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15 June 1536 – Mary is a traitress who would be punished as such

Posted By on June 15, 2019

On this day in Tudor history, 15th June 1536, Mary (the future Mary I), daughter of King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, received an intimidating visit at her home at Hunsdon.

The visit was from members of the king’s council, who had been sent by her father, the king, to persuade the twenty-year-old into accepting her father as supreme head of the Church in England, and acknowledging that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne.

When she refused to do so, they bullied and threatened her.

Find out exactly what happened on this day in 1536 in today’s “on this day in Tudor history” video, where I share a contemporary account explain how Mary did end up reconciling with her father the king.

Below, are two more videos on Mary and her treatment in 1536. I will also be doing a special “Questions about Anne Boleyn” video on Anne Boleyn and Mary, so keep an eye out for that video. There are quite a few videos on Anne Boleyn on the Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society YouTube Channel, so do consider subscribing to the channel and having a good browse.

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20 thoughts on “15 June 1536 – Mary is a traitress who would be punished as such”

  1. Michael Wright says:

    I realize that Henry pretty much disowned Mary until she bent to his will but would he have approved of her treatment during this encounter?

  2. Toby says:

    I can’t really feel sorry for her considering how much bloodshed and persecution she later dealt out against the protestants. A bit of isolation and bullying in your youth does not excuse burning hundreds of innocents alive. Also, I think like her mother she was bullheaded, pious to a fault and not always the victim she made out to be.

    1. Dorothy says:

      Of course nothing excuses burning even one person, but most of her life was definitely miserable. After a golden childhood when she was her father’s particular pet, he turned on her and pursued her with petty tyrannies through the rest of his life, except for a short time near the end. I am no fan of Mary’s behavior as queen, but I must pity that unhappy child and young woman.

      1. Banditqueen says:

        If you are going to condemn Mary why not also condemn Elizabeth who had hundreds of innocent Catholics hung drawn and quartered? Why not condemn her father for thousands of people executed for not agreeing with his marriage? I am not condoning any form of brutal execution for religious reasons or anything else, but Mary’s reputation is unfairly tarnished by propaganda and her sister’s reign in which much of the good she did was hidden. Heresy was considered dangerous because it struck at the authorities of Church and State and the local community. Yes, Mary had her Parliament introduce the English laws on heresy but was it her intentions to burn 280 people? I doubt it. In fact the new laws were not enforced for some time, with preaching and teaching being introduced first in order to give those people who had conformed under Edward a chance to recant. Unlike treason trials heresy trials were aimed at saving people and not just condemning them. Normally people would be given penance or prison or be freed if they recanted but for a second or third offence of serious heresy was punished with the death penalty. However, time was taken to try to get those accused to return to the fold and give up their beliefs. Some people did but a lot didn’t because they were not following heresy but the various reformed beliefs which they followed sincerely. The majority of people living under Mary were actually still Catholic and it was expected that she should take a harsh line on heretical or reformed beliefs. She was a devout Catholic as was her mother and she was popular as well. However, she didn’t completely turn the clock back to Medieval Catholicism, but to the settlement of 1529. She followed a charismatic and evangelical form of Catholicism which was vibrant and lively. The Church was going through a period of revival as well. Mary inherited a kingdom though which had a larger and expanding, if minority reformed population than had been imported during her father’s reign and that caused a problem and much resistance. Her marriage to Philip II was unpopular in some areas and about 10,000 rose under the Protestant Thomas Wyatt the Younger, son of the lover of Anne Boleyn and poet, but Mary raised the people of London with a rousing speech in which she compared them to her children and pointed to her coronation ring as a marriage ring. She also had a treaty drawn up in which Philip had only a limited stake in English politics and had a ceremonial role. Technically it also kept us out of war with France on the side of Spain but we were dragged in in 1557 when England won the greatest victory on French soil at the Battle of Saint Quentin, but ultimately lost Calais the following year. Calais had remained in English hands for 600 years but it cost a fortune to garrison so was no real loss. Mary also proved to be merciful to traitors and rebels and pardoned the majority of them. She also pardoned some of the gentlemen involved and 500 people in one day condemned to death. Heresy trials were conducted locally and left to local magistrates who were often overly enthusiastic, but high profile trials were overlooked by the state. Nobody can condone the burning of human beings for different beliefs or understand why but it is important to put any aspect of Tudor rule into context and understand that it was acceptable at the time. No form of cruel execution is deserved by anyone but again it is important to have a more balanced view of Mary Tudor and to acknowledge her own suffering as a woman and the fact that her sister and also those who represented her brother treated religious dissidents in much the same way. If you condemn one disproportionately, then you must condemn them all.

        1. Dorothy says:

          What I commented was intended to be a balanced view of Mary. Frankly, I am personally not fond of any of the Tudors, but they and their time are interesting

        2. Banditqueen says:

          Hi Dorothy, sorry I was replying to Toby, yes, I agree with you.. Esther, quite agree, a very good point, I feel she did begin to lose patience and responded accordingly.

    2. Christine says:

      She did not make herself out to look like a victim and the burnings at Smithfield has tarnished her reputation somewhat, but that was the punishment the law decreed for heresy, and to Mary devoutly Catholic and like many other Catholics feeling threatened by reform, that was the proper way to deal with them, after a thousands years of Catholicism England was on the turn and the people were unsettled, to Queen Mary it was a canker in the breast and had to be stamped out, her religion was the true one and you have to realise, the victims were offered the choice to recant and adopt the old faith, they had a chance to live but I agree with you that the deaths appear shocking, people of all ages were rounded up, a pregnant woman even and the tale of how she began to give birth and her baby was thrown on the fire does make one reel at the horror of it all, I feel Mary herself was quite unaware of most of the brutality that occurred as I feel she would have sickened at that act of abject cruelty, a lot of her subjects fled the country to return when Elizabeth ascended the throne, her father Henry V111 had thousands killed in his reign and Elizabeth persecuted the Catholics, Mary was a Tudor monarch and like her father and sister, she had to rule with a firm hand, the Smithfield fires do stand out in Mary’s reign but she was only implementing the law, she was not a blood sucking horror that took pleasure in those deaths and in fact when she first took the throne after deposing Jane Grey, she was determined to pardon her council and young Jane and her husband, realising they had been acting on their fathers say so, she only executed them after the Wyatt rebellion and under pressure from Spain, we have to acknowledge Mary’s religion meant a lot to her just like her brother Edward V1 who had been passionate about reform, to many who do not know much about this queen they think only of the Smithfield burnings, and at school the pupils are taught about Bloody Mary like Elizabeth 1st is associated with the Spanish Armada but really, she was much much more than the queen who according to popular legend gloated over the suffering of the Protestants, she did not dance on their graves and she did many good things during her short reign, neither was she called ‘bloody’ by her subjects that was written of her by an author some couple hundred years later, I think people should read more biographies of Mary and the result would be they may find themselves pleasantly surprised.

      1. Esther says:

        The tolerance shown by Mary in a variety of situations lasted until the Wyatt rebellion … prior to that time, her acts of tolerance began with great kindness to the young Elizabeth and continued to allowing Edward to be buried by Protestant rites, while she attended a requiem mass for him. IMO, she could have been as great — or even greater — than Elizabeth, but it is not common for the abused to become abusers, and, after the constant threats to her life and throne from Protestants — whether it be during Henry’s reign, or the attempt to crown Lady Jane Grey, or Wyatt — Mary simply had enough. .

        1. Dorothy says:

          I think you are correct in your analysis. I think something similar happened to her sister. When people are trying to kill you it is not easy to remain tolerant!

        2. Banditqueen says:

          And when you think about it Mary and Elizabeth had numerous attempts to get rid of them by one means or another all because of the accident of being born women and therefore the “wrong” sex to rule. Despite a reasonable number of good examples of women being in power, albeit as Regents or in societies which had coincidentally become used to a long tradition of female rulers, such as Navarre and Margaret in the Netherlands, England was still reluctant to accept female Kings even when one was thrust upon them because all seven heirs were women. Mary’s male council pulled their hair out over the fact she was a woman and couldn’t marry, have children and rule. They accepted her, but she needed a man at her side. Obviously she needed a husband; the country constantly needed a new heir, but it was assumed her husband would take on the mantle of King rather than consort, something nobody would ever have said about a man. Elizabeth had a similar problem, in her case for her entire life because she didn’t marry. Her courtiers ended up fighting for her affection and Elizabeth saw that they would seek to rule and that she couldn’t have. Female Kingship was established under both of these women and now we don’t even blink. Yes, Elizabeth doesn’t rule, she reigns but even the young Queen Victoria was told immediately to marry as she needed a man to rule her and her relatives even plotted to attempt to force her to accept a Recency until she was 25. Victoria married within a couple of years to Albert of Saxe Coborg. It was a love match but he also struggled with her to not only help her rule but take over. When she withdrew at the end of each of her nine successful pregnancies Albert took over and eventually she let him do his part. However, the concept of Victoria as a monarch who still had some power remained the one thing on which she was resolved. Victoria lost many of those powers as her long reign and her widowhood ran on as well as her self exile, but she was still the Queen and accepted as such. Mary established her own power and defined the role of her co ruler, King Philip. She also reinforced the authority of the crown as an institution to be respected. Elizabeth was able to build on these things and her use of statecraft was nothing short of genius. However, both women were threatened and challenged and cast aside, denied their lawful birth rights, simply because their father and indeed most male monarchs believed that the kingdom would be lost because they were women and so could not rule. Henry had no choice in the end but to restore them to the succession, even if he didn’t restore their legal legitimate status. He was even prepared to put his natural son on the throne rather than admit his first born daughter was legitimate, much to the annoyance, I am certain of anyone who heard about it. In treating his daughters like second class citizens Henry put their lives at risk and he himself made threats which amount to putting Mary in fear for her life. It’s little wonder both Queens took a tough stance against opposition. They had to be ruthless in order to prove themselves as capable rulers, doubly so because they were women.

    3. Tidus says:

      I agree. This is pretty much where I stand

  3. Christine says:

    Poor Mary she may have seen the men on horseback galloping up the drive to her house and thought with excitement it was a summons from her father to return to court with his blessing, she had been waiting for a reply in fact she had sent several but the King had ignored them all, her father’s silence should have warned her that he was still displeased with her, and in the end she had sought Cromwells help, they were shown into her room and instead of a smiling cheerful greeting she was met with a group of stony faced men, they had come to do the Kings bidding and I think he had told them not to return without Marys signature on the document that declared her illigetimate status to the world and the invalidity of her parents marriage, I think that was the reason for their bullying of Mary which was partly due to their fear of the King lest they fail in their purpose, poor poor Mary! The wicked witch was dead yet still her suffering went on, but here we can see how she had seriously misjudged her father and all those years of rebellion could not be swept away lightly, it was now imperative that she sign as daughter of King Henry V111 she maybe, yet she was still his subject and about time she acted like a loyal obedient one, a law had been passed that made it treason not to acknowledge the King as head of the church, and the penalty for treason was death, I can see Mary replying with her clever tongue to these gentleman, her words have been described as prudent meaning wise, but they only served to anger the men, she had to be aware of the enormity of her actions, she was openly defying the King, Mary was brave and I do not feel she was easily intimidated by these men of her father’s council, yet Chapyus her mentor and friend feared for her life he had seen how brutal her father could be, he had just sent five people to their deaths and one of them had been a woman he had once so passionately loved, a signature made under extreme duress however is not legally binding when you are threatened with death so Chapyus coerced her to sign, explaining ever wise as he was that the pope would not hold it against her, Rome and Spain would knew what pressure Mary was under and I feel she came to terms with that, but she never forgave herself in her heart as her mother had valiantly fought against the invalidity of her marriage for many years, and in a few minutes Mary had signed away those very rights, but Katherine was a Spanish princess and Henrys equal, he could only banish her from court which he did do, he knew that was all he could do, he daren’t touch a hair on her head, Mary was his daughter and in a much more vulnerable position, with her mother dead also she must have felt more alone than she ever had in her life, even though they had been cruelly seperated they had kept in touch with letters which had given each other strength, I have heard the tale of how one of the men openly insulted Mary by saying if she were his daughter he would bang her head against the wall till it was as soft as a boiled apple, and also said she deserved to die for being traitor, he was obviously bolder than the rest but it’s still a shocking thing to say and as Claire says Mary was the daughter of the King, even if she was rendered a bastard she was still a Kings bastard, of course he could have been afraid of the Kings fury if the visit was unsuccessful as I mentioned before, but it shows a complete disrespect for a young woman of twenty who was after all, of royal lineage and only tiny and frail looking, she did not suffer good health and the traumatic events of that visit possibly brought on an attack of the migraines which she suffered from quite frequently, I can understand her depression and how she felt she had let her beloved mother down she must have felt useless and worse – craven, but it was done for the good of the realm as parliament decreed, and for herself and her household, Chapyus also must have told her they could suffer if she did not consent so easing the burden a little of her troubled conscience, of course with the signing away of her and her mothers rights meant she was welcomed back at court, it was noted he embraced her lovingly and they walked arm in arm together as he chatted away to her, all was forgiven! And there was her new stepmother whom she knew from days of old when she had served her mother, seated next to the King in the chair of state, smiling and gracious, for Mary it was like one door had closed and another opened, back in the bosom of her father and his new family she must have felt serene and content, perhaps for the first time in many years, Jane her new stepmother was Catholic and close to her heart, so much did she love her stepdaughter she tried to get her reinstated in the succession, Jane was pushing her luck there, but to her credit she tried, but Henry would brook no interference Mary and both Elizabeths bastard status was due to the invalidity of their mothers marriage, Jane did not realise how sensitive Henry was about his first two failed (as he saw them) marriages, however as he neared the end of his life they were both put back in the succession, news which must have delighted them both, but was really to the King, a sense of failure that after six marrIages all he had to show for it was a young son and two daughters.

  4. Dorothy says:

    Seventeen years later Mary was queen. I’m sure that possibility never entered the heads of these men, but if any of them were still alive when she came to the throne it would be interesting to know their fate.

    1. Christine says:

      Well I thought that esp the one who used such violent words towards her, they never thought she would be queen and the same goes for Elizabeth.

    2. Roland H. says:

      The Duke of Norfolk is usually identified as the gentlemen who spoke very rudely to Princess Mary, but it was actually Henry Bourchier, the Earl of Essex. In a letter to the King, Bourchier later apologized for his rough manner towards her.

      He died from a fall from his horse in 1540, and was succeeded by Thomas Cromwell as the next Earl of Essex.

      The Duke of Norfolk, who was imprisoned by Henry VIII later on, was released by Mary when she became Queen, and was restored to royal favor.

      1. Dorothy says:

        Apologized to the king, not to her!

      2. Christine says:

        Yes I heard it was Norfolk who said that to her, I know also Lady Shelton who was in charge of her at Hatfield found Mary quite exasperating at times, when Anne came to visit Elizabeth she wished to see her stepdaughter and when Mary was told the queen was there she replied she knew no queen but her mother, and referred to her as Madame Pembroke which riled Anne up all the more, Anne spitefully told her aunt to box her ears for the cursed bastard she is, those who had to carry messages to Mary and those who were in her household must have found the situation very difficult at times, when Elizabeth was taken to Hatfield which was to be her new household Mary was sent to wait on her as the new princess, at this she refused to co operate in what was to her, another insult, she declined to step into the waiting carriage and had to be unceremoniously dumped into it, we can sympathise with this unhappy girl whose position was now the same as her half brothers Henry Fitzroy, but to go on rebelling did her no favours and really at the end after Anne’s death when she finally capitulated to her fathers will, she must have felt the long years of refusing to bow to him meant for nothing, in the end King Henry V111 got what he wanted by fair means or foul, and poor Mary’s proud spirit which never faltered in Anne Boleyn’s tenure as queen finally broke on this day in 1536, I feel that Henry V111 could well have kept her apart from her mother not so much as punishment for their open rebellion of him, but maybe he feared the influence Katherine had on their daughter as well.

  5. Banditqueen says:

    Mary was banished from Court, forced to serve her illegitimate infant half sister, separated from both her parents, stripped of her status as heir to the throne, daily threatened on the orders of Anne Boleyn, whose efforts to reach out had failed, kept from visiting or even writing to her dying mother and now she was threatened with physical violence and death. A bit more than a bit of bullying! She had stood up bravely to all of it but now she was terrified but she was still determined not to give in and denounce her beloved mother or her birth right. However, Chapuys was very much a second father figure to Mary and having watched Katherine, her mother die in exile and in poor health, he was badly frightened for her. He reassured her that she could make a “protest apart” to say that she had signed the articles which Henry sent to her under duress. The Pope would grant her absolution and understand her decision was to save her life and that of others. Mary signed the documents and surrendered herself to her father and King. Maybe that more than anything stayed with her for the rest of her life but now she had to move forward.

    Thomas Cromwell helped Mary to word her letter to her father and with Jane Seymour already laying the groundwork for her reconciliation, Mary first of all received her new stepmother and her father at Hudson and then came back to Court. I bet a few of those men in that Commission held their breath, as the Princess was back in full favour, although like Elizabeth she was no longer the legitimate heir to the throne. Henry gave her his blessing, her own household, anything she wanted or needed. Those who had mistreated her on his orders must have walked on tip toe for a time, but Mary did not have a vindictive nature and certainly didn’t hold anything against them. In fact she was noted for her bounty and graciousness and her love of fun and she was on good terms with her father until the end of his days.

  6. Globerose says:

    Can’t resist this hilarious quote from ‘Monty Python and The Holt Grail’. The scene is where King Arthur confronts Dennis, a belligerent marxist, who starts up an argument about Arthur’s right to wield ‘supreme executive power’ just because the Lady of the Lake held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying that Arthur (by Divine Providence) was to carry this sword and be king.
    Dennis says: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not some farcical aquatic ceremony!
    (Arthur starts shouting): Shut up! Will you shut up!
    but quickly moves in, Excalibur in hand.
    Dennis: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system. HELP! HELP! I’m being repressed!
    Arthur: B—– Peasant!
    Dennis: Oh what a give away! Did you see him repressing me.!
    And my point is, I guess, that this witty sketch, just reminds you that supreme executive power is a sword: however reluctant one might be to use, the day will come.

  7. Dorothy says:

    Good comedy always shows us truth, just reflected in a Fun House mirror!

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