Mary I

Royal government under Mary

  • Problems Mary faced: England had religious divisions and tension; she was Catholic when there was a substantial Protestant minority; she had not been prepared to rule – had little political instinct; her loyal supporters had no experience in government; Mary would have to rely on ministers of Edward who had introduced religious reforms which she disliked. 
  • Mary’s new ministers: Bishop Stephen Gardiner – her father’s secretary and a supporter of religious conservatism in Edward’s reign; Churchmen who had been excluded during Edward’s reign; some of Edward’s conservative councillors e.g. Lord Paget.
  • Mary disliked many of her key councillors: she lost confidence with Paget who opposed her religious programme; she never trusted Gardiner who had not supported her mother in the break from Rome, but she saw him as indispensable – his death in 1555 left a gap in her government. Therefore, she had to rely on her husband and Simon Renard, the ambassador of Charles V who was her cousin and father-in-law.  
  • Mary appointed 50 councillors during her reign – some historians argue that so many councillors led to an inefficient and faction-ridden government; this can be backed up by the fact that Mary’s decision to marry Philip of Spain was not discussed in Council. Other historians contend that Mary saw ‘councillor’ as an honorary title and the working council was much smaller and was made up of experienced men like Gardiner and Paget. 
  • Mary and Parliament didn’t get on very well – about 80 MPs opposed her reversal of Edward’s religious reforms and they defeated some the bills Mary tried to pass. 
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The Spanish marriage, 1554

  • Mary came to the throne at the age of 37 and was unmarried – she was keen to get married to produce an heir and secure a Catholic succession. 
  • Gardiner wanted her to marry Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon. 
  • She was close to her Spanish relatives and in 1553, she discussed with Simon Renard a marriage with Charles V’s son, Philip. She worked out the details of the marriage alliance with Renard without talking to the Privy Council – she was not considering how her subjects would react to the marriage. 
  • The public were hostile towards the marriage because: 
    • Philip was a strong Catholic – Protestants worried that their marriage would promote further reversal of religious reforms. 
    • Philip was heir to the throne of Spain – they believed Philip didn’t care about England and was using it as a tool to further the Spanish empire. 
  • Mary attempted to smooth over these fears in a marriage treaty: 
    • Philip was given the title of King but was given no power as a King 
    • Foreigners were not allowed to hold English offices 
    • If Mary died before Philip, he had no claim to the throne 
  • July 1554 – Philip and Mary married. 
  • After they were married they spent little time together and Philip was mainly in Spain. 
  • Parliament opposed the marriage – in 1555, parliament prevented Philip’s coronation as King.
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Religious changes under Mary and its social impact

Mary's key religious reforms

  • Many people anticipated that Mary would restore Catholicism – although restoring Catholicism caused problems in some areas, for the most part local people raised large sums of money to be given to conservative religious projects. 
  • The process of restoring Catholicism was more difficult than Mary anticipated, she faced several problems: Protestantism had attracted supporters from London and the south; the reformed CofE was protected by law; many political elites had benefitted financially from the acquisition of monastic lands and didn’t want to give them back. 
  • October 1553 – Mary’s first meeting of Parliament was the beginning of Mary’s legislative attack on Protestantism: First Act of Repeal – the religious laws that had been passed in Edward’s reign were repealed; the order of service from Henry’s reign was restored; all clergy who had married would be deprived of their livings. 
  • Once Mary felt more secure and Cardinal Pole had returned from exile in Catholic Europe, she called Parliament. In January 1555, they passed the Second Act of Repeal – this abolished all doctrinal legislation after 1529, including the 1534 Act of Supremacy, so the Pope was reinstated as head of the Church. It didn’t mean the reinstatement of Church lands which would be too decisive and complex to resolve easily.  
  • Policy now divided into two strands: education and persecution. To make sure that Catholicism took root again, emphasis was placed on better training and supervision of parish priests. 
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Religious changes under Mary and its social impact

The burning of heretics

  • This policy of persecution earned her the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’. 
  • This policy was recorded at length in Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs’: it established the idea that the English was God’s elect (and Protestant) nation and condemned Mary for her cruelty and ungodliness – these views have influenced historians’ interpretations of her reign and conduct. 
  • 289 Protestants were burned at the stake for heresy.  
  • Some were famous, including Archbishop Cranmer and bishops Hooper and Ridley. 21 other clergymen were killed and 8 were from the gentry. 
  • Many of those burned were from humble origins, suggesting that Protestantism was important for some people who did not benefit financially from religious change.  
  • Her strategy seems to have misfired: the first two victims, John Rogers and Rowland Taylor, appeared to have been chosen due to their popularity as preachers and they received widespread public sympathy. Victims of humble origins who were burned gained public sympathy also.
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Relations with foreign powers

  • Mary had two main aims in foreign policy:
    1. To restore England to papal supremacy
    2. To marry Philip, the heir to the Spanish throne
  • Both were achieved but they took longer than Mary anticipated and she had not anticipated how these aims would come into conflict with each other.
  • Philip wanted England's help to continue his war with France.
  • A bizarre incident happened which made war with France inevitable. Thomas Stafford, an exile, landed in Scarborough, took the castle there and proclaimed himself 'Protector of England'. He had the backing of the French.
  • 1557 - Mary declared war on France.
  • Paul IV had been elected Pope - he was very anti-Spanish, so Mary found herself essentially at war with the papacy.
  • The war had a promising start - they were successful at the battle of St Quentin. It soon turned into a disaster - they humiliatingly lost Calais which had been held by England for centuries.
  • Summer 1558 - a full-scale attack on Brest failed.
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Economic change and its social impact

  • On the one hand, various factors continued to produce inflation in this period:
    • Long-term factor: continued pressure on demand due to the rapid increase in population
    • Medium-term factor: debasement of the coinage
    • Harvest failures in 1555 and 1556 which caused severe food shortages and a reduction in real wages for the poor.
    • The impact of the 'sweating sickness' from 1557 to 1558
  • On the other hand, the Crown made improvements in financial administration:The level of royal debt rose during her reign but for a government at war, royal debt did not rise dramatically and Crown finances were satisfactory.
    • Revenue administration: the Duke of Northumberland had set up a commission to invesigate the shortcomings of the system and to recommend reforms - some changes were implimented in 1554 e.g. the Court of Exchequer took over the Court of First Fruits and Tenths and the Court of Augmentations. 
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Economic change and its social impact

Poor relief

  • Mary's government became more active in poor relief due to the problems the country faced from 1556-58. There was a huge mortality rate due to the influenza epidemics, a series of harvest failures and a high taxation to pay for the war with France.
  • Laws were passed against grain hoarders and there was encouragement to convert pasture land to tillage.
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Plans for the succession

  • By overthrowing 'the Devyse', Mary had restored the Succession Act of 1544 so Mary would be succeeded by Elizabeth if she died childless.
  • Mary did not want this to happen - Elizabeth was a Protestant and Mary saw her as illegitimate. To stop this from happening, Mary would have to obtain parliamentary legislation which would overturn the Succession Act or would have to convict Elizabeth of treason.
  • Mary believed that Elizabeth was implicated in Wyatt's rebellion but was cautious of pursuing treason charges.
  • Attempts through gaining an Act of Parliament came to nothing. 
  • Mary had to accept that Elizabeth would be her successor. On 6th November 1558, Mary named Elizabeth as her successor and she died 11 days later.
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Wyatt's Rebellion, 1554

  • The prospect of a Spanish marriage was enough to provoke a rebellion. 
  • It had been planned in November 1553 - there were to be simultaneous risings in Devon, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and Kent. The plans were leaked in January 1554, forcing the rebels to act. But, only in Kent was there a significant rising, a force of 3,000 led by Sir Thomas Wyatt.
  • The rebels had several motives:25th January - Wyatt raises his standard in Maidstone to signify the start of the rebellion.
    • Main grievance: the Spanish marriage.
    • Some were motivated by religion - some came from Maidstone, a very Protestant area. 
    • Xenophobia (fear or dislike of foreigners).
    • The decline in the local cloth industry caused some poorer rebels to revolt.
  • 3rd February - Rebels reach Southwark but cannot cross to the City because the Queen's forces hold London Bridge.
  • 6th February - Rebels move upstream to Kingston upon Thames and cross the river.
  • 7th February - Rebels stop at Ludgate on the edge of the City of London and Wyatt surrenders.
  • The rebellion was very significant becuase it showed that even though Protestants were a small minority, their religious views could not be ignored. Also, it showed how much popular discontent there was against the Spanish marriage. 
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