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Mary Tudor by David Loades

Posted By Claire on November 17, 2011

Twenty years after the publication of his first book on Mary I, “Mary Tudor: A Life”, David Loades has released a brand new biography of Mary. In the preface of this new book, Loades writes of how he has not changed his mind about her but that he has “rethought aspects of her life and reign”, as well as learning more about Philip of Spain and his career. I haven’t read the first book so I cannot comment on how similar or different they are, but I enjoyed this immensely and have already been using it as part of my research.

If you already know me through my work on The Anne Boleyn Files website, you will know that I never take what I read in history books as fact, however reputable the historian or author, and I always make it my mission to double-check the sources. Well, David Loades make this easy because he cites his sources in full so it is easy for the history student, researcher or armchair historian to check them out and understand why he has come to the conclusion he has. Thank you, David!

Now, let’s give you a rundown of the book, something I like to do with factual books as it shows you what is covered.

  • Introduction – Loades talks about how “in terms of her own ideas and purposes, Mary Tudor was a failure, and nothing can conceal that fact” and how she has been seen by history as “a loser”. He points out that she was never born to be queen (she was born to be a consort), but that she was an important queen, a powerful woman and was a success in many ways.
  • The Child – Loades takes us back in time to thirty years before Mary’s birth, when a marriage was first proposed between her mother, Catherine of Aragon, and Arthur, Prince of Wales. He gives the context and background to Mary’s birth – the death of Arthur, her parents’ marriage and Catherine’s struggle to have a baby – and then gives details on Mary’s upbringing, her education and her change in circumstances when Henry Fitzroy was made Duke of Richmond. The chapter ends with her father, Henry VIII, beginning his relationship with Anne Boleyn.
  • Disruption – Loades covers Henry’s struggle for an annulment, Mary’s menstrual problems and ill health, and the impact of Henry’s second marriage and Elizabeth’s birth on Mary.

  • Trauma – Loades opens this chapter with the words “Over the next two years, Mary became an affliction to herself, and to everyone who had to deal with her” and goes on to write of her obstinacy in the face of losing her title and position. Interestingly, he comments that “apart from the occasions when she deliberately provoked her minders, Mary was not treated brutally, or even unsympathetically” and points out that when the Act of Succession became law in March 1534 that Henry would not allow the oath to be administered to Catherine and Mary because he knew they would refuse it and that would be high treason. Loades believes that “Henry behaved towards both women with considerable restraint.”
    This chapter also covers Catherine of Aragon’s death, the fall of Anne Boleyn , Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour and Mary’s eventual “submission” to her father.
  • Restitution – This chapter covers Mary’s new relationship with her father, Jane Seymour’s death, Henry’s brief marriage to Anne of Cleves, the fall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry’s marriage to Catherine Howard and her subsequent execution, Mary’s closeness to her father in 1543, Henry’s marriage to Catherine Parr and Mary’s close relationship with Catherine, Mary’s health problems in 1543 and 1544, and her return to the line of succession.
  • The King’s Sister – This chapter opens with the death of Mary’s father, Henry VIII and Mary’s new independence at the age of 31. We are then taken through Catherine Parr’s secret marriage to Thomas Seymour, the settling of Mary’s patrimony, Mary’s unhappiness and protest at the religious policies of her brother Edward VI’s government, the pressure on her to conform and Mary’s defiance, Mary’s plans to escape to the Continent, Somerset’s fall and Northumerland’s rise, Edward VI’s illness, Edward’s “Device” and his decline.
  • Mary the Queen – This chapter starts with Edward VI’s death on the 6th July 1553 and Lady Jane Grey being proclaimed Queen. We learn about Mary’s fight to be Queen, her success, her organisation of her council, her coronation, Parliament’s reinstatement of Catherine of Aragon’s marriage to Henry VIII, and therefore Mary’s legitimacy, the plans for Mary’s marriage, Wyatt’s Rebellion and Lady Jane Grey’s subsequent execution.
  • Marriage – The proxy marriage of Mary and Philip, the marriage plans and their actual wedding
  • A Woman’s Problems – Loades points out that the English were not acclimatised to the notion of a woman on the throne” and were unsure of how to view Mary once she was married to Philip. Loades also covers the “mutual suspicion” that causes problems between Mary’s English household and Philip’s Spanish one, the reconciliation with Rome and Mary’s false pregnancy.
  • Mary Alone – Philip’s departure to take sovereignty of the Lowlands, the burnings of Ridley and Latimer, Philip’s desire to be crowned in England, Philip’s new role as King of Spain, the Henry Dudley Conspiracy, the burning of Cranmer and appointment of Cardinal Pole as Archbishop of Canterbury, the problems caused by Philip’s foreign policy and his position as Mary’s consort, and his return to England.
  • Philip and Mary at War – Mary’s happiness at Philip’s return, Stafford’s raid on the Yorkshire coast and England’s agreement to go to support Philip in his war with France, Mary’s relationship with her half-sister Elizabeth, the fall of Calais and England’s bitterness towards Philip.
  • Mary and Elizabeth – Mary’s emotional decline after Philip’s departure, the change in her character, the Mary of her later years compared to the young fun-loving Mary, her second phantom pregnancy and the making of her will.
  • Elizabeth the Heir – Mary’s decline in health, her death, Elizabeth’s accession and Mary’s funeral.
  • The England of the Two Queens – The changes brought by Elizabeth’s reign, the overturning of “Mary’s ecclesiastical restoration”, the mistakes Mary made as Queen but also her achievements. Loades concludes that “if Mary’s failure can be attributed to a single factor, it was that she and her regime were seen as insufficiently English”, an interesting point. He ends his book by saying that in distancing herself from Mary Elizabeth failed “to recognise how much she owed to her predecessor” and calling for Mary to be “better appreciated”. Anyone having read the book would agree whole-heartedly with Loades, it’s time “Bloody Mary” was rehabilitated.
  • Notes – Detailed notes and references for each chapter
  • Bibliography – Divided into “Calendars, Guides and Works of Reference”, “Contemporary Printed Works and Modern Editions”, “Editions of Documents”, “Published Secondary Work” and “Unpublished Theses”
  • List of Illustrations
  • Index

As you can see, David Loades’s “Mary Tudor” is a detailed account of Mary I’s life and reign. It is a must-read for Tudor history lovers and those interested in the Tudor monarchs, and you can’t really go wrong with Loades! I have read it from cover to cover, but will also be dipping into it on a regular basis as I do with the biographies by Linda Porter and Anna Whitelock. It is an essential research tool for me and the bibliography at the end will come in particularly useful. David Loades challenges the perceptions we all have of Mary I, debunks the myth that her reign was simply that of a loser, and rehabilitates her brilliantly. A very worthwhile read.

Note: I don’t have Loades’s first biography of Mary or the 2006 one so cannot say how this one is different I’m afraid.


Format: Hardcover
Pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Amberley (July 2011)
ISBN-10: 1445603055
ISBN-13: 978-1445603056
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Order at Amazon UK – click here


8 Responses to “Mary Tudor by David Loades”

  1. Susan Higginbotham says:

    Is this a reprint of his 2006 biography of Mary, “Mary Tudor, The Tragical History of the First Queen of England,” or does it contain substantial revisions? I have the 2006 biography, and the chapter headings are the same. (I also have the even older Loades “Mary: A Life,” which is clearly different from the 2006 book.)

  2. Claire says:

    I haven’t read the first one so can’t comment I’m afraid. Loades just talks about how he has rethought aspects of her reign and learned more about Philip, so I’m not sure what has been added or changed. Sorry.

  3. Christine says:

    I also love this book, Claire! I have the 2006 version which indeed seems to be the same text as this one, as the chapters and the quotations given above are in it. Perhaps there are more illustrations in the new one? The 2006 edition for The National Archives contains a number of primary documents cited in full or at least at length. I hope it’s the same as my copy is signed, about which I am very happy of course.

  4. Claire says:

    He does talk about it being a second edition at the end of the preface so it must be a reworking of that original book.

  5. Christine says:

    I would think from what you write about the preface, Claire, that it is indeed the same text: “It is now some fifteen years that since I wrote ….. and although I have not changed my mind about her in striking ways, I have rethought some aspects of her life and reign.” He then goes on about Philip.

  6. Claire says:

    I wish publishers would put some big warnings on books saying that they are re-issues, people are left wondering whether or not they should order them.

  7. Claire says:

    From what Christine says, it looks like this is an updated version of his 2006 book but I’m not sure how much it is different from his first Mary book , “Mary: A Life”,which he said he wrote 20 years ago.

  8. Anne Barnhill says:

    I don’t have any of the versions so I’ll have to ask for this one for Christmas–my list keeps growing!

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