1. Mary was engaged to be married, aged 2 and a half years old, to the French dauphin. In spite of her young age, Mary did, it seems, know something as to what was happening at the betrothal ceremony that took place at Greenwich palace in London. ‘Are you the Dauphin of France?’ She was reported to have said to the French ambassador: ‘If you are, I wish to kiss you.’
2. With her mother, Catherine of Aragon’s guidance, Mary was highly educated and widely praised for her accomplishments. She was able to read a Latin letter by the age of nine and at twelve translated the prayer of St Thomas Aquinas from Latin into English.
3. Throughout her life, Mary loved to gamble. Her privy purse accounts reveal numerous amounts of money lost in this way.
4. She was the first ever woman to be crowned queen of England. Many people think it was Matilda, daughter of Henry I in the twelfth century, but she was never crowned and was given only the title ‘Lady of the English’. Up until Mary’s reign, English law was masculine referring only to kings. By a special Act of parliament in April 1554, Mary declared that women had all the power of men and queens could rule with all the force of law as their male counterparts.
5. Mary is buried beneath Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey. Elizabeth was dug up from elsewhere in the abbey three years after her death and moved into her sister’s grave by king James I. Elizabeth’s presence in the grave is celebrated by a magnificent monument, the fact that Mary also lies there is acknowledged only by the Latin inscription ‘Partners both in throne and grave. Here rest we two sisters Mary and Elizabeth in the hope of one resurrection.’
About the author: Anna Whitelock received her PhD in History from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 2004 with a thesis on the court of Mary 1. Her articles and book reviews on various aspects of Tudor history have appeared in publications including The Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, and BBC History. She has taught at Cambridge University and is now a lecturer in Early Modern History at Royal Holloway College, University of London. In 2010, Whitelock, who was nominated by Antonia Fraser, received the Arts Club Emerging Writer Award.
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