It seems only fitting to end the Year of Mary I with an article on her posthumous reputation. The blackening of Mary’s name began in her sister’s reign, although John Knox was the first to attack her during her lifetime in his best-known pamphlet The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. John Knox wished to demonstrate “how abominable before God is the Empire or Rule of a wicked woman, yea, of a traiteresse and bastard.” It wasn’t just Mary he was attacking; he also aimed his arrows at Mary of Guise who was regent of Scotland on behalf of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. At the time it was published anonymously.
After her death, John Knox’s image of her continued to haunt her. The nickname “Bloody Mary” was the result of Protestant propaganda. Around 300 protestants were burned under Mary, and while Elizabeth persecuted Catholics during her long reign, she is known as “Good Queen Bess”. It hardly seems fair, but then again nothing in Mary’s life had been fair. Any attempt to soften her name wrote her off as a sad tiny woman, who was better suited to being a housewife. It was the other extreme.
Mary should be remembered for paving the way for women everywhere. She was brave enough to face down Anne Boleyn, famously saying
she knew of no Queen in England except her mother, but if Madame Anne Boleyn would speak to her father on her behalf, she would be much obliged.
She faced down her father until she was threatened by the Earl of Essex.
since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the King’s injunctions, he could hardly believe that she was the King’s own bastard daughter. Were she his or any other man’s daughter, he would beat her to death, or strike her head against the wall until he made it as soft as a boiled apple.
When her brother was King, she faced him down regarding her personal religion even reducing them both to tears. She set her sights on marrying the man of her choice and stuck to it, despite insurrections. She believed she was doing the best for England, her England. Her bravery had gotten her to the throne of England.
Despite her unpopularity, she paved the way for her policies of fiscal reform, naval expansion and colonial exploration, which were later attributed to Elizabeth. Mary had demonstrated that a woman could rule in her own right and Elizabeth had made well use of that. England might have been completely different if Mary had had more time. Now, she remains one of the most misunderstood monarchs, though I hope that this series has changed this view somewhat.