On this day in 1558, Queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, died peacefully after a few months of illness. She had been queen for just five years but unfortunately those five years are remembered for persecution and bloodshed. Mary has gone down in history as Bloody Mary – see The Myth of Bloody Mary.

By noon, Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, had been proclaimed queen by the Houses of Lords and Commons. As Sir Nicholas Throckmorton rode in haste to Elizabeth’s estate at Hatfield with Mary’s ring, as proof of her death, members of Mary’s council also made their way there. It is said that they found the new Queen sitting under an old oak tree in Hatfield’s parkland, reading a book. When she heard the news, Elizabeth sank to her knees and said in Latin words from Psalm 118: “This is the Lord’s doing: it is marvellous in our eyes”.

Sir John Harington, Elizabeth’s godson, told a different story, writing of her making the following speech:

“My lords, the law of nature moveth me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me maketh me amazed; and yet, considering I am God’s creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be the minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so I shall desire you all, my lords (chiefly you of the nobility, everyone in his degree and power), to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity in earth. I mean to direct all my actions by good advice and counsel. And therefore, considering that divers of you be of the ancient nobility, having your beginnings and estates of my progenitors, kings of this realm, and thereby ought in honour to have the more natural care for maintaining of my estate and this commonwealth; some others have been of long experience in governance and enabled by my father of noble memory, my brother, and my late sister to bear office; the rest of you being upon special trust lately called to her service only and trust, for your service considered and rewarded; my meaning is to require of you all nothing more but faithful hearts in such service as from time to time shall be in your powers towards the preservation of me and this commonwealth. And for council and advice I shall accept you of my nobility, and such others of you the rest as in consultation I shall think meet and shortly appoint, to the which also, with their advice, I will join to their aid, and for ease of their burden, others meet for my service. And they which I shall not appoint, let them not think the same for any disability in them, but for that I do consider a multitude doth make rather discord and confusion than good counsel. And of my goodwill you shall not doubt, using yourselves as appertaineth to good and loving subjects.”

Others record this speech as being an address by Elizabeth to the House of Lords.

Whatever the truth behind the events of that day, Mary I was dead and Elizabeth was Queen Elizabeth I and would reign until her death in March 1603.

Mary is known for persecution and bloodshed, while Elizabeth is known for the “Golden Age” of her reign, but both women achieved so much in an age when women were not meant to rule. Both deserve our admiration and to be remembered today. “The Queen is dead, long live the Queen!”.

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14 thoughts on “17 November 1558 – The Death of Mary I and the Accession of Elizabeth I”
  1. Who would have thought that Anne Boleyns daughter would have ever become queen. Perhaps even Henry himself up there in heaven must have been shocked to see Elizabeth being crowned queen and I think Anne must have been very proud. Elizabeth was indeed a great queen!!!! 🙂

    1. anne boleyn and her family will forever be remembered as the tudors in which they are stoned in history for the right reasons or wrong whatever it was or they did or did not do its history

  2. I don’t think Elizabeth was that good a Queen, for isn’t it true that she killed as many as Mary, and since most history writers and not Catholic, they tend to praise Elizabeth more?

    1. whatever the case may be she will forever be known as the great queen she was maybe she might not have been the queen you wanted but she made history indeed things she did and did not do whatever it was she is known in history as king henry viii s daughter but i still find it fascinating that till this day they still talk about her family after at least more than 500 years who would have thought i dont think even she had a clue that whatever she did or didnt do would have an impact in her life and in history sincerely maritza

    2. Mary reigned five years, Elizabeth forty-four. A fairer comparison would probably be average executions per year!



      1. Well, to be fair. When Elizabeth came along, Mary was knocked out of line for throne. Mary was the servant for Elizabeth and was no longer considered a princess anymore but called “The Lady Mary.” So Mary could not have her rightful place on throne and couldn’t have a long successful reign. Also, Mary was near the average age of death. So, since she was aloud reign at the age of 37, she couldn’t live a long reign. Also, Mary was unfortunately presented what was thought to be a tumor so she also was not in good health. So in all fairness, I think it wasn’t fair to Mary, considering when Anne Boleyn came into her life and was very unfair.

    3. Improved literacy. To some degree — religious freedom. Extreme charisma.

      I mean Elizabeth made mistakes but given where she was coming from and the times she was living in, I think she definitely deserves the praise she receives, and understand why to not only her people but to the modern world, she’s a glorious icon still.

      1. There is no evidence that there was improved literacy under Elizabeth. That Protestants brought education is a Protestant myth!

  3. even though i am interested in tudor court life more so than any other period ,i still think its just too far back to understand properly as with the “characters “who were around at that time.i am irish and catholic so i dont respect any of them as would a say a person brought up with england as their home country and also prostestant as they would naturally think as elizabeth as the greatest monarch that ever lived .henry 8 would never have imagined that either mary 1 or elizabeth, and especially elizabeth would ever have taken the crown ,he assumed that his son and heir edward would have lived to a right old age and had sons himself to inherit ,i know mary and elizabeth were to succeed after edward but henry never thought that edward would die ,he declared them both illegitimate ,so really that says it all and the more i read about any of them the more i think they were all crazy.

    1. I agree Margaret, the Tudor era is one of the most fascinating times in English history, and you are right they can be very difficult to understand. But basic human nature hasn’t changed that much over the centuries if you think about it, love , hate power,greed, happy, sad, strength, weakness, and so on. All the positive and negative traits of the Tudors are still in us today, the difference maybe is in the way these traits were expressed and used. So if you can understand the age they lived in, you can get to see their personalities a bit easier.

      If you notice there are a lot of people who visit this site from all around the world, who do respect and admire Elizabeth, no matter their nationality or religious beliefs, that shouldn’t enter the subject because I think you narrow your understanding of the period so really to think that being English and protestant makes you bias towards Elizabeth isn’t true. I am English/British, my beliefs private, and although I think Elizabeth was an extraordinary, fascinating woman and monarch, I personally don’t think she was the Greatest Monarch, but she’s up there with the best, no matter what her religion was.

      Crazy…compared to who? Us?, there are lots and lots of people now who show the same craziness for power, greed, control, love, destruction of how others live etc as there was then, It is all relative to the time and society that you live in, and to my eyes, the way people behave hasn’t altered that much at all, maybe modern society has just refined it a little…

      1. what you say does make perfect sense and what i should have really said would have been that i do not feel the same loyalty towards the tudors even though im still interested in their lives,and regarding religion ,thats what most of the executions were about and caused by so one cannot discount religion in trying to understand what made them do what they did.they also were so many changes as to what religion ruled and if you did not comply ,as with mary 1 for instance ,well not a good time to be around as a protestant,my ancestors owe their wealth to henry 11 so i am sort of in the middle here , i think the age they lived in though as i said hard to view it from the here and now ,was fraught with difficulty and danger especially those in reign at the time .maybe being a poor villager would have been a lot easier.

        1. You are so right when you said that you can’t dis-regard religion when discussing the Tudors, (a lot of other eras too), as it was a major part of life (and death), and along with it came the problems, executions, wars and so on. And like you I didn’t write it properly when I said that religion shouldn’t enter the subject, (hard day, tired brain 🙂 ) what I meant is our own ‘personal’ beliefs shouldn’t enter how we view the people we discuss, as I think it you get a one-sided view, you have to try and be neutral, to see where they were coming from.

          Though I still don’t think it is loyalty that makes us want to learn about Tudors, its the fascination of the time, the interesting ‘larger than life’ people that made the history, good or bad, it was such a colourful period, so much change going on.

          It is very hard to see them through their own eyes, and not ours, because their behaviour seems so outrageous to us, but its an education trying to, but if you turn it round, they would probably think the same about us. Imagine if they saw some of the headlines in our newpapers at the way we behave…what no executions for criminals!!, animals HAVE rights!! the Monarch has no REAL power!! Women are NOT the property of Men!!, haha, Ole Henry would turn blue with shock :).

          You could be right on that that score Margaret, maybe life might have been a little less fraught with danger being a peasent in the country, and not have to worry about the ‘whims’ and moods of living in close contact with a Monarch.

  4. Elizabeth certainly wasn’t perfect, no one is… and although I am not sure on the actual numbers of executions under either Queen, (Claire will definatly know), you would have to take into consideration that Mary was on the throne for only 5 years, Elizabeth ruled for 45 before judging, plus it was the nature of the time, sadly.
    I would hope that any ‘true historian’, and I stress ‘true’ wouldn’t let their own religious believes dictate the true of the matter, but there are authors that do I suppose, all writers have there own interpretation of things, so the best way to find out is to read as much as possible, then make up your own mind, its all very interesting which ever ‘spin’ is used by the writer.

  5. It isn’t by coincidence that under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I England experienced the Golden age. Every monarch has without doubt made good and bad decisions, they were after all only human too. The decisions they made were relevant to the time they lived in. It’s important to look at their stories from all angles. I appreciate their achievements as well as failures but don’t necessarily agree with all the choices they made. The times they lived in were dangerous and suspicious and certainly no one could be really trusted. people’s opinions are based on their own view points and frequently on their own prejudices.

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