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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Mary Queen of England

daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catharine of Aragon, is commonly called Bloody Queen Mary, on account of her cruel persecutions of the Protestants "a history of horrors exceeded only by the persecutions in the Netherlands by Alva, and of Louis XIV after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes." She was born at Greenwich, on the 18th (Burnet says 19th) of February, 1516. The only living one of several children borne by her mother, she was on this account, according to Burnet, and because her father was then "out of hopes of more children," declared in 1518 princess of Wales, and sent to Ludlow, to hold her court there, divers matches being projected for her, none of which, however, were carried into effect. After the divorce of Catharine, and Henry's marriage of Anne Boleyn, Mary's position waned at court, and finally the title of princess of Wales was transferred to princess Elizabeth, soon after she came into the world. Mary had been brought up from her infancy in a strong attachment to the ancient religion, under the care of her mother, and Margaret, countess of Salisbury, the effect of whose instructions was not impaired by the subsequent lessons of the learned Ludovicus Vives, who, though somewhat inclined to the Reformed opinions, was appointed by Henry to be her Latin tutor. The profligate conduct of her father, and the wrongs inflicted upon her mother, naturally had the effect of making her still more attached to the Roman Catholics.

But immediately after the execution of queen Anne in 1536, a reconcilement took place between Henry and his eldest daughter, who was now prevailed upon to make a formal acknowledgment both of Henry's ecclesiastical supremacy utterly refusing "the bishop of Rome's pretended authority, power, and jurisdiction within this realm heretofore usurped" and of the nullity of the marriage of her father and mother, which she declared was "by God's law and man's law incestuous and unlawful." (See the "Confession of me, the Lady Mary," as printed by Burnet Hist. Ref. from the original, "all written with her own hand.") This very year, however, shortly after the marriage of Jane Seymour, a new act of succession was passed, by which she was again, as well as her sister Elizabeth, declared illegitimate, and forever excluded from claiming the inheritance of the crown as the king's lawful heir by lineal descent. But as, by the powers reserved to Henry VIII of nominating his own successor after failure of the issue of queen Jane, or of any other queen whom he might afterwards marry, a possible chance was left to Mary, she continued to yield an outward conformity to all her father's capricious movements, even in the matter of religion, and she so far succeeded in regaining his favor that in the new act of succession, passed in 1544, the inheritance to the crown was expressly secured to her next after her brother Edward and his heirs, and any issue the king might have by his then wife Catharine Parr. Upon the death of Henry VIII and the accession of Edward to the throne of England (1544), Mary's hopes of reigning one day over England were darkened by the persistent efforts of her half-brother to establish the religion of the Reformers.

Mary's compliance with the innovations in religion in her father's time, as we have noted above, had been dictated merely by fear or self-interest; no longer restrained, she manifested her fidelity to and affection for the court of Rome when, after Edward's accession, his ministers proceeded to place the whole doctrine, as well as discipline, of the national Church upon a new foundation. She openly refused to go along with them, nor could all their persuasions and threats, aided by those of her brother himself, move her from her ground. (Full details of the various attempts that were made to prevail upon her may be found in Burnet's History, p. 417-420, and in king Edward's Journal. Mention is made in the latter, under date of April, 1549, of a demand for the hand of the lady Mary by the duke of Brunswick, who was informed by the council that "there was talk for her marriage with the infant of Portugal, which being determined, he should have answer." About the same time it is noted that "whereas the emperor's ambassador desired leave, by letters patent, that my lady Mary might have mass, it was denied him." On the 18th of March of the following year the king writes: "The lady Mary, my sister, came to me at Westminster, where, after salutations, she was called, with my council, into a chamber; where was declared how long I had suffered her mass, in hope of her reconciliation, and how now being no hope, which I perceived by her letters, except I saw some short amendment, I could not bear it. She answered that her soul was God's, and her faith she would not change, nor dissemble her opinion with contrary doings. It was said, I constrained not her faith, but wished her not as a king to rule, but as a subject to obey; and that her example might breed too much inconvenience.")

Had it not been for the interference of Charles V, no doubt Mary would have suffered severe punishment for her persistency in remaining faithful to the pope. The emperor, who had once even asked her hand, and only withdrew his request when Catharine was divorced, made it "the condition of his friendly relations to the English government that Mary be left in the free enjoyment of her religious faith, and the king of England, rather than be subject to war, yielded-but with tears" (Lingard, Hist. of Engl. 7:66 sq.). Yet if Mary secured liberty of conscience, she secured it at the risk of a crown. for Mary's firm adherence to the Roman faith finally induced Edward, under the interested advice of his minister Northumberland, to attempt at the close of his life to exclude her from the succession, and to make over the crown by will to lady Jane Grey, an act which was certainly without any shadow of legal force, and failed to be of any effect. Although lady Jane was actually proclaimed queen upon the death of Edward, Mary herself claimed the crown, and with scarcely any resistance secured the throne.

Mary's reign opens a new and bloody chapter in the history of England a period in the ecclesiastical annals when the flame of Romanism, which had been slowly dying, was fanned into new life, and, glaring up wildly, spent its full fury, and quickly died, never to burn anew. Mary, as we have seen, was ever a faithful adherent to the cause of Rome; she had quietly submitted to the innovations under Henry VIII to secure her father's favors, but as she grew older she grew more decided. Indeed, her own legitimacy to the throne was. involved in her acknowledgment of the pope. One of the pontiffs had confirmed her mother's marriage, and another had refused to annul it. Impressed by this truth, she had clung closely to the Church of her infancy, even when she seemed in danger of losing the privilege of succession, and she faltered not when lady Jane Grey became the avowed heir of her half-brother. Quite in contrast with this bearing is her conduct after the decease of Edward. Satisfied that the wav to the throne could be opened only by Protestant aid, she hesitated not to pledge to the men of Suffolk, whose help she invoked, "that she would be content with her own private exercise of religion, and that she would not force that of others" (Butler, 2:437; Neale, 1:58). She even repeated a like declaration to the council, and renewed it as late as a month after her accession to the throne. Yet all this time she was preparing the way for a speedy return of England's clergy to the Church of Rome. Even before she had made these promises she had already sent a message to the Pope announcing her accession, and giving in her allegiance to him as a dutiful daughter of the Church (Butler, 2:437).

Mary made her accession to the throne on July 19. In the course of the month of August, Bonner (q, v.), Gardiner (q.v.), and three other bishops, who had been deposed for nonconformity in the late reign, were restored to their sees, and the mass, contrary to law, began again to be celebrated in many churches. In the following month archbishop Cranmer (q.v.) and bishop Latimer (q.v.), having opposed these popish innovations, were committed to the Tower. Soon after Ridley (q.v.) was committed, and upon the meeting of Parliament, Oct. 5, only three months after the king's death, but two of the Reformed bishops Taylor of Lincoln and Harley of Hereford remained in their sees, while Peter Martyr (q.v.), John à Lasko, (See LASKO), and other foreign preachers, were advised to quit the country. After the assembling of Parliament further steps were taken. An act was forced through repealing all the acts, nine in number, relating to religion that had been passed in the late reign, and restoring the Church to the same position which it had held at the death of Henry VIII. Most high handed were the games of bishop Gardiner, a man truly unscrupulous and void of moral sense. Seeking only to promote selfish ends, he had in the reign of Henry VIII been the most subservient instrument of the king in securing the divorce from Catharine, and to procure the archbishopric he now played a like unmerciful game against all who stood in his way. The crime he had perpetrated he assured Mary had been committed by Cranmer, and persuaded all that he had ever remained a most faithful servant of the pope. See GARDINER. Some writers will even have it that Mary was at this time inclined to be just to all her subjects, and that she was only led astray by this dastardly but wily ecclesiastic. But, be this as it may, certain it is that Mary acted in the interests of Romanism only, quite unmindful of the obligations she had assumed before the Protestants. In the Convocation, the Book of Common Prayer and Poynet's Catechism were pronounced "abominable and pestiferous books." In the lower house, six divines disputed boldly against transubstantiation for three days; but when, overpowered by numbers, they left the house, four articles were framed which became the test of heresy to all who suffered in this reign. They affirmed

(1) communion in one kind;

(2) a transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ;

(3) that worship should be rendered to the host;

(4) that Christ is offered up as a sacrifice in the mass (comp. Butler, 2:440).

Rome also promptly responded, and appointed a papal legate to England cardinal Pole but, as Gardiner himself was desirous to secure the position (Soames. 4:77), he urged the queen to request the legate to remain at home, at least until the match proposed between herself and Philip of Spain, the pious Catholic, be further matured. There was great opposition on the part of the people to this proposed union with Spain, and it was not best to trifle with popular opinion. Indeed, as it was, these measures, and other indications given by the court of a determination to be completely reconciled with Rome, were followed by insurrection (commonly known as that of Sir Thomas Wyat, its principal leader), which broke out in the end of January, 1554. It is true this rebellion was in a few days effectually put down, its suppression being signalized by the executions of the unfortunate lady Jane Grey and her husband, the lord Guildford Dudley, of her father, the duke of Suffolk, and, finally, of Wyat himself; but the popular indignation, instead of bringing Mary to her senses, led her further and further away from the people over whom she had forced herself as ruler. She was well aware that the people were daily growing in dissatisfaction because of her decision to lead them back to Rome, and yet, in the face of all this opposition, she contracted a union with the greatest Roman Catholic power, the government of Charles V, by her marriage to Philip II (q.v.), July 25. Though the latter pledged himself to the performance of many concessions to the English, the Spanish match remained exceedingly unpopular.

Mary's success in quelling the rebellion which she had provoked gave her, however, most complete ascendency over the reactionists, and she promptly used her courage and capacity to entrench herself by the aid of Rome. Parliament, which was assembled in November, was completely under her sway, and, inspired by her, obediently passed acts repealing the attainder of cardinal Pole, who had long waited to make his appearance in England as the papal legate, restoring the authority of the pope, repealing all laws made against the see of Rome since Henry VIII, reviving the ancient statutes against heresy, and, in short, re-establishing the whole national system of religious policy as it had existed previous to the first innovations made by her father. By one of the acts of this session of Parliament, also, Philip was authorized to take the title of King of England during the queen's life. These measures became the inaugural ceremonies of a rule of bloodshed and tyranny that closed only with the decease of the principal author and actor "Bloody Queen Mary" herself.

Not content, however, with having restored the power of the Church of Rome over the Anglican Church, Mary introduced new and severe measures for the suppression of those who had dared to follow her father and half brother in measures of ecclesiastical reform. Many of the clergy had married. One of her first acts now was the ejection of these clergy. The number of such, according to Burnet, was 12,000 out of 16,000; but this seems exaggerated, and we prefer to follow Butler, who estimates them at a little over 3,000, certainly a large enough number of men so suddenly deprived of their living, and, with thousands dependent upon them, at a moment's warning shut out from home and hearth. To say the least, the measure was most tyrannical; not even the option of dissolving the marriage-bond was given, though they had been married under the sanction of the law of the land. Many of the bishops-sixteen of them shared a like fate with their subordinates.

The question, however, still remained to be settled, How shall the heretic be treated?" Cardinal Pole, from his gentler temper and larger wisdom, advised mild measures in order to win them back; but, in case they could not be won, he would, equally with Gardiner and Bonner, have had them burned. Gardiner was now for measures of repression and vigor. He contended that relaxation in the time of Henry VIII had been the cause of the rapid spread of the heresy. He was disappointed of the see of Canterbury [which Pole had secured, of course], and enraged because his books against the papal supremacy were reprinted and dispersed through the country. The queen was always on the side of the severest measures," and the remainder of the history of the reign of Mary is occupied chiefly with the sanguinary persecutions of the adherents to the Reformed doctrines. Most Protestant writers reckon that about 280 victims perished at the stake from Feb. 4, 1555, on which day John Rogers was burned at Smithfield, to Nov. 10, 1558, when the last auto-da-fe" of the reign took place by the execution in the same manner of three men and two women at Colchester. Dr. Lingard, the Roman Catholic, admits that after expunging from the Protestant lists "the names of all who were condemned as felons or traitors, or who died peaceably in their beds, or who survived the publication of their martyrdom, or who would for their heterodoxy have been sent to the stake by the Reformed prelates themselves, had they been in possession of the power," and making every other possible allowance, it will still be found "that in the space of four years almost 200 persons perished in the flames for religious opinion." The harrowing narrative, in its details, may be found in part in Burnet, and in full in Fox's Martyrology. Among the most distinguished sufferers were Hooper, bishop of Gloucester, Ferrar of St. David's, Latimer of Worcester, Ridley of London, and Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury. Nor were the sufferings confined to the stake. Intolerance also carried grief, horror, and ferocity into all England by the persecution of those who were guilty of heresy, but were not considered fit subjects for the stake.

It is said that in the last three years of Mary's reign no less than "30,000 persons were exiled, and spoiled of their goods" (Butler, 2:445), among whom were not less than 800 theologians (comp. Fisher, p. 328). The question has been raised, Who were most responsible for these persecutions? Gardiner, bishop of Winchester and lord chancellor, was Mary's chief minister till his death in November, 1555, after which the direction of affairs fell mostly into the hands of cardinal Pole, who, after Craumer's deposition, was made archbishop of Canterbury; but the notorious Bonner, Ridley's successor in the see of London, has the credit of having been the principal instigator of these atrocities, which, it may be remarked, so far from contributing to put down the Reformed doctrines, appear to have had a greater effect in disgusting the nation with the restored Church than all other causes together. Says Soames (4:385), "These horrid proceedings filled the whole kingdom with amazement, indignation, and disgust. Unfeeling Romish bigots were disappointed because this atrocious ebullition of their party's intolerance had wholly failed to overawe the spirit of their adversaries. Timid Protestants were encouraged by the noble constancy displayed among their friends. Moderate Romanists were ashamed of their spiritual guides. The mass of men, who live in stupid forgetfulness of God, were aroused from that lethargy of sensuality, covetousness, or vanity in which they dissipate existence, to reflect upon the principles which could support the human mind tranquil, or even exulting, amid such frightful agonies."

At the same time that the attempt was thus made to extinguish the new opinions in religion by persecution at the stake, exile, and other severe measures, the queen gave a further proof of the ardor of her own faith by restoring to the Church the tenths and first-fruits, with all the rectories, glebe-lands, and tithes that had been annexed to the crown in the times of her father and brother. She also re-established several of the old monasteries which her father had dissolved, and endowed them as liberally as her means enabled her. Gladly would she have restored them all to the Church, "but it was feared that violent commotions would ensue if that course were adopted;" and the papal legate, while he "reluctantly assented" to the arrangement as proposed by the Convocation, "that the present titles to monasteries and Church lands should not be disturbed," "admonished those who held those lands of the guilt of sacrilege, and reminded them of the doom of Belshazzar"(!). (See MONASTICISM).

Froude, whom the Romanists are so eager to prove guilty of unfitness as a historian, has been one of the most lenient commentators on the conduct of Mary of England towards her people. He holds that, "To the time of her accession she had lived a blameless and, in many respects, a noble life; and few men or women have lived less capable of doing knowingly a wrong thing." He adds that her trials and disappointments, "it can hardly be doubted, affected her sanity," and ascribes the guilt chiefly to Gardiner, and measurably to Pole. Unless it be on the point of insanity, we are inclined to hold Mary responsible for the persecutions of her reign, believing, with Ranke, that "whatever is done in the name of a prince, with his will and by his authority, decides his reputation in history." In her domestic life Mary was. wretched. Philip, whom she loved with a morbid passion, proved a sour, selfish, and heartless husband; at once a bigot and a brute. No children followed their union; and exasperation and loneliness, working upon a temper naturally obstinate and sullen, without doubt rendered her more compliant to the sanguinary policy of the reactionary bishops. Fortunately for England, her reign was brief. She died after suffering much and long from dropsy and nervous debility Nov. 17, 1558. Her successor on the throne was her sister Elizabeth, who not only undid all the work she had accomplished, but finally and successfully established Protestantism as the faith of the nation. (See ELIZABETH).

Queen Mary's literary productions, though of but minor interest at present, deserve mention here because of the peculiar bearing they have on her early history. She is said to have been a superior Latin scholar, and was commended by Erasmus. "Scripsit bene Latinas epistolas," says he. Towards the end of her father's reign, at the earnest solicitation of queen Catharine Parr, she undertook to translate Erasmus's Paraphrase on the Gospel of St. John, but being cast into sickness, as Udall relates, partly by overmuch study in this work, after she had made some progress therein, she left the rest to be done by Dr. Mallet., her chaplain. This translation is printed in the first volume of Erastins's Paraphrase upon the New Testament (London, 1548, folio). The "Preface" was written by Udall, the famous master of Eton School, and addressed to the queen dowager. After her accession to the throne a proclamation was issued calling in and suppressing this very book, and all others that had any tendency towards furthering the Reformation. An ingenious writer is of opinion that the sickness which came upon her while she was translating St. John was all affected; "for," says he, "she would not so easily have been cast into sickness had she been employed on the legends of St. Teresa or St. Catharine of Sienna." Strype (3:468) has preserved three prayers or meditations of hers: the first, Against the Assaults of Vice; the second, A Meditation touching Adversity; the third, A Prayer to be read at the Hour of Death. In Fox's Acts and Monuments are printed eight of her letters to king Edward and the lords of the council on her nonconformity, and on the imprisonment of her chaplain, Dr. Mallet. In the Sylloge epistolsarums are several more of her letters, extremely curious: one on her delicacy in never having written but to three men, one of affection for her sister, one after the death of Anne Boleyn, and one, very remarkable, of Cromwell to her. In Haynes's State Papers are two in Spanish, to the emperor Charles V. There is also a French letter, printed by Strype (3:318) from the Cotton Library, in answer to a haughty mandate from Philip, when he had a mind to marry the lady Elizabeth to the duke of Savoy, against the queen's and princess's inclination: it is written in a most abject manner and a wretched style. Bishop Tanner ascribes to her A History of her own Life and Death, and An Account of Martyrs in her Reign, but this is manifestly an error. See Homel, Marie la Sanglante (Paris, 1862, 8vo); Burnet, Hist. Ref. p. 458 sq.; Soames, Hist. Ref. vol. iv, ch. i-iv; Perry, Ch. Hist. of Ingl. 3:26, 96; Collier, Eccles. Hist. 6:1 sq.; Fuller, Ch. Hist. 2:36t9 sq.; Short, Eccles. Hist. of Engl. p. 351-358; Froude, Hist. of Engl. v vol. v, ch. xxviii, and the whole of vol. vi; Strickland, Queens of Engl.; urner, Hist. of the Reigns of Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth (Lond. 1829, 8vo); Butler, Eccles. Hist. (Phila. 1872, Svo), vol. ii, ch. xliii; Wordsworth, Eccles. Biog. (see Index in vol. iv); Hardwick, Reformation, p. 240; Fisher (George P.), The Reformation (N.Y. 1873, 8vo), p. 327 sq.; Brit. and For. Review, 1844, p. 388 sq.; English Cyclop. s.v.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mary Queen of England'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mary-queen-of-england.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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