Saturday, 15 February 2014

Queen Mary I of England (Bloody Mary) and her attempt to restore England to Catholicism

After King Henry VIII broke away from the Church of Rome back in 1532 the country and its King were still catholic and still followed the catholic faith, although without  deference to the Pope or to Rome.  That in itself troubled a lot of people who firmly believed that the Pope was a direct descendant of St Peter, an illogical assumption since all the popes were supposed to be celibate, and that he was a divine figure.
 
Gradually, protestant ideals began to penetrate and nobody really knew what they were supposed to be.  Sir Thomas More famously lost his head rather than sign Henry's oath making him head of the catholic church in England.
 
Henry's only son, Edward VI, was only ten when he succeeded to the throne, but he had been raised by protestant uncles and now he ruled with the aid of a protestant Protector.  They set about outlawing catholicism, stripping catholics of their property and wealth and imprisoning them.  They allowed priests to marry, something which was unheard of. 
 
Mary I of England - Bloody Mary
Imagine living in this time, when religion was dictated by law.  Everyone was required by law to attend church, which is why even the tiniest village in England has a church, everyone was required by law and on penalty of imprisonment to be of the protestant faith.  Now imagine you had been raised in this land, with its protestant faith, and you were not old enough to remember anything else.  Further imagine that a new queen gained the throne and started to persecute protestants and tell them they were wrong, they had to be catholic, they had to revere the Pope and believe in purgatory, go to confession, hear mass in Latin and believe in transubstantiation, that the wine and bread of the communion really did become the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ.  Imagine what you would do if not believing in this catholic faith, that you had believed obsolete, held the threat of being burned alive, tied to a stake in a public place like Smithfield in London.

Now imagine what would be your answer if a wealthy and handsome catholic earl offered you marriage if you followed his beliefs.  What would you do?
From this puzzle was born The Judas Pledge

A story of the young, protestant daughter of a wealthy merchant, who pledged to give up her faith, among other things, to gain the wealth and title offered by a handsome, amiable earl who would become a chief advisor to the Catholic fanatic, Queen Mary I.
 
This is the story of how she fell in love with him, but betrayed him when her friends and family were condemned and persecuted on his orders.
 
This story has come from both my own imagination and my love of English history and the hero in my own mind bears a remarkable resemblance to the young Anthony Valentine.  If you have ever seen Raffles, an old tv series about the famous jewel thief, you might know what I mean.

Mary Tudor was the first Queen of England in her own right, since the Empress Maude(or Matilda) failed to secure her throne in the twelfth century despite a civil war with her cousin, King Stephen.  Mary had the opportunity to strike a blow, to prove that a woman was capable of ruling without a man to guide her.  Instead, she was so obsessed with religion, so completely consumed with bringing England back under the yoke of Rome, she thought of nothing else.
 
She reigned from 1553 to 1558 and during those five years she burned to death nearly four hundred protestants, including Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, whose Book of Common Prayer is still in use today.  Indeed it was he who wrote the marriage service still spoken in Protestant churches.  She not only failed in her efforts to bring England back to catholicism, she ensured that no catholic would ever again sit securely on the throne of England.  James II was exiled to France when he declared himself a catholic and even today no catholic is allowed in the succession.  No heir to the throne, no matter how remote, is allowed to marry a catholic.  That is the legacy that she left while earning her nickname of 'Bloody Mary'.

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