Queen of Blood, Book Four of the Cross and the Crown series, continues the story of Catherine Havens, a former nun in Tudor England. It is now 1553, and Mary Tudor has just been crowned queen of England. Still a Roman Catholic, Mary seeks to return England to its former religion, and Catherine hopes that the country will be at peace under the daughter of Henry VIII. But rebellion is brewing around Thomas Wyatt, the son of a Tudor courtier, and when Catherine’s estranged son suddenly returns from Wittenberg amid circulating rumours about overthrowing the new monarch, Catherine finds herself having to choose between the queen she has always loved and the son who seems determined to join the Protestants who seek to usurp her throne.
How dangerous was it to be a member of Mary Tudor’s court?
The answer to this question depends heavily on an understanding of the period in which Mary Tudor reigned as queen, because most elements of the Tudor court were tied to the knot of politics and religion. It’s a question that dominates my latest novel, Queen of Blood, and the answers in this novel are somewhat different than in the previous three books of my series, The Cross and the Crown.
In the sixteenth century in England, as most people know, the Tudors dominated politics; Tudor monarchs sat on the throne for most of the century (with the brief exception of Jane Grey). Henry VIII famously broke with Rome over his desire to divorce his wife, Katherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn, and, once he did this, he seized much of the wealth that belonged to the church, including the lands and moveable valuables of the monasteries and convents in England.
This seizure created an important change in England: power became more centralized. When Henry VIII assumed the leadership not only of the court but also of the church, he amassed an enormous amount of wealth, and this consolidated power at the court. His son Edward inherited this position, though his very early death prevented him from doing much with it.
In the aftermath of the Jane Grey affair, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s oldest child (and the only child of Katherine of Aragon) became queen. She was still a staunch Catholic, and one of her goals was to return England’s church to Rome. This of course created some scuffles and rebellions, which were put down by the new queen.
The danger in Mary Tudor’s realm was quite real, as it was in most royal courts. She put down the early Wyatt Rebellion without much trouble, and she eliminated the threat of Jane Grey and her husband Guilford Dudley. She certainly had little sympathy for those Protestants who resisted her power, and the list of victims became long enough that Mary came to be known as “Bloody Mary.”
So, to be a Protestant in Mary Tudor’s England was, yes, dangerous. The Tudor throne by this time was the center of power in the country, and the queen, like all monarchs, had her network of informers and supporters. But was Mary’s reign significantly more dangerous than others at the time? Probably not, though she did throw the country into quite a lot of turmoil in her attempts to restore Catholicism. Did she execute more people than her father did? Certainly not. But then she wasn’t on the throne as long as her father was, either.
The executions of Jane Grey and Guilford Dudley surely contributed to Mary’s reputation as being “bloody.” The public executions of Thomas Wyatt the younger and his rebels reinforced this, particularly among Protestants who opposed the queen’s marriage to Philip of Spain. Later, the burning of the Oxford Martyrs—Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer—further enhanced the idea that Mary’s reign was especially dangerous.
For Catholics, however, the story was different. Mary’s reign ushered in what they hoped would be a restored England, and the marriage to Philip of Spain, while somewhat queasy-making because he was not English, promised an heir to the English throne: a Catholic heir.
We all know, however, that the heir didn’t arrive. Mary’s frequent false pregnancies surely caused personal frustration, but whether this affected her judgment as a queen can only be speculation. She carried on with her program of restoring Catholicism, and, yes, she executed heretics and rebels. So did her father. So did her younger sister. Mary’s plans to bring back the Roman church finally failed, as did her attempts to produce an heir and her wars in France. She was only queen for about five years, and what is generally remembered is her “bloody” legacy. This is true and important, but, for me, it’s also important to keep in mind that Mary Tudor was a woman who seized and kept the English throne in her own right, and she was the first to do so. In my latest novel, Queen of Blood, she is a sad figure, as well as a dangerous one. She did her best as queen, but, in the end, that wasn’t good enough, and history has often been as unkind to her as her own father was.
Universal Link: mybook.to/QueenofBloodBookFour
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1950586758
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Blood-Sarah-Kennedy/dp/1950586758
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1950586758
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/1950586758
Meet Sarah Kennedy
Sarah Kennedy is the author of the Tudor historical series, The Cross and the Crown, including The Altarpiece, City of Ladies, The King’s Sisters, and Queen of Blood. She has also published a stand-alone contemporary novel, Self-Portrait, with Ghost, as well as seven books of poems. A professor of English at Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Virginia, Sarah Kennedy holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. She has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
Connect with Sarah
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Kennedy/e/B0054NFF6W