The Birth of Mary I – 18 February 1516

On this day in history, in the early hours of Monday 18th February 1516, at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a healthy daughter. It was Catherine’s sixth pregnancy (some say fifth) and it must have been a relief to hear the baby cry and see her wriggle, even if she was ‘just’ a girl.

Anna Whitelock describes how, three days after her birth, this baby girl was baptised at the nearby Church of the Observant Friars with Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury, standing as her godmother. At the end of the ceremony, heralds proclaimed:-

“God send and give long life unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King’s Higness.”

The little girl had been named Mary after her father’s favourite sister, Mary Tudor, and Linda Porter writes of how the baby princess was “small but pretty” and “already showed signs that she had inherited the red-gold hair of both her parents and the clear Tudor complexion.” She had also inherited her parents’ pride, intelligence and strength of character. As her parents gazed at their daughter, breathing sighs of relief that she seemed fit and healthy, they would have had no idea that this tiny girl would one day be Queen of England, that she would face many challenges with courage and would fight for her throne and win. Whatever we think of Mary, the “Bloody Mary” of myth and legend or the damaged daughter of a tyrant, she should be admired for her achievements. In an excellent article on Mary, in BBC History magazine, historian David Loades listed some of Mary’s achievements:-

  • She preserved the Tudor succession
  • She strengthened the position of Parliament by using it for her religious settlement
  • Mary established the “gender free” authority of the English crown
  • She restored and strengthened the administrative structure of the Church
  • Mary maintained the navy and reformed the militia

Loades concluded that “Parliament, the revenues, the navy, even the church benefited from her policies. But the big beneficiary was also the least grateful – Elizabeth. Without her sister’s enlightened legislation and sound administration she would have had a much harder time.”

I have to agree with Loades, we can admire Elizabeth and think of her reign as a Golden Age, but would Elizabeth have been as successful if her sister had not paved the way for her? It’s hard to say. I would also add another achievement to that list and that is Mary taking the throne back from Lady Jane Grey; after all, Mary was outnumbered and Jane was in the stronger position being on the throne already. It took guts to fight for the throne in the way that Mary did and it took a good politician and leader to rally support like that.

Anyway, you can read more about Mary I in the following articles:-


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12 thoughts on “The Birth of Mary I – 18 February 1516”
  1. I admire Mary, in the fact that her was a really good person. She passed for a lot of things in the childhood and life, in general, as lost her mother and see how ‘insane’ her father become.

  2. Mary had been the first daughter born to King Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon but she had not been their first child she had just been the only one to have had survived until adulthood. Mary has never been a favourite character of mine but I still have a degree of credibilllity for her being a Tudor of course and a Queen of royal blood.

    She had been blood thirsty just the same and like her predessescors before her the only difference is, is that Mary seemed to have a tendency orf executing the clergy and a lot of them throughout her four year reign as Queen. She had a lot of her clerics killed and executed via being tied and then burnt at the stake as had been and was the method of punishment for people of the clergy if they had commited a treasonable offence even though she did a few people executed by axe but mostly it had been by burning, they said she had a yearning for protestant burning. Those clerics included the protestant bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley aswell as the protestant Archbishop Thomas Cranmer being arrested then interred at the Tower and then burnt for their religion. Those had suffered at the stroke of the axe during her reign had been the likes of Guilford Dudley, John Dudley the Earl of Somerset later on the Duke of Northumberland and Lady Jane Grey and then later on Henry Grey the Duke of Suffolk. May did although give them a choice to recant but these offers had been so much substantially ignored and refused by the traitors or said traitors of the time.

    Mary deffinately had been a religious devout, strongly catholic, she viewed very strong in her beliefs butt hen again we and I could say that just about any Tudor could we not!? well with the exception of Katheryn Howard of course who never ever really showed an ounce of interest in religion at all which would rule Katheryn out as being somewhat what different to other Tudor people living at the time. One does although at the same time have to sympathise with Mary due to the fact that she lived during a difficult time which saw so many changes so undoubtedly this must have had an effect of some sort on her life, seeing her mother and father seperate and then divorce, Mary being refused permittence to see her mother even when she had been at her lowest ebb, when she had been ill and near death and nearly dying still she was not granted just this, but that is Henry’s fault there as he would not allow it unfortunately plus not being able to get what had belonged to her mother which would have been rightly hers in the end with the exception of the Queen jewels of course as they had to go back to King and the crown also the next Queen that being Anne Boleyn but anything else, anything that had been rightly Katherines which she had owned from Spain and from England like katherine requested upon her deathbed should have gone straightly aswell as directly to her daughter.

    Mary had died of stomach cancer, probably ovarian due to her symptoms at the age of fourty which had been ten years younger than when her mother died as her mother had been fifty and her father fifty-five but had died from cancer just the same as mother Katherine which was and probably had been inherited and passed down via the mother but what amazed me was that not only did Mary die on this day of this year but also did Cardinal Pole, a catholic cardinal by the name of Reginald who had of couse descended from the old and great Pole family, who just happned to be related to Margaret Pole, the woman that King Hnery VIII so ruthlessly had executed back in 1541 when married to Katheryn Howard as Katheryn had and was known to have been sympathetic and shown some sympathy as she had asked Henry to provide Margaret with some warm blankets and he did at her request, at her bidding.

    The fact that Queen Mary I and Cardinal Regianld Pole both share the same date of death in history amazes me being both of the same religion and being both quite close too this just killed two birds with one stone if you like, perhaps it had been karma due and down tot he fact that all through her reign she so brutally and evily killed off the protestant clergy, now it her turn for one of her most not only trusted, friend and ally but for also of that of one of her own catholic clergymen to be killed. Odd but true.

    1. I agree with much of what you say but find statements about people being punished as Karma for something else as totally ridiculous. I am not condoning the persecution of anyone, Catholic or heretics, but that has nothing to do with Karma but the poor judgement of human beings. Henry and Mary would have seen the variety of reformers and heretics as dangerous, as a threat against the order of society, as dividing the true Church, as lost, it was their choice not to accept the opportunity to return to the Church as they saw it, and opportunities were given to them. Elizabeth and Edward saw Catholic priests and converts, those who hid them and helped them or who refused to attend Protestant service as traitors and they also saw other none conforming Christians as heretics. It had nothing to do with evil, people were often charged by their neighbours, not the crown, but as an attempt to redeem those who refused mercy. Nobody can understand or condone those persecutions, but it is utter nonsense saying someone died as a result of decisions in their lives. Catholics were persecuted for over 300 years, reformers for five, the work of men and women, not God or Karma. By the way I actually know people whose religious beliefs involve the true idea of Karma and they would find your ideas shocking and a distortion of how Karma actually works. I personally do not believe in Karma but I wouldn’t misrepresent the belief of others and respect those who do believe it, the true meaning that is.

  3. I’d like to think history would’ve been much kinder to her, had it not been for the way her teen years were completely turned upside down.

    1. How long have you got? Mary was courageous, rallied her people against rebellion, pardoned more people accused of treason and rebellion than any other monarch, was persecuted by her own father, stood by her mother and the truth, defied her father and brother and made a public display of her faith, forgave her father, showed mercy to many of her enemies and was much more generous and personally kind than some people claim. She abolished the law passed by her father to execute mad people for treason, which he passed against Jane Boleyn. Her social and economic changes helped many ordinary people and she reformed the currency and export taxation. She protected industry at home and restored the Catholic Church which is what most people wanted.

      I would recommend three books about Mary by Linda Porter and Anna Whitelock and The Kings Pearl by Melita Thomas which is about her relationship with her father.

  4. OK, some good things about Mary.

    She was, despite her reputation, a kind person and more merciful than many other rulers when it came to political offences. She did not execute Jane Grey and her husband straight away, as her father would have done. It was only Wyatt’s rebellion that forced her hand. She also pardoned Jane’s mother Frances Brandon and favoured her at Court, along with her two remaining daughters, Catherine and Mary.

    Although a devout Catholuc, Mary was not blindly obedient and recognised the need for reform. She favoured an English translation of the Bible and, together with Cardinal Pole, raised the standard of the clergy and did her best to eliiminate corruption.

    Mary was not the strait-laced woman that she is often depicted as being. She loved cards, fine clothes, and dancing, to the extent that her puritanical brother Edward told her off for her enjoyment of the latter, which he considered unseemly.

    Mary sharply restricted the powers of her husband, Philip of Spain, making it clear that she was in charge and he was only her consort.

    And, as Claire said in her original article, she strengethened both the Crown and Parliament and established the right of legitimate succession, regardless of gender.

    Of course, Mary made mistakes, not least in her burning of ‘heretics’ and her unpopular marriage, but one wonders what would have happened if Mary had reigned longer than five years, especially if she had eased up on the persecutions.

  5. Mary was simply the product of the cruelty of her father. After a chldhood filled with the love and adoration of both parents, suddenly she was thrusted into a world where her mother was no longer considered to be Queen, her father denied her legitimacy, and she was forced to pay homage to the woman who replaced her mother, as well as help take care of that woman’s child – the child who had replaced her in her fathers’ heart. All these things had to affected her emotionally and mentally. She lived under the threat of death as long as Anne Boleyn died and after the execution she still had to contend with her father refusing to see her until she signed an affidavit stating she believed her parents marriage to be invalid and herself a bastard. Once Henry died, she lived under the threat of prsion or worse with her Protestant brother coninually harassing her to be Prostestant. Once Edward passed, she had to fight for her throne and thanks to Phillip, murder an innocent to secure her marriage. That she could fall so hopelessly in love with Phillips’ potrait is a sure sign that Mary was suffering psychological damage, and it did not end with her obtaining her crown. Phillip was a mastermind in manipulating her into giving him money and weapons for his wars. “Give me or I want come back to England.” “Give me or I’ll leave.” No wonder she had an imaginery pregnacy! She never achieved her dream of a loving husband and children; a family with her as the beloved mother. I think she would have been happier as a farmers’ wfe rather than queen; it would have been a harder life but if she had a family that loved her, I think she would have felt she had the world.
    I pity Mary for the hardships and lack of love in her life; that the cruelties she suffered obviously affected her and she continued them and most of all because Henry did not allow her to say good bye to her dying mother – an act of cruelty that had to sit heavy in her soul for all her life. Mary is a sad figure, one to be pitied, not hated. May she rest in peace and find her paradise in Heaven.

  6. THATS THE SAME AS MY BIRTHDAY 🙂 she is one of my best Historical females ever !!!! including anne boylen and anne of cleves (i know what you think about me liking her but i do)

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