Mary I of England
Mary I of England was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. After spending her childhood as a much-loved princess, Mary was made illegitimate by her father’s divorce.
Mary inherited the throne after the death of her half-brother, Edward VI. During the reign of Henry VIII, he had converted England from a Catholic country to a Protestant one; however, Mary remained staunchly Catholic throughout her life. Her religious faith was almost certainly driven by her father’s treatment of her mother during their divorce and her mother’s final years. Her actions, and the reason she earned the name Bloody Mary, were directly related to her religious faith and fervor.
In 1553, Edward died. Lady Jane Grey, a Protestant, was briefly made queen, but Mary took the throne only days later. Her claim was significantly greater, and she had popular support. Mary soon had Jane, only 16 years old, beheaded.
The following year, Mary married Phillip II of Spain. She was already 37 at the time of her coronation. Mary had little popular support, was already infertile, and was deserted by her husband when he returned to Spain. Twice she declared herself pregnant, but these appear to have been hysterical pregnancies, or perhaps problems associated with her reproductive health. There is no evidence she ever became pregnant.
Her marriage to wealthy Spain had provided no benefits for England. In addition, she lost, during the course of her reign and due to Phillip’s influence, England’s last possession in France, the important port city of Calais.
She reimposed Catholicism on the country of England, and reinstituted old laws against heresy. Between 1554 and 1557, Mary burned several hundred Protestants at the stake for heresy against the Catholic Church. The first of those burned was her father’s longtime advisor, Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. While the total number burned was around 300, dozens more died in prison, in some cases as the result of torture and many more fled England for Germany and Geneva.
Mary died alone and without children in 1558. Her only heir was her sister Elizabeth. While some of these queens were, if brutal, effective rulers in some right, Mary was not. She was disliked by her people, her nobles, and could not successfully accomplish her only true objective, to return Catholicism to England.