Mary I: The First Virgin Queen

The life and death of Bloody Mary

Mary I (18 Feb. 1516 – 17 Nov. 1558) was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death. She was a queen driven by religious zealotry who would send hundreds of her subjects to burn at the stake for not renouncing their faith. Aptly, she gained a notoriety and was given the nickname “Bloody Mary”.

This documentary is presented by Dr David Starkey. It is a compelling story of two of England’s most striking monarchs: a brother and sister, tied by blood and affection, and torn apart by religion, power, and some of the bloodiest episodes in English history.

Mary (who was to become England’s first reigning Queen since Matilda but who is best known to generations of British schoolchildren as Bloody Mary) was the first born child of Henry VIII. For 20 years she was heir to her adored father.

Then came the birth of her little half-brother Edward, and Mary found herself cast into the shadows, ignored by her father and declared illegitimate by Act of Parliament. Nonetheless she became very attached to the motherless boy, and he to her, declaring her his dearest sister.

When Edward was just nine, their father died and the young boy became King, surrounded by advisors and further distanced from his beloved elder sister. But by now they were divided not just by power and status, but also by faith.

Mary was a staunch Catholic, Edward a reforming Protestant: at this time such matters were not an issue of personal choice but matters of life or death, treason or heresy.

Within a few years Mary was under virtual house arrest and banned from celebrating mass; within a few more years Edward was dead at the tragically early age of 16 and Mary became Queen.

The new queen set about making England a Catholic country once more and hundreds of Protestants, including Edward’s most trusted advisors, were burnt at the stake because they refused to renounce their faith.

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Mary I: The First Virgin Queen