day an age, a 37 year-old woman can bear children, while one in the 16th century was thought only able to bear farts. From that end, Mary doesn’t really have much going on, really, which meant there weren’t a bunch of suitors knocking on her door, queen or not. Finally she chose to go with prince Philip of Spain, who would prove to be a massive douchebag. For starters one of the things that made him more “at ease” about marrying Mary and coming to England was to make sure she would “placate” those crazy protestant rebellions going on. These led her to execute her cousin Lady Jane. You can fully blame the guy for that event, though, but don’t worry they’ll be a couple of times in the story when he’ll show his true colors. For instance, one indicator he is kind of an asshole is this:
For him the marriage to Mary was a purely political union. I still like to imagine, though, when Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (or Charles I of Spain, Philip’s father) broke the news to his son, it went something like this:
Mary married Philip and felt the happiest ever, even though the guy rarely spent time with her in England and preferred to attend to his business affairs in the Low Countries. She was probably oblivious to his lack of interest in her on account of how freakishly in love she was. Reports of the time claim she pretty much dropped her panties the moment that paining of Philip above was sent to her. Soon after their nuptials, Queen Mary missed some periods (because stuff like that was of public domain, apparently.. **shudders**) and her belly started protruding a bit, which could only mean one thing: Queen Mary was with child! In light of this, Philip decided to stick around until the child was born. But just before you think “aww, what a nice gesture”, let me throw some douchebaggery into the story: throughout this pregnancy, Philip was doing a couple of deals under the table to ensure that if Mary would die in childbirth, he’d wed her sister Elizabeth. Classy!
His “royal doucheness” was the reason Mary dropped the ball in the whole relationship with France. Granted, the English already had a dodgy relationship woth the French from years before, but this time, since her spouse’s country, Spain, had declared war on Francened, she was very mich in favor to be at war, too, even though her council thought otherwise. Eventually there was a plot by an Englishman aided by the French to overthrow Mary and she had no choice but to strike back. It didn’t turn in her favor because the ensuing quarrel resulted in the loss of Calais, the last territory the English had in the European continent. She also dropped the ball in ways that had nothing to do with that husband of hers. For example, when she ascended to the throne, she sort of said people were not going to be prosecuted for their religious beliefs, but after some time in power she totally did. Some protestants even met horrible, horrible fates burned at the stake. Because of this she earned the nickname Bloody Mary, even though her term was not bloodier than others (for instance, more people were prosecuted during the reign of her sister Elizabeth).
Clearly Mary is sort of screwed both politically and romanticly… Maybe with motherhood she’s got something good going? Wrong. Preparations for the arrival of her child were made, with announcement letters ready to dispatch to other kingdom, a will in case something would happen to her, she even went into the traditional confinement women went through at the time. The due date was close, then it arrived, then several weeks after passed and no baby…. Her belly receded and eventually her period returned. WTF? Experts today say based on written reports at the time, Mary was experiencing a “phantom pregnancy”, a legitimate psychological condition with the physical manifestations of pregnancy. Her strong desire to be a mother probably triggered this. As you can imagine, poor thing was depressed as hell, with good reason, of course. It probably didn’t help to hear comments such as one made by Giovanni Michieli, the Venetian ambassador who ridiculed the pregnancy as more likely to “end in wind rather than anything else”. Man, that’s harsh! To compare what you think is your baby with a fart or a very large bowel movement.
After this event, Philip could not be bothered anymore and just left England. He only came back to “knock her up” once more, but given the result of the first pregnancy, he did not have hopes for the second one. And he was right. She had once more a bad case of… something, I mean, this is so sad I can’t even come up with a good pun about it! After this last phantom pregnancy her health began deteriorating and she eventually died. She was 42 years-old at the time of her death. Her fabulous specimen of a husband was in Brussels at the time. He wrote to his sister about his wife’s passing: “I felt a reasonable regret for her death.” What a catch that man was!
Reasons Mary I of England was “royally screwed”:
- She was born with a vagina instead of a penis. This was a concern for her father who did not have other male heirs
- In the horrible split between her parents, she was not allowed to see her mother. Ever. Not even when she got ill and eventually died
- In order to come back into the good graces of her father, she had to renounce her Catholic faith in writing
- When her younger sister was born she was declared illegitimate. On paper, for the whole world to read
- She was next in line to the throne, only to be taken away temporarily by some of the protestant counsel of her brother Edward
- Her choice of husband was horrible
- She fell out of her peoples’ favor for her flipflopping on the whole religious persecusion and for losing Calais to the French
- Her fart / poop babies.
Sometimes being a royal is not as nice as it sounds to be, right?
All photos from Wikimedia Commons