Bloodying Mary

Bloody MaryAlthough she enjoyed much popular support when she ascended the English throne, Mary I (r. 1553-1558) would soon prove to be one of England’s most controversial monarchs. Because she was a woman, many critics deemed her unsuitable to rule and feared that the actual power would fall into the hands of her husband, Prince Philip of Spain (the later King Philip II), whom she married in AD 1554. Moreover, the Catholic Mary went to extremes to suppress the rise of English Protestantism, burning numerous heretics at the stake, including even bishops and archbishops. Her ruthless persecutions earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary”.

One of Mary’s most vocal critics was the Scottish Reformer John Knox, who fumed against reigning women in his 1558 diatribe The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. As the raging Scot promised his readers, Mary, “cursed Iesabel of England, with the pestilent and detestable generation of papists”, would not escape the wrath of God for their “bloodie reigne” and “beastlie crueltie”. It could only be a matter of time before “the sobbes and teares of the poore oppressed” and “the groninges of the angeles” would be revenged – as would “euerie earthlie creature abused by their tyrannie”.


• Constance Jordan, ‘Woman’s rule in sixteenth-century British political thought’, Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1987) 421-451
• Kathryn M. Brammall, ‘Monstrous metamorphosis: nature, morality, and the rhetoric of monstrosity in Tudor England’, The Sixteenth Century Journal 27 (1996) 3-21
• Anna Whitelock, Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen (London 2009)


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