blame it on the reign

“… the greatest pearl in the kingdom.”

~Henry VIII speaking of his firstborn daughter, Mary Tudor~


Those are some pretty syrupy sweet sentiments considering how terribly rotten Henry VIII treated his firstborn daughter, Mary, throughout her lifetime.  I don’t know at what point in the Tudor dynasty that this quote was attributed to Henry VIII, but if I would hazard to guess, he must have uttered it long before his marriage to second wife, Anne Boleyn. 

Methinks Queen Anne would not have taken kindly to King Henry being gracious in any manner to Mary Tudor, his firstborn daughter with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. 

‘Pearl schmearl!’ Anne Boleyn screams as she twists Henry’s ear in a most painful fashion.


I’m going to preface this blog by stating that of all the Tudors, I personally find Queen Mary to be the most unfairly maligned.  In my opinion, her rather reviled place in history and her nickname, ‘Bloody Mary’, aren’t entirely just. 

Ummm.  I actually kinda feel sorry for the woman.


I’m quite certain that the nearly 300 Protestants she ordered executed in horribly vicious ways during her reign in an attempt to re-establish Catholicism to England would beg to differ with me.


Then there was that little incident in 1553 with Lady Jane Gray.

Otherwise known as the ‘Nine-Day Queen’, Lady Jane Gray, with the help of family and friends, usurped the English throne immediately after the death of 15-year old King Edward (half brother to Mary, son and only legitimate male heir of Henry VIII and third wife, Jane Seymour) from tuberculosis. 

In effect, stepping right on over the succession of Mary. 


Bad move, Lady Jane Gray.  Verra bad move.

Seventeen-year old Lady Jane was queen for slightly less than two weeks before ‘Bloody Mary’ and her supporters erased her.  Everybody was Kung Fu fighting.  Those kids were fast as lightening.

Sorry.  Unexplained outburst.


Poor Lady Jane.  Without regard to her tender age and ignorance of youth, she and her crew promptly lost their heads (and other body parts in a variety of terribly gruesome ways) for the faux pas.  The story is told that Queen Mary wanted to set an example of what happens to traitors.

I would imagine her point was very well taken.

Ummm.  I’d have gotten it. 

Quite clearly.


Those unfortunate incidents aside … I’m just sayin’ …  Mary had some issues. 
She was doing the best she could. 

Albeit, from a very weird perspective.

I’ll explain.

Mary Tudor was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  When Henry divorced Catherine and married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and together had a daughter, Elizabeth, Princess Mary was removed from the line of royal succession.


Sorry, Mary dear.  We were only kidding on the whole … ya know … ‘Princess’ title thing.  Really.  Oh now there, there.  Don’t pout.  I’m sure in time you’ll come to truly love your half-sister, Elizabeth.  Nevermind that her birth just resulted in your dad kicking you to the curb and pretty much calling you a bastard.’

‘Now.  Do be a good girl. Pack your stuff and scram.’

‘Oh.  And puhleaassse take your mother, Catherine, with you.  She’s becoming quite a bother.’ 


And to make it all neat and tidy … not to mention ‘official’ … in March 1534, Henry VIII had the English Parliament pass the (first) Act of Succession, which in essence …

… vested the succession of the English Crown in the children of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.  This act, effectively, set Princess Elizabeth as first in line for the throne, declaring Princess Mary a bastard. It was also proclaimed that subjects, if commanded, were to swear an oath to recognizing this Act as well as the King’s supremacy.  Those who refused to take the oath were charged with treason.



In typical Wishy-Washy Henry VIII course of business, a footnote to the Act a mere two years later

This Act was overridden by the Act of Succession, 1536, which made the children of Jane Seymour first in line for the throne, declaring the King’s previous marriages unlawful, and both princesses illegitimate.


I don’t know.  Anyone think Henry VIII was a man of many (illogical) whims?

‘I choose you and we shall make a stunning dynasty.  Oh.  Hmm.  Gosh, no, changed my mind.  I choose you!  Eeny meeny miney mo …’



Based on the first Act of Succession, in one fell swoop, Henry declared his first daughter a bastard, ineligible for any claim to the English throne, and sent her tidily away.  To add insult to injury her new stepmother, Anne Boleyn, requested the now ‘Lady’ Mary to be servant to Princess Elizabeth.  


Oh real nice, Anne.  Wait until you see what happens to you when Henry gets the next bee in his crown.

Heh. Heh. Heh.


Can y’all see where Lady Mary might be more than a bit perturbed about her lot?  A little, shall we say, bitter?  Confused, angry, humiliated, antagonized … need I go on?  I’m surprised at some point, Mary didn’t take the opportunity to secretly konk her half-sister, Princess Elizabeth, on the head with Ye Old Frying Pan.

‘Splain that one to the king.

‘Oh goodness, Father. I don’t know whatever has gotten into me?!’

When Mary’s mother, Catherine of Aragon, became very ill, Henry VIII refused to allow Mary to be with her during her sickness.  And y’all had to know that snitty decision was a result of Henry’s ill temper about Catherine being such a stink about giving … or conversely, not giving … him the divorce he wanted so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

What’s that they say about payback?

When Catherine of Aragon finally passes, Henry VIII does not permit Mary to go to her mother’s funeral.  It is not until Henry executes Anne Boleyn and third wife Jane Seymour tries to mend fences for the sake of all of Henry’s children, is Mary back in her father’s (tenuous) graces.

Oh and then there’s that little thing Henry VIII commands of Mary, to denounce the Catholic Church. Once she agrees to do that, she can be his rightful daughter again.

His kindness, quite frankly, overwhelms me.


So we flash forward several years.

Henry VIII dies.

Son, Edward, ascends the throne as a young, sickly teenager and dies after a short reign.

The imposter Lady Jane Gray has her nine days of ill-fated fame.

On the scene next comes daughter, Mary, who executes Queen Jane (and we use the term ‘Queen’ loosely here) and takes the hard-won throne.


And during this time there’s also the predicament with her half-sister, Elizabeth, who Mary has to tuck away in the Tower just in case she’s entertaining any thoughts of overthrowing Mary’s place in the succession.

The Tudors.  Hmm.  Why they truly put the ‘D’ in dysfunctional.  And y’all wonder why Mary loses her noodle from time to time?

As Queen, she marries Philip II of Spain, in part, to reconnect the two countries in the hopes of restoring Catholicism to England.  Although King Philip was Catholic, the English Catholics were none too enamored with the foreign chap.  They were intuitive. 

When Mary died, Philip tried to cozy up to her half-sister, Elizabeth, so he could remain King when she ascends the throne.

Creepy, Phil.  Really creepy.

Sadly, Mary experiences two ‘phantom’ pregnancies during her reign which must have been immensely heartbreaking, not to mention excruciatingly embarrassing.  Based on the fact that her abdomen grew as though she were pregnant and her lack of monthly ‘courses’, one can only imagine in her passionate desire to have her own heirs to the throne, she would have desperately wanted to believe she was with child. 

She alerted the Kingdom.  Everyone waited in joyful anticipation. 

When 9, 10, 11 months came and went and no labor pains, it was apparent there would be no royal baby.  Scholars believe that both times Queen Mary experienced the pregnancy-like phenomenon it was actually the growth (and shrinkage) of a large ovarian or uterine tumor.


Queen Mary died, quite unhappy, at the relatively young age of 42.


The next time y’all are at a slumber party conjuring up ‘Bloody Mary’ during a séance, have a little pity on the poor gal.  In the game of life, more often than not, she ended up with the short end of the stick.

I think I’d be a little pissed off too.


One thought on “blame it on the reign

  1. I have to say I feel for Mary, too. Now mind you I think the frenziful dismemberment was over the top. Yea, it pretty well got the point across I’d say.

    I’m not a fan of Henry. I’m pretty sure I’d have been beheaded myself if I’d been in his kingdom because I’d have let what I thought slip at some point. Let’s be honest… the man can say he wanted a male heir but he was really only ruling with his, ahem, well you know, and had the power to get away with it! So sad…

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