In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mary Tudor, Queen of England

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Bibliographies
  • Edited Collections
  • Biographies
  • Female Rule
  • Legacy

Renaissance and Reformation Mary Tudor, Queen of England
John Edwards
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 April 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 April 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0073


Ever since she died in London on 17 November 1558, Queen Mary I has had an afterlife in the shadow of her half-sister and successor, Elizabeth I. She reigned for just over five years, beginning late July 1553, and her time on the throne has been seen ever after as unfortunate and unsuccessful, as well as short. In England, she has been regarded as bloodthirsty and misanthropic. Just as she failed to produce an heir from her body, the traditional duty of a queen, so her reign was seen as sterile in political terms. The sobriquet “Bloody Mary,” devised long after her lifetime, clings to her because of the burning, during her reign, of nearly 300 men and women for their Protestant views. Even in Spain, where her Catholicism has always been strongly in her favor, plus the fact that her mother, Catherine of Aragon, was the youngest daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the short English reign of Mary’s husband Philip has been little studied. Into the 1990s, English-speaking historians mostly continued to put Mary’s “failure” as queen, culminating in the loss of Calais to France at the beginning of 1558, down to her personal inadequacy, possibly resulting from the ill treatment that she received from her father, King Henry VIII, as well as the difficult political and economic circumstances that she had to confront. Since the 1980s, however, the queen and her reign have been looked at again from many aspects. Her achievement in gaining the throne and ruling as England’s first sovereign queen is increasingly recognized, and a much fuller understanding of her religious policies has been achieved. As a result, a significant rebalancing is taking place between assessments of the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, putting the characters and achievements of both rulers into a better perspective. This is very much a bibliography of work in progress, one of its aims being to show that many opportunities still remain for further valuable and stimulating research into Mary’s life and reign.

General Overviews

Despite the recent upsurge in interest in Mary, the weight of coverage of the Tudor period goes overwhelmingly to the long reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, rather than the short mid-century reigns of Edward and his older half-sister. Even the best surveys of the Tudor period, listed in this section, tend to short-change Mary, though Rex 2002 begins to reflect the historical revision of her and her time as queen that has been going on in recent years. The earlier works, Bindoff 1950 and Elton 1955, reflect and propagate an interpretation of Mary’s reign as a brief Catholic interval in a logical progression toward a Protestant England. Guy 1988, Palliser 1992, Brigden 2000, and Tittler and Jones 2004 give only limited coverage to Mary.

  • Bindoff, S. T. Tudor England. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1950.

    For many years a basic textbook for Tudor studies, this survey is now outdated, particularly in its treatment of Queen Mary and her reign.

  • Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors, 1485–1603. London: Allen Lane, 2000.

    Although it reflects some fairly recent scholarship on Mary, this stimulating treatment of the Tudor period gives only limited space to her reign.

  • Elton, Geoffrey F. England under the Tudors. London: Macmillan, 1955.

    A magisterial work that well represents a historiographical view of Mary and her reign, at the time of its writing, a view that has since changed significantly.

  • Guy, John. Tudor England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

    A well-researched and stimulating study of the Tudor monarchs that needs to be read alongside more recent works on Mary and her reign.

  • Palliser, D. M. The Age of Elizabeth: England under the Later Tudors, 1547–1603. 2d ed. London: Longman, 1992.

    The sections of this clear and interesting textbook covering Edward and then Mary’s reigns are very much a prelude to a much deeper study of the Elizabethan period.

  • Rex, Richard. The Tudors. Stroud, UK: Tempus, 2002.

    A brief but well-researched and perceptive study of the Tudor period that is exceptional among current overviews in offering a positive view of Mary and her achievements.

  • Tittler, Robert, and Norman Jones, eds. A Companion to Tudor Britain. Blackwell Companions to British History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

    A useful collection of specialized essays that cover Mary among the other Tudor monarchs.

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