In This Chapter
● Reuniting with Rome
● Burning the heretics
● Planting Englishmen in Ireland
● Trying for a successor with Philip of Spain
● Getting caught up in Philip’s plans
When Mary became queen it was party time. In London people held street banquets, built bonfires, rang bells, threw money out of the window and hurled caps in the air. You couldn’t hear what anybody was saying for the noise.
Five years later Mary died a monarch so hated that history has called her Bloody Mary. In this chapter, we look at the first years of Mary’s reign, and just what she did to become so reviled.
Reviving the Old Faith
When Mary became queen in 1553, what were her religious options?
● She could restore the Church to what it was when Henry VIII left it, basically his Six Articles plus an English Bible and the old mass but no monasteries (see Chapter 6).
● She could return completely to the old faith, kow-towing to the pope again and giving land back to the monasteries; incense, carvings of saints, pilgrimages, the whole nine yards of the medieval Catholic Church.
Pope Julius III sent Cardinal Pole to England as his right-hand man, hoping (rightly as it turned out) that he’d advise Mary closely.
The Council were in a cleft stick. No diehard Catholics were left and most of the Council had been Dudley’s men, but they did like being in power and were anxious not to get chopped, either metaphorically or for real. So they probably advised Mary to proceed a step at a time and to always use Parliament.
Contrary to popular belief, Mary didn’t start out bloody. She should have detested Elizabeth because she was a Protestant and a threat as long as Mary remained childless, but in fact she was very fond of her, treating her sometimes as the daughter she never had. She agonised long and hard over whether to have the ex-queen Jane Grey executed (see Chapter 9), always worked within Parliament and the law and even delayed her own wedding to sort out Christian names for a godchild.
Mary’s first step was to bring the mass back to the Chapel Royal and other churches. The mass was popular and many people must have been happy, probably assuming the Government had gone mad over the last few years.
But ardent Protestants were less impressed:
● Protestants and Catholics clashed at Paul’s Cross in London when they heard the Catholic bishop Bonner had been reinstated.
● When Archbishop Cranmer complained about the mass, he was thrown into prison.
● Peter Martyr and other leading Protestants got out of the country or went into hiding. Stephen Gardiner, as lord chancellor, promised to hunt them down.
There's something about Mary
The portraits of Mary as queen don't do her justice. By then she was 40, her eyebrows had gone and her lack of teeth gave her face a hard, frosty look. But as a girl Mary had been pretty. When she was 11, she danced at a pageant at Greenwich and her father took off her cap to show the ambassadors her lovely hair - the 'silver tresses as beautiful as ever seen on human head', according to the Venetian secretary.
Mary loved dancing, spoke Greek, Latin and French and all her life she was fond of jewels,
clothes and children. She was honest - unusually for a Tudor - and kind.
But Mary had been treated appallingly - her father, Henry VIII, had dumped her mother, and she'd been made a bastard and sidelined at every turn (see Chapters 5 and 9). She'd even had her darling religion - Catholicism - kicked out of the country. If it was to be payback time, nobody could be too surprised.
Riding the whirlwind
Try to imagine an ordinary 40-year-old man, the same age as the queen, coming to terms with the changes in religion in England. When he was born, in 1514, the country was Catholic, the mass and the Bible were in Latin, the monasteries were all-powerful and the head guy, spiritually, was the pope.
Then, when he was 20, came Henry VIII's 'great matter' and the country broke with Rome. An English Bible appeared in the man's church and his priest may or may not have carried out the mass in English. If the man lived near a monastery, he'd watch the monks go to see their lands sold off and their buildings left to rot.
Through his 30s, the man would see his own church change. The mass would now always be in English, the wall paintings would be whitewashed, the carvings of saints would disappear.
Now, suddenly, it was all change again - back to the Latin mass, the wall paintings and the saints' carvings, and the bread and wine was once again the flesh and blood of Christ. Was the pope coming back again too?
Result? The average man in the English street must have encountered chaos, bewilderment and fear. Heaven and hell were still real, but how on earth did you get to one and avoid the other?
The bottom line was that most people were in the dark about what was going on and very few of them were literate enough to write their confused thoughts down. See the sidebar ‘Riding the whirlwind’ for how an average man may have felt.
Mary was crowned on 1 October 1553. She used ‘uncontaminated’ holy oil imported from the Low Countries (today’s Netherlands), rather than the old stuff left lying about from Edward’s coronation. Several bishops jumped ship and became Catholic again, just to keep their jobs, so we have to ask how committed they’d been to the new faith in the first place. Anybody who did have a conscience, like Bishop Hooper at Gloucester, lost his job - and in Hooper’s case, his life.
Lord Chancellor Gardiner was keen to get England back under the pope’s control before Mary’s wedding to Philip (see Chapter 9) so that it would all look like Mary’s achievement, not Philip’s. Gardiner couldn’t do this alone and the Council wouldn’t back him. Lord Paget led the lords in revolt, Mary was furious and nothing was sorted out by the time the wedding took place.
Getting Parliament on side
Mary used her common sense and didn’t take Cardinal Pole’s advice to ignore Parliament. The pope’s man had been out of England for years and had lost touch with what was going on.
So Mary’s first Parliament repealed all the acts brought in under Edward (see Chapter 8 for details of Edward’s reformation):
● The 1552 Book of Common Prayer was withdrawn.
● The Sarum Use (the old Latin mass) was brought back officially.
● The pope would now appoint bishops, not the monarch.
● Priests couldn’t marry.
Various visitations were carried out and many bishops were sacked. If they wouldn’t give up their ‘concubines’, bishops lost their jobs. The human cost was huge - families broken up, women suddenly left destitute.
The Catholic Church was very old, and Edward’s reforms had only been around for a few years. So most people probably accepted Mary’s changes. The English Bible stayed and for the moment the Royal Supremacy stayed. Things were more or less back to the state of play that King Henry had left.
Furthering the faith
If Mary had left it at her first reforms, fine, but neither she nor Lord Chancellor Gardiner were prepared to do that. And with Philip now on the scene (see Chapter 9 for details of Mary’s marriage), they could open the Catholic door still wider because Philip was the son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and he ruled a country - Spain - where the Inquisition was all-powerful (see the sidebar, ‘The Holy Inquisition’).
The Holy Inquisition
The Catholic Church set up the Holy Inquisition in 1248 to stamp out heresy. With the rise of various Protestant sects in the 16th century, things got pretty heavy and the Inquisition began to use torture against its opponents. The nastiest Grand Inquisitor was probably Torquemada (1483-98) but they were all prepared to use barbarous methods to keep people loyal to the faith. All it needed was for one informer to point
the finger at somebody, and arrests and torture would follow.
The Inquisition dealt with all sorts of sins - infidelity, seduction, sorcery, witchcraft, blasphemy, heresy and even being a Jew. Punishments carried out after secret trials included burning alive, loss of property, banishment and a life sentence in the galleys (oared warships).
Charles V was easily the most powerful ruler in Europe and his son Philip was very close behind him. Now that Philip could claim to be king of England by virtue of being Mary’s husband, he could bring all the authority of the Catholic church to England, backed if necessary by serious money and lots of soldiers, and of course the full terror of the Inquisition.
Pope Julius III wanted to get England back under his control - that would be a huge feather in the papal mitre. So the pope was persuaded to lift Church sanctions against people who’d bought ex-monastic lands (including, of course, the queen herself).
Meanwhile, Charles V let Cardinal Pole return to England (even though he held him up for a while to let Philip get the credit for the big Catholic comeback). In England Pole was a bit of a problem because he was actually a traitor for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 (see Chapter 6). So Parliament rushed through a bill to clear him of his treason and Pole talked to both Houses, telling them that all they had to do was to beg the pope’s forgiveness and all would be well. So they did.
But that was the easy bit! Now the Council had to work towards legal documents, scrapping the Act of Supremacy and getting the pope to put something on paper in case he changed his mind.
Parliament overturned the Royal Supremacy on 16 January 1555, but Mary had left a loophole. The repeal of the Act of Supremacy could also be repealed (in other words, back to Henry VIII’s final Church). This wasn’t likely to happen while Mary was alive, but who knew what the upshot would be after that?
Mary agreed that Parliament had the right to decide what the religion of the country was going to be, but she couldn’t give up her control of the Church completely, even with the Act of Supremacy gone. So she tried to have her cake and eat it:
● She didn’t call herself Supreme Head (because she wasn’t!).
● She didn’t carry out royal visitations.
● She did set up commissions to censor heretical writings and sermons (not her job).
● She did encourage persecution of heretics and the final decision on whether to burn people or not came from her (see the following section ‘Beginning the burning’).
Polarising Pole and Paul
Sod's Law of History is that events that ought to run smoothly somehow don't. So it was with Mary and the pope. The new man in Rome in 1555 was Paul IV, so terrifying that it was said that sparks flew from his feet as he strode through the Vatican. He was the most hated pope of the century and people held street parties in Rome when he died. Pope Paul IV hated Cardinal Reginald Pole and any kind of Catholic comeback while these two were involved was going to be difficult.
Pole was concerned about churchmen's education. Half a generation of laymen had already grown up reading their English Bibles and were in some cases better read than their priests. Universities, Oxford and Cambridge, turned out competent clerics, but below that (and these universities were tiny) only a sort of apprenticeship scheme that wasn't very good existed. So Pole saw an urgent need to upgrade the education of curates.
But before Pole could achieve much he lost his status as the pope's ambassador (Legate a Latere). Why was this? Well, when Philip II attacked the papal states (see 'Squabbling with the pope', later in this chapter), Paul IV pulled his people out of Philip's territory - hence he recalled Pole from England.
Twenty years earlier, when Martin Luther was making waves against the Catholic Church (see Chapter 6), Pole had been one of those who was looking for some sort of compromise with the man. But Paul IV was a hard-liner - if you so much as glanced at a Protestant without a lighted match in your hand, you must be a heretic.
Paul demanded that Pole come to Rome to explain why he hadn't acted harshly enough, but Mary had already given the Cardinal Cranmer's job as archbishop of Canterbury and didn't let him go. The result was Anglo-papal relations going into deep freeze.
A furious Mary refused to accept Paul's new appointment as ambassador, the friar William Peto. So what, we have to ask, was the point of it all? England's return to the Church of Rome caused huge emotional upheaval, but the return hadn't quite happened.
When Mary died in November 1558 the pope was delighted, but even more so by the news that Cardinal Pole followed her 12 hours later.
Beginning the burning
Mary believed that the punishment of heretics was a duty. God had put her on the throne, and so any attack on her faith was a personal attack on her (treason) and an attack on God (heresy). Either way, the punishment was death. Her view of Wyatt’s Rebellion (see Chapter 9) was that it was a Protestant revolt, and so heretics and traitors went hand in hand.
Simon Renard, Charles V’s ambassador, believed that the Protestants were still a strong political force and must be watched. The country couldn’t easily
forget all that had happened during Edward VI’s reign - the events of that time weren’t just a flash in the religious pan.
Mary’s view was that:
● Ordinary people were simple folk who’d been deluded and misled.
● Protestant leaders were wicked people whose religious views were wrong and they were clearly in it for money or power.
● The Protestants most likely figurehead might be sister Elizabeth, but she was in prison after Wyatt’s Rebellion and had been told to keep the Catholic faith.
Lord Chancellor Gardiner’s view was that:
● Ordinary people were idiots. They’d do as they were told.
● Protestant leaders were hoping things would go their way. Put a few of them on trial, threaten them with the stake and watch them grovel and recant.
Gardiner gave the Protestant preachers in prison in London a straight choice: recant or die. They all turned him down. John Hooper, John Rogers and John Cardmaker were earmarked for the flames on 29 January; Cardmaker cracked and recanted. Rogers was one of those whose charred remains were found at Smithfield (see the nearby sidebar ‘Fanning the flames’); Hooper died in front of his own cathedral in Gloucester. Worse was to come.
By the summer of 1555, high profile Protestants Rowland Taylor, John Bradford, Laurence Sanders, Robert Farrer and Edward Crome were all charged with heresy. Crome recanted; the others died. John Cardmaker, wracked with guilt, withdrew his recantation and was burned on 30 May.
Fanning the flames
In 1849 excavations at Smithfield near St Bartholomew's Hospital in London uncovered charred oak posts, an iron staple and ring and burnt human remains. This was all that was left of 43 people burned alive on the orders of Mary. Burning was specifically the punishment for heretics (including, everywhere except England, witches). It was widely used by the pope's Holy
Inquisition throughout Europe. In Spain the public burnings were called Auto da Fe and the first thing Philip did when he left England for the first time was to watch 14 people killed in this way. In the heat of Spain, especially when the 'spear of mercy' was thrust into the mouth first, death was relatively quick. In a damp, foggy London, it could take two hours.
Something was going wrong in Gardiner’s and Pole’s plans. Protestants weren’t recanting; they were becoming martyrs - the last thing Mary’s Government wanted.
Gardiner’s death (from natural causes!) in November did nothing to stop the persecution.
When bishops Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned in Oxford in October 1555, an enterprising London waterman took a day trip of ghouls up the Thames to watch the spectacle. They got good value for their money - Ridley was fully conscious for 45 minutes and he roasted in agony from the feet up.
The Church was, by law, not able to shed blood, so even though Cardinal Pole’s fixed show trials found men guilty they had to be handed over to the secular authorities for the actual punishment.
Mary, of course, was comfortable with the burnings: she was doing God’s work and her duty as queen. The Council, however, could have stopped her - they weren’t afraid to take her on over other matters - but they didn’t. Philip wasn’t happy with the persecutions, simply because he could see the whole thing was counter-productive. He knew the English would blame him and he kept a low profile throughout.
Thomas Cranmer crops up in plenty of previous chapters. He was vital to the creation of Henry VIII's Church (see Chapter 6) and a powerhouse when it came to the Edwardian Reformation, prayer books and all (see Chapter 8). Mary hated him because in religious terms he was a traitor. She had Cranmer put on trial in September 1555 and his dilemma was obvious. As long as Mary was supreme head of the Church, he backed her, but he wouldn't say the mass or follow the pope.
It's not much to his credit that Cranmer recanted, but Mary wasn't buying it. She believed
Cranmer had been behind her father kicking her mother out (see Chapters 5 and 6) and was responsible for every bad thing that had happened since 1533!
On the stake in March 1556, Cranmer had no more to lose. He withdrew his recantation and died a martyr after all, thrusting his right hand into the fiercest of the flames - 'This hath offended,' he shouted above the fire's roar, 'Oh, this unworthy hand.'
An inconsistent approach
The Marian burnings followed a peculiar pattern. On the one hand, Pole went so far as to have dead heretics' remains dug up and burned in public. On the other, some people weren't only allowed to leave the country, but were given plenty of time to do it. For example, the duchess of Suffolk, taking the kitchen sink with her, took five days to reach Gravesend from London (less than one hour by car today).
Punishing the people
By 1557, with most high profile targets dead or in exile, the government set its sights on the rank and file. Brief rigged trials of several people at once took place to save time, and pardons were usually turned down. Public burning was abandoned and victims were put to death early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Ordinary people went to the stake as bravely as the preachers and bishops.
Between 50 and 60 of the total 300 burned were women. In one particularly ghastly incident in Guernsey, Perotine Massey gave birth at the stake and her baby was delivered and burned too. In another instance, the stake wasn’t used and ‘loose women’ were running around screaming and on fire.
Public reaction to the burnings was mixed. Protestants weren’t always popular with Catholic neighbours, who felt a sense of justice about what was happening. On the other hand, a lot of people couldn’t get worked up about heresy as a crime and thought burning was over the top. The more ordinary the victims were, the more support they got - hence the move to early morning burnings.
Most of what we know about Mary’s burnings comes from biased Protestant accounts like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Some of those who died were fanatics who’d probably have been burned by the Protestants had Edward VI lived. Some of the ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations were actually carefully staged Protestant propaganda.
Looking on the good side
Mary only became ‘Bloody Mary’ in the 19th century, when attitudes had changed completely. Some good things were going on in her reign:
● Books of spiritual guidance were published.
● Pole spent a lot of time improving the education of the clergy.
● Pole promised a new Bible translation in 1556.
● Bishop Bonner of London wrote homilies like Cranmer’s (see Chapter 8).
The bottom line, however, was that everybody saw the burnings as the work of the pope, the Inquisition and Philip. So the huge natural reconversion to the old faith that Mary had planned never happened.
Planting Rebellion in Ireland
The burnings that took place in England just didn’t happen in Ireland. That was largely because Ireland had so few Protestants that when Mary became queen they either gave up and went back to Rome or got out of the country.
The unpopular and not very competent Anthony St Leger was governor between 1553 and 1556 and he had no new ideas.
When St Leger was recalled from Ireland in disgrace at the end of May 1556, he was replaced by Thomas Radcliffe, Lord Fitzwalter, who was about to become the earl of Sussex.
The key feature of Sussex’s deputyship on Mary’s behalf was the setting up of plantations run by Englishmen with farming experience who usually happened to be ex-soldiers. At a stroke, these men could form their own military garrisons (saving the government money) and would hopefully make the country more stable.
What's your poison, Ormond?
Back in December 1546 Governor St Leger had held a dinner party at his home in Limehouse in London. James Butler, the earl of Ormond and Ossary, was in the capital to settle a dispute between him and St Leger over Irish affairs, which was to be arbitrated by the Privy Council.
It was generous of St Leger to invite his rival round for a bite, but it all turned sour (literally) when everyone became ill and 17 of them (including Ormond) died. Poisoning everybody was a very neat solution to St Leger's immediate problems, but it seems a rather high-risk strategy. Maybe it was just the dodgy fish from Billingsgate . . .
The targeted counties were Leix and Offaly, renamed King’s and Queen’s counties. In some cases, the Englishmen removed the landlords only from the estates, setting up the system that would cause bitter resentment three centuries later - Irish tenants paying rent to English landlords who didn’t even live in Ireland.
Philip and Mary were two minds with one thought - they both wanted a son.
The boy would be king of a Catholic England and a foreign territory - Spain and the Spanish Netherlands (Low Countries) - would be thrown in.
But their union wasn’t plain sailing:
● Philip couldn’t take Mary out of England (even for a honeymoon), because the law at the time said that, by doing so, Mary might lose her claim to the English throne. Unlike today, when foreign visits by heads of state are an important part of what they do, leaving the country in the 16th century usually involved leading an army in the field.
● Philip had to abide by English law.
● England wouldn’t take part in the ongoing war between the Holy Roman Empire and France.
● The marriage was unpopular with Philip (because his father had done the deal).
● Some people resented a foreigner on the English throne.
Settling into the role of king
In public, Philip was very attentive to Mary and she, increasingly plain and frumpy, was besotted. She was an old fashioned romantic in some ways and had a plain gold wedding ring because ‘that was how maidens were wedded in olden times’. She kept out of sight at Court after the wedding (as was the custom) while Philip went sight-seeing and tried to find himself a separate palace.
Philip had a real problem learning English (see the sidebar ‘Tudor-speak’) but his pre-nup had said he had to have English servants. So he came out with a compromise: English servants in public; Spanish in private. This, of course, was the worst of both worlds: Englishmen complained they had no access to the king; Spaniards felt dishonoured in the eyes of the world.
Philip couldn't speak English. Mary could understand Spanish up to a point, but probably couldn't speak it. Mary spoke good French; Philip didn't. So we can't be sure how the couple communicated. Maybe Mary spoke French to Philip and he answered in Spanish? Maybe they canoodled in Latin (after all, thousands of Romans did for centuries!)? Even so, misunderstandings must have been common. What's Latin for 'I've got a headache'?
As far as dealing with the Council goes, Gardiner and a few others spoke fluent Latin. Some of the nobility outside the Council, however, only spoke and wrote English and some were illiterate. Interpreters must have been on hand, and it may be that some gentlemen of the king's Privy Chamber did that job from time to time.
Some of Philip’s Spanish and Italian courtiers had nothing to do after the wedding and found themselves at daggers (literally) with their English counterparts. To avoid further embarrassment, Philip packed them off to the Low Countries.
From then on, Philip’s life was oddly semi-detached.
● He played war games for the benefit of the nobility, went to the state opening of Parliament (the equivalent Cortes in Spain had nothing like the power of the Lords and Commons) and went to mass in St Paul’s Cathedral.
● Much of his time he spent closeted away with his Spanish advisers, chatting about European politics. He probably shared few of his political ideas with Mary.
Only on the issue of the new Rome/England understanding (see the earlier section ‘Furthering the Faith’) was Philip truly open.
Expecting great things
Mary was sexually very naive. When she overheard the lord chamberlain call a lady-in-waiting a whore, she thought that was a compliment and started using it herself until the lady in question explained that the lord chamberlain was a foul old *&^%$£, which presumably Mary didn’t understand either.
Luckily, Philip knew which end of the bed was which, so it came as no surprise to anybody when Mary thought she was pregnant. Some of the Spanish courtiers thought ‘it would take God himself to drink of this cup’, but events seemed to be about to prove them wrong.
The early weeks of 1555 were Mary’s high water mark. She was pregnant, the old faith was back (so was Cardinal Pole), hubby was attentive and nasty noises came from Scotland or France. Then everything went pear-shaped.
Waiting for nothing
Early in April Mary retired from Court (which was usual for a pregnant queen). She tired easily and her abdomen was swollen. A nursery was decorated at Hampton Court (the same room where Edward VI was born), a cradle set up and an army of nurses and midwives were on hand. They even brought a set of triplets, newly born to a little woman as old as Mary, to encourage the queen.
But nothing happened. Her doctors wondered whether their dates were wrong, but rumours in and out of Court were (as always) far wilder:
● The queen was bewitched/ill/dead.
● A substitute child had been smuggled into the palace (writer John Foxe recorded that a woman who’d just given birth was asked to give the boy up by Court agents, no questions asked - but then the arch-Protestant John Foxe would say that, wouldn’t he?).
● Mary’s child was born on 30 April. This was so widely believed that people in London began to celebrate.
People prayed for the queen’s safe delivery, but in late July everything was scaled down. Mary hadn’t been pregnant after all. The royal nursery was dismantled and Mary, emotionally shattered, went back to her normal duties.
By now, Mary was flat-chested and thin with a deep, rasping voice and a bad complexion. She’d always had problems with her periods and it was irregular periods that had led her to believe she was pregnant. Her weight loss led her doctors to believe that the baby’s head (there was, of course, no doubt that it was a boy) had engaged inside the pelvis. Two years later, Mary would go through this deeply traumatic faux pregnancy experience a second time (see Chapter 11). Today, the symptoms sound like an ovarian cystic tumour or possible cervical cancer.
Whatever the cause of Mary’s illness, nothing could be done, and to all who knew her it was obvious that Mary wasn’t well. Not only could the queen not conceive, but she didn’t have long to live. For the Protestants, the lack of an heir for Mary and Philip was good news. The old faith might die (again) with the queen.
Charles V now realised that empire-building with the Tudors (at least this one!) wasn’t going to happen. At least he’d got Philip into the Low Countries with English backing (see the following section), and if the queen was barren, that was good reason enough for the pope to grant a divorce.
Drifting and Shifting: Philip Flexes His Muscles
Philip sailed for the Low Countries on 26 August 1555. Mary and the Court went with him as far as Greenwich, east of London. People were glad to see Mary back in public and equally glad to see Philip go, though the king had left an inner group in the Council to keep him in the picture during his absence and he promised to be back by October. Everybody noticed a chill in the atmosphere between the royal couple.
Eyeing the crown
Philip didn’t come back for Parliament’s opening in October. In fact, he pulled his Household out of England a few weeks later. What was going on?
● To Philip, the whole venture was falling apart. Without a son he could make no headway.
● The queen wasn’t well. If she died, would Elizabeth succeed?
The whole thing boiled down to Philip versus Elizabeth - a foreign Catholic ruler versus a home-grown and (probably) Protestant one.
Philip had been talking to his lawyers, and he now pushed for a separate coronation as king of England. In England the act of coronation was vital, far more so than in Europe, and perhaps Philip wanted to push the claim in his own right. After all, if Mary died, he’d be sitting on the throne of England - and possession was nine tenths of the law.
Mary now had a dilemma. If she let Philip be crowned, it would look like power sharing and this had never happened before in English history. She knew that nobody in England would accept power-sharing monarchs. Philip argued that the decision about a coronation wasn’t Parliament’s, but Mary’s. On the other hand, Mary was writing long, pleading letters to Philip to come back; she missed him and England needed his ‘firm hand’. She even wrote to cousin Charles to use his influence on his son, but Charles was now living in retirement at the monastery of San Jeronimo in Spain and was pretty tired of the hurly-burly of European power politics.
According to one story, Mary kicked Philip’s portrait around the Privy Chamber in frustration, but she wouldn’t give in to his request.
When news of Philip and Mary’s disagreement got out (leaks were nothing new, of course) people trotted out predictable arguments:
● Philip planned to grab England when Mary died (probably true), and then England would be subjected to Spanish tyranny (yes - and that included the Inquisition).
● Elizabeth would be out (undoubtedly).
● Philip was leaping into bed with all and sundry behind Mary’s back (quite possibly).
Double dealing with Dudley
No - not that Dudley; he’d been executed in August 1553 (see Chapter 9) but his cousin, Henry, who’d set himself up as a go-between for the exiled Protestants and potential rebels in the West Country (what is it about the West Country? - see Chapters 7 and 8 for other rebellions).
Dudley’s plan, hatched before Christmas 1555 and involving some MPs, was that a French-backed invasion of exiles would oust Mary and Philip and put Elizabeth on the throne. The whole thing fell apart when Henri II signed a treaty with Philip and pulled out of the hare-brained scheme, leaving the plotters without cash.
Undeterred, the rebels planned to steal £50,000 in silver and whisk it across the Channel. This part of the plot was betrayed and the ring-leaders, including Richard Uvedale, captain of the Isle of Wight, were arrested and interrogated. Several of the plotters were executed in the summer of 1556. Slippery Dudley was already out of reach in France.
At this point, Philip realised that his coronation ambitions weren’t going to come off and he dropped the whole idea. But he realised that getting on-side with Elizabeth may be a good idea, just in case . . .
Managing from afar
Philip kept in touch with events at the top via his select Council. He commented, but rarely intervened, leaving Mary to govern which was, after all, her job. When Gardiner the Lord Chancellor died in 1555, Philip was consulted over his replacement. His military hatchet-man in the Low Countries, the duke of Alba, strongly advised him to appoint 'king's men' not 'queen's men', but the appointment seems to have been a compromise.
Nicholas Heath was archbishop of York (the Church's second top job), a good administrator and an honest man. But he couldn't hold a candle to Gardiner with all his experience. He was probably neither Philip's nor Mary's first choice, but he got the job anyway.
The fabric of frustration
The all-important cloth trade took a downturn during Mary's reign, and Philip didn't help matters:
● Charles had asked Mary to restore the privileges of the European Hanseatic League (big business), which Edward VI had removed. This meant that Antwerp-based merchants were now back in English ports, which annoyed the merchant adventurers, the most powerful economic group in London. And whenever Antwerp and English merchants got into disputes, Philip always backed Antwerp.
● Philip kept English traders out of the Spanish-American market. True, he was also keeping Naples and Flanders out of this, but that didn't reduce English annoyance.
● English merchants tried to pinch some of the Portuguese trade in Guinea, West Africa. Because Philip's mother was Portuguese, he stopped this too.
The one thing Philip didn't block was the setting up of the Muscovy Company in 1555 to trade with the newly expanding Russia, because he had no interests there!
Taking a turn for the worse
England was depressed in 1556. The previous summer had been unusually wet, three successive harvests had failed and food prices were three times greater than those of 50 years earlier. One eyewitness wrote: ‘What diseases and sicknesses everywhere prevail, the like whereof has never been known before. Hot burning fevers and other strange diseases.’
Many people felt that the depression was all Philip’s fault (see the nearby sidebar ‘The fabric of frustration’), and so were the burnings (a Spanish idea) and thanks to him, England was bound to be dragged into war with France again sooner or later (see the following section).
Squabbling With the pope
Philip became king of Spain in January 1556 and he was already lord of the Low Countries. This meant he’d got involved in the half-hearted war with France that had been going on since 1552. But when he became king he cut his losses and made peace with Henri II at Vaucelles in January 1556.
The pope, Paul IV, hated all things Spanish (he even refused to make the long dead Spanish hero El Cid a saint because of this) and he began to take land off Spain’s allies and even imprison the Holy Roman Emperor’s spokesmen.
Philip dithered before attacking the papacy. After all, an attack put him in a difficult position as far as God was concerned; two champions of Christendom having a go at each other wasn’t good for publicity. But on 1 September he sent his viceroy as king of Spain, the duke of Alba, to Naples to hit the papal states.
The pope was all mouth and no vestments. He couldn’t fight Alba, one of the best soldiers of his generation, so he called in the French for help. The duke of Guise crossed the Alps in January 1557 - and here we go again!
Trying to drag England into a war
Philip naturally wanted England in on this fight. That way, he could hit France on two fronts - the great dream, in fact, of Henry VII all those years ago (see Chapter 2).
Mary was keen but the Privy Council and even Cardinal Pole were against going to war. Pole couldn’t allow war against his boss, the pope, even if Paul IV couldn’t stand him, and the Council reminded Mary that her pre-nup with Philip expressly said ‘no war with France’. Anyway, the Council couldn’t afford war - times were hard and the national debt stood at a staggering £180,000.
Philip came back to England to plead his case-this was a new war, he said, not the old one. France was at the gates of Naples and Philip and Mary both knew that war was the decision of the monarch; the Council could only advise.
What was the state of play?
● The Council was divided. Most of them opposed war but Paget and the earl of Pembroke muttered things about honour, and backed Philip.
● Nobody cared what Parliament thought - it was nothing to do with them.
● The powerful London merchants opposed war because they were scared of losing valuable ships and cargo to the French (and almost certainly Scottish) pirates.
● Some of the nobility and gentry longed for a good scrap under a king. There had been few opportunities recently and Philip was a fighter who’d lead them to battle.
● Some nobles saw their chance to get back into Mary’s good books by backing Philip.
● Most ordinary people were against fighting - war always meant more taxes.
With the situation still unresolved, Philip left England in June 1557, and he did so for the last time. He’d never see the country - or Mary - again. And the next time he tried (see Chapter 15) he’d send the most terrifying fleet the world had seen - the Armada.