Category Archives: Mary I

On this day in 1536 – Lady Mary writes to Thomas Cromwell

With the execution of Anne Boleyn a week earlier on the 26th May 1536 the Lady Mary wrote to her father in order to repair their relationship. Mary had always blamed Anne for the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the treatment of her mother and herself after the divorce. Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking for him to intercede on her behalf. The letter is badly damaged and only fragments of it now survive but some of it reads as follows;

“Master Secretary,

I would have been a suitor to you before this time to have been a mean for me to the King’s Grace to have obtained his Grace’s blessing and favor; but I perceived that nobody durst speak for me as long as that woman lived, which is now gone; whom I pray our Lord of His great mercy to forgive.” Is now the bolder to write, desiring him for the love of God to be a suitor for her to the King, to have his blessing and leave to write to his Grace. Apologises for her evil writing; “for I have not done so much this two year and more, nor could not have found the means to do it at this time but by my lady Kingston’s being here.

Hunsdon, 26 May.”

The letter to Cromwell did not work as Mary planned and Henry VIII continued to be hostile to Mary until she the oath that declared Henry the Supreme Head of the Church and that the marriage between Henry and Katherine of Aragon was never valid.


On this day in 1554 – Sir Thomas Wyatt was executed

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger was executed on 11th April 1554 for leading a rebellion against Queen Mary I.

Bought up a strong Catholic and spent many years accompanying his father on missions in Spain. His father was Sir Thomas Wyatt, the court poet during Henry VIII reign and once rumoured lover of Anne Boleyn before her marriage. Due to his time in Spain Wyatt developed a deep displeasure towards the Spanish government, this came from his experience with the Spanish Inquisition. When it was announced the Queen Mary I would marry Philip of Spain Wyatt found himself drawn into a group who wished to prevent the marriage.

Several of the group were arrested and this pushed Wyatt to be the leader of the rebellion. Wyatt found himself in command of 1,500 men and he went about setting up his headquarters in Rochester. The Queen soon found out about the plans and offered a pardon to all followers that returned home within 24 hours. Wyatt instead encouraged his men to stay.

The Duke of Norfolk was dispatched to deal with the rebels but when they meted many of Norfolk’s men deserted him and joined the rebel cause. Wyatt and an army of 4,000 men marched towards Blackheath in January 1554. The government took this rebellion seriously and mustered an army of over 20,000 volunteers to defend the Queen. Wyatt was given the chance to put his demands forward but by this point he had already been declared a traitor and a reward was offered for his capture.

Upon arrival in London, Wyatt was surprised by the level of security protecting the capital and many of his supporters abandoned his cause at Southwark. On 15th March Wyatt admitted defeat and was sentenced to death for treason.

Wyatt’s execution date was set for 11th April 1554. On the morning of his execution Wyatt asked to speak to Edward Courteney, the original leader of the rebellion and begged him to confess the truth. Wyatt was beheaded for his involvement and his body was circulated as a warning to any rebel.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

On this day in 1555 – John Laurence burned at the stake

On 29th March 1555 Protestant martyr John Laurence was burned at the stake in Colchester. In his life he was a clergyman and a priest at the former Blackfriar in Suffolk.

Laurence was reported to have been taken to the stake in a chair because the irons that he was kept in during his time in prison had made him so weak.

Laurence’s story was recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, who wrote;

“The next day being the 29. Day of this moneth, the sayd Iohn Laurence was brought to Colchester, and there being not able to go, (for that as wel his legges were sore worne with heauie irons in the prison, as also hys bodye weakened with euill keeping) was borne to the firein a chayre, and so sitting, was in hys constant faith consumed with fire

At the burning of this Laurence, hee sitting in the fire the young children came about the fire, and cryed, (as wel as young children could speake) saying: Lorde strengthen thy seruaunt, and keepe thy promise, Lord strengthen they seruaunt, and keepe thy promise.”

John Laurence was just one of the many Protestants killed by Queen Mary I.

On this day in 1556 – Archbishop Cranmer was burned at the stake

On 21st March 1556 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for treason and being a heretic on orders of Queen Mary I.

Cranmer’s problems began on the death of King Edward VI in 1553. In the months leading up to his death the council were working hard to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne and secure the Reformation. Edward VI’s will was signed on 17th June 1553 and contradicted the Third Act of Succession which would see the Catholic Mary placed on the throne.

Upon Edward’s death Lady Jane Grey took the throne for a mere nine days before Mary was proclaimed the true queen of England. Many supporters of Lady Jane were imprisoned but for now Cranmer was safe and so he led the funeral for the late King. Cranmer advised many other Reformers to flee England and Mary’s persecution of any Protestants.

Cranmer was ordered to stand in front of the council on 14th September 1553 where he was sent straight to the Tower of London to join others who had been arrested. On 13th November 1553 Cranmer and four others stood on trial and found guilty of treason, they were all condemned to death. However, death would not come quickly for Cranmer as on 8th March 1554 the Privy Council Cranmer and others were transferred to an Oxford prison to awaiting another trial on the grounds on heresy. The trial finally began over a year later on 12th September 1555 where the final judgement fell to the Pope and Rome. Although Cranmer denied all the charges he faced and was taken to the Tower to await his fate whilst his co-accused was instantly executed.

Cranmer was stripped of his archbishopric by Rome as his punishment. Cranmer began to recant and was sent to the Dean of Christ Church. Free from prison Cranmer found himself within an academic community and was able to debate freely. He recognised the Pope as the head of church and submitted himself to the rule of Queen Mary I. After just two months of freedom Cranmer was sent back to Oxford and on 24th February a writ was issued to the mayor of Oxford to set the date for Cranmer’s execution on 7th March. Just two days later Cranmer recanted again, for a fifth time, where he repudiated all Lutheran theology and fully accepted Catholic theology and Papal supremacy. Under normal circumstances Cranmer would have been absolved and pardoned, however Mary I was unwilling to absolve Cranmer and set about making an example of him.

Cranmer was informed he could make one final recantation at a service at the University Church, Oxford. He never got to say it in public as it was published after his death. This was because at the service he held he opened with a prayer and exhortation to obey the king and queen but then went with a sermon that was not his prepared recantation. Cranmer renounced his previous recantations and that he would be punished by being burnt. He also refused Papal supremacy. Cranmer was dragged from the pulpit and taken straight to be burnt.

Cranmer’s vision for a religion free from Rome and the Pope was finally recognised after his death with the ascension of Elizabeth I when she restored the Church of England and became independent from Rome.

Why did Mary I make such a public exhibition of Cranmer was it to exert her authority on the Protestant religion or did she simply have a personal vendetta against Cranmer for being the man responsible for declaring her parent’s marriage null and void and therefore making her illegitimate?

Cranmer burnt at the stake

On this day in 1500 – Cardinal Reginald Pole born

It is widely accepted that Cardinal Reginald Pole was born on 3rd March 1500. He was born in Stourton Castle in Staffordshire to Sir Richard Pole and his wife Margaret. Margaret was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, which made Margaret the niece of King Edward IV and Richard III. Therefore Reginald would have had a strong Plantagenet claim to the throne had it not been for the Bill of Attainder that was passed against his grandfather when he was found guilty of treason.

Pole studied at Oxford from the age of 12 and completed his degree just after the age of 15. It looks like Pole was always destining for a life within the clergy.

Henry VIII bestowed many honours on Pole including the deanery of Wimborne Minister in Dorest, the Prebendary of Salisbury and the Dean of Exeter, despite never being ordained into the church. In 1521, with Henry’s blessing, Pole set off to the University of Padua where he quickly became popular and was highly regarded amongst scholars like Erasmus and Thomas More. Henry paid half of Pole’s fees whilst he was studying abroad.

Pole remained in Padua until 1527 when he returned home. Henry at this time was desperate for Pole’s support and his written opinion on ‘The Great Matter’, his divorce with Katherine of Aragon. In exchange for his support Henry offered Pole the role of Archbishop of York or the Diocese of Winchester in return for his loyalty. Pole wanted to avoid being dragged into the situation instead seeked permission to leave for France to further his studying. In effect he went into self imposed exile to avoid answering Henry’s demands. Despite this Henry was still covering Pole’s allowances abroad.

In May 1536, Pole eventually spoke out against Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Henry called Pole back to England to answer questions on his writings. Pole disobeyed Henry’s orders and instead headed to Rome after receiving a Papal invitation to stay at the Vatican from Pope Paul III. This was a blow to Henry as it was clear for all to see that the once close relationship that they shared was over as Pole sided with Rome against Henry and England.

Despite never being ordained Pole, in 1537, was created a Cardinal and was charged with organising a march on London to replace Henry’s current government with a Roman Catholic one to bring the country back in line with Rome.

In retaliation to Pole’s betrayal Henry arrested members of the Pole family including his brother, nephew and mother, the Countess of Salisbury and charged each of them with treason and aiding Reginald Pole and his cause. All but one was found guilty and Bills of Attainders were passed against them all stripping of their titles and land and eventually they were executed for Pole’s betrayal.

Pope Paul III died in 1549 and a conclave was held to find his successor, at one point Pole had nearly two – thirds of the votes required to become Pope, however, Pole didn’t want to campaign to become Pope and so support began to slip away from him.

Reginald Pole remained a Cardinal and was quietly dedicated to his work. That is until the death of Edward VI in 1553. With the Catholic Mary I taking the throne Pole’s life was once again an active one. He instantly wrote to the newly anointed Queen and successfully returned to England from exile as Papal Legate in 1554.

Under Mary I, Pole saw the attainder against his family reversed and was finally ordained as a Priest in 1556. Two days later on 22nd March Pole was consecrated as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Pole was the last Roman Catholic to hold this position. Alongside this he also acted as chief minister and advisor to the Queen.


Reginald Pole died on 17th Nov 1558, most likely for the influenza which had gripped London in an epidemic. He died just a few short hours after Queen Mary I. He is buried at Canterbury Cathedral.