6. Queen Mary I executed far fewer people than her sister, Elizabeth
Queen Mary I of England is known to history as Bloody Mary, a cognomen assigned for her penchant for executing her religious enemies. A Catholic, she ascended to the throne of England denied to her in the will of her brother, Edward. He designated Lady Jane Grey as his rightful successor. Upon Edward’s death Mary gathered a force of supporters, most of whom were Catholics, and deposed Lady Jane. As the only daughter of Catherine of Aragon, she was raised Catholic, and upon ascension to the throne she reversed the anti-Catholic policies of her father, Henry VIII. Edward had continued his father’s claim to be the rightful head of the Church in England. Mary repudiated the claim as Queen, and restored the authority of the Pope in Church affairs. It raised the wrath of British Protestants throughout her realm.
Protestant rebellions led to the arrest and execution of about 300 prominent Protestant churchmen and politicians during Mary’s reign. It earned her the sobriquet Bloody Mary, as she is known to posterity. Her successor, Queen Elizabeth, executed far more, well over 400, for religious crimes such as heresy, though her victims were mostly Catholic. Following Mary’s death, her half-sister Elizabeth ascended to the throne of England, and much of Mary’s restoration of Catholicism went under systematic reversal. Protestant historians and scholars elevated the Protestant Elizabeth to near saintly status, and denigrated Mary as brutal and inept. Bloody Mary became a bloodthirsty, murderous, tyrant. In truth she was as much a victim of the violent age in which she lived as those of her enemies she dispatched. The subsequent Elizabethan Age was in many ways worse.