England’s first Queen regnant was born on 18 February 1516 to Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII of England, and she was to be their only child to survive infancy. She grew up under the pressure of several suitors, first to the French Dauphin and later to her first cousin Charles V. Mary was educated very well and even presided over the Welsh Marshes. However, she was never officially invested Princess of Wales (to this date, no woman has carried the title in her own right). By the 1530s, Mary’s world was to be changed forever. Her father, desperate for a male heir, sought an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In this ‘Great Matter’ he eventually separated from Rome and declared himself head of the Church of England.
Mary was not allowed to see her mother, who had been banished first to the More and later to Kimbolton Castle. Mary was declared illegitimate and was now known as ‘Lady Mary’. After the birth of her half-sister Elizabeth, she was sent to serve her. Mary never recognised Anne Boleyn as Queen or Elizabeth as Princess and during this time she was often ill. Her mother died in January 1536 and Mary was inconsolable. They had not been allowed to be together. Anne Boleyn was executed in May 1536, and he was quickly remarried to Jane Seymour, who acted as peacemaker. Mary was first bullied into signing a document confirming her illegitimacy before being allowed to return to court. Mary gained a half-brother when Jane Seymour gave birth to the future Edward VI in October 1537, and she was the chief mourner at Jane’s funeral when she died two weeks after childbirth.
She was finally returned to the line of succession in 1544, though she officially remained illegitimate. Her brother succeeded in 1547, and they had a problematic relationship. Mary always remained a devout Catholic. Edward was sickly, though. He died on 6 July 1553 and after a brief struggle for the throne with Lady Jane Grey, or rather her advisors, Mary succeeded her brother. Her coronation took place on 1 October 1553 at Westminster Abbey. She then turned her attention towards finding a husband. She hoped to secure the Catholic successions by producing an heir, but she was already 37 years old. She married Philip of Spain on 25 July 1554 at Winchester Cathedral, just two days after they first met.
Her intense desire to have a child probably caused her to have a false pregnancy. Even Philip doubted if she was truly pregnant. She never did give birth to a living child. She again believed herself to be pregnant in 1558, but she became ill from May 1558. She died on 17 November 1558. Her wishes to be buried next to her mother were defied, and she was buried in Westminster Abbey in a tomb she would eventually share with her successor Elizabeth.