book dispels many popular conceptions about Mary Tudor, the first woman
to rule England in her own right. It reveals the daughter of Henry VIII
and Katherine of Aragon as a cultured renaissance princess, proud of her
dual Tudor and Habsburg heritage. Educated to be a queen, her vision of
England and its place in Europe has long been misunderstood. The Mary
Tudor who emerges is a courageous survivor of the violent power struggles
that characterised the reigns of her father, Henry VIII and brother, Edward
VI. She learned politics in a hard school and, far from being easily-led,
had a strong will and a noble vision for her country as a key player in
a revitalised Catholic Europe. Her own personal religion was a straightforward
but deeply-rooted observance of the traditional Catholic Mass. The burning
of heretics, still the only aspect of her life that is well-known, met
with little criticism at the time. The epithet "Bloody Mary" was coined
well after her death by Elizabethan propagandists.
real Mary Tudor had many endearing personal qualities and talents. She
was a competent Latin scholar and outstandingly talented musician. Her
love of dancing was matched by a keen eye for the latest fashions and
the sumptuous clothes that went with them. Only gambling was, for her,
a greater passion. But Mary was not merely frivolous. She was a caring
employer and loyal friend. Until the end of her father's reign, when circumstances
and intrigue drove them apart, she was a loving sister to Edward and Elizabeth.
An important aspect of the book is its exploration of her relationship
with Elizabeth, with her Spanish husband, Philip, and with the other major
figures of a colourful, violent age. Her reign was short but significant,
and not just for the well-known aspects such as the execution of Lady
Jane Grey and the loss of Calais to the French.
successes foreshadowed the achievements generally associated with Elizabeth.
She encouraged commerce and exploration, overhauled the tax system and
saved England's navy from rotting in the country's ports. Had she lived
longer, she might have achieved still more. Only her premature death,
at the age of 42 made it easy for her critics to represent her reign as
an aberration. Still the most maligned and misunderstood of any English
monarch, the book restores the reputation of a brave but often unhappy
queen who chose the supremely ironic motto "Truth, the daughter of time."