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The marriage of Mary Tudor to Phillip of Spain

Updated on December 13, 2011

Female and Single

Mary Tudor was the eldest daughter of King Henry Viiith and became queen in 1553 after the death of her brother, King Edward VI and the brief rule of Lady Jane Grey. Mary was unmarried and England occupied an important position in the balance of power in Europe. The Emperor Charles recognised the importance of England, who still held Calais, controlling both sides of the English Channel giving safe passage for the treasure ships from South America to the Antwerp markets. In order to consolidate this relationship, Charles suggested that his son, Phillip aged twenty six should marry Mary who was now aged thirty seven. Charles sent one of his most skilled negotiators Renard to negotiate the marriage.

Queen Mary
Queen Mary | Source

A reluctant bride

Mary did not want to marry, she felt that the age gap was too great, but also that a young man like Phillip would require intimate relations which she felt she would not like as she had never felt any carnal desire. Against this was the knowledge that she needed to have a child to exclude her sister Elizabeth from the throne as she knew that Elizabeth would change her religious reforms and follow protestant rather than catholic rites. Mary turned to prayer to help her make the decision to marry Phillip. Political negotiations took place assuring that the Spanish advisers would not interfere in England’s state affairs and that the ministers should only be English born. Phillip was to be crowned King and his name rather than Mary’s should come first in any proclamations. The financial custom of the time was for the bride to provide a dowry but in this marriage, so keen was Charles to make the alliance that gifts of silver were sent from the Mexican mines to the English Queen

The Wyatt Revolt

The Engish public of Tudor times was profoundly xenophobic so when it was generally announced that the Queen was to marry Phillip of Spain there was unrest and resentment amongst the populace. In January 1554 Sir Thomas Wyatt led a revolt, accompanied by a force of 5000 men from Kent , their only demand was that the marriage of Queen Mary to Phillip of Spain be abandoned. The rebels, joined by deserters from the Duke of Norfolk’s troops marched on London. Mary sought support from the people of London and explaining that she loved her subjects as a mother would love her son, asked them to overthrow the rebels. The force loyal to Mary rose to 27,000 easily overwhelming the rebels and the rebellion quickly collapsed.

Phillip of Spain and Mary Tudor were married on 25th July 1554. Those people who saw Phillip accepted him; he was a handsome man, with gallant manners and a habit of giving money to those who came into his path. However Phillips Spanish retainers felt the bad feelings of the English as people barged into them in the streets or even refused to let suitable accommodation to them.

A prince is born?

In September 1554 it was believed that the Queen was pregnant as her womb was swollen and she said that she had felt a child moving inside her. Modern physicians would probably comment that this movement was too early to be a 8 to 10 week old foetus. On 30th April a rumour spread through London that the Queen had given birth to a son and the church bells were rung loudly, however it was then announced that the birth was expected in June. No birth was ever announced and no statement was ever made as to the situation of the Queens pregnancy. To the Queen and followers of the Catholic faith this was a heavy blow. The Queen was old by sixteenth century standards and at the end of her child bearing years.

Like her mother, Catherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor kept her promise to the church on her marriage, and fell madly in love with Phillip. Despite being older than him and less than beautiful, Phillip treated Mary kindly and appeared very fond of her. There were rumours about Phillip and dalliances at court with ladies in waiting but it is believed that this was as a result of efforts made to discredit him in Mary’s eyes rather than his actions. In October 1555 Charles V of Spain, abdicated and left Phillip his American colonies and the Netherlands which meant that Phillip had to leave England. When Phillip took his leave it is reported that Queen Mary took herself to a quiet window seat and cried over his departure, writing letters to him before he had even left the country. After Phillip left the court it became even quieter, dull and sombre, almost as if the court was in mourning.

Mary was then aged forty, a small quiet woman who worked hard on state matters, with little sleep, always maintaining a good correspondence with her husband. How far the Queen’s sense of duty to her husband would take her was seen in the following year. In 1555 the pope died , his successor lived only a few weeks longer and then in April 1555 the first for many years anti Habsburg and pro French pope was elected. Cardinal Caraffa was chosen to become Pope Paul IV, an elderly man with an appetite for eating and drinking and outbursts of uncontrolled anger! Aligning with France the Pope was determined to go to war with Spain to drive Phillip out of Italy where he reigned as King of Naples. The pope issued a proclamation or a bull that deprived King Phillip of his kingdom of Naples, asking at the same time for the support of the French troops to defend the papacy, which achieved the effect of Philip declaring in great reluctance that his troops in Naples needed to invade the Papal states. It was likened to a situation where a son takes desperate action to restrain his father who has, in a fit of madness, picked up a hunting knife and is going to harm himself. As a devoted wife Mary ignored any pleas of the papacy and sided with her husband, declaring war on France. This action distressed Mary so much that her confessor Cardinal Pole sent letters to both the Pope and King Phillip to urge reconciliation and negotiation rather than warfare. The Pope inflamed this idea by removing the role of Papal Legate from Cardinal Pole and recalling him to Rome to answer charges of heresy! Mary would not let Pole go and refused to let the Pope’s messenger enter the country- all of this from a country which had only just succumbed to papal authority. The Spanish troops were a much superior force and the Duke of Alva entered the Papacy and secured peace, leaving King Phillip free to return to his wife in England.

Philip of Spain arrived in England in March 1557, after an absence of 18 months. His visit was not for long as it had been made to organise the invasion of France from the Netherlands with an army comprising Spanish and English soldiers. Phillip left in July 1557 and invaded France with an army of over 40,000 men. They marched on St Quentin and managed a tremendous victory as they outnumbered the French by almost four to one. Mary saw the battle and capture of St Quentin as a great victory and wanted the English people to be proud of their King Phillip, yet there was very little rejoicing in the streets.

During Christmas 1557 the English lost Calais- the last of the French lands. The station commander at Calais had warned that his force was under strength but it was felt that as there was a Spanish battalion less than twenty miles away there was no need to reinforce Calais and anyway the French never attacked in the winter, well not until 1557 that is! Mary was saddened by the loss of Calais, saddened that her husband had reproached the English for not reinforcing the garrison and saddened that the loss of Calais had upset her husband’s battle plans. England never recovered Calais formalising its loss in the peace treaty of 1558.

In early spring of 1558 Mary became seriously ill, there were a number of epidemics going through the country- of diseases for which there was no cure- and which had high mortality rates. Mary’s illness was made worse by a severe depression; she is recorded as regularly enduring long bouts of weeping and unhappiness. The causes of her depression were many and severe, the absence of her husband whom she was devoted to, her illness which affected her whole body, the loss of Calais- no monarch likes to lose territory and the realisation that despite her burnings the protestant faith would not “go away” and the restoration of Catholicism in England was not achieved. Mary realised that even should her husband come home she was too old and ill to have a child and that the next heir Elizabeth, was a committed protestant and would remove the reforms which she had put in place- it appeared as if her life’s work would be undone. Phillip was looking to the future- he saw the importance of building a good relationship with Princess Elizabeth and bade his wife do the same. There is some evidence that he thought that he would marry Elizabeth after his wife’s death which is believed to have added to the Queens depression. During the later part of the year Mary heard of the death of Charles V and this caused her more distress than could properly have been expected; this was followed by the death of his sister, Mary of Hungary – and the deaths of these catholic monarchs seemed to weigh very heavily with Mary who died , perhaps of a broken heart, on 17th November 1558. A political marriage made with reluctance at first but Mary turned out to be made in her mother’s mould, a loyal and loving wife.


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    • MizLiot profile image

      MizLiot 5 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      This was very interesting! :) Thanks for bringing it to HubPages.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      jenafann- I thought that too-and the guy she loves comes along and then goes away for a long trip, you can't trust your sister and you had 5 step mums- and as for the relatives!!

    • Jenafran profile image

      Jenafran 6 years ago from Tampa Bay Florida

      Thanks for showing the human side of Mary, she sure had a sad life.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      Kitty the dreamer- I guess looks don't count much when you are the most powerful woman in the country! Thanks for your visit.

      Peggy W- yes it is a lovely story- I had read all the bad press about Mary but I wanted to show the more intimate humane side of her. Thanks for your visit

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      That is quite a love story despite their age differences and the distances between them demanded by their ruling roles in history. Thanks! Enjoyed this! Votes up!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      Poor lady, she definitely didn't get blessed with good looks but seems to have been a wonderful/strong woman. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and awesome!

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      gryphin423- So have I am taking the opportunity to read and dwell in that far away time zone. Thanks for your visit

    • gryphin423 profile image

      gryphin423 6 years ago from Florida

      I've always been fascinated by the Tudors, thanks for sharing!

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      Rhymenorreason- thanks for your visit! maybe there is something modern society can learn- it plays havoc with your family relations if dad remarries a lot and keeps bumping off your step mothers!

    • RhymeNorReason profile image

      RhymeNorReason 6 years ago from Planet Zog

      A marriage that was doomed from the start - if the Tudors were around these days they would have their own reality show as they were so dysfunctional! Interesting hub

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      Judi Bee- thanks for the visit- I wanted to write something different from the norm. I wanted to compare her to her mother - both loyal wives , both older than their husbands .

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 6 years ago from UK

      A nice counterpoint to the usual mad, bad "Bloody Mary" angle. I have always some sympathy for Mary, she certainly endured a great deal of unhappiness and upheaval during her early years. Her treatment of her Protestant subjects is hard to condone, but the mindset of a 16th Century absolute monarch is entirely different from our own.

      Voted up and interesting - thanks for sharing.