The Choir of Winchester
Cathedral--site of the
marriage of Mary and
Philip July 1554
Philip was nine-years younger than Mary. He was King of Naples and Duke of Milan and he stood to inherit the vast domains of his father, the Emperor. (In fact, Charles would divide his realms between the Holy Roman Empire which went to his brother, Ferdinand, and the Spanish Empire which he would give to Philip.)
The Lord Chancellor, Bishop Gardiner, and the House of Lords petitioned Mary to marry English and not seek a foreign husband, but Mary was distrustful of her countrymen. She had seen their collective lack of integrity in how they failed to champion her mother’s cause against King Henry and she saw how fickle was their faith as they first went pacifically along with Henry’s break with Rome and then just as nonchalantly threw away fourteen centuries of Catholic doctrine and practice in favor of the Reformed Religion of her brother and Cranmer. Moreover Mary felt she owed Charles for his support of her mother and herself during their long suffering and humiliation under Henry and his shabby treatment of them. Philip was to receive the Crown Matrimonial which meant he would be King of England, but only by right of his marriage to Mary. They would reign jointly but should she pre-decease him, all titles and rights would end. He was to “aid her Highness in the happy administration of her Grace’s realms and dominions.” In other words, his role was mostly ceremonial and the power remained with Mary. Even so, the marriage grated the English people and Mary’s popularity began to sink. England felt threatened on every side—Spain, France, the Empire—and no foreign prince would be a welcome King for their Queen, but the Spaniards were seen as particularly arrogant and thus even more offensive to the understated English personality. In fact this was the beginning of an English-Spanish conflict that would last three and a half centuries.
The proposed Spanish marriage triggered a rebellion in the winter of 1554. The rebels, under Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir James Croft, Sir Peter Carew, and Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk planned to overthrow Mary and put Elizabeth on the throne. Grey was the Father of Lady Jane Grey and all the rebellion did was to bring down the axe on the rebels, including Lady Jane and her husband, Guildford Dudley. It also built up the paranoia Mary was feeling as she became more and more alienated from her subjects and planted a fear of the Protestant faction in her heart.
Her husband arrived in England on July 23, 1554 and Mary and Philip were married in Winchester Cathedral two days later by Bishop Gardiner, the Lord Chancellor. For Mary this was a love match. For Philip, nine years her junior, the marriage was a political duty. Political duty does not always make a prime stimulant for the husband “to be ready” to perform his husbandly duties. To the contrary, it can take a normally pleasant activity and make it a burdensome chore. Nevertheless, by September—two months after the wedding—Mary stopped menstruating and showed other signs of pregnancy. This was followed by a set of bizarre circumstances that are difficult for us to interpret today, but apparently the Queen experienced a hysteric (false) pregnancy brought on by her desperate wish to be pregnant. She didn’t menstruate, her abdomen expanded as if she were pregnant, she gained weight, experienced morning sickness, and even lactation. The Court was convinced she was pregnant. Her doctors were convinced she was pregnant. Rumors spread of the birth of a son and Thanksgiving Services were held in several cathedrals, but no child was ever produced. When by June 1555 she had not yet delivered, there was huge confusion in the Court. And in July her abdomen receded and other signs of pregnancy disappeared. Philip left England in August on a military expedition and though Mary did not know at the time he would not return for two years—and then only for a short visit—she was disconsolate and felt abandoned. Whatever chances that Mary might have had to bear a healthy child also disappeared after her hysterical pregnancy, the effects of which may have led eventually to her death of uterine cancer. But that is still several years off.