Key Stage 3 History: The Tudors: 5: Mary I – The Queen with Blood on her Hands

In the fifth blog in our  Key Stage 3 History series on the Tudors, we look at the life of Mary I though the eyes of her sister Elizabeth.

Key Stage 3 History: The Tudors: 5: Mary I – The Queen with Blood on her Hands

I never really got on well with my sister, Mary. We spent a lot of time together as children, but the age gap was too great for us to be good friends. And the story of our mothers was always between us. She never forgave my mother for replacing hers as Queen.

But the biggest difference that divided us was religion. Mary was a devout Catholic. From the day she became Queen she set about making everyone in England go back to Catholicism. She reversed all the changes that Father and Edward had made and anyone who refused to be Catholic was treated harshly. She even had 280 people burnt at the stake! This was a fairly common punishment, but Mary managed to make it her lasting legacy by being so narrow minded about it. In her mind it was simple – be a Catholic or die.

In many ways I feel sorry for Mary. Everyone remembers her as a bitter and twisted woman who never smiled or had a pleasant word for anyone. But she had a hard life really. Father rejected her when he divorced Catherine of Aragon and that hurt her a lot. And as an adult she had more than her fair share of misfortune. If I’m brutally honest, the problem was that she was not a pretty girl. (When I was really angry with her, I went so far as to say she was ugly!) Her, shall we say, poor looks meant that no one wanted to marry her.

Until she became Queen. Then suddenly in swept Philip. He was younger than her and the King of Spain. She fell in love with him at first sight. He wanted her for her money and to make England and Spain allies. But she was blind to the fact that he was using her. She was desperate for a baby. She wanted to have an heir so that when she died England would stay Catholic. She hated the fact that I was her heir until she had a child because I’m a Protestant. Anyway, she was so desperate for this baby that she really was quite irrational. She thought she was pregnant so many times – once she claimed she was for nearly two years and only admitted she wasn’t when it became too difficult to pretend any more.

Even when she was dying, Mary believed she was pregnant. But she wasn’t. She had a tumour in her stomach. She died slowly and painfully and became more bitter by the day. She tried to make me promise that I would leave England as a Catholic country, but I refused. I knew when I was Queen exactly what I was going to do.

Penny Brooks


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