It’s stories like this that give Christianity a bad name. But a life, any life, even with a mix of evil, pride, bitterness, and anger, can be a sad reflection of the human quest for love and validation. Even in the name of religion. ♦
The true Blood Mary is historic and actually horrific. More so as it’s done in the name of religion, Christianity even.
Sad though, in that it reveals the ways of the human heart, particularly of one scorned, disregarded and left in hurt and shame.
No wonder many, like Mary Tudor, grow up cold, calloused and corrupted in their view of God.
Bloody Mary Tudor
Born in 1516, Mary Tudor was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Yes, that King Henry, the English monarch who had a rough run of 6 marriages: 2 ended in divorce (annulment), 2 wives were executed, 1 died in childbirth, and 1 survived him.
Even though King Henry separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534 (over his desire to divorce 1st wife Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn, whom he would later have beheaded for failing to bear him a male heir), his daughter Mary was raised in the Catholic faith.
When she was 15, her parents divorced, and she and her mother went into separate exiles, never to see each other again. At 17, after the birth of her half-sister, Elizabeth (for non-historians, the one who was the Queen in the movie Shakespeare in Love), and the declaration that her parents’ marriage was void, Mary was declared a bastard.
A difficult change of fortune indeed to lose her title of princess and the right of succession to the throne of England. Since she believed her problems were primarily due to the Reformation in England (Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in Germany in 1517, see BV 4/25/14), Mary clung tenaciously to Roman Catholicism, finding solace in her faith.
After Parliament revoked her parent’s annulment and restored her legitimacy, Mary returned to prominence and became vocal about her Catholicism.1
The Queen Mary
Henry eventually had a son, Edward, who succeeded him as King Edward VI from age 9 to 15, when he died from tuberculosis. He was an evangelical Christian boy who moved England decisively toward Protestantism.
Mary liked her younger step-brother, but not his evangelical faith.
Knowing that Mary was next in line for the throne, Edward amended his father’s will and named his cousin Lady Jane Grey, also an evangelical Christian, as his successor instead of his half-sister Mary.
Jane Grey’s reign lasted just 9 days before she was replaced by Mary, who became Queen Mary 1 in 1553.
The Bloody Queen
Upon becoming queen, Mary set about returning England to its Roman Catholic roots. At first she dealt tolerantly with the Protestants, hoping to convert them to Catholicism. She actually nobly and stated that she would not “compel or constrain consciences” in the matter of religious beliefs.
But within weeks her popularity in England faded as she was derided for her Spanish roots (her mother Catherine was Spanish), her proposed politically arranged marriage to Catholic Philip of Spain, as well for her physical and personal unattractiveness (historians describe her as a scrawny, neurotic, and crabby woman).
She soon feared a Protestant revolt that would place her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth, on the throne. She therefore issued an edict in 1554 that reinstated Catholic worship and outlawed Protestantism and other “heresies.”
She earned the title “Bloody Mary” in enforcing the edict, killing anyone who threatened her, including Lady Jane Grey and her husband and father, and a hundred other rebels who were part of the Protestant plot to take back the throne.
Mary’s reign of terror began in 1555 with the execution of Protestant clergymen and leaders who refused to accept the reestablishment of the Catholic creed. But most of the martyrs burned at the stake were simple laypeople who had been converted to Christ as the Reformation spread through England.
Bloody Mary’s vindictive reign claimed the lives of more than 300 Protestants. It ended with her death in 1558.
While she died a bitter, defeated, and hated woman, one cannot help but feel sorry in the sad, tragic story of young child born into riches, love and glory, then rejected and spit out in humiliation. And by a father who claimed religious piety yet practically practiced nothing but hedonistic selfishness, pride and greed.
Her faith became a private but distorted refuge, vengeful and vindictive, then bitter and spiteful, even cruel and unwavering in its mercilessness.
The evil done over the years in the name of religion, even Christianity, is sordid and dark. But the love of God is not hidden nor diminished by the sins of man. Only highlighted in contrast to man’s inhumanity to man.
Unfortunate are those that would disregard Christ and Biblical Christianity because of the behavior of broken and flawed human followers. Man is flawed, Christ is perfect. Like Mary Tudor, even though born into privilege, we are all products of our own brokenness and that of our parents.
No, no one escapes the struggles of a lost world. But the faith, hope, and assurance we have in Christ Jesus overcomes all levels of worldly darkness and provides a surpassing peace, love, and compassion for all.
1 The One Year Book of Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, Zondervan Publishing, 2003, p. 128.
Do your religious views stem from bitterness or love?
You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death. – Colossians 1:21-22