February 2016 | Fiona Karn-Smith


On this day 500 years ago Queen Mary I was born at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich (now home to the ORNC). She was the only child born to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon to survive childhood, however had she been born a boy, it is likely that the whole of English history would have been different!

Mary’s life dramatically changed when Henry VIII divorced Catherine and Married Anne Boleyn who bore Henry another daughter named Elizabeth, Mary was then stripped of her title of princess and was forbidden to access her parents. 

Henry VIII passed away in 1547 when his son Edward reached the tender age of 10 years old! This meant Edward became King, under the protectorate of the Duke of Northumberland, however things took a turn for the worst when it was declared that Edward was dying and the Duke was making plans for his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey to take over the throne…

Edward died in 1553 and Lady Jane briefly became queen, but not for long… Mary was very popular and within days she was on the throne. She was determined to re-impose the Catholicism and even marry Philip II of Spain.

In 1554, Mary crushed a rebellion led by Sir Thomas Wyatt. Making the most of her advantage, she married Philip, pressed on with the restoration of Catholicism and revived the laws against heresy. Over the next three years she became very unpopular. She ordered hundreds of Protestants be burned at the stake, there was a war against France where she lost Calais, England’s last Possession in France and then she was deserted by Philip.

She died on 17 November in 1558 and her hopes of a Catholic England died with her.

In celebration of Queen Mary’s life, our Volunteer Explainers are offering free talks throughout the week.


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