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Archive for Mary I

Opportunity Knox (but only for men?)

I’ve got John Knox in my system today so give me a few minutes, here. Knox, considered the father of Presbyterianism, preserved for us the dreadful details of the Oxford Martyrs’ fate (today in 1555) and was in fact a “martyrologist.” (I am wondering if this occupation went the way of “zincographer” and “haberdasher.”)

Knox also penned a delightful little piece called The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. He was referring to the Catholic female rulers Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, and Marie de Guise. As we all know, another prominent female ruler was coming down the pike, and his publication didn’t go over so well with Elizabeth I. As you can imagine.

Knox wrote to her, explaining “Well I didn’t mean YOU…” but she was not amused. When Knox came back from Geneva in 1559, the queen wouldn’t let him land in her beloved England. Instead, she directed him to Leith via the treacherous North Sea. That’ll teach him.

You want to read this misogyny 16th-c view on female rulers, don’t you? Here you go. The link also includes his “let me explain” attempts to Elizabeth I. Of course the time being what it was, t’was unusual to imagine or accept a female ruler. Times change, though, and fortunately those women helped that.

Knox is buried, as it happens, beneath parking spot #23 next to St. Giles in Edinburgh. Surely, many “weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish” women have parked atop him over the years?


Mary? Quite Contrary!

This not only gets up my history-nerd dander but my proofreading/editing-nerd dander as well. For crying out loud, “Bloody Mary” refers to Mary I, not Mary Queen of Scots!

(thanks to The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor friend Sarah Butterfield for pointing this out.)

Spanish Lite


Hey Hollywood and friends, I’ve got a bone to pick with you: Why oh why do you insist on making Catherine of Aragon a contender for the Frida Kahlo Look-a-Like contest?

Catherine, a Spanish princess, had strawberry blonde hair, light eyes, and a fair complexion. See, above?

She and Henry VIII (a ginger with a light complexion as well) had Mary I, so don’t even think of giving her the exotic treatment. You’ve already given her the stubby-little-troll  treatment and the bitter grouchpot treatment, poor girl.

After You, Who?

Here’s a stellar 5:40 bit from Showtime on life after Henry VIII . He was a tough act to follow, for sure, but someone had to do it! Take a gander at how the succession went for the remainder of the Tudor period.

Mary I – The “Deadliest Daughter of Henry VIII”?

Front entrance of the London Dungeon.

Image via Wikipedia

C’mon now, London Dungeon, what’s with all the bad press about Mary I? You realize that Henry VIII and Elizabeth did away with tons more Catholics than Mary did Protestants, right? “In her eyes there is only one faith and all those who believe otherwise must be punished” — which was part and parcel of the whole new-religion-on-the-throne act that most of the Tudor monarchs performed, yeah?

Granted, I’ve been to the London Dungeon several times and think it’s fab. I’ll bet this new exhibit is as stellar as the rest of the joint. But (pardon the expression) the lynch-mob mentality regarding Mary Tudor gets real old, real fast. How about some new exhibits in the coming years such as “Dissing the Vatican: Henry’s Dissolution of the Monastaries” or “Cousin, Schmuzin: Beheading Your Catholic Scottish Rival”?

Resting in Peace?

Coronation Chair with Stone of Scone, Westmins...

Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

Elizabeth I and Mary I: Half-sisters as well as total enemies (in their adult lives, anyway). Protestant vs. Catholic, and daughter of “that whore, Anne Boleyn” vs. daughter of “the ex-queen, a.k.a. not my mother, Catherine of Aragon.” As years progressed, the schism between these two ladies widened and widened.

So wouldn’t they be thrilled to know they’d be rubbing elbows in death?  For some reason, the girls are buried in the same magnificent tomb in Westminster Abbey. There is an eerie but beautiful aisle on the north side of the Lady Chapel, which asks for silence with little “Shhhh” signs posted on the walls. Within these walls lay the remains of James I’s little daughters, and supposedly those of the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard.

And in a large monument nearby, Elizabeth’s coffin is plopped on top of her half-sister Mary’s. Only Liz’s striking figure is commemorated on the effigy. Mary seems to be an afterthought (although at her funeral in 1558, the new queen Elizabeth provided for every pomp and circumstance). But a plaque tells us she’s in there, so who am I to argue?  It reads, ” “Partners both in throne and grave, here rest two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection.” Let’s hope they’re getting on better in the Afterlife!

There’s Something [Sad] About Mary

Catherine and Henry's daughter Mary never acce...

Image via Wikipedia

For a queen, it’s not all jewels and castles and ordering the death of your enemies. Queen Mary I was a tragic historical figure who just couldn’t seem to catch a break.

* Her father divorced her dear mother, Catherine of Aragon. She had to watch as Anne Boleyn sashayed into her father’s life and she and her mother were practically demoted to riff-raff.

* Soon after, she had to wait on her little half-sister Elizabeth like a common servant. Her father disinherited her and she was no longer in line for the throne. This changed after Anne Boleyn lost her head: Elizabeth was the one removed from the succession and Henry’s next chickadee, Jane Seymour, showed affection for Mary and convinced Henry to reconcile with her. But when she’d finally spent some time as queen after all …

* She lost Calais, England’s last bit of land in France.

* She married a man who never loved her. In their four years of marriage, he barely spent any time with her at all.

* Proud Mary was a Catholic through and through, in a land which was slowly turning to Protestantism. Like her successor Elizabeth and all the kings of the Stuart dynasty to follow the Tudors, she had built-in enemies who disagreed with her religious beliefs and were constantly plotting to kill her over it. Talk about stress!

* She couldn’t have children, though she convinced herself she was pregnant several times. The final time she thought she had a baby growing inside her, that growth turned out to be a cancerous tumor. That was the end of Mary, at age 42.