Posted By Claire on September 20, 2010
The Tudors series, with the excellent Sarah Bolger playing Mary, and Linda Porter’s biography have definitely helped me to empathise with Mary and understand the woman behind the “Bloody Mary” myth, so I was desperate to read this new book on Mary by historian Anna Whitelock, a former student of David Starkey. In her Huffington Post article, “There’s Something About Mary”, Anna Whitelock described the goal of her Mary I biography:-
“I could have published my research in an academic monograph intended for a few hundred readers but I was incredibly driven by a sense of wanting Mary’s story to capture the popular imagination. So I wanted to write a book based on archival research but written accessibly – in 66 chapters – for a wider readership: historical fact with the appeal, description and drama of historical fiction.
I have sought to construct a new, popular narrative of the reign and an image of a queen less weak-willed, unintelligent and politically incompetent but well-educated, courageous and politically accomplished; a woman whose reign redefined the contours of the English monarchy who made it possible for queens to rule as kings, who was the first queen regnant of England.”
I must say that Whitelock has achieved her goal. “Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen” is a wonderfully written biography which is not only based on historical fact, the primary sources, but is also a pleasure to read. Mary comes alive in this book and the reader is given a new understanding of the woman whose reign is often seen as a complete flop and whose character has been maligned since the publication of John Foxe’s “Actes and Monuments”. Read this book and meet the real Mary I.
As you all know, I don’t like to just review a book, I like to give a rundown of its contents so you know what is covered. The chapters are short and easy to digest.
“Mary Tudor” begins with Whitelock considering Mary’s resting place and the fact that it is her half-sister, Elizabeth I,who was buried with her on James I’s orders in 1606, who steals the limelight. It is Elizabeth who has the grand effigy and in burying the queens together like this, Whitelock points out that “James shaped how those queens would be remembered: Elizabeth magnificent, Mary, her body, as her memory, buried beneath”. Whitelock states that her mission is “to resurrect the remarkable story of Mary, the first queen of England” and that “it is the contrast between Mary as queen and the personal tragedy of Mary as a woman that is the key to understanding her life and reign.”
Part One: A King’s Daughter
Chapter 1: Princess of England
This short chapter covers Mary’s birth, christening and the context of her birth – her parents’ relationship, Katherine of Aragon’s struggle to give her husband a son.
Chapter 2: A True Friendship and Alliance
Whitelock examines Katherine of Aragon’s background, the “true friendship and alliance” between England and Spain which was brought about by the Treaty of Medina del Campo 1489 and the betrothal of Katherine and Prince Arthur. She goes on to cover Katherine’s marriage to Henry VIII and the chapter ends with Katherine’s success at being Regent.
Chapter 3: Are You the Dauphin of France?
A brief chapter about the 2 1/2 year old Mary’s betrothal to the baby François, the Dauphin of France.
Chapter 4: A Very Fine Young Cousin Indeed
Here, Whitelock covers little Mary’s household, Henry’s change of allegiance to the Emperor and the resulting betrothal of Mary and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
Chapter 5: The Institution of a Christian Woman
This chapter looks at the young princess’s education.
Chapter 6: Great Signs and Tokens of Love
This chapter starts with Henry and Charles’s joint invasion of France and ends with Charles breaking off his betrothal to Mary and marrying Isabella of Portugal.
Chapter 7: Princess of Wales
A chapter looking at the enhancement of Mary’s status – the sending of the 9 year old Mary to the Welsh Marches to preside over the Council of Wales and the Marches.
Chapter 8: Pearl of the World
The revival of marriage negotiations between England and France, with Mary being promised to the French King or his second son, the Duke of Orléans, and the visit of the French to court.
Chapter 9: This Sheer Calamity
This chapter covers Henry VIII’s belief that his marriage to Katherine was contrary to church law, his relationship with Anne Boleyn and the 1529 marriage trial at Blackfriars.
Chapter 10: The King’s Great Matter
Whitelock covers Henry’s fight for annulment, Wolsey’s fall, and the breakdown of Henry and Katherine’s relationship and its effect on Mary.
Chapter 11: The Scandal of Christendom
The rise of Anne Boleyn, the annulment of Henry and Katherine’s marriage, the pregnancy of Anne Boleyn and Mary’s change in status.
Chapter 12: The Lady Mary
The birth of Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth, Mary’s refusal to accept the title “Lady Mary” and Mary’s “house arrest” at Hatfield, serving the baby Elizabeth.
Chapter 13: Spanish Blood
This chapter includes a transcript of a letter written by Katherine to her daughter with its “suggestion of a shared martyrdom” and ends with Anne Boleyn’s anger at Mary’s pride and obstinacy, “her unbridled Spanish blood.”
Chapter 14: High Traitors
Mary’s exclusion from the succession, Katherine and Mary’s refusal to sign the Oath of Succession and their resulting ill treatment.
Chapter 15: Worse than a Lion
This chapter open with the 19 year old Mary being “dangerously ill” and covers Henry’s refusal to let Katherine see her daughter, the executions of Thomas More and John Fisher and Mary’s desperation to leave England.
Chapter 16: Suspicion of Poison
The death of Katherine of Aragon, Henry’s celebration at the news and Mary’s desire to flee from England.
Chapter 17: The Ruin of the Concubine
Anne Boleyn’s stillborn son, the fall of Anne Boleyn and the rise of Jane Seymour.
Chapter 18: Most Humble and Obedient Daughter
Mary’s hope that she might regain favour with her father and Mary’s signing of “Lady Mary’s Submission” under threat of death.
Chapter 19: Incredible Rejoicing
Mary’s return to favour.
Chapter 20: Deliverance of a Goodly Prince
The birth of a son and heir, the future Edward VI, the death of Jane Seymour and Mar’s involvement in Edward’s early upbringing.
Chapter 21: The Most Unhappy Lady in Christendom
Henry’s suspicion of Mary and her supporters, his alienation of Mary from the emperor, the arrests and imprisonment of the Pole family and the negotiations for a marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves, and Mary and one of the German princes.
Chapter 22: For Fear of Making a Ruffle in the World
The arrival of Anne of Cleves and her marriage to Henry, Thomas Cromwell’s fall and the annulment of the Cleves marriage.
Chapter 23: More of a Friend than a Stepmother
The marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Howard, the execution of Mary’s “second mother” Margaret Pole, the fall of Katherine Howard, the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine Parr and the friendship between Katherine and Mary.
Chapter 24: The Family of Henry VIII
The return of Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, the family portrait, the war with France and the departure of Chapuys.
Chapter 25: Departed This Life
The plot against Katherine Parr and Henry VIII’s death.
Part Two: A King’s Sister
Chapter 26: The King is Dead, Long Live the King
The accession of Edward VI.
Chapter 27: Fantasy and New Fangleness
The provisions of Henry’s will for Mary, Mary’s household and Mary’s protest at the “fantasy and new fangleness” of the religious changes.
Chapter 28: Advice to be Conformable
Mary’s disobedience and rebellion against the new religious policies, her flouting of the law.
Chapter 29: The Most Unstable Man in England
John Dudley’s overthrow of Protector Somerset.
Chapter 30: What Say You, Mr Ambassador?
Mary’s desperation to flee to the continent and her escape plan.
Chapter 31: An Unnatural Example
The reunion of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, and Edward’s threats regarding Mary’s religious practices.
Chapter 32: Naughty Opinion
Mary’s continuing disobedience and the Emperor’s support.
Chapter 33: Matters Touching My Soul
Edward’s struggle to get his half-sister to conform and his ill-health.
Chapter 34: My Device for the Succession
Edward’s illness, Edward’s overturning of his father’s will with his appointing of Lady Jane Grey as his heir, and Edward’s death.
Chapter 35: Friends in the Briars
Lady Jane Grey proclaimed Queen, Mary’s demand that she be recognised as Queen and Mary’s growing support.
Chapter 36: The Owner of the Crown
The fall of Lady Jane Grey.
Chapter 37: Marye the Queen
The first meeting of Mary’s council and her journey to London.
Chapter 38: The Joy of the People
Mary’s triumphant entry into London, her appointing of Privy Council members and Simon Renard’s role as her counselor and confidant.
Chapter 39: Clemency and Moderation
Mary’s punishment of the rebels, the execution of John Dudley, religious change and Elizabeth’s display of compliance.
Chapter 40: Old Customs
Mary ‘s coronation procession.
Chapter 41: God Save Queen Mary
Mary I’s coronation.
Chapter 42: Iniquitous Laws
Mary’s first Parliament, the repeals of the Edwardian religious legislation, the restoration of the Mass and the “process of Catholic revival”.
Chapter 43: A Marrying Humor
The marriage question – Edward Courtenay or Philip of Spain?
Chapter 44: A Suitable Partner in Love
Mary’s decision to marry Philip.
Chapter 45: A Traitorous Conspiracy
Wyatt’s Revolt and Mary’s victory.
Chapter 46: Gibbets and Hanged Men
The executions of Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Guildford Dudley, the imprisonment of Elizabeth, the execution of Thomas Wyatt and the release of Elizabeth into house arrest.
Chapter 47: Sole Queen
The ratification of Mary’s marriage treaty.
Chapter 48: Good Night, My Lords All
The arrival of Philip in England and his and Mary’s first meeting.
Part Four: A King’s Wife
Chapter 49: With This Ring I Thee Wed
The marriage of Philip and Mary.
Chapter 50: Mutual Satisfaction
Philip’s installation as knight and cosovereign of the Order of the Garter and the couple’s return to London.
Chapter 51: The Happiest Couple in the World
The beginning of Mary and Philip’s married life and the tension between Philip’s Spanish household and the English entourage.
Chapter 52: To Reconcile, Not to Condemn
Cardinal Pole’s return to England and the return of England to the Catholic fold.
Chapter 53: The Queen is With Child
Mary’s pregnancy and the rumour of the birth of a prince.
Chapter 54: Her Majesty’s Belly
Mary’s pregnancy confirmed as a phantom pregnancy.
Chapter 55: Blood and Fire
The burning of heretics starts with John Rogers, Canon of St Paul’s. This chapter gives the names and details of some of those burned for their “heretical” beliefs, but Whitelock points out that “neither Mary nor Pole had expected to burn so many; they wanted the heretics to be reconciled rather than die and for the burnings to be carried out judiciously and without vindictiveness” and that “to halt the process would have been to condone heresy.”
Chapter 56: Extraordinarily in Love
Philip¡s departure and Mary’s sadness.
Chapter 57: Committed to the Flames
The burning of Thomas Cranmer, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
Chapter 58: A Great and Rare Example of Goodness
Mary’s involvement in the commemoration of Easter.
Chapter 59: Stout and Devilish Hearts
Civil unrest, the death of Lord Chancellor Stephen Gardiner, Sir Henry Dudley’s plot to depose Mary and Mary’s anxiety that Philip should return.
Chapter 60: Obedient Subject and Humble Sister
Mary’s sending of an armed guard to Elizabeth’s home at Hatfield, her belief in Elizabeth’s” innocence”, another conspiracy and Elizabeth’s resistance to marriage.
Chapter 61: A Warmed Over Honeymoon
Philip’s return to England, the Queen’s Council’s refusal to give Philip troops for a war against France or to declare against France, Mary’s determination to give Philip what he needed and Council’s eventual decision to help Philip with money and troops.
Chapter 62: A Public Enemy to Ourselves
Sir Thomas Stafford’s plot to depose Mary, Philip’s final departure and the loss of Calais to France.
Chapter 63: The Grief of the Most Serene Queen
The Pope’s anger at Mary’s support of war with France, the Pope’s investigation of Pole as a suspected Lutheran, the eventual peace between Philip and the Pope, and the damage done to Mary’s relationship with the Pope.
Chapter 64: Readiness for Change
Giovanni Michieli’s 1557 account of the character of Mary I.
Chapter 65: Thinking Myself to Be With Child
Mary’s second false pregnancy, the deterioration of her health and Mary’s acceptance of Elizabeth as her heir.
Chapter 66: Reasonable Regret for Her Death
Mary I’s death, Elizabeth proclaimed Queen, Cardinal Pole’s death, Philip’s reaction to news of Mary’s death, the funeral arrangements and funeral.
Epilogue: Veritas Temporis Filia
Whitelock explains how “the forging and recasting of Mary’s reputation began immediately upon her death”, how her dying wishes were ignored, how she “quickly became a figure of opprobrium” and how John Foxe’s account “would shape the popular narrative of Mary’s reign for the next four hundred and fifty years.” Whitelock argues that there is more to Mary than the myth “Bloody Mary” and that Mary was “a woman marked by suffering, devout in her faith and exceptional in her courage”. She fought for the throne and won it and “in many ways Mary failed as a woman but triumphed as queen.”
Anna Whitelock’s biography ends with acknowledgements, full and detailed notes, a bibliography divided into unpublished sources, primary sources and secondary sources, and an index.
I would highly recommend Anna Whitelock’s “Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen” to history buffs, students and anyone who wants to debunk the myths that surround this Tudor queen and find out who she really was. This book explores Mary I’s whole life, from cradle to grave, and gives you the complete lowdown on who she was and what made her tick. A great read.
“Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen” was released in the USA by Random House in hardcover on the 7th September 2010 and is available from Amazon US – click here – or your favourite bookshop.
It was released as “Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen” in the UK in paperback in March 2010 and can be ordered at Amazon UK – click here for details.