This is my third piece for The Christian Review: on the reputation of Mary I:
In spite of the efforts of several biographers over the past seven years, the rehabilitation of Mary I’s reputation seems impossible. The burning bodies of 280 English men and women haunt her legacy — and the memory of Catholicism in England.
Historians such Linda Porter, Anna Whitelock, Judith Richards, Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman, and John Edwards have pointed out that Mary, Henry VIII, and Catherine of Aragon’s daughter forged the path that her half-sister, Elizabeth, would follow. Mary I was the first queen regnant of England; her anointing and crowning broke the taboo of those semi-sacraments being reserved for men; she and Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, revived and renewed the practice of Catholicism in England; and she possessed the Tudor charisma while being a hard-working and thoughtful monarch.
But for all of Mary I’s historic attainments, the smoke from the pyres of Smithfield still gets in our eyes.
The 2lst century biographers follow the lead of H.F.M. Prescott’s 1953 Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor to present Mary’s great qualities of generosity, love of children, faithfulness to her religion, dedication to her mother, and adoration of her father, and how horrible her adolescence and early adulthood were; not allowed to see her dying mother, forced by her adored father to swear to her own bastardy, prevented from the normal course of marriage and childbearing.