Posted by: Ele Quigan | December 31, 2010

‘Mary Tudor, England’s First Queen’ Anna Whitelock

An alternative view point on one of the most interesting segments of English history (at least in my opinion) this book obviously is about the life of Mary Tudor, first child of Henry VIII.

To be honest I hadn’t really read much about Mary before, she’s always portrayed as the suffering Catholic in any fictionalised account, or is put on pedestal to be pitied, particularly given the way she was treated by Henry during his reign.

I found the book a bit jilted however. There are several pieces of original text, letters to and from variou people to other members of the family (or Charles V for example) that while they are great to have included, because of the changes in the English language over the last 500 years, they don’t make too much sense. Or at least the context they are supposed to give, is missing on a general layperson like myself.

I was surprised however at some of the atrocities committed in Mary’s name – People burnt at the stake (and graphic explanations of these) for their beliefs is impossible for me to even understand (I’m an atheist – I guess the only thing I could compare it to would be my belief that everyone has the right to believe in whatever they want as long as they don’t breed and ethos of hate or harm to other people) and it was awful to read about how the inevitable witchhunts continued (similar to McCarthyism I guess).

Sad for Mary to be the depressed and sombre queen she became. I can only imagine how awful fake pregnancies must be, and for her body to constantly reject her I guess is an impossible thought – however her strength in pursuing what she believed was rightly hers (i.e. the crown) is an amazing story of womens strength and rights, before anything else.

I think she should be further studied at schools, not necessarily for her piousness, but to see a woman who lived in a constant struggle for recognition and belief, who managed to take it back and become queen regnant (rather than queen consort, which is the married off version).

I watched the incredible ‘The Queen’ recently after reading the book, and I guess was forced to compare Mary to Elizabeth II, our current Queen, who has seen us through the past 58 years – lived through through the war to become a very much ‘keep calm and carry on’ queen. I can’t imagine what it would have been live to take up the mantle when her father died, or the pressure from birth knowing she was destined to become queen, but with such esteemed women to look back on as a source of pride and belief in her own power to rule.

I’m not really a royalist, just a lover of history and a bit of a staunch feminist – amazing to see in these worlds and times of the power of men, that women from Boudica to Mary, to Ole Liz 2, have been able to rule on their own. Maybe we might even see pay parity through them one day…

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