Marriages have served many purposes throughout history, including political and religious ones. Such was the case of Mary Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Mary, who was a Catholic, had come to the throne of England somewhat unexpectedly and against her younger brother’s wishes. However, Edward VI died at the age of 15 on July 6th 1553 from a lung infection and Mary was the next in line. England had undergone a religious upheaval under Henry VIII, who had separated the Church of England from Papal authority. Edward had been committed to the ongoing religious reform and was concerned that his oldest sister would return England to the old faith.
Edward attempted by means of the Succession Act, which excluded Mary and Elizabeth form the line of succession, failed and Mary, after political rankling with Jane Dudley, her first cousin once removed, became Queen of England at the age of 37. Once monarch she turned her attention to marriage, at least partly motivated by her desire to ensure that England remained a Catholic nation. Once married she would be able to produce a heir, thereby preventing her protestant half-sister Elizabeth, becoming the next English monarch in line with their father’s will and the Succession Act of 1554.
Early suitors put forward included the Catholic nobles Edward Courtenay and Reginald Pole, however it was her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s suggestion of his son, Prince Philip of Spain that went ahead. Mary was excited to be marrying Phillip who she considered to be handsome having previously seen a portrait of him. With Philip a powerful Catholic ruler, the marriage was also seen as a significant step to returning England to Catholicism once again. For Phillip this would be his second marriage (his first wife having died a few years before) and while not thrilled with the idea, he could see its political advantages.
The marriage proposal was not well received by the English nation and Lord Chancellor Gardniner, along with the House of Commons, petitioned Mary to consider marrying an Englishman. Despite the protestations Mary insisted on the marriage. Insurrections broke out, including the ambitious Wyatt’s Rebellion, led by Thomas Wyatt.
Mary swept all opposition the wedding took place at Winchester Cathedral on July 25th 1554, two days after their first meeting; it was a grand affair with the walls of the cathedral draped in Flemish flags, carpets and standards. The wedding was taken by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester.
With the marriage having taken place Phillip was created “King of England” and ruled alongside rather than being a step below Mary. Though King he had to run things past Mary, much to his dissatisfaction. Mary had a deep affection for Phillip but apparently Phillip did not have the same feelings towards Mary.
In addition to being monarchs of England, Charles V ceded to Philip the crown of Naples along with his claim to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, thereby making Mary Queen of Naples and titular Queen of Jerusalem.
The married couple's family life now looked to the next stage, producing an heir, the focus of our next blog on the couple.
This scene was built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see them first.
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