Saturday, June 13, 2009

(Bloody) Mary

Good Morning! I always did like starting a Saturday morning with a Bloody Mary! (Okay, not the drink this time) I finally finished reading The Children of Henry VIII last night and like most of Alison Weir's books I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book I read just before it, Six WIves by David Starkey, was a bit dry and repetitive in comparison. As much as I love reading about the wives, Starkey's style left me wanting so I turned back to Weir.

I admit, I have little interest in Henry VIII's son by Jane Seymour, Edward VI, but I am still curious about Mary and Lady Jane Grey. Weir's book chronicled Lady Jane's pathetic 9 days as queen but didn't delve very deeply into her abusive family life or her relationship with her husband, Guilford Dudley. Clearly, I must now buy the books on Jane. However, Weir did go into great detail on the reign of Mary I.

Certainly, I will have to read accounts by other historians, but I was left with such a terrible dislike of Mary. Now, I wasn't the most objective reader to begin - being such a fan of Anne Boleyn - but I was open to learning about Mary's good qualities or noble deeds as Queen of England. I was to be disappointed. Perhaps it is not right for me to judge a woman's devotion to her religion especially more than 400 years ago. But as I read about other women of the time who seem to be able to weigh their faith with common sense I can't help but feel that Mary was weak and used her Catholicism not as a comfort, but as a crutch. By the end of her life, she was attending mass nine times a day! How can you get anything else done?

According to Weir, with each tragedy that befell her and her country (phantom pregnancy, famine, etc...) she stepped up the burning of heretics (Protestants). The number of burnings in her short reign in comparison to the rest of the Tudor Dynasty is staggering. But Mary continually felt that G-d was showing his displeasure on her because she was not doing enough to root-out heresy. Even when she was advised to be more merciful by her husband Philip II, Pole and Gardiner she refused to listen. When it came to G-d and Catholicism, she was fanatical.

I must say that I was disappointed that Mary showed little of the strength of her mother or her father. She was descended from two of the bravest lines of princes in the history of the world and she couldn't pluck up the strength to properly reign over England when her husband left the country?!?! I may not be a big fan of hers, but I expected to read about her tenacity, not her pathetic weeping and inability to function without a man who neither loved her nor wanted to even be near her or her country.
Perhaps I seem harsh, but this is a woman who didn't marry until she was nearly 40 years old. More than that, this is a queen! She knew that this was her calling but seemed to shrink from the task.

To be fair, I will read further and perhaps I will find something to like about Mary Tudor.

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