25 July 1554 – Mary I Marries Philip of Spain

Philip of Spain and Mary IOn Wednesday 25th July 1554, the feast day of St James, the 38 year-old Queen Mary I married twenty-seven year-old Philip of Spain (later Philip II of Spain), son of Charles V, Holy Emperor, at Winchester Cathedral. The wedding ceremony was performed by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Mary’s Lord Chancellor. “The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, and especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, written by a Resident in the Tower of London” gives an official account of the wedding, as recorded by “the English heralds”. Here is an extract describing how the cathedral was decorated:

“First, the said church was richly hanged with arras and cloth of gold, and in the midst of the church, from the west door unto the rood; was a scaffold erected of timber, at the end whereof was raised a mount, covered all with red say, and underneath the roode-loft were erected two traverses, one for the queen on the right hand, and the other for the prince on the left, which places served very well for the purpose. The quire was allso richly hanged with cloth of gold, and on each side of the altar were other two rich traverses as aforesaid, for the queenes majestie and prince.”

Mary I entered the city of Winchester on 21st July and stayed at the Bishop’s palace until the wedding, and Philip arrived on 23rd and was presented with the keys of the city. Here is the record for the wedding day itself:

“On wensday the 25th of July, being St. James’s day, the prince, richly apparelled in cloth of gold, embroidered, with a great company of the nobles of Spayne, in such sort as the like hath not been seen, proceded to the church, and entered in at the west door, and passed to his traverse, all the way on foot; and to the church he had no sword borne before him.

Then came the queenes majesty, accompanied with a great number of the nobility of the realm, the sword being borne before her by the earl of Derby, and a great company of ladyes and gentlewomen very richly apparelled: her majesty’s train was borne up by the marquesse of Winchester, assisted by sir John Gage her lord chamberlayne: and so she proceeded to the church; the kinges and herauldes of arms in their coates going before her from her lodging on foot to the church, where entering at the west door she passed on till she came to her traverse. Then the bishop of Winchester, lord chancellor of England, which did the divine service, assisted by the bishops of London, Duresme, Chichester, Lyncoln, and Ely, all with their crosiers borne before them, came out of the quier to the mount.

Then came the regent Figirola, whose name was (blank) and presented to the prince a solemn oration with a patent sent from the emperor to the prince, of the surrender of the kingdom of Naples, freely given to him and
his heirs, as by the said patent was declared; which patent was fair sealed and inclosed in a cover of silver gilt. This done, the lord chamberlayn made a goodly oration to the people, which was in effect as followeth:
Whereas the emperor, bv his embassadors here in England, hath concluded and contracted a marriage between the queen’s majesty and his chief jewell and son and heir Philip prince of Spain, here present, the articles whereof are not unknowen to the whole realme, and confirmed by act of parliament, so that there needeth no further rehearsall of that matter, &c. and so like-wise declared that the queenes highness had sent the earl of Bedford and the lord Fitzwater embassadores unto the realme of Spain, for the performing of the said contract, which they have here brought, with the consent of the whole realme of Spayne, for the full conclusion of the same, as may appear by this instrument in parchment, sealed with a great seal, containing by estimation 12 leaves.

Then the lord chamberlayn delivered openly for the solemnification of their highness’ marriage, how that the emperor had given unto his son the kingdom of Naples. So that it was thought the queen’s majesty should marry but with a prince, now it was manifested that she should marry with a king; and so proceeded to the espousals: and with a loud voice said that, if there be any man that knoweth any lawful impediment between these two parties, that they should not go together according to the contract concluded between both realmes, that then they should come forth, and they should be heard; or else to proceed to celebration of the said marriage, which was pronounced in English and Latin: and when-it came to the gift of the queen it was asked who should give her. Then the marquess of Winchester, the earles of Derby, Bedford, and Pembroke, gave her highness, in the name of the whole realm.

Then all the people gave a great shout, praying God to send them joy; and, the ring being laid upon the book to be hallowed, the prince laid also upon the said book iij. hand-fulls of fine gold; which the lady Margaret seeing, opened the queen’s purse, and the queen smilingly put up in the same purse. And when they had inclosed their hands, immediately the sword was advanced before the king, by the earl of Pembroke.

This done, the trumpetes sounded ; and thus both returned hand in hand, the sword being borne before them, to their traverses in the quier, the queen going always on the right hand, and there remained until mass was done; at which time wine and sops were hallowed, and gave unto them; and immediately after, Garter king of arms, with the other kinges and herauldes, published and proclaimed their titles in Latin, French, and English; and so they returned to the bishop’s palace both under one canopy, bom by vij. knightes, the queen on the right hand, and their swordes borne before them; and so proceeded to the hall, where they both dined under one cloth of estate.”1

In the notes on the account, there are descriptions of what the bride and groom wore. Philip’s “breeches and doublet were white, the collar of the doublet exceeding rich, and over all a mantle of rich cloth of gold, a present from the queen, who wore one of the same; this robe was ornamented with pearls and precious stones; and wearing the collar
of the Garter.” In Linda Porter’s biography of Mary, she describes how Mary was dressed in the French style and that she wore a dress of “rich tissue with a border and wide sleeves, embroidered upon purple satin, set with pearls of our store, lined with purple taffeta”, with a partlet and a high collar, a kirtle of white satin embroidered with silver, and a train.”2

Mary I was married to Philip until her death on 17th November 1558. She died childless and her half-sister Elizabeth became Queen. Philip did consider marrying Elizabeth, but the plan came to nothing and he married the 14 year-old Elisabeth of Valois in 1559.

Notes and Sources

  1. ed. Gough Nichols, John (1850) The Chronicle of Queen Jane and of Two Years of Queen Mary, and especially of the Rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt, written by a Resident in the Tower of London, Camden Society, p167-170. This can be read online at http://openlibrary.org/books/OL13503895M/The_chronicle_of_Queen_Jane
  2. Porter, Linda (2007) Mary Tudor: The First Queen, Piatkus, p323

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5 thoughts on “25 July 1554 – Mary I Marries Philip of Spain”
  1. Thank you for this article, it was very informative. I have not always been a fan of Mary; its a “on again, off again” kind of thing. I am such a huge fan of Anne Boleyn, and of her daughter, Elizabeth, that I tend to forget a lot about Mary I reign. I hated the way she treated Elizabeth as a teenager, so it is easy to forget the good in her.

    I love that Mary I had such a lavish wedding to a man 10 years younger than her. She had been through much unhappiness in her life, before she finally got her chance to inherit the Throne. She was torn from her mother, never to see her again, and called a bastard, way too many times. She watched her father marry a string of women, knowing that once a male was born, she would never be the next heir. The, she almost lost her chance again, when her brother, Edward (IV or VI, I can’t remember right this second…its way too early for me, lol), changed his father’s will, at the urging of others, to name a new heir to the throne, Jane. Mary had to fight for her throne, she deserved to be happy for a change.

    It saddens me, though, that everything I have read, non-fiction or fiction, has shown that Mary did not have a happy marriage. She had at least one phantom pregnancy, and her husband was gone much of their marriage, either by choice or duty to his kingdom. Like her mother, she spent the last year of her life depressed, ill, and heartbroken, and died alone. I don’t approve of a lot of things that she did during her reign, but it is good to know that she was happy about her wedding & marriage, at least for awhile.

    1. Could you please explain what you mean by the way she treated “Elizabeth as a teenager” and what sources you have to back up your claim ?

      Mary treated Elizabeth well as a child and continued to treat her with affection all through her so called teens, as there was no such thing in the sixteenth century. As a young woman Elizabeth actually lived in the household of Katherine Parr and Thomas Seymour until she was almost fifteen. Unfortunately, it was at this time that she was probably groomed and suffered inappropriate advances from Tom Seymour, her step father. She also came under suspicion because of his wish to marry her without permission from the royal council. She was questioned a few times but held her own. Like Mary, Elizabeth then lived again in her own household until Mary became Queen. Mary didn’t even mistreat Elizabeth then. Once she had returned as Queen both she and Elizabeth entered London in August 1553. By the way Elizabeth was now twenty, so no child, no teenager. She was treated as the next in line and it was only her involvement or rather alleged involvement in an attempt to kill Mary and for herself to be on the throne, called the Wyatt plot which changed things.

      Elizabeth was approached by Thomas Wyatt senior to give her consent to his rebellion but the letter was wisely destroyed. Elizabeth was summoned to Court but disobeyed and then claiming she was ill took her time. The Council believed Elizabeth was involved and she was questioned. Mary did the only thing she could in 1554, presented with “evidence” and persuasive arguments that her sister was plotting to kill her. She ordered her confined in the Tower, in the luxurious royal apartments, a frightening experience considering her mother was held there before her execution. If this is the mistreatment you mean, yes, it is alarming but from the point of view of Queen Mary her half sister was acting as a traitor and she wasn’t the first monarch to lock up a sibling for that reason. However, despite the interrogations Elizabeth endured by the Council, she wasn’t in any real danger as nothing was found and Mary was actually very reluctant to leave her there for any length of time. She had access to the palace gardens, when she was ill, Mary sent her own doctors and there is no evidence of any physical threats against her. On the contrary it was Mary who had suffered the threats to her life and crown and it was also the fact that Wyatt refused to implicate Elizabeth on the scaffold which also saved her. Yes, it was very traumatic and dreadful and she was frightened but it is wrong to condemn Mary for a decision any monarch would have taken, Elizabeth certainly would have taken and which in the light of the events was very much justified.

  2. Women had it so hard in those days..such a lack of care, rights, freedom to leave a marriage and so on.

    I’m fascinated by history and so glad we have such a wealth of information about these people we’re curious to know more about.

    Another great article!

  3. I love this description: very vivid and a beautiful and lively way to bring the occasion to life. Mary hoped to finally find some happiness having been treated so terribly in her life: first by her father and Anne, then by her brother and his council and then, by Philip himself, sad to say as he was disappointed when her pregnancy turned out to be ill health. Mary did not treat Elizabeth ill as a teenager!

    Mary in fact treated her step sister will, until the second year of her rule when she believed that she was involved in the Wyatt plot and could not understand why she would not go to Mass or accept the Catholic faith. It was from 1554 onwards that she became suspicious of her 21 year old sister (hardly a teenager) for several reasons to do with this plot and her choice in religious expression. Yes, Elizabeth was sent to the Tower, on the adivce of the council, but Mary believed she had a good reason to do so. It was only when she was persuaded that Elizabeth may be innocent that she had her sent to Halfield Palace, hardly a prison. She was restricted but she could still exerise, have visitors, come to court when sent for, had several hundred attendents and lived in luxery, if not freedom. If anything it was her step father Sir Thomas Seymour who treated Elizabeth harshly and in fact may have abused her, while she lived with him and Queen Katherine Parr. This was when Elizabeth was 14. Perhaps it is this that you mistake for Mary treating her cruelly as a teenager. In fact Mary treated both Elizabeth and Edward well as children and Elizabeth was with Mary when she was in danger from Lady Jane Grey. She was also with her when she marched on London, when she was crowned and shared a coach with Queen Anne of Cleves. Mary in fact felt sorry for Elizabeth as a child and a young girl as she herself had been neglected by her father. She was hardly going to treat her the same way. When she did treat her with suspician, she may have had some justification for doing so.

  4. Mary was actually wise in her choose of husband because as Queen she couldn’t have a noble as her spouse because he would have been a subject. Nobody was available who was suitable, her cousin had been in the Tower for several years and few others held a royal rank. As a woman Mary would have promised in her wedding vows to obey her husband, at least in matters not of state and therefore being the first Queen to reign in her own right ( Jane Grey not included) the question of whom it was suitable for her to marry was a weighty one for her Council and Parliament. No man would have had to justify his chosen partner because of the norms of gender roles and expectations in the sixteenth century. So forget about women’s lib and ideas of equality and the latter propaganda about Elizabeth I who faced similar problems from her own Council and Parliament. Her decision not to marry wasn’t some wonderful decision which proved a woman can rule alone, it was actually reckless and endangered the country. I am not belittling her achievements which were great, but her marriage was constantly on the agenda, she was personally threatened by the men who adored her but wanted to have power with her and the question of an heir made her vulnerable as well. She had to be an astute politician to survive all of that. Mary had a real tough dilemma.

    Mary’s choice of husband also had to reflect the future alliances of England, which again is why Spain was the best choice, even though it was worrying for a number of her minority Protestant subjects as well as her anti Spanish Catholic ones, mostly in the South. The Spain of her mother and the Spain of her future husband were both completely different countries. For one thing under Isabella and Ferdinand, “Spain” was not yet one geographical entity. Their crowns united it as did the conquest of the remaining lands still ruled by Islamic warlords. The Spain of Charles V and his son was part of a growing and powerful Empire. Not only was it unified, but it also ruled territory in the Americas and West Indies and the Holy Roman Empire. The main concern was that England would become a satellite of the Empire and get dragged into the expansionist wars with France. The role of Philip as King of England had to be carefully defined and this was were the extremely carefully thought out treaty came into its own. Mary deserves much more credit for this than she is often given. Her choice of Spain was not merely sentimental as it is sometimes portrayed, because she actually not only sought advice on her marriage but asked her cousin Charles to recommend a suitable spouse. Naturally he was now far too old and about to actually retire and end his life in a monastery, so he advanced Prince Philip as a suitable candidate and personally there was nothing wrong with him as a young monarch. Spain would be a strong and reliable ally and a block against France. He was stern but handsome and he was capable as a ruler. Mary saw his
    portrait, received reports from her Ambassadors and was somewhat enamoured with him. She may not have been in touch with the feelings of some sections of society towards her choice of husband but then no monarch ever was. A fair number have chosen a spouse who was hated or at least suspected of being unsuitable simply because they were French or Spanish. It didn’t prevent them from being the best possible match at the time for many reasons and Wyatt used this marriage as an excuse for a rebellion against a Catholic Queen as far as I am concerned.

    Mary showed great conviction and she showed herself to be every bit as resourceful when it came to handling the people, especially in the hotbed of rebellion, London, when she again rallied her people against the traitors who sought her life and her throne. She appealed to the people of London as Wyatt marched on their capital with 10,000 men. She was aware that some of her Council believed she had acted against their advice on the question of her marriage, that some had joined the conspiracy against her, but now she made a rallying speech, showing people she loved them as a mother her child and
    pointing to her coronation ring, that she was married to her kingdom. She won them over and Wyatt found himself without support. Her reaction to the rebels was mixed: the leaders paid the ultimate price, that was only to be expected as the law of arms demanded. However, most of the gentlemen who had been involved were either pardoned and restored to her service, a few had been found not guilty, one was released, a few imprisoned for a time and the same applied to the commons. The majority were simply pardoned and dispersed. About 100 leaders and rebels were executed, brutal yes, but normal. However, some 500 or more, already condemned were personally pardoned by Queen Mary and the rest sent home. The people now rejoiced to welcome her choice and her wedding was magnificent.

    The wedding was in Winchester for three reasons, the damage to the capital was not yet repaired and some traitors heads remained on spikes, the symbolic nature of ancient Kingship connected with the old Anglo Saxon capital and sensitivity towards those still upset on the part of the Queen. The treaty had stated that the couple would be named and shown on coins and proclamations as co rulers, but Mary would be first as a female King, England was not subject to the Holy Roman Empire and Philip would relinquish any power or claim if Mary died and vice versa, the role of King was ceremonial, although certain exceptions were allowed for, if Mary had to withdraw due to being pregnant, the full power lay with Mary and everything had to be consented to in Parliament. England would not take part in Spanish wars. The final clause of course we know with hindsight was broken with several consequences. Mary actually agreed to the necessary steps of going to war in 1556/7 against the orders of the Papacy and fell out with Rome on this issue, although the matter was smoothed over, especially after our great victory at Saint Quentin in 1557,_something conveniently forgotten about because of Elizabethan propaganda. However, the victory was to tun sour because of the loss of Calais in a French counter attack the following year. It may have ended several hundred years of English territory in France but it also prevented an enormous financial burden becoming a far greater problem. The marriage looked to have the potential of being a great success and Mary and Philip a successful couple.

    The celebrations were wonderful, people enjoyed themselves, the wedding night was a success according to a reliable contemporary source and Mary and Philip appeared in several ceremonies beautifully dressed and as a real power couple. However, the marriage was unhappy on a personal level in many ways, although it was not a national disaster. When he did take the reins during the two periods that Mary believed she was pregnant, Philip was described in contemporary documents as charming, approachable, as working well with the Council, as restrained in matters of religion and giving sound advice to his wife and as being hard working and dedicated. What made his marriage difficult was that Mary wasn’t pregnant, sadly, she was in fact seriously ill and Philip also had duties in his own territories which he had inherited as King. He was absent for two long periods of time and Mary was highly dependent upon him, emotionally and at times she deliberately took a back seat. She did, however, still manage to rule ably without him, regardless of what we might think because of her unfortunate association with religious persecution. Mary, too here was cautious and both Simon Renard and her husband advised her accordingly. She gave the role and title of Queen in her own right respect and new dignity and made female power acceptable and the gender free concept of monarchy was possible only because of Mary’s determination. She kept the ceremonial and public aspects of Kingship and promoted the image of female kingship in coins, pamphlets, paintings, religious art, symbols, polemical texts, Parliament, her own personal actions and Elizabeth picked up much from Mary which she later also used to greater effect. Mary wasn’t a failure as Queen and there is evidence that her political and religious changes were beginning to be very successful. They merely ended because of her premature death and the fact that Mary tragically didn’t have children. The relatively short period of her reign, caused mostly by the fact that she was passed her prime at 37 when she took power, as opposed to the young Queen Elizabeth I who was 25 and had the good fortune to rule for 45 years, should not be written off as a failure, simply because Mary has been unfairly painted as a wild fanatic whose only goal in life was to destroy as many Protestants as possible, while thanks to the enforcement of the Reformation on the country, later propaganda and time, her sister has also been incorrectly called Glorianna and her reign painted as an unrealistic Golden Age.

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