In January 1558, there were again rumours of a pregnancy for Mary. It had been eight months since Mary had seen her husband, Philip, but she held firm that she was pregnant. She wrote a will at the end of March, ‘thinking myself to be with child in lawful marriage between my said dearly beloved husband and lord, although I be at this present (thanks be unto Almighty God) otherwise in good health, yet foreseeing the great danger by which by God’s ordinance remain to all women in their travail of children, have thought good, both for the discharge of my conscience and continuance of good order within my realm and dominions to declare my last will and testament…’
When no child came, there was no public humiliation; it simply went away. Mary and her half-sister Elizabeth saw each other for the last time at the end of February 1558. Elizabeth stayed just a week before returning to Hatfield. In the summer, disease came to England, and the harvest suffered because of the lack of workmen. The disease was not the feared ‘sweat’ that had wreaked havoc in the country before; this disease took longer to claim its victims. At the end of August, Mary’s lady-in-waiting, Jane Dormer, fell ill, and Mary had her own physician attend to her. Jane recovered but was faced with a Queen who was not at all well.
Mary was stricken with fever and, over the next few weeks, was slowly getting worse. She was well occasionally but never well enough. Her ally Charles V died at the end of September, followed by his sister Mary. For Philip, everything came at once. He was away when Mary lay ill and now also had to take care of his father’s and aunt’s funerals.
Mary had come to realise Elizabeth would succeed her, as ‘God hath hitherto sent me no fruit nor heir of my body’.
By November, Mary was at St. James’s Palace and was drifting in and out of consciousness. It did not appear that she was in a lot of pain, and she was dreaming of little children singing to her. On 17 November at 6 o’clock in the morning, Mary heard mass, after which she rested. Her faith had always been her greatest comfort. Just before 7 o’clock, she quietly slipped away and at first, her attendants did not notice that she had died. England’s first Queen regnant had passed away, still only 42 years old.
Though she may have overcome much, her story feels incomplete due to her early death. This amazing woman may have had her faults, but she did not deserve to be marginalised as she has been.
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