Tuesday, 21 January 2014

15 Facts about Mary I

Portrait of Mary aged 9
1) Mary was born on the 18th February 1516 and was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon.

2) She was named after Henry VIII's favourite sister.

3) She was fluent in Latin, French, Spanish and could read/write in Italian.

4) Despite often being considered as a bitter old spinster Mary had over 11 suitors throughout her life including: Francis, Dauphin of France; Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor; James V, King of Scotland; Charles, Duke of Orleans; Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon; Reginald Pole; Thomas Seymour; Philip, Duke of Bavaria; Dom Luis of Portugal; William, Duke of Cleves and Philip II, King of Spain (who she actually married).
The chair that Mary is said to
have sat on at her wedding in 1554
(in a collection at Winchester Cathedral)

5) She seems to have been the virtuoso of the Tudor family; excelling at the spinet, lute and virginals. She first performed at the virginals aged four for the French ambassadors to great acclaim and is thought to have taught her younger sister Elizabeth.

6) In 1523 the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives wrote his book 'The Education of a Christian Woman' as a guide for constructing a curriculum for Mary's education.

7) She was the first crowned Queen regnant of England.

Portrait of Mary aged 28
8) She was very charitable. In the memoirs of her close friend Jane Dormer, Jane describes how Mary would go into poor areas of her kingdom to visit the people in their homes and give alms while dressed as a lady of the court in order to conceal her identity.

9) While visiting the royal court, aged two, Mary ran after Dionysius Memo, a Venetian organist, shouting "Priest! Priest!" to get him to play for her.

10) Mary was a keen gambler (though not always a good one) at one point she was spending almost a third of her income on gambling and in 1540 she had to bet the next day's breakfast after she lost her money.

Woodcut from Foxes' Book of
Martyrs showing the burning of
Bishop Farrar in 1555
11) Her favourite foods were wild boar and strawberries, with people often sending them to her as gifts.

12) She was a very devout Catholic who would hear mass several times a day and over the course of her brief reign 283 Protestants were burned at the stake for heresy leading to her becoming known as 'Bloody Mary'.

13) Despite her devotion to Catholicism she was close friends with several notable Protestants, such as Anne Stanhope. Anne was the wife of Edward Seymour and a keen reformer who gave patronage to several Protestant writers but she had a reputation for being incredibly proud, arrogant and snobbish which put her at odds with many people including Katheryn Parr who referred to Anne as "that Hell" ('Hell' being Tudor slang for the vagina...) Despite their differing religious views and personalities Mary and Anne were close friends with Mary affectionately referring to Anne in letters as her "good gossip Nan".

Stunning replica of Mary's wedding dress which was
made for the 450th anniversary of her marriage at a cost
of £3,000.
14)  She became very short-sighted in later life so she had to squint/stare to see things properly. This led to the Venetian ambassador reporting that "her eyes are so piercing that they inspire not only respect, but fear in those on whom she fixes them".

15) She was a bit of a fashionista. Mary adored sumptuous fabrics and jewels with her accounts demonstrating the huge sums of money she spent on clothes cut in the latest European styles. After her death her collection of jewelry and clothes was passed on to Elizabeth who reused some of the gowns, such as Mary's coronation robes.

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