Mary Tudor, the only surviving child of the union of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, was born into royal splendor but life soon taught her that nothing lasts forever. She was truly her mother’s daughter, clinging to the Catholic faith they shared while at the same time this very devotion separated them when they needed the comfort of the other the most. Mary has been vilified by history; “Bloody Mary” really says it all. Personally, I have never cared for the woman I have come to know through the historical study of the period, but I have always admired her mother, for her strength and determination and wanted to give Mary another look.
After the separation and divorce of her parents Mary is set aside and called to serve upon her baby half sister, now the Princess she once was. I can imagine this insult was not only cruel and hurtful but most likely destroyed what little self-confidence she might have had left. From the time of her separation from her mother until her death Mary knows little true affection from any other human soul.
Lee successfully humanizes Mary and softens the edges of her devout religious fanaticism. Lee portrays an unhappy woman who feels divinely placed to restore the True Faith to England. Sadly, the reforms become brutal as they are resisted and Mary zealously initiates public burnings of Reformist heresy. Mary it seems is so rigid in nature that to her rebellion should only be met with greater force; she is unable to see the connection between extreme reform which is only successful under threat and fear of death as an obstacle to peace and stability in her realm. Mary is just unable to do things any other way.
A lonely woman, Mary yearns for marriage, and not until her late thirties is she wed to Phillip II of Spain. Mary is enchanted with Phillip and she does not seem to recognize that the marriage is unpopular and the groom miserable. Truly, who could not feel for Mary as she suffers two phantom pregnancies and then is abandoned by her husband? Lee guides the reader through Mary’s life rich with disappointment and almost devoid of true friendship or love. Mary’s legacy was never realized; rather her vision to return England to Rome was most likely the final nail in the coffin of Catholicism in England. Her legacy is a somber one, an English queen who sacrificed her people to her God.
I enjoyed Julianne Lee’s account and would recom