Queen Mary

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In European and Christian culture, the female forename Mary is first and foremost the name of the 'Blessed Virgin Mary', the mother of Jesus - sometimes even more honoured by the simpler the Virgin. In those churches that worship her (in Britain, this is mostly the Roman Catholic church), she has many titles and honorifics. In Semitic languages (such as her own) she is Maryam or Miriam. In European languages, she is variously 'Marie', 'Maria' (see also Maria (pronunciation)), 'Marya' and 'Masha'. A Sura (or chapter) in the Qur'an, the 19th, is about her, and called by her name, the Sura Maryam. In contradistinction to human Queen Marys (below), she is sometimes called Mary Queen of Heaven (Latin Maria regina coelorum). She is also Our Lady. Many other saints have been called Mary, notably Mary Magdalene. (See Saint Mary for more.)

In British history, there have been three Queens regnant called Mary, as well as many consorts. The Queens that have actually ruled are:

Mary Queen of Scots

born 1542; succeeded her father James V in 1542; married 1) Francois II of France (1544-1560) in 1558; 2) Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (1545/6-1567), 1561; 3) James Hepburn, fourth earl of Bothwell and duke of Orkney (1534/5-1578), 1567; abdicated (effectively deposed) 1567; died (executed by her cousin, Elizabeth I of England), 1587.

Mary Stewart - Mary I of Scotland - inherited the throne in 1542, when she was 6 days old, and Jams V, her father, was only 30. (His last words are said to have been "come with ane lase, it will pase with ane lase" (it came with a girl, and it will go with a girl) - alluding to the crown, which entered the Stewart family through the marriage of Walter 'the Steward' with Marjorie Bruce, niece of David II, and was about to leave it through his leaving only a daughter.) To keep her safe from the English, she was sent to her mother's country of France. She was married to the Dauphin, Francois; when Henri II died in 1559, she became Queen of France as well as Scotland. When Francois II died the year after, she returned to Scotland, where she, a pious Catholic, became embroiled with the Scottish reformation, particularly John Knox, who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment [= rule] of Women against Mary & Elizabeth of England. As she was also the heir apparent to the English throne, international politics were involved; and in her absence, the Scottish nobility had taken much power, making domestic politics very difficult. She married her cousin, Henry Stewart, known as Lord Darnley (and officially as King Henry of Scots, though he had no power). Darnley was a weak and impetuous man - "arrogant, vain, and unreliable" (ODNB) - who grew jealous of Mary's secretary, the Italian David Rizzio or Riccio, and joined the conspirators who killed him, in the presence of the pregnant Mary, in 1566. Prince James (I) was born in June; Darnley (the father) in turn was murdered at Kirk o' Field in 1587: there is no evidence for Mary's involvement, In the aftermath, she married one of her nobles, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (1534/5-1578), who may have raped her first. This, with her religion, and refusal to band in reformation with her cousin Elizabeth, aroused the hostility of other nobles in Scotland, and in July 1567, she was effectively deposed in favour of James. She fled to England in 1568, where Elizabeth imprisoned her. Fearing her involvement in the many Catholic plots against her (Mary was always a useful figurehead), Elizabeth had her tried in 1586 and executed in 1587. Mary seems to have been genuinely beautiful, and has always attracted admirers. The doomed Queen of Scots has always been a romantic heroine; the Catholic Mary is seen by many Catholics as a martyr.
Mary I (of England)

born 1516; married Philip II of Spain, 1554; succeeded her brother, Edward VI in 1553; died 1558.

Mary Tudor was the daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Katherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Mary's failure to be born a boy was one of the causes of her parents' divorce, and so of the Henrician Reformation in England. Her mother remained a Catholic, and, when Mary succeeded her brother Edward VI (younger, but male), she proved also to be unreformed. Only under the threat of execution did she swear to the Act of Supremacy, after her mother's death in 1536. Through Edward's increasingly protestant reign, there was conflict, with Mary insisting on hearing Mass, although she loved her brother and threatened no rebellion. After the brief interlude of Lady Jane Grey, the 'nine days Queen', Mary's reign was an attempt to restore the Roman Catholic religion in England. Her marriage to Philip II (of Spain; I and only of England), a widower ten years younger than his new wife, was at least partly an attempt to gain the full support of the leading Catholic power. Complex arrangements were made for any children's rights of inheritance; but the marriage was childless, although Mary experienced two 'phantom pregnancies'. Spain already had an heir apparent, Don Carlos, by his first wife, Maria Manuela of Portugal. England had none, other than the protestant Elizabeth, Mary's half-sister. Mary was determined to save the souls of the English, by repressing the protestant 'heresy' and restoring the 'true faith' of catholicism. She will always be known as Bloody Mary for her zeal in burning those who persisted in their faith; although Eamon Duffy has re-assessed her cruelty, and the standards of her age. She made the 'martyrs' commemorated in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, a seminal text of propaganda in confirming England as a protestant country. It claims that some 284 were executed.
  • Philip was recognized in the marriage settlement as King; but he was to have no rights of succession should Mary predecease him. His name preceded his wife's on official documents, coinage etc; but by the treaty, he was to be subordinate in government, being "rather as a subject" than a King (Nichols, 1850). He does not seem to have played much part in the active government of England, though influencing policy; he was more active in Ireland, where County Offaly was renamed 'King's County' and its then county town Daingean 'Philipstown' in his honour. (Both were returned to their former names on Irish independence in 1922.) The pair were the British monarchs most sympathetic to Catholics, at least since the reformation. King Philip is not much recognized in English history.
Mary II (of England and Scotland)

born 1662; daughter of the Duke of York who was to be James II (and VII), and Anne Hyde; married her cousin William of Orange in 1677 (no children); came to throne jointly with him as Mary II (and William III) in the Glorious Revolution (1688) in 1689; died of smallpox 1694.

Most of the government of the two kingdoms fell to William rather than to Mary; he also attempted to win Ireland (see Boyne), and the Revolution itself was more his doing than his wife's. But she was a serious and devout protestant, who accepted the crown only because she believed it her duty to do whatever Providence sent; she was also more acceptable to the Tories, if not the Jacobites, than her husband, who was rejected by them as being Dutch. Mary was intelligent, devout and competent. One of her difficulties was a break-down in relations with her sister Anne.