Saturday, May 17, 2014

Foundations of the Anglican Church LXXVI

"Lady Mary" Tudor c 1544
Mary I of England, aka “Bloody Mary” is a very complex character and to understand her reign you have to take a look at the ups and downs of her life.  Mary was the fourth of five children born to Henry VIII and his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.  (There was also one miscarried daughter.)  Each of the other children, including three brothers, died shortly after birth or in infancy, leaving Mary the only heir to her father’s kingdom.  As long as there was prospects for more children—including the hoped for son—Mary had a charmed life.  She was given an extraordinary education in Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Music, dancing, and mathematics and was introduced to all the brilliant European scholars who were drawn to her father’s court through his friends such as Sir Thomas More and other humanists.  As a very young girl she was invested with many ceremonial duties and even referred to as the “Princess of Wales” though never invested with that title.  Her father gave her her own household with her ladies in waiting and servants and estates, but when he decided to have his marriage annulled in the hopes that a future wife would produce the longed for male heir, Mary was declared illegitimate, lost her status as princess, was simply “The Lady Mary.”  To add to the indignity, she was assigned as a Lady in Waiting to her infant half-sister, Elizabeth, Henry’s daughter by Anne Boleyn.  This degradation ruined any hope of an escape from England via a royal marriage and condemned Mary to perpetual spinsterhood.  Mary was sent away from Court to live at Hundson House, one of Henry’s hunting lodges in Hertfordshire.   
Henry was a stubborn man and Mary was an apple that fell from that tree.  Mary refused to recognize Henry’s claims to be head of the Church, his “annulment” from her mother, Katherine, or the legitimacy and royalty of her half-sister, the new heir.  Henry, to force her into compliance, would not allow Mary to see her mother who, after her being degraded from Queen to “Dowager Princess of Wales” (her title as the widow of Henry’s older brother and deceased Prince of Wales, Arthur), was forced into exile at The More and later at Kimbolton Castle.  Both Mary and Katherine were seriously ill at this time and Mary’s health issues were probably due to the stress that Henry was putting her under in keeping her away from her mother in her mother’s hour of need.  Meanwhile, Henry’s new wife, Anne Boleyn encouraged Henry in his hardness of heart.   Anne’s insecurity left her with a pathological determination to keep both Katherine and Mary in disgrace, but Anne’s reign was short-lived and when Henry left her (and had her beheaded) for his third wife, Jane Seymour, the tune changed.  Jane was a woman of lovely temperament and wanted things smoothed over.  Katherine was dead by this time and Jane convinced Henry to bring Mary back to Court.  Henry agreed to do so on the conditions that Mary recognize him as head of the Church, that she recognize her parents’ marriage as annulled, and that she recognize her own illegitimacy.  Mary was, at this point, broken.  She had no way out but to accept her father’s terms.  She had no sources of income, no friends (other than the Spanish Ambassador who was anxious to use her for his own diplomatic ends), and no roof over her head accept what the charity of others might provide.  Mary caved in and Henry was most generous.  Although she was not restored to the status of a Princess, she was brought back to Court, given the palaces of Beaulieu and Richmond as well as Hatfield House and Hundson as her own, and provided with a very generous allowance for clothing, entertainment (including gambling), and maintaining her retinue.  She was a Princess in all but title.  When Henry was between wives 5 and 6, Mary filled in as the hostess for royal functions.  Katherine Parr, Henry’s sixth and final wife, though a convinced Protestant took a particular liking to Mary (they were almost the same age).  Katherine was an exceptionally kind woman—in great part due to her genuinely religious nature—and did what she could to rebuild a family out of the shambles of Henry’s marriages and the pains and jealousies of his children that resulted.  Henry also—and this is very important for what was to happen at the end of King Edward’s reign—restored Mary and Elizabeth (in that order) to the succession to the Crown. 
Henry’s death meant a deterioration in Mary’s position.  Her half-brother Edward was a Protestant but, unlike their stepmother Katherine Parr, was an intolerant   fanatic.  This was most likely due to his age and the consequent immaturity that could not cope with ambiguities, but it was fed by the Protestant faction at Court led by his uncle, the Duke of Somerset and Archbishop Cranmer.  Mary remained away from Court through most of her brother’s reign to avoid conflict, but Edward tried to forbid her Catholic worship and Mary would not worship otherwise.   There was a terrible scene in the Christmas Court of 1550 when Edward went ballistic about Mary ignoring Edward’s new laws insisting on the reformed rites of the 1549 Prayer Book.  Neither Mary nor Edward would budge.
Mary’s absolute refusal to accept the Protestant religion had probably as much to do as clinging the memory of what her mother had suffered after her dismissal from Court as it had to do with doctrinal conviction.  I don’t mean that Mary was not a convinced Catholic, but rather that she was fiercely loyal to her mother and knew the price her mother had paid.  Mary was determined to put things back the way they had been before everything “went south” with her father’s design to cast off Queen Katherine for Anne Boleyn.  It was as much Tudor stubbornness as it was Catholic faith that would guide Mary’s policies once she became queen.
She permitted a Protestant funeral for her brother—according to Cranmer’s rites with “an English Communion” rather than with a Catholic Mass.  The sermon, however, was preached not by a Protestant but by one of the schismatic bishops, George Day of Chichester, who would help Mary guide the Church of England back into the Roman Communion.   Mary did not attend the funeral—it was not the custom for the new sovereign (or even a member of the immediate royal family) to attend the funeral rites for the departed sovereign—or for anyone else for that matter.  Neither Edward nor his sisters attended their father’s funeral; Elizabeth was not to attend Mary’s.  A nobleman of the court would be appointed to be “chief mourner” in place of the sovereign.    Mary herself had served as chief mourner for Henry’s wife #3, Jane Seymour, who had been the one to reconcile Henry with his estranged daughter. 
Putting Edward’s body in their grandfather’s tomb in Westminster Abbey was not enough to bring the English Church back into the Roman Communion.  It would take the better part of a year and a half before England was restored to papal jurisdiction.  More about that soon. 

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