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Mary Tudor, Queen Mary I of England
Paternal 3rd Cousin, 15x removed

Mary Tudor was the only daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mary was born on February 18, 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. Mary was the only child of Henry VIII and Catherine to survive to adulthood, although there were 4 other children conceived (all either died shortly after birth or were stillborn).

Although King Henry doted on his daughter, he still wanted a legitimate male heir to the throne. In 1533, after failing to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church and declared himself head of the Church of England. This allowed Henry to declare his marriage to Catherine invalid and he married another cousin of this author, Anne Boleyn. Mary was declared illegitimate and was demoted from Princess to Lady Mary, and her place in the line of succession was moved and Elizabeth (her half sister) from her father's new marriage to Anne Boleyn took her place.

Mary had been raised in the Catholic faith, and would remain defiant of her father's requests that she recant Catholicism and follow the Church of England's teachings. Mary's devotion to her faith would remain strong throughout her life, and would be the cause of many conflicts during her reign as England's first ruling Queen.

Mary refused to acknowledge Anne Boleyn as Queen, and she also did not accept Elizabeth as a Princess. This, along with her refusal to accept her father, King Henry VIII as the head of The Church of England, enraged her father. Mary and her father did not speak to one another for a period of 3 years.

In 1536, Anne Boleyn fell from favor of King Henry VIII and was executed. Henry promptly declared his daughter Elizabeth illegitimate and removed her from the line of succession to the Crown.

It was only at the insistence of Henry's third wife, Jane Seymour (my 7th cousin, 14x removed) that Henry tried to reconcile with his daughter, Mary. The reconciliation was not an easy one and Henry made many demands of Mary, including her acknowledging him as the head of The Church of England and dismissing papal authority and acknowledging her illegitimacy. Mary played with her father by stating she recognized him as much as God would allow, but eventually she was forced to sign documents acknowledging her father's demands. 

Mary's "acceptance" of her father's demands allowed her to return to court and receive a household budget. She was also given use of several royal residences in various locations throughout England.

Mary's father went on to have a total of 6 wives, and a total of 5 children, only 3 of whom lived to adulthood including Mary's half-brother, Edward through Henry's brief marriage to Jane Seymour. Having a male heir meant that Edward was moved to the head of the line of succession to the Crown. When Henry VIII died in 1547, Edward ascended to become King Edward VI of England. The young king had been raised a Protestant, as had his half-sister Elizabeth, but his eldest half-sister Mary was a staunch Catholic, a fact which would bring significant discord in the relationship between Mary and Edward.

Prior to his death in 1547, King Henry VIII had returned both Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, most likely under the assumption that Edward VI would be heir and that he would marry and produce a male heir himself. However, Edward VI died at the age of 15 on July 6, 1553, without an heir. Edward VI had tried to have Mary removed from the line of succession as he feared that if she became Queen, she would return England to the Catholic faith. However, his attempts to have Mary declared illegitimate failed. Edward VI even tried to appoint Lady Jane Grey (my 4th cousin, 14x removed) as his heir. Jane Grey had a claim to the throne, but it was tenuous and she was much father removed from the line of succession than Mary or Elizabeth.

On July 6, 1553, Lady Jane Grey was declared Queen by a handful of supporters lead by her father in-law, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland. Mary, along with her half-sister Elizabeth, her supporters and military forces entered London on August 3rd.  Lady Jane Grey and her husband were Guilford Dudley, were arrested and deposed on July 19th after support for Jane had fallen. Her fate was now in the hands of the rightful Queen of England, Mary.

Mary was crowned Queen on October 1, 1553 at Westminster Abbey. One of Mary's first acts as Queen was to order the release several of her Catholic supports from their imprisonment at the Tower of London. As for Lady Jane Grey and her husband, Mary understood that they had been pawns in a scheme to take the crown from her. Rather than immediately execute the couple, she had them imprisoned at the Tower. Dudley's father, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, was the only person of rank to be immediately executed for treason.

Mary was in a difficult position regarding Lady Jane Grey. Although Jane and Guildford had been found guilty of high-treason, which was punishable by death, Mary knew that they had merely been pawns in The Duke of Northumberland's plans. Jane's fate was to be either burned at the stake or beheaded, whichever "the Queen pleases". At first it appeared that Queen Mary would spare Jane such a fate, but her father's involvement in another rebellion against the Queen in February, 1554, sealed Jane and Guildford's fates. The rebellion, known as Wyatt's rebellion, lead to the capture and execution of a number of conspirators. Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth, was also arrested and held at the Tower of London for 2 months before being subjected to house arrest at Winchester Palace.

Lady Jane Grey was executed on Tower Hill on February 12, 1554, along with her husband, Guilford Dudley. They had been found guilty of treason and were removed from the Royal line of succession permanently.

Mary turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir to the throne. She was now 37, and although she had been contracted to marry several times in her life, none had come to fruition. Producing a Catholic heir would prevent, in her mind, the Protestant religion from remaining in England.

Mary married Prince Phillip of Spain at Winchester Cathedral on July 25, 1554. Phillip was the son of King Charles V of Spain. The marriage was one of political convenience; for Mary, she hoped that the marriage would produce a Catholic heir to the British throne; for Phillip, it would provide political and strategic gains for him and for Spain.

In September, 1554, Mary showed all the signs of being pregnant; she had stopped menstruating, she had morning sickness and she gained weight. Elizabeth was released from house arrest in late April, 1555, in order to witness the birth of Mary and Phillip's first child. However, despite having all the signs of being pregnant, Mary was not pregnant. These signs of pregnancy continued until July, 1555, until they finally subsided. Mary was devastated.

Mary considered the "false" pregnancy to be God's punishment to her for tolerating the heretics in her kingdom. Phillip then left England to lead his troops against France, further devastating the Queen (who was in love with Phillip). During this time, Elizabeth remained at court, having apparently been restored to favor. 

Although Mary had signed a proclamation that none of her subjects would be forced to follow her religion in 1553 after her coronation, a number of Protestants luminaries were imprisoned. Some 800 wealthy Protestants fled in exile while others were executed as heretics. Execution was carried out by burning the Protestants alive at the stake. Although condemned even by some of Mary's staunch supporters, Mary continued this policy until her death, exacerbating the divisions in England between Catholics and Protestants.

Phillip returned to England in 1557, after which Mary once again thought that she was pregnant, with an expecting date of March, 1558. However, once again Mary was not pregnant and no heir was born. Mary was now forced to accept that her half-sister, Elizabeth, would end up being the lawful heir to the English throne.

From May, 1558, Mary's health declined rapidly. It is thought that she may have suffered from ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer. She was in extreme pain, whatever the actual cause may have been. This pain took its toll on the Queen. In addition to these health problems, an influenza outbreak occurred during November, 1558. 

Queen Mary I, the first Queen Regent to rule England, died on November 17, 1558 at St. James's Palace. She was 42 years of age at the time of her death.

Queen Mary I was entombed at Westminster Abbey on December 14, 1558. Her half-sister, now Queen Elizabeth I, would join her in death, both Queen's sharing the same tomb after Elizabeth's death in 1603.

So that is the very brief story of my 3rd cousin, 15x removed, Queen Mary I, often referred to as "Bloody Mary" for her persecution of the Protestants during her brief reign. Whether or not Mary deserves this moniker can be debated, but there is no doubt that being a Royal during her time was a perilous undertaking.


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