Coronation of Mary Tudor Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Mary Tudor’s accession to the English throne resulted in a five-year return to Catholicism for the English nation. It was a turbulent period characterized by foreign influence over English political life and violence in the name of Catholic orthodoxy.

Summary of Event

The accession of Mary Tudor to the throne of England in 1553 and the subsequent implementation of reactionary, pro-Catholic policies that were advanced during the five years of her reign confused English political and religious life. Many prominent leaders, including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, were arrested and executed on charges of heresy. Others, such as the prominent Scottish religious reformer John Knox, went into exile on the Continent and were influenced by Protestant reformers John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and others. Mary I Pole, Reginald Cranmer, Thomas Philip II (1527-1598) Grey, Lady Jane Wyatt the Younger, Sir Thomas Knox, John Cranmer, Thomas Ridley, Nicholas Latimer, Hugh Knox, John Calvin, John Philip II (king of Spain) Henry VIII (king of England) Catherine of Aragon Edward VI (king of England) Grey, Lady Jane Dudley, Guildford Wyatt, Sir Thomas, the Younger Pole, Reginald Elizabeth I (queen of England) Mary Tudor (queen of England)

Foreign policy was tied to religious policy, and English hostility toward Mary, her Spanish husband, Philip II, and the Catholic cause increased with each passing year of the reign. The nation tolerated this government by the daughter of Henry VIII because of its respect for the succession plan that had been enacted by law.

Mary Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Until the early 1530’, her position as heir to the throne was secured. With Henry VIII’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine, however, and the subsequent Act of Succession (1534) Succession, Act of (1534) , Mary Tudor was declared illegitimate. Thus, she had no claim to the throne until Henry VIII would later sanction it by another Act of Succession and state in his will that she would succeed her younger half brother, Edward VI, were he to die without an heir. Even though Mary was adamant in her refusal to abandon Catholicism, she survived the brief reign of her half brother.

In 1550, an unsuccessful plan was developed so that Mary could escape England for Habsburg protection on the Continent. On July 6, 1553, Edward VI died and Mary Tudor’s claim to the throne was challenged by the devout Protestant, Lady Jane Grey (who was manipulated by her husband, Guildford Dudley), by members of the Privy Council, and by others. Lady Jane Grey was declared queen of England on July 9, 1553, because she was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary. The coalition that rallied to Lady Jane Grey’s support was focused on retaining the power that they had enjoyed under Edward VI. Within nine days, their effort failed, after army troops who supported Mary Tudor’s claim of succession scattered Northumberland’s few forces. Mary initially spared Lady Jane Grey’s life, but in January, 1554, another attempt to deny the throne to Mary emerged in Kent under the leadership of Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, who was outraged at the prospect of Mary Tudor’s announced intention to marry King Philip II of Spain.

Wyatt joined in a larger conspiracy to restore Protestantism, Protestantism;England but that effort failed. Wyatt’s Rebellion Wyatt’s Rebellion (1554)[Wyatts Rebellion (1554)] , however, acquired support that had to be suppressed. The initial action to defeat Wyatt failed when most of the opposing troops deserted to his cause. Wyatt then marched on London but was confronted by a city that stood by Mary. His army was dispersed, and Wyatt was arrested and executed.

In November, 1554, relations were restored between England and the Roman Catholic Church. In the same year, Mary married Philip II and began her efforts to restore the Catholic Church in England. Catholicism;England She eliminated the religious changes that had been introduced during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. Parliament supported her policies with the exception of returning the lands that had been taken from the monasteries. She returned the monastic lands that were still under royal control.

In 1554, Mary I’s cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, returned to England to assist her in the restoration of Catholicism. Their plans were affected by the election of Paul IV as pope in 1555; he was Pole’s enemy and he pursued anti-Spanish policies. Paul IV went so far to direct Pole to return to Rome to stand trial for heresy; Pole resisted and remained in England. From 1554 to 1558, the Marian regime conducted its reign of terror and became involved in unsuccessful foreign ventures that caused a further decline in Mary I’s popularity.

Her marriage to Philip was a childless one, and Mary’s acceptance of Philip’s control over English foreign policy was disastrous. At his request, England went to war with France and, in a most unlikely situation, the Papacy in 1557. While achieving some initial success, the war was a failure, with England losing Calais in 1558, its last outpost on the Continent.

In 1558, Mary I thought she was pregnant; her initial excitement was short-lived, however, after she found out that she was not pregnant but instead had a serious stomach ailment, from which she died on November 17, 1558. Her cousin and ally, Pole, died of natural causes within a few hours. With their deaths, the effort to reintroduce Roman Catholicism in England also died. As specified in the Act of Succession Succession, Act of (1544) of 1544, the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth I, became queen. Within five years Elizabeth restored a moderate form of Protestantism through a series of measures referred to as the Elizabethan Settlement (1559) Elizabethan Settlement (1559) .


Mary Tudor failed to reestablish Catholicism in England as the national religion. While her supporters were successful in suppressing two attempts to deny her the throne and most English tolerated her accession, Mary Tudor was a fundamentally reactionary monarch who did not demonstrate an affection for her people or possess the intelligence and stamina to pursue effective domestic and foreign policies that would develop confidence in a Catholic monarch.

Regardless of her innate qualities, she was at a decided disadvantage in her relationship with Parliament. Many members of Parliament had worked with her father, Henry VIII, and supported the country’s break with Rome, and others had been involved in the government of her brother, Edward VI, which was clearly sympathetic to Protestantism.

The use of violence during Mary’s reign, including more than three hundred executions in the name of religious uniformity, resulted in her being called Bloody Mary and a decline in support for her government. Her most noteworthy achievement was her failure to take serious action against her Protestant half sister, Elizabeth, who would succeed her in 1558.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Erickson, Carolly. Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor. New York: Quill, 1993. A balanced, well-researched, and well-written biography of Mary by one of the most prolific biographers of the Tudor and Stuart period. Erickson’s interpretation presents a portrait of a troubled and easily persuaded monarch.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loach, Jennifer. Parliament and the Crown in the Reign of Mary Tudor. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1994. An important study of the relationship between Mary’s court and her parliaments.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Loades, David M. Mary Tudor: A Life. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1989. Loades’s academic biography is based on extensive primary material and is considered the current standard work. It is a balanced and readable work that is fully documented.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Prescott, H. F. M. Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor. London: Phoenix, 2003. Prescott’s sympathetic biography portrays Mary as a monarch who was overwhelmed by the complexities of her time.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ridley, Jasper Godwin. Bloody Mary’s Martyrs: The Story of England’s Terror. New York: Carroll and Graf, 2001. Ridley advances the traditional hostile interpretation of Mary in which she was a tyrant who murdered loyal subjects and failed to recognize the formidable hold that the acceptance of Protestantism had on England.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tittler, Robert. The Reign of Mary I. 2d ed. New York: Longman, 1991. Tittler’s history of Mary’s reign provides valuable insight into the major historical forces that dominated the 1550’, and the impact of those forces on the major personalities of Mary’s time.

Beginning 1485: The Tudors Rule England

Jan. 25-Feb. 7, 1554: Wyatt’s Rebellion

Jan., 1563: Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England

Nov. 9, 1569: Rebellion of the Northern Earls

Categories: History