Bloody Mary, by Phil Carradice, is the story of Mary the first’s brief reign as Queen of England, from 1553 to 1558. While very many people have chronicled her half-sister Elizabeth’s reign, not so many have attempted to decipher how Mary attempted to reinstitute Catholicism in England after her father, Henry VIII, tore it apart.
The story of Bloody Mary is quite readable, but doesn’t offer much in terms of a new interpretation of events in her reign. The author frequently refers to Mary as adolescent, especially in terms of her emotions. Indeed, her adolescence was interrupted when she was separated from her mother at an early age, never to see her again.
What the book does offer is lots of new information about who was burned at the stake during’s Mary’s reign. Mostly, these were ordinary men and women who had some objections about the return of Catholicism to the land. Many of her richer Protestant subjects escaped execution by leaving England. Mary apparently used the church as a spying apparatus, with priests and bishops using peepholes at churches to determine who watched when a priest held the host aloft, and who did not. Those who did not were punished, often with the loss of their lives.
The book also details Mary’s marriage and separation from her husband, as well as the phony pregnancies she experienced. She loved Philip of Spain, but he did not love her, and he abandoned her for the battlefield.
The author also surmises that Britain’s anti-Catholic bias is rooted in Mary’s actions, which might be true. I couldn’t help wishing Mary had left some written evidence of why she took certain actions during her reign. All in all,it’s a sad story, not only for all her victims but also of Mary herself. It’s the tale of aweak woman who wouldn’t or couldn’t take wise advice– and left a dreadful tally of 280 burned at the stake.