Anne Boleyn and Bloody Mary

Posted By on September 11, 2009

Princess Mary

Princess Mary

Let’s get back on track today with our series on Anne Boleyn and the relationship that she had with other main Tudor personalities. I’ve already looked at Anne and Catherine of Aragon (see Part 1 and Part 2), and now I’m going to look at Anne’s relationship with Henry’s daughter by Catherine, the Lady Mary (Princess Mary as she had once been), the future Mary I or “Bloody Mary” as she is commonly known.

Now, whatever your thoughts on “The Tudors”, you have to admit that this TV production has done a very good job at portraying Mary in a more sympathetic light. If you ask the general public about Mary – go on, get on the streets and ask – those people who have actually heard of her just know her as the English queen who executed loads of Protestants, as “Bloody Mary”, a bitter and twisted woman. But, the Mary of “The Tudors” is so different from that stereotypical view of her and we gain a new understanding of her personality.

I know “The Tudors” is not real and there are many many inaccuracies but I think it helps us to understand what turned Mary from a young girl with hopes and dreams of romance to the harsh, bitter zealot that she became.

Mary had so much to cope with, including:-

  • Her parents’ marriage breaking down
  • Being made illegitimate and being stripped of the title of “princess”
  • Having a rather questionable future
  • Having a new and unsympathetic stepmother who obviously resented and disliked her
  • Hearing her mother’s views of Anne Boleyn
  • Being banned from seeing her mother
  • Coping with a new stepsister who takes her place in her father’s affections and who usurps her place as princess and heir
  • Being ordered to join Princess Elizabeth’s household
  • Having to deny her faith and being threatened by her father into accepting that he was the Supreme Head of the Church of England and that her parents’ marriage was “incestuous and unlawful”

And those were just the issues she had to contend with as a result of Henry’s relationship with Anne Boleyn! Mary suffered much more later.

No wonder Mary resented “the concubine” Anne Boleyn – wouldn’t you?

But what was their relationship like and did they really hate each other?

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn


If we are to believe Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, Anne Boleyn planned to poison Mary to get rid of the girl who was so popular and intelligent and who was such a focus for those who disliked the woman who had usurped Catherine’s rightful place as Queen.

But, we cannot rely on Chapuys because of his hatred for Anne, a woman he never referred to by name but by the name “concubine” instead.  There is no evidence that Anne tried to poison either Mary or Catherine, although it is said that she mentioned to her brother George that she would consider putting Mary to death if the King ever left her as Regent while he was away in France!

We know from evidence that Anne often ranted about Mary and threatened to curb “her proud Spanish blood”, but Anne was a quick-tempered woman who felt backed into a corner and was just lashing out. Imagine Anne’s position: she is Queen of England but there is still a woman who declares herself to be the “true queen”, and who is still embroidering her servants’ liveries with “H&K”. This woman’s daughter is refusing to acknowledge Anne as the new queen, was once the legitimate heir to the throne, is a pretty and popular princess, and could be a real threat to Princess Elizabeth. Wouldn’t you be paranoid and defensive? I think Eric Ives is right when he says that any rantings and ravings from Anne were borne out of self-defence, rather than any malevolence.

There is evidence that Anne did try and forge a relationship with the defiant Mary. On one occasion in 1534, she visited Elizabeth’s household by herself and asked to see Mary. Anne offered to welcome Mary back at court and to help reconcile her with her father if Mary would accept her as queen. Mary’s impudent reply was that she knew of no queen apart from her mother but that she was pleased if the king’s mistress wanted to intercede on her behalf! How Anne must have wanted to slap her face! Anne id in fact try to reason with her, but to no avail.

At another time, according to “legend”, Anne and Mary were both in Eltham Palace chapel at the same time. According to the story, an attendant told Anne that Mary had acknowledged the Queen before leaving the chapel and Anne, embarrassed at not noticing and pleased that Mary acknowledged her, sent a message to Mary apologising for not noticing and saying that she desired this to be the start “of friendly correspondence”. Mary swiftly replied that she had knot acknowledged Anne and that the queen could not have sent her this message because it was from Lady Anne Boleyn, not Catherine! A spirited reply!

Anne tried again when Catherine was dying. She asked Lady Shelton to tell Mary that the queen desired to be kind to Mary and when Catherine died Anne sent a further message saying that if Mary would obey the King she would find a second mother in Anne. Again, Mary did not take kindly to this and replied that she would obey her father only as far as her conscience would allow. I don’t think we can blame Anne for giving up at this point!

Mary I

Mary I


As I have already said, you cannot blame Mary for resenting her stepmother and sticking up for her mother. She was only 17 when Henry married Anne and it must have hurt her deeply. We can only imagine what she heard about Anne from her mother and it must have seemed that her mother’s cruel treatment and her own abasement were down to Anne. Mary had gone from being the apple of her father’s eye to being deliberately ignored and slighted, in favour of her stepmother and stepmother. How Anne must have fit the role of “wicked stepmother” from Cinderella in Mary’s eyes!

Eric Ives writes of how Mary rejoiced in Anne’s inability to produce a son and did not hide her resentment of the Queen and I wonder how much Catherine was involved in turning Mary against Anne. Mary did seem to blame Anne alone, rather than her father, and Linda Porter wonders if Catherine absolved her husband from blame and heaped all of it on Anne. This may explain why an impressionable Mary sought to keep her father’s affection while refusing to accept his new wife and she must have blamed Anne for Henry’s pressure on her to “conform” and his punishments when she didn’t. Perhaps she believed that Anne had bewitched her beloved father and that he was not to blame.

It is sad that these two women could not get past their difference and build a relationship. Linda Porter writes of how much the two of them had in common and how “in other circumstances, Mary and Anne might have respected each other and even been companions”, after all, they both loved fashion, music and dancing, and were both highly educated. But, I’m not sure that either of these women was to blame for the resentment and bad feeling that existed between them. Only one person was to blame and that was Henry. The fact that he continued to abase Mary and treat her cruelly after Anne was dead and gone testifies to this.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII put intolerable pressure on his teenage daughter. He saw her as a defiant and obstinate child who needed to be disciplined and broken. How any loving parent can treat a child in the way that Henry treated Mary, I just cannot begin to understand. Ives talks of how Henry’s treatment scarred Mary for life and Porter talks of the ill health that Mary suffered due to her circumstances. She even felt that her life was in peril at one point when Henry sent a deputation to try and persuade her to sign the articles accepting her father as Supreme Head of the Church and her parents’ marriage as unlawful. The Earl of Essex threatened her, saying that:

“since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the king’s injunctions, he could hardly believe she was the king’s own bastard daughter. Were she his or any other man’s daughter, he would beat her to death, or strike her head against the wall until he made it as soft as boiled apple.”

However much Mary blamed Anne for everything, she surely must have seen that her father was culpable after he carried on treating her this way and also playing with her feelings by continually setting up marriages for her and then changing his mind. Only one person is accountable for the broken woman that became Mary I of England, and that is Henry VIII.

What do you think about these two women and the King who linked them? Is Anne to blame for how Mary turned out? Is Henry to blame?


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53 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn and Bloody Mary”

  1. Norma Dalziel says:

    I agree that Mary like Anne is much maligned, she did bring the Inquisition type of actions into England along with Cardinal Pole and there were many burned, including Cranmer who she revengefully wished burned even after he recanted his new learning faith, at this stage he should have been spared. Her religion was really all she had left, her husband had left and would not return, her sister was extremely popular with the people, Mary as a person must have been very sad and unhappy. She did initially take very much to Elizabeth when she was a child and it can be said that they were fond of each other – as Mary grew older a Crown came between she and her sister and the problems she faced increased when she was at her most isolated. Very sad.

  2. jessica says:

    I agree with Linda when she says that Anne and Mary have things in common, they were two strong head women,with high courage who was (and still are) too much vilified by history.I don’t blame Anne for get angry many times with Mary because she didn’t accept her, and maybe Catherine’s love for Henry made her blind to see the kind of a husband she had,maybe she influenced Mary to stood her ground, nothing wrong about it, except that Mary is the one who suffered the most because of Catherine’s actions.I can imagine Mary accept Anne,they had many things in common, of course they could get along, but they were in the opposite side.Anne was afraid and paranoid, i read that since the nearly end of 1533 Henry was tired of Anne, can you imagine how she suffered and what kind of things came through her mind?About mary i too don’t blame her for stood her place and her mother’s,they had a great relationship, and if the people,the pope and europe called her princess,why should her think otherwise?They had a very hard destiny,i don’t think that Mary was “bloody” mary,so must be all monarchs from modern age(and others as well).But again the main guilty wasn’t Anne who tried nor Mary who was only a victim,but a king who thought (as my medieval teacher said today)with his emotions,Henry Tudor.

  3. Matterhorn says:

    Thanks again for this series. The enmity between Anne and Mary is of course tragic, as was much of that period, but in human terms, I really don’t see how it could have been any different. As for Mary blaming Anne rather than Henry or both, that seems understandable. Regardless of what role Catherine may have played in affecting Mary’s views, it was doubtless emotionally much easier to blame the outsider than to face the fact that her own beloved and once devoted father had rejected her.

  4. JaneGS says:

    I must say that, like you, The Tudors made me think about what life must have been like for poor Mary. Separating Mary and Katherine is one of the many unforgiveable things that HVIII did.

  5. rochie says:

    Yes, like so much of Tudor history, there are no winners here – only ever losers. Events got in the way and destroyed so many lives.

  6. I also think that you can’t blame Mary for her feelings. She adored her mother, and was devestated when she was told that she could no longer communicate with her or see her ever again. Henry was cruel to all three of them.

    Maybe in another light, they could’ve been friends. If Anne had simply stayed Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, maybe they would’ve met and been friends. But since this did not happen, we will never know. As being a child of divorce, I understand where Mary is coming from. And I’ve also been in the step-mother role as well, and can relate to Anne, and how she tried to make peace with her. It’s sad really.

  7. lisaannejane says:

    I wish Mary would stop being referred to as “Bloody Mary” since the term could apply to almost any monarch! Julius Caesar had one out of four Gauls killed in his quest for power, which really amounts to genocide! Mary reminds me of someone who was the wrong person at the wrong time. From Protestant back to Catholic – what a time of turmoil! I think that men write the history books and it’s time to get rid of this idea. Otherwise, let’s call all the Tudors “bloody” – now i am on my soapbox, sorry about that!

  8. sharon says:

    Mary had a very tragic life but It cannot excuse the atrocities that she was responsible for. She was nothingmore than a religious fanatic and in fact was more of a tyrant than her father. At least we know that Henry did what he did for personal or dynastic security.(however ruthlessly) Mary on the other hand had the audacity to use God Almighty as an excuse to render mass murder only for the reason that someone had different religious beliefs than her. No in my opinion Mary deserves all of her bad publicity and should be remembered as BLOODY MARY !

    1. Tidus says:

      Sharon, I totally agree with you about Mary. However IMO, Henry was
      Just as bad as her. He ordered the murders (under the term executions)
      of several innocent people. He was also very emotionally abusive.
      There is no excuse for either one.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        Mary wasn’t called Bloody Mary until the reign of William iii and Mary ii, two extreme Protestant monarchs, although she was shown as this by default through the exaggerated Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

        She doesn’t deserve this ridiculous, inaccurate and biased title and more than her much bloodier father, sister and later monarchs or European contemporaries. She was much more personally merciful than the rest of them put together and thankfully her true reputation as a Renaissance Queen and Princess has been rescued by proper scholars.

        1. Helen Female Davis says:

          Yeah tell one of her victims that.

    2. Zoe says:

      How dare you insult Mary. You did not have to go through what she did. While Queen Elizabeth executed more than a thousand Catholics, Mary only burned at the stake 300. Henry was the worst, and she does not deserve her bad publicity. She is not Bloody Mary. She is Queen Mary I, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon. Do not dare insult my angel.

  9. Jessica says:

    i do agree with lisaannejane,she doesn’t deserve the “bloody” thing, she did nothing different from any other monarch of her time.She executed around 283 people,yes a wrong thing, for us, who have the vision that execute someone for his faith is wrong,but in 16 century that was a different thing.some say that Henry executed around 72.000 where is the ‘bloody” nickname here?Just to remember that Mary had some protestant support(who was faithful to Tudor dinasty)when her brother passed the crown to her cousin lady Jane,she started her reign being tolerant,but when the wyatt’s revolt came to the scene she chaged,and look that,her council more than one time condemned her policy of clemency.The wyatt’s revolt in my opinion have a big role in Mary’s policy changes.Also people who suffered under Henry VIII’s reign wanted a “revenge”,she said to ( if i’m not mistaken)cardenal Pole: “the punishment of heretics should be done without haste, should, meanwhile, to apply justice to those who, by intelligence, seeking to deceive simple souls” but Pole didn’t agree with her.

    1. Tidus says:

      I believe the term “Bloody”Mary had to do with
      her reasons for executing people. Perfect example
      was her executing Thomas Cramner. So if you go
      by the reasons, not just the numbers, then yes
      she deserves the term Bloody Mary. But by the
      same token Henry vlll deserves the term
      Bloody Henry.

  10. lisaannejane says:

    Didn’t Henry use religious arguments to divorce Catherine and Anne? Wasn’t the Pilgrimage of Grace a religious matter since it involved the dissolution of the monasteries and the loss of holy days for the common man? Didn’t Henry allow innocent people to die for religious reasons in pursuit of his desire for a male heir? I think Henry used religion and politics just as much as any ruler. Both Mary and Henry did have blood on their hands, but a great many rulers also were just as ruthless. I guess I am just questioning why one gets the the title of “bloody” when it could apply to so many.

  11. Claire says:

    Mary was bloody in that she killed many innocents in very painful and long and drawn out ways and, yes, I can see that Cranmer was definitely out of her need for revenge. She killed many people in a short amount of time – her reign was short compared to the likes of her father and her half sister, so it’s hard to compare them. I think she was harsh and had no regard for a confused nation who one minute had been punished if they were Catholic and were now being punished for being protestant!
    I don’t think we can defend her actions, which were indeed “bloody”, but Mary was definitely “damaged goods”. Perhaps we can try to understand what drove her to these actions and see that she was a product of her father’s cruelty and that her actions were borne out of bitterness, suffering and a need for revenge. I’m not sure!
    I do agree with other comments about other monarchs. Mary was not the only one to have so much blood on her hands, although she had quite a short reign.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      She didn’t enact the heresy laws straight away but gave the nation a fair chance through preaching and education. She pardoned traitors, 400 of them in one day and wasn’t personally involved in most heresy trials. I am not condoning the number who suffered, merely being contextual and balanced. Mary wasn’t called Bloody in her day and this was a result of propaganda much later on. Yes, punishment for heresy was harsh, so was the punishment for being Catholic under Elizabeth. Henry Viii need not talk either. The executions were actually slowing towards the end of her reign as her conversation policy was working. It was devastating how effective it was. She used education first and people were given the opportunity to live or die. That was more than Catholic priests were given by Elizabeth. By the way even Thomas Cranmer burnt heretics and wanted them executed within less than two weeks, whereas under Mary and Edward Seymour who objected, the time was much longer. Most trials took place locally and some were more to do with getting rid of neighbours than actual heretical trials. Mary did intervene in a number of cases which were not conducted properly and she did show mercy to a number of traitors. She reversed the law than an insane person could be executed. I agree with you that her treatment of Cranmer was unfair, but then again he was also guilty of high treason. It’s now the 21st century not the sixteenth, we are meant to be more enlightened and understanding and Ecumenical, so using these misleading titles for long dead Queens is really unacceptable and not very enlightened.

      1. Anon says:

        No sympathy for Catholics under Elizabeth ad they killed the protestants under mary.

  12. Rob says:

    Mary is a fascinating psychological conundrum. Her childhood would have been a terrible burden to carry into her equally difficult adult life. Cruelty in adult life often results from cruelties inflicted on oneself during childhood. It is a cycle that perpetuates itself.

    The Tudor family has to be one of the most dysfunctional in history, and so it is no surprise that Mary should have gradually descended into what almost appears to us today to be a kind of madness. Her frustrations – and there were many – were ultimately vented on those she viewed as sinful and evil (heretics) whereas her internal anger was really directed towards her father and his ‘sins’ in destroying the Church and her mother, and her own life too in terms of eligible partners and a happy family life. All were denied to her by her father’s actions, and this ultimately became projected onto others who in some sense reminded her of these sorrows and humiliations.

    1. Tidus says:

      Very good post Rob and I agree. Though I will
      add that I think along with that there was always
      something mentally wrong with Mary. Actually I
      believe the same of Catherine & Henry.

  13. Claire says:

    Hi Robert,
    Wow, you’ve managed to to crystalise my thoughts into words that make sense! That is definitely what I think about Mary. She’s such a sad character who never got the happy ever after that she wanted and so punished everyone else. I’m sure that if Henry had just let her be, let her get married without raising her hopes and then dashing them while he used her as a bargaining chip, and not punished her for being her mother’s daughter then she might have turned out a very different person. She also had her faith and her life threatened in Edward’s reign and she must have felt that the whole world was against her. Finally, when she becomes queen she thinks that she can change everything, rid the world of sin and punish evil doers, but by that time she is so psychologically scarred that she takes her need for revenge too far. Sad. So Henry’s sins had a knock on effect and the consequences of his actions carried on long after he was dead and gone.

  14. Aimee says:

    This post is interesting to me. I have never thouht of Mary I as “Bloody Mary.” I view her reign as no more tragic or bloodthirsty than many others at the time.

    There is no excuse for Anne Boleyn’s enmity toward Mary; it was the end result of a commoner biting off more than she could chew and demanding the unreasonable. It’s outrageous that Anne and her supporters could even expect a Tudor princess, descended from prominent European royal houses, to kowtow and accept a lesser place in precedence to a woman regarded by the entire Catholic community as the king’s mistress, and her illegitimate daughter.

    In my opinion, one of Anne’s biggest mistakes in this drama was that she went out of her way to alienate Mary, when it was common knowledge Henry VIII loved his daughter. She would have done better to treat Mary with civility and to do what she could to reconcile father and daughter. Instead, she went out of her way to disrespect and to alienate her. Jane Seymour learned from her predecessor’s error; one of the first things she did was attempt to reconcile Henry and Mary.

  15. Claire says:

    The title “Bloody Mary” is very harsh and was only used after her death, to blacken her name. In her five year reign, I think she killed under 300 Protestants, which seems a very small number compared to the number of executions that her father carried out. In her biography of Mary, Linda Porter says “Attempts to soften her image have been made, but their tendency to depict her as a sad little woman who would have been better off as the Tudor equivalent of a housewife is almost as distasteful as the legend of Bloody Mary. To dismiss her life as nothing more than a personal tragedy is both patronising and mistaken”, so the real Mary has been lost in these two different ideas of her.

    I’m not sure that I was excusing Anne’s enmity towards Mary, more empathising with it and trying to understand. There is evidence that Anne made attempts to build a relationship with Mary but obviously Mary was incredibly hurt by what had happened and needed to support her mother – a relationship with her father’s “mistress” was unthinkable. There is no way that we can excuse Anne’s threats or her rantings, since she was an adult and Mary was a child, but I think Henry has to take the responsibility for Mary’s suffering. It was at his hands that Mary and Catherine suffered. I think it was this point that I was trying to make and, yes, I agree that Anne was rather “arrogant” in expecting Catherine and Mary, with their royal backgrounds and true royal blood, to just move out of the way for her.

    Yes, Anne did make a mistake there and Jane definitely learned but she made no attempts with Elizabeth did she? I think Jane wa very clever, and not the meek and demure woman she’s often painted to be. She watched Anne and learned. Jane had been close to Catherine so she wanted to see Henry and Mary brought back together, it’s just a shame she ignored the little girl who had just lost her mother but then that little girl was Anne’s. Anne of Cleves, on the other hand, went on to have close relationships with both girls. I want to find out more about Anne of Cleves, she’s a very interesting lady.

    Thanks for the comment, Aimee, I always enjoy reading them.

  16. Jessica says:

    i think it was unfair what Anne did,but in her paranoia,i can understand her,about jane, i think she had not time enough to take Elizabeth.I really believe that she would take bess in her favour but the “boleyn” memories were around and also she had to “make” herself to the aragonese faction,to care bess she had to be out of danger,and to this,just giving Henry a male child,she did,but…i don’t think Jane was the saint lady,she was very clever.

  17. lisaannejane says:

    Linda Porter;s book sounds very interesting – another one I want to get! Interesting point about Jane Seymour and Elizabeth. I can’t imagine seeing a little 2-3yr. old and not wanting to do something for her – do you think Jane might have helped Elizabeth if she lived longer?

  18. ladylucky says:

    I think Anne was completely in the wrong for being so harsh to Mary. She should have just left her alone, especially after the death of Catherine. In reality, had Anne had Henry’s son, she needn’t have been concerned one bit about Mary. So it seems strange to me that she would seem so threatened by her, considering how confident Anne was that she would eventually produce a boy for the King. Put up or shut up, you know? So I can’t help but think Anne to have been unnecessarily cruel. Then again, it’s not surprising. The cruel stepmother archetype exists for a reason.

  19. Claire says:

    Hi Jessica,

    Yes, I think Anne was very paranoid and felt very threatened by Mary and Catherine who had Royal blood and were obviously related to the King. Jane had been close to Catherine and so wanted to do her best by her daughter. I’m sure that Jane would have viewed Elizabeth as nothing but a “bastard” and not worth bothering with, although perhaps in time she would have warmed to the little girl but she was said to look like Anne.

    Hi lisaannejane,

    I did a review on the Linda Porter book – see I would highly recommend it as it was well written and very informative. I think that Jane would have accepted Elizabeth and helped her if she had lived longer, who can ignore a little girl who has lost her mother?

    Hi ladylucky,

    Yes, Anne was harsh with Mary but Henry was worse and she was his own daughter. She should have just left her alone but I think she felt threatened by her – Mary was quite a strong person, she was intelligent and was definitely a focus/figurehead for the Catholic faction who wanted to get rid of Anne. I think Anne saw her as dangerous and yet she still did try on many occasions to form some kind of relationship with her. I think Anne’s bark was worse than her bite – she ranted a lot but never really took action against Mary. Henry was awful to Mary and this treatment carried on long after Anne was dead and buried so we can’t blame Anne for it all even if we think she influenced Henry when she was alive. I’m not excusing Anne, she was no angel, but Henry was Mary’s father and a father’s job is to love and protect his children, to nurture them, not threaten them and turn them into a psychological wreck. Mary was a very ill person, both as a child and as an adult, and her illnesses seem to be related to the immense stress she was under and I blame Henry for that.

    Thanks all of you for all your comments, you always make me think and consider other points of view.

  20. Anne says:

    Stepfamily relationships are always fraught with emotional baggage, it seems. I will comment, partly from what I know as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

    This family system had serious problems that are way beyond most. I think all the parties were doing the best they could given their individual, familial and cultural belief systems. It is not strange that Mary should have blamed Anne for her mother’s problems. In a way, there was no one else for her to blame, given the times, her religious beliefs, the political situation, her mother’s plight, etc., etc., etc. You do not blame the king, because he is Divinely situated in that position, as God placed him there, that is the belief. So it must be others, or the devil, etc. who are wrong. Certainly whoever seems to be causing your loved ones pain must be wrong.

    Mary internalized a great deal of the cruel and rejecting attitude toward her by her father. I don’t think Anne’s attitudes toward her counted for much, since she considered herself superior by birth. But her father’s did. Henry could not think her legitimate once he had decided his rectification with God required him to dissolve his “false” marriage with the Spanish princess, Catherine. Mary just was a casualty of Henry’s conscience.

    But just see how adaptable and flexible the English people were (as well as guilt-ridden, they did back their flawed king, after all), after his disappearance. They could not buck him while he was there, but EACH of his children, of his royal blood, got their chance at the throne. All was forgiven, it was easy for them to be repositioned, as they had really done nothing wrong. And although it could not be said safely when Henry was alive, the people somewhere inside actually realized he was fallible, and had his self-interest, not that he was always right! That was just the royal fiction, which they needed to support as a workable system.

    The really great irony in all of it was that from his brood, the arguably LEAST eligible (a woman, made illigitimate, non-royal mother, etc.) became the greatest monarch. It is a testimony to what is known in therapeutic circles as resilience, as well as the great intelligence and personal potency of Elizabeth herself that saved the day (and ended up historically justifying Henry and Anne’s union as a side benefit). I always have said, Elizabeth got her great intelligence more from her mother’s side! Thank goodness she was always kind and considerate of her royal sister; it probably saved her life.

  21. Aimee says:

    Claire, in all frankness, I doubt there was ANYTHING Anne Boleyn could have done — no matter HOW nice, friendly, gentlewomanly, etc. — to win Mary over in any kind of friendship. The offense (toward Katherine of Aragon, to the Catholic Church, and to Mary herself) was too extreme.

    That said, there’s such a thing as “putting on a good face” in difficult domestic situations and Anne just did not do it.

    Consider, for example, the conflict between Marie Antoinette and Jeanne du Barry, mistress (formerly a common streetwalker) of Louis XV. Louis XV was very fond of Marie Antoinette; the Dauphine, in turn, was his affectionate granddaughter-in-law. But Marie Antoinette’s solid contempt for Jeanne du Barry became a thorn in the King’s side, apparently so severe there were rumors Marie Antoinette would be bannished from court.

    Jeanne du Barry did not resent Marie Antoinette (or, if she did, she went out of her way to resent her VERY privately.) While Marie Antoinette snubbed Jeanne and refused to even speak to her or acknowledge her in public (which made socializing quite awkward since protocol did not permit Jeanne to address the Dauphine herself)…Jeanne went on a campaign to win Marie Antoinette over, extending gracious invitations to her (which were not accepted or reciprocated.) Jeanne even had the Dauphine’s portrait hung in her personal quarters as a sign of respectful friendship.

    In the end, the King grew more offended by Marie Antoinette, because it was HER behavior making things so difficult. Ultimately, Marie Antoinette was forced to make some concessions of civility towards Jeanne to placate the King.

    If Anne had made these kinds of token efforts to court Mary’s goodwill, in the end, it would have been Mary who looked like the unreasonable, unbending person. Instead, Anne’s own pride got in the way; it was more important to her to “queen it” than it was to make the King (source of all Anne’s power/elevation) as comfortable as possible.

    I agree wholeheartedly Henry is predominantly to blame for Mary’s bannishment from court. But if Anne had put on a good face about things, turned a blind eye to Mary’s coldness and what might be viewed as “insolence,” things might be very different.

    And yes, Jane did not make any known overtures to Elizabeth, but Jane’s tenure as Queen is so brief, it’s dificult to know if she willfully snubbed Elizabeth, or if Elizabeth would have been invited to Court eventually.

    1. Helen Davis says:

      Yes Aimee but Jane’s lack of attempt to help Elizabeth shows she was at best indifferent to her younger stepdaughter.

  22. Dani says:

    I love your insight into Mary’s early life. Many do only remember her violent reign as Queen but few look at or know how she was influence to become who she became.

  23. Jill says:

    What are the chances that even though Mary Tudor was raised basically as an Englishwoman and Roman Catholic from birth, given that her mother, Katherine was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella who instituted the Spanish Inquisition that was still in force during Henry VIIIs reign, could have been influenced by and loyal to her Spanish roots. Henry was bent on being the head of the Church of England, he may have seen his daughter as a threat to this power. Both daughters, Elizabeth and Mary were damaged women only Mary sought to reverse what her father had started doing it in a horrifying way. I believe the royal families used their religion to terrorize the people into submission.

    Seeing what his past generations had brought upon these lands, it wasn’t until five generations later when Charles II was reigning that tolerance towards both faiths was observed. Charles grandfather, James was a Protestant being raised by Elizabeth’s family, Charles I may have been a Protestant and found his downfall in trying to establish an absolute monarchy such as France’s rulers enjoyed but Charles II was raised by his mother who was Roman Catholic. This I believe is why the founding fathers of the United States instituted a separation of church and state and more than 500 years later it is a challenge not to give more power to one over the other. How much has our philosophies really evolved.

    Any comments?

  24. Claire says:

    I very much agree with you, Jill, about both Mary and Elizabeth being damaged. Much of Mary’s ill health was down to the stress that her father put her under and also the stress of Edward’s reign. We can’t blame her for the fact that she wanted to overturn what her father and half-brother had done but it was a very harsh way of going about it. I do think we are rather unfair on her though, calling her “Bloody Mary”, when Henry executed up to 72,000 people, according to one chronicler, and even Elizabeth, who once said that she did not want to open windows into men’s souls, was responsible for the hangings of hundreds of men in January 1570.

    Religion is always used as an excuse to control people and to discriminate against people and I’m not sure that we have come that far since Tudor times in some respects. To me, Christianity is about harmony, peace and forgiveness, not controlling people or being down on them for the life they lead. I can’t comment on the whole Church and State issue in the US, being a Brit, so I’d be interested to hear what others feel

  25. Maya says:

    I think Mary, like the rest of the English people, used Anne as a scapegoat. After all, Mary’s life changed rapidly (and for the worst) in a short period of time; she had to blame someone, but she wasn’t about to blame her beloved father – just like the English people didn’t want to believe that ‘Great Harry’, their Golden Prince, was capable of such evil. So they immediately looked to put the blame on Anne – it was easy, especially for Mary, to put Anne in the role of witch, whore, ‘other woman’. Anne, it was decided, had put a spell on the King and was causing him to act so differently that he would banish/mistreat the daughter he had previously doted on so lovingly. One must also look at the overall misogynistic attitude of the 16th century – particularly of the churches at the time, which preached that women were evil, lustful sinners who would entice men from the path of virtue. When looking at Mary’s strict Catholic education and upbringing, as well as the natural feelings of a child from a broken home, it’s not hard to see why she must have hated Anne so much. To her, Anne stood for everything evil in the world. Before this black-eyed witch had come into the picture, Mary’s life was calm and peaceful, her future assured…but Anne (in Mary’s eyes) changed everything for the worse. It’s just sad that Mary had to take this hatred out on her half-sister Elizabeth – simply because of who her mother was.

  26. Claire says:

    Hi Maya,
    I agree with you about Anne being the scapegoat, the person who could be blamed for Henry’s cruelty and outrageous behaviour. God forbid that Henry himself could be responsible!
    Have you read Linda Porter’s biography of Mary? It is an excelletn read and helps you to understand what made Mary the way she was – she had such a sad life and was extremely damaged by her upbringing. Poor woman!

    1. Tidus says:

      I agree about Anne bring a scapegoat. I just don’t understand the blaming
      of Anne alone. Everyone knew Henry was the one holding all the power.
      And yet no one dared blame him. They all blamed Anne. It’s hard for me to
      have sympathy for these people mainly Catherine & Mary.
      Heck even Elizabeth to the best of my knowledge didn’t blame Henry for
      executing her mother.

  27. Ellen says:

    Henry was unbelievably cruel to Mary.

    It boggles the mind that a father could be so mean spirited to his own daughter.

    Thank you too for remembering those who perished on that dreadful morning 9 years ago. They will never be forgotten.


  28. Esther Sorkin says:

    I think that Mary would have blamed Anne, rather than her father, no matter what … and I also think that Henry’s cruelty to Mary, after Anne’s death was much more damaging, simply because it couldn’t be blamed on Anne.

    To show how good Mary was as a child, I think it important to note that it was Mary (not Jane) who began reconciling Henry with the infant Elizabeth … and Mary started to do this almost as soon as she herself was restored to favor.

    I don’t think Mary was any more “bloody” than any other ruler of her time; her father killed a lot more people (equally as brutally) for similar crimes, but he called it “treason”. Her victims (the Protestants) eventually “won”, which is why she is “bloody” and he is not. I do think, though, that her attitude towards religion was shaped by what she endured, first from her father and then from her brother and his advisors … and if there is one thing that is keeping them burning in h***, it is what they turned Mary into from the loving girl who cared for the infant Elizabeth.

  29. kim says:

    according to the tudors wiki, mary was considered an apostle of toleration in comparsion to many european monarchs. Catherine Parr even named her daughter after her. anne was even more tolerant because she halted burnings of heretics during her “reign”. but why was anne so quick tempered? was it because she wasn’t adquately disciplined when she was young?

    1. Claire says:

      If you compare her to the Spanish Inquisition, perhaps, but there were many many burnings in a very short period of time. She only reigned from 1553-1558. Catherine was close to Mary, but Catherine died in 1548, before Mary took the throne, and Catherine would have been horrified by Mary’s actions because she, herself, would have been in danger, and of course people she knew (e.g. Cranmer) were burned by Mary.

      A quick temper is a personality trait. Anne was given a very good upbringing and education and I’m sure that she would have been very well disciplined. She was brought up at home until she was sent to Margaret of Austria’s court, where she would have learned how to behave as a great lady.

      1. kim says:

        interesting. did anne and mary ever hit each other and scratch each other? nothing serious, but that seems to be something girls do to each other. was it socially acceptable for queens to slap faces and box ears? did anne ever do that to mary? i read that elizabeth did that to her ladies. did they insult each other a lot?

        was anne aware that she had a bad temper? i wasn’t for almost 18 years and her temper reminds me of mine. it’s so hard to change, but i think she did at the end for elizabeth and others’ sakes.

        did henry enjoy bullying mary? did he really mock her for not having a hubby & kids.

        1. Annalucia says:

          “did he really mock her for not having a hubby & kids.”

          How could he, when she couldn’t marry without his permission, and he never gave it?

  30. margaret says:

    good grief,what a terrible time to live,but i still think they ,the tudors were all a little mad, and although anne was not very nice to mary ,i blame marys problems on her mothers fanatical ,pious living, katherine of aragon seemed to relish the hurt she endured and this would not have been a healty mental attitude to have had around a very impressionable girl such as mary .mary really had no one but her mother to lean on and she was never going to acknolwedge anne as queen over her mother and anne should have known this and went very gently about this,henry was typically the absent father and didnt help at all ,mary got very embittersd in later life and it was not helped when philip came along she “over loved” him ,its no wonder she had a phanthom pregnancy ,she was desparate for love but even if she,mary had ,had a baby ,this child would have been smothered with too much love ,not healthy at all .if it was these times they all would be in therapy for years .

    1. Tidus says:

      margaret I love your comment and agree with all of it.
      Especially in that along with Henry I also blame Mary’s
      problems on her mother’s fanatical, pious living…
      As far as the Tudors being a little mad, I think some were
      more than a little, especially Henry & Mary. COA was also.
      With Henry & Catherine as parents, Mary never stood a chance.

  31. Angie says:

    I never had any interest in british history, or any history until I watched The Tudors. Although its technically a fiction, I love that show!

    1. Bianca says:

      So is this website’s content, don’t trust it, she is extremely extremely biased. There’s lots of non facts and opinion pieces she strews in to her writing.

  32. kim says:

    mostly henry’s fault, but everyone who treated her creully hand a role in damaging her and deserve part of the blame. i think in different circumstances they would’ve been friends or at least got along. i think anne would’ve gotten away with physically hurting/humiliating mary more if she wanted to, but chose the high road some of the time. they were very similar, but key differences are that mary had a more sensible temper, fanaticism drilled into her, and anne was more outgoing and flirty.

  33. David says:

    What is relevant here is that Queen Mary, unlike her younger half-brother King Edward VI (ruled: 1547-1553), tried to reverse her father’s separation from the Church of Rome. Shortly after becoming Queen, Mary Tudor became the husband of Prince Philip of Spain in 1554, then after his father Holy Roman Emperor Charles V abdicated in 1556, she became Queen Consort of Spain. Charles V had been in control of most of the Christian and civilized world at that time. By the time of Charles’ death in 1558, the empire had been divided between his brother Ferdinand and son Philip, but Philip II got most of the Western Hemisphere, and Spain and the Netherlands (The Seventeen Provinces), which at that time stretched from Artois into parts of Germany. Queen Mary and Philip were fanatical Catholics, so that English Protestants saw Philip’s worldwide Catholic empire as a very threatening and oppressive situation. Under Queen Mary’s Marriage Act, which passed Parliament, Philip was to be named “King of England”, but with a lot of limitations. However, when Queen Mary died without issue in 1558, her half-sister Elizabeth I, as the Protestant daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, was elevated to the throne. Phillip’s “Catholic” rule of Spain and the new world became more and more repressive over time, and in the wake of Elizabeth’s support for the Revolt of the Netherlands in 1568, England’s erstwhile Spanish Catholic King sent the Armada of 120 ships in 1588 to depose her and restore the status of the English Catholic Church and the Catholic nobles who had been persecuted by Elizabeth; which was the same reason for the Gunpowder Plot by Guy Fawkes, who had served in the Spanish Army, to blow up Parliament in 1605. So Anne’s daughter, who was declared ineligible for the throne for some time, was to triumph over the world’s greatest naval and military power of the time.

  34. Helen Davis says:

    It’s really all Anne’s fault. She’s the woman who broke up Henry and KOA, who wanted Mary killed. Till,anne came,along, henry adored Mary

    1. Claire says:

      I’m not sure it’s accurate to say that Anne Boleyn broke Henry and Catherine up. Henry already viewed his marriage as invalid before he took a fancy to Anne, he was looking into an annulment and thinking about a new wife. Also, Anne rebuffed Henry and left court to try and get away from him. One historian has gone as far as to say that Henry’s wooing of Anne, the way he bombarded her with letters and gifts etc. even after she’d retreated to Hever, can be seen as sexual harassment and Wyatt appears to depict Anne as a deer that is hunted down.

      I don’t think Henry stopped loving Mary, he was angry with her for defying him, after all he saw himself as God’s anointed monarch who should be obeyed by all his subjects.

      1. Helen Davis says:

        Good points. I really only know the story from Mary’s perspective more than Anne’s.

  35. Miss kitty says:

    I think your right Anne might have been only defending herself Mary might have been the nasty one didn’t Mary take revenge on Cranmer when all he did was do as he was told if someone like chapuys was pouring vitriol in marys ear maybe she had something to do with Anne’s fall

  36. Bianca says:

    I’m so glad you’re being called out for your bias in the comments! Mary killed less people than all the ruling people in her family yet SHES the bloodiest one? Didn’t her father kill over a thousand women, men and children in a single instance? Why isn’t he called Bloody Henry? Her enemies gave her that title but she was even less blood thirsty than the average monarch. It’s absolutely horrible how you paint all these different women for the sake of glamorizing your chosen feminist archetype(Anne) this is literally all for Anne and it’s sad. Not realizing that you rewriting history for multiple different women that were victims of your prized Henry is the most unfeminist and patriarchal thing you could do. She wasn’t this bold, feminist archetype that you keep trying to paint her as, she was an opportinist who was simply trying to better her own life and placement in the world. She wasn’t this bold, ahead of her time type of woman you want her to be.You’re a pick me who brags about a misogynistic, murderous man’s lust for someone and clearly views it as a measuring stick for all of these women’s worth. Your page should be shut down.

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