Queen Mary’s Restoration of Catholicism- a Failure

Last Updated: 15 Apr 2020
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England“..... as were to be seen in the reign of this queen Mary, whether we behold the shortness of her time or the unfortunate event of all her purposes.... ” The unforgettable regnant Queen Mary of England and Ireland did attempt to restore the Catholic faith during her short reign of July 6th 1553 to 17th November 1558, albeit failed at this mission. She is not remembered for her colourful reign with cacophony sounding triumphs nor peaceful approaches to English society.

In fact she is established in history as ‘Bloody Mary’, a callous character, who viciously burned Protestants; their flesh scents pouring into the streets of England and lucent cries hauntingly echoing. Her legacy is remembered by many as a failure to restore Catholicism during her reign. Her failed attempt of restoring the Catholic faith can be highlighted in seven main reasons which will be accounted for in detail. Indeed, Queen Mary’s attempted restoration of Catholicism did prove to be a failure for many reasons.

Firstly, she had succeeded her half-brother Edward VI, who governed England under a Protestant regime. Edward had introduced extreme changes to the Church that dramatically transformed the religion to a purely Protestantism doctrine. This was to prove difficult to reverse to a Catholic country. Secondly, Mary as first Queen of England and Ireland (debated whether Lady Jane Grey was) had to make a powerful approach to the throne. She was burdened with the position of being the illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII’s.

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The fear of being ridiculed by the public stood tall and Protestants infiltrated into England from Edwards contradicting reign. Thirdly, Mary during her reign of course re-introduced England under Catholicism yet, in doing so England had much more consequences at hand. These consequences majorly filled the position of radical movements such as the traumatic ‘Marian Persecutions’ which profoundly scared the Protestant followers and climaxed opposition towards her. Fourthly, Queen Mary married Prince Philip II of Spain and Portugal which was widely criticised and publically denounced.

This subsequently led to the fifth reason which proved Queen Marys attempted restoration of Catholicism to be a failure. In war, allied with Spain, England lost Calais (in France). A sixth reason of failure emerges due to the fact that Queen Mary was unable to produce an heir to take over her title. Lastly, her short lived reign was abruptly caused by her untimely death in November 1558. These points will be explored more specifically. To expand the first point much is to be added.

After Mary Tudor was born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon into a Roman Catholic religion in 1516, Henry had their marriage annulled by Thomas Cranmer just over a decade of Mary’s birth. Thus, this left Mary with the handicap of being an illegitimate daughter. It was after Henry’s third wife Jane Seymour (the second being Anne Boleyn) a son, Edward VI was born in 1537. This birth of a male heir dramatically and immediately impacted Mary’s entire life. Edward was to have a major effect on Mary’ position as he dominated the throne from birth. After Henry’s death in 1547 Edward fulfilled this position at the young of age of nine.

As Edward had been educated by Protestant tutors due to his father break with the Roman Catholic Church with his subsequent title Supreme Head of the Church of England and Ireland; it meant that he was an actively practising Protestant and his uncle Edward Seymour strongly encouraged reform in the Church. The first attack was that of the dissolution of the Chantries, this omitted the belief of purgatory. In 1549 he announced that priests could marry. By 1552 Edward had made a series of dramatic changes that were quickly crumbling Mary’s beliefs.

Edward had introduced the Book of Common Prayer that included; the abolition of stone altars with simple wooden tables and the Mass was replaced with the consubstantiation Holy Communion. However, Predestination was accepted by Edward. A position in heaven could not be bought. Protestants abroad began to immigrate to England where they could freely and comfortably practise their religion without fear of being dictated as heretics. These changes completely transformed the Church of England during Henry VIII’ reign and more importantly were to prove more difficult for Mary to deal with during her reign.

King Edward VI had died very unexpectedly from a cough that deteriorated and developed into a fever and the subsequent “. difficulty in drawing his breath”, and later “ . . compression of the organs on the right side. ” It was proposed he had a tumour of some sort yet he was beyond recover. He died on the 6th July 1553. Ironically, Mary Tudor became queen at the age of fifteen. Yet, England’s religion now was completely opposite to that of Mary’s belief due to Edward, this truly contributed to her restoration of Catholicism being that of a failure.

Thus, the second point emerges. As Edward was slowly passing he conducted a “Devise for Succession”. He denounced that his half-sister Mary should take to the throne. Not only were they simultaneously contradicting on religious terms but also, Edward was unwilling to witness an illegitimate Queen take to the throne. This also applied to Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth, who was also declared a bastard. Mary was furious that Edward had declared that his cousin (once removed) Lady Jane Grey was to succeed him.

However, Lady Jane Grey’s reign was quite ironic in the fact that she succeeded for only nine days beginning from the 10th July 1553. A proposal was announced in which “barring Mary from the succession was a cause in which the young King believed. ” Marry stood firmly on her ground and publically announced that she should be made queen. By the 19th July Mary had a brewing and overwhelming number of supporters. In Suffolk she rounded up an army of nearly twenty thousand. Soon Lady Jane Grey was accused of high treason and imprisoned in Tower’s Gentleman Gaoler’s apartments by Mary. She was beheaded in private.

Yes, there was quite a rejoicing orientation with Mary’s now fundamental establishment as queen; however, she was doomed in many respects from the beginning due to Edwards’s success. The Book of Common Prayer at this stage was in full use and it hugely denounced and contrasted with her Catholic faith. Cranmer’s Forty Two Articles proved very successful in the Protestant religion and were entirely difficult for Mary to dissolve due to the vast support. Another huge obstacle stood in Mary’s path and indeed weakened her position. This damaging figuring was the Dissolution/Suppression of the Monasteries during Henry VIII’s Anglican reign.

With the Acts of Supremacy in place from 1534, Henry VIII took over Church lands. Therefore, she found it completely difficult to restore Church lands due to their ownership now in the hands of private landowners. This was a major problem that resulted in her failed attempt of Catholic restoration. A third reason exists that caused Mary’s failure. The Council of Trent encouraged by Pope Paul III lasted from 1543-1565; a revival of the Catholic faith was debated and in desperate need of restoration which was the era of the Counter-Reformation. Therefore, as the revival took place during Mary’s reign a lot of restoration was needed.

Sadly, Mary proved ineffective here. Prior to her reign Edward had successfully dismantled England’s hundred year reign of Catholicism inside a period of six years under Protestantism. Indeed, she immediately proved unpopular with the Protestants due to her proclamation that she was to lead England under Catholic rule. She firstly imprisoned the Protestant leaders which were participating in the Church during Edward VI’s reign; these included such reformers as John Roger, Hugh Latimer, John Hooper, John Bradford and Thomas Cranmer by the end of September of 1553.

Mary abolished Edward’s successful religious laws and restored the 1539 Six Articles which was that of the Catholic doctrine that set out once again confirming that priests could not marry. A huge contribution to Mary’s failure was the brutal Marian Persecutions. By 1554 Pope Julius III had reviewed and approved of the Heresy Acts. Mary I greatly abused this authority which granted her the drastic title of ‘Bloody Mary’. Many desired to flee the continent rather than be burned for heresy. In fact over eight hundred Protestant reformers (many of whom landed in England during Edward’s reign) retreated to Western Europe.

By February 1555 Mary had already began her heretical burnings that were to be made her trademark. Also, by the ninth of February Mary Tudor already had four Protestants burned including that of J. Hooper and J. Roger. Thomas Cranmer too was burned as a heretic. His position was soon succeeded by Mary’s executive governess Margaret Pole’s, (the 8th Countess of Salisbury) son, Reginald Pole in March 1556. Barbarically, ‘Bloody Mary’ had over 283 Protestants executed; the majority of them were burned. The Athenaeum; or, spirit of the English Magazines statistically conveys the significant number of these innocent civilians.

It states that there were twenty widowers, twenty-six wives, and even two infants were also involved in the executions (those mentioned were burnt). It was not surprising that a large opposition towards Catholicism emerged after the huge number of ‘heretics’ were burned. Marys support became unpopular in England due to the burnings. These victims of who were burned at the stake soon were regarded as martyrs. This form of punishment was so intense that even the jurist and Franciscan theologian, Alfonso de Castro utterly denounced it.

This widespread outrage and opposition seriously damaged Mary’s reputation and moreover failed the restoration of Catholicism. It was not peaceful and definitely not popular. Fourthly, Mary’s failed attempt to restore Catholicism can also be based on her marriage. From a very young age plans for a suitable husband were continuously being negotiated by Henry VIII. It is quite interesting in the fact that even when she was at the age of two Henry suggested that Mary in time should marry the Dauphin, the infant son of the King Francis I of France. However, this politically changed due to a contract.

Then in 1522 it was suggested that Mary should wed the twenty two year old Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who was also her cousin. From chopping and changing of wedding plans Thomas Wolsey then proposed that an English alliance with France was secured, thus a French marriage did not have to commence. When Mary was in her late thirties it began to dawn on her that she should find a husband in hope to produce an heir. Mary was relentlessly eager not to have Elizabeth, her half-sister, abdicate the throne. Charles V suggested that Mary marry his son Prince Philip II of Spain.

However, in sharp contrast in England both the House of Commons and Lord Chancellor Gardiner encouraged her to marry an Englishman as they were terrified of foreign affair clashes with the Habsburgs. In Kent a rebellion broke out under Thomas Wyatt, the younger, which also involved the Duke of Suffolk, who was Lady Jane Grey’s father. They wished to cease the marriage between Mary and Philip which was about to commence. They were in favour of Elizabeth. However, they were captured and imprisoned. Nevertheless, the French style wedding proceeded on 25th July 1554 in Winchester Cathedral.

Gardiner, even though in opposition with the marriage performed the ceremony which was spoke in a range of language; Spanish, French and Latin as Philip could not speak English. Both in England and Spain the wedding was denounced. For Mary this immediately withdrew huge support and weakened her restoration of Catholicism. As mentioned, the wedding was nationally opposed due to contradicting countries with different affairs and policies. When Philip married Mary it meant that he was given the title ‘King of England’ and a monarch like Mary, of Ireland. Also, coinage then bore both Mary’s and Philip’s head that was engraved on them.

Philip had married Mary for political reason only and in fact wrote to Brussels’ correspondent stating that, “the marriage was concluded for no fleshly consideration, but in order to remedy the disorders of this kingdom and to preserve the Low Countries. ” This then leads the question to a fifth reason. In July 1557 Philip, confident with more power was eager to renew a war with France; he urged for Mary to support, which she did with little hesitation nor reluctance. Advisers begged Mary that England was in an unstable state to wedge a war due to continuous bad harvests meant that they lacked both food and finance.

To make matters even worse was the fact that Pope Paul IV was allied with the French force under Henry II. This aided in Mary’s failure to restore Catholicism. Disaster occurred again at a huge defeat in January 1558 when the French forces took England’s only colony on the European mainland, Calais. This defeat really was not needed. It positioned England in a very problematic state with attacks (which were more minor to the Battle with France) in the Pale area in Dublin, Ireland due to the Plantations that were in progress during the Tudor Dynasty.

Mary’s reign was becoming completely tattered at this point to the extent of several and continuous faults. They all surrounded the failure of her attempt to restore Catholicism which was her main aim. As Philips marriage to Mary was solely based on political aspects Mary plans were different. Mary Tudor’s initial plan for marriage was in hopes to produce an heir to abdicate the throne. Elizabeth was Protestant and Mary did not intend to witness her enforcement of Catholicism (even though a failure) be diminished. Thus, this spring’s a sixth reason as to why Mary’s Catholic restoration was a failure.

In short, she could not produce a child due to medical reasons later devised, yet to elaborate there is more to the story. It was in September 1554 Mary began to show signs and symptoms of a pregnant woman. Of course, she stopped menstruating, her weight increased and she suffered from nausea in mornings and evenings. By April 1555, her child was expected and even Elizabeth, who had been arrested since the Wyatt Rebellion, made an appearance at the awaited event. However, even Philip was unsure of the pregnancy. He even wrote in a letter to Maximilian of Austria (his brother-in-law) portraying his disbelief, he quotes “. . the queen’s pregnancy turn out not to have been as certain as we thought”. Even Susan Clarencieux (a lady in waiting), who was a friend of Mary I’s, did begin to doubt that a child was present in her whom. Even by July Mary still showed signs of being pregnant yet no child emerged and it was believed that she suffered from a ‘phantom pregnancy’. Possibly, she desired to have a child to succeed her that she was willing to create a tale. Her inability to produce an heir automatically meant that Elizabeth was next in line to the throne.

This condition which Mary possessed meant that an heir under her faith would not be able to succeed the thrown. This was a huge catalyst that failed her attempted restoration of Catholicism. Lastly, the ultimate cause of Mary’s failed restoration of Catholicism was due to the fact that her reign from 19th July 1553 was disturbed by her untimely death on 17th November 1558. It was proposed that she had died of an ovarian cyst or even a tumour which had caused her to believe (prior to her death) that she was pregnant. Philip was not in England at the time but in Brussels.

He as he states, he felt “a reasonable regret for her death”. To conclude, there were seven main reasons for Mary’s failed attempt to restore Catholicism. Possibly if she had lived longer she could have improved her position of the throne most importantly the restoration of Catholicism. However, there were so many reasons for this failure it is doubtful it could have been improved. Indeed, she left an impact, yet it is majorly fixed on her negative title as ‘Bloody Mary’ and most certainly not on her restoration of Catholicism which was, sadly, a failure. Bibliography

Primary Sources: Spirit of the English magazine. The Athenaeum; or, spirit of the English Magazines. Volume 3-April-October, 1818. Boston: Munroe and Francis, 1818. Secondary Sources: Cobbett, William. A history of Protestant “reformation”, in England and Ireland. Harvard; Willaim Clement Publishers, 1824. De Groot, Wim. The Seventh window: The King’s window donated by Philip II and Mary Tudor to Sint Janskerk in Gouda (1557). Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Verloren, 2005. Duffy, Eamon. Fires of Faith: Catholic England under Mary Tudor. Yale: Yale University Press, 2009. Elton, G.

R. England under the Tudors. London: Methuen, 1962. Fardell, Lane. The Royal Doctors, 1485-1714: medical personnel at the Tudor and Stuart Courts. Kent: University Rocheter Press, 2001. Fletcher, Anthony and MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Tudor Rebellion. England; Pearon Education, 2011. Foister, Susan. Holbein in England. London: Tate Publishing. Foxe, J. The Actes and Monuments of these latter and perilous days touching matter of the Church, ed. S. R. Frederic Madden, Privy purse expenses of the Princess Mary, daughter of the King Henry the Eighth, afterwards Queen Mary.

London: W. Pickering, 1831. Haigh, Christopher. The English Reformation revised. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Skidmore, Chris. Edward VI: The Lost King of England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007. Ivers, Eric. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell Publications, 2009. Loach, Jennifer. Edward VI, eds. George Bernard and Penry Willaims. New Haven: Yale University, 1999. Loades, David. The Reign of Mary Tudor. London: Longman Publications, 1991. McNeese, Tim. History of Civilization- The Reformation.

Dayton: Lorenz Educational Pres, 2001. Porter, Linda. Mary Tudor: The First Queen. London: Little Brown, 2007. Redworth, Glyn. Philip (1527-1598), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, May 2011 edition. Rudolph Elton, Geoffrey. England under the Tudors. Britain; Routledge Publications, 1991. Waller, Maureen. Sovereign Ladies: The six Reigning Queens of England. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006. Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen. London: Bloomsbury, 2009. Williams, Neville and Fraser, Antonia. The Tudors. California: University of California, 2006.

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Queen Mary’s Restoration of Catholicism- a Failure. (2018, May 06). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/queen-marys-restoration-of-catholicism-a-failure/

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