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Mary I Notes

History Notes > British History, 1485-1649 Notes

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Mary I: Revision Notes Historiography
? Traditional (A. F. Pollard + G. R. Elton): Mary's policies were unimaginative and counter-productive, they failed in three key areas: marriage (offended English nationalism and led to foreign war), foreign policy (led to loss of Calais), religion (offended nationalism, gave her the title 'Bloody Mary'). A. F. Pollard pronounced Mary's reign as a 'sterile interlude in Tudor history'. G. R. Elton: Mary was 'arrogant, assertive, bigoted, stubborn, suspicious and rather stupid; devoid of political skill, unable to compromise'.
? Revisionist (Professor Russell, Jennifer Loach, Christopher Haigh, Eamon Duffy, A. G. Dickens): Mary's policies are unfairly presented as unrealistic and doomed to fail. Her performance was hampered by bad luck, especially in foreign policy and economic conditions, she also lacked time given she only had five and a half years. Professor Russell: Mary was 'good, easily influenced, inexpert in worldly matters, and a novice all round'. A. G. Dickens: Mary 'failed to discover Counter Reformation', and the 'the reign must still be judged not merely a huge failure, but one likely to have become more monumental with every succeeding year', 'policies were clumsily counter-productive and enshrined the virtual inevitability of Protestant victory'.
? Renard: Mary could be both impressible and strong when she wanted to be, she was also adept at using her perceived principal weakness as her prime strength in negotiation.
? Robert Wingfield in Vita Mariae Reginae shows a woman capable of determined and positive action in extremely dangerous circumstances. Accession
? When Edward VI died on 6 July 1553, Jane's proclamation as Queen was supported by council and the political establishment.
? Death of the young king in July 1553 plunged England into a political crisis. The Duke of Northumberland, the leading member of the privy council, joined with the dying Edward to draw up a "devise" altering the succession to the throne. Princess Mary was legally the next heir since Edward was too young to have produced children of his own. However, the "devise" gave the Crown to Lady Jane Grey.
? Jane was a highly educated classical scholar who excelled at Greek. She was married to Northumberland's son Lord Guilford Dudley and she was a committed Protestant.
? He hoped that by naming Jane instead of Mary he would preserve the Protestant reformation that had surged ahead during his reign.
? Several members of the privy council were uncomfortable about the coup and signed the "devise" with great reluctance.
? It was widely understood that her accession flouted the express wishes of both Henry VIII and of parliament. Mary was in East Anglia when she heard the news of Edward's illness and death, and she fled at once to avoid being captured by Northumberland's forces. On her way to the great royal castle at Framlingham where she planned to hold out, she gathered a trickle of support that steadily broadened to an unstoppable flood. 1

???????Vita Mariae describes how men started to flock to her side. Mary was crucially dependent on a small, tightly-knit group of Catholic gentry, but she made it clear to all that she was prepared to fight for her right to succeed. She spoke inspiringly to her own household, then to those who joined her, and finally to the army that gathered at Framlingham to battle for her. 10 July 1553 "Queen Jane" was proclaimed in the capital and elsewhere across England, but on hearing of Mary's challenge Northumberland left London on 14 July intending to put down the rising in East Anglia. Three days later privy councillors overturned the "devise". They withdrew their support for Jane and turned to Mary. At Cambridge, Northumberland was forced to accept that his attempted coup d'etat had failed, and Mary at Framlingham was told the joyous news that she would not need to start a civil war before ascending the throne. Mary proclaimed herself as Queen at her house at Kenninghall, and watched support rise in her favour among the commons and the provincial gentry of East Anglia and the Thames Valley. Northumberland moved against her and his forces deserted him, and the council in London lost its nerve and declared Mary as Queen. It was a vote in favour of dynastic legitimacy and against political chicanery. In a critical misinterpretation, Mary became convinced that there was general and enthusiastic support for the religious counter-revolution she intended to launch, 'from this initial misreading of the facts, sprang a whole chain of errors'. T.M Parker: 'it was not so much Mary's religion, as her ancestry...which commended her to the nation as a whole'. There is evidence of genuine and spontaneous popular enthusiasm for the expected return to Catholicism. At the proclamation of Mary, 'the whole commonalty in all places in the north parts greatly rejoiced, making fires, drinking wine and ale and praising God'. Many parishes, like Chester-Le-Street, greeted the news of Mary's accession by the spontaneous restoration of the Latin mass; in Grantham, Mary's proclamation was accompanied by the singing of the drunk in Melton Mowbray the altar stones were back in place before mass was said for the dead king. Even in London, there was much spontaneous rejoicing and the reappearance of hidden images of the Virgin and Saints. At the beginning of her reign, Mary was a strong and decisive monarch. Taking power from Lady Jane Grey was a spectacular displace of power and authority. Jennifer Loach: Mary's accession is 'one of the most surprising events of the sixteenth century'. Mary constructed a new privy council composed of experienced men who had served her father and brother but who were prepared to accept a return to Catholicism. Seventeen of the new privy councillors had signed the "devise" for Jane, but in her need for competent men Mary forgave them. In addition she promoted to the privy council several Catholics who had supported her in the crisis of her accession but who were inexperienced in politics.

Mary's Aims 2

???Renard describes Mary's 'objectives when coming to the throne were to administer justice, keep order and protect the people's peace and tranquillity'. Her dominant aim, when she attained the Crown, was to end the schism with the Papacy and make England once more part of Catholic Christendom. She also longed for marriage and a child, partly to give her personal happiness but mainly to ensure that Catholicism would be preserved after her death Her aim it is often argued was to the 'turn back the clock'. One priority, in tune with public opinion, was the return of the ceremonies and physical beauties of the old faith. By January 1555, it seemed as she had succeeded: she achieved the marriage she wanted, believed that a child was on the way, links with Rome had been restored, a rebellion had been crushed, and England was at peace.

Philip II of Spain
? Mary was seeking a husband to manage affairs of state.
? Charles V wanted to bring England back into the Catholic fold, and thought his own son should take the credit for that achievement.
? Philip represented most of the few things Mary had come to trust and value: he was Spanish, Catholic, well learned, experienced in affairs of state, and had a solicitous and most statesman-like father upon whom Mary had already relied for advice.
? She persuaded Charles V to give Philip as a husband coupled with a marriage treaty that was almost entirely to England's advantage.
? The heir of the marriage would inherit England, the Netherlands, and Naples, and, had Don Carlos died first, Spain also.
? Her advisers agreed she should marry, the consensus was that it would just be too difficult for her to rule alone.
? Female unsuitability for political rule was one reason, and her personality was another.
? It was not only Protestants who opposed a foreign alliance for the English queen, all her councillors except Paget were hostile.
? In November, the House of Commons presented a petition asking the Queen to marry within the realm.
? By controlling the Queen, it was feared that Philip would rule the country.
? Mary declared that she undertook that rather distasteful duty of matrimony primarily to provide a successor, as any monarch should do. A legitimately born natural heir was the most uncontentious way for any monarch to meet that particular responsibility, and in this case it would have had the extra advantage of defending the catholic succession.
? The queen remarked several times that she was already married, to her kingdom.
? In the sixteenth century, husbands were the masters of their wives; it was supposed that a husband would exercise power rather than merely influence.
? Philip's access to information posed problems. He knew little English, nor did he ever seriously attempt to learn the language. Therefore, 'a note of all such matters of Estate as should pass from hence should be made in Latin

3 ?????

or Spanish'. This was in breach of the marriage settlement, since it had tried to prevent the use of any new language in government. Final terms of the marriage agreement (Mary's interests were guarded in ever way) stated that no foreign office holders should be introduced into English government; Mary remained queen; Philip's function was to assist; England should not be drawn into the war between the Hapsburg interest and the French; should Mary predecease Philip, he had no further claim to any authority in England. Philip was denied control over his wife's appointments, as 'all the benefits and offices, lands, revenues and fruits' of the realm were to remain in Mary's hands and to be granted only to native Englishmen. Once married, Mary could continue to function as a fully autonomous monarch. There were recurrent reports that from time to time, Mary made little distinction between her realm's interests and those of her husband's. Whenever he so wished, Philip was politically the dominant partner. Documents should be signed by the King as well as the Queen. The King could, if he wished, veto decisions. The conciliar letter of 26 September 1555 illustrates this. The King was asked to approve the recall of Sir John Mason, England's ambassador to Charles V, to enable him to resume his seat at the council board in London. King prevents this, but Mason's return was to be blocked by Philip for another year. It concerned the Lord Deputyship of Ireland. Lord Clinton was asked about whether he would take up the task of governing Ireland. Clinton indicated his willingness to take up that office. Philip informed the council that he did not find it convenient that such an experienced soldier should be sent hoc tempore extra regnum. Clinton never went to Ireland. King Philip could wield a decisive influence quite at variance with the spirit of the marriage treaty is perhaps most clearly demonstrated in the machinations behind the choice of both a new lord chancellor and a new treasurer, as well as other ministers. When the Bishop of Winchester died in November 1555, William, Lord Paget, was anxious for promotion to the chief office of state. It was rumoured that Mary's own preference was for Thomas Thirlby, Bishop of Ely whilst Philip at first preferred Paget. Mary herself repeatedly declared that she undertook that rather distasteful duty of matrimony primarily to provide a successor, as any monarch should do. A legitimately born natural heir was the most uncontentious way for any monarch to meet that particular responsibility, and in this case it would have had the extra advantage of defending the catholic succession.

Wyatt Rebellion
? Concern about the marriage provoked open rebellion, yet Philip ultimately came to exercise a positive and stabilizing influence at court.
? Despite safeguards, popular and elite disaffection erupted into open rebellion in January 1554. Of a series of planned risings in the West Country, Leictershire and the Welsh County only that in Kent led by Sir Thomas Wyatt (a prominent member of local gentry) got properly under way.
? Wyatt's supporters threatened London, the queen's rallying of her people included the public promise that she would never marry at all unless her subjects be content. 4

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