Queen Mary I of England

19 February 2016

Queen Mary I – Mary Tudor – was born 500 years ago, on 18 February 1516. The eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, in 1553 she inherited the throne when her only brother, King Edward VI, died without children. Her inheritance was not a foregone conclusion, as King Henry's efforts to annul his marriage to her mother, Catherine of Aragon, had led to that marriage being declared invalid and therefore Mary herself illegitimate. Mary was also a Roman Catholic coming to the throne of a country whose links with Rome had been severed almost 20 years earlier, and whose previous ruler had been a devout Protestant. However, Mary was able to defeat the attempts of a Protestant faction to put a rival claimant on the throne and had that claimant, Lady Jane Grey, executed. Mary's resolve to return England to the Roman Catholic religion led to the deaths of hundreds of Protestants in her 5-year rule, and earned her the posthumous sobriquet 'Bloody Mary'. In the year after her accession to the throne she married Philip of Spain, and under the marriage settlement they became co-rulers.

1 M. 6bis f. 85r compressedQueen Mary was a benefactor of the College of Arms, in 1555 granting it a renewed Charter of Incorporation under which it still operates today. We see here the opening clauses of this charter. Also displayed here are images of manuscripts held in the College's archives relating to Mary's baptism, coronation and funeral, at all of which the Officers of Arms played a significant administrative and ceremonial role. Sixteenth-century paintings of her achievement of Arms are also shown; these were made during her father's lifetime, before the split from Rome and when she was still his sole heir. A contemporary painted pedigree roll sets out Queen Mary's descent from King Harold, the Anglo-Saxon king who was defeated by William the Conqueror, proving her ancient ancestral right to the throne.

This manuscript describes the Christening of the Princess Mary, on Wednesday 20th February 1516, two days after her birth. The volume in which it is found (MS M. 6bis) is an early 16th century compilation of accounts of ceremonial occasions, with many of the entries being in the hand of Sir Christopher Barker, Garter King of Arms (d 1550).


It begins: 'In the yere of owre lorde god a(nno) MCCCCCXV* & the viith yere of owre soverayne lorde kyng Henry the VIIIth the xviiith daye of Februare beying Mondaye abowte iiii of the cloke in the mornynge was borne the pryncesse at Grenewyche whose crystenyng was deferde unto the Wenysdaye next foloyng', then goes on to describe the proceedings in detail, including the way to the church ('well graveld & strewyd w(ith) rosshes of a good thekines [i.e. rushes of a good thickness]'), and a house outside the church door, well framed with timber, covered with arras (tapestries) and richly hanged, where the Princess, godfather and godmothers stayed before the ceremony and where she was named: presumably a temporary structure made especially for the occasion. The church itself was hung with cloths of needlework garnished with precious stones. Those attending and the roles which they had are all described. At the beginning of the fourth line from the bottom of the first page can be seen the name of Sir Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn who was to become Henry VIII's second wife and Mary's stepmother. He attended the ceremony as one of the four men who carried a canopy above the baby.

* The date given here, 1515, is due to the use in England until 1752 of the Julian or 'Old Style' calendar.

College of Arms reference: M. 6bis f. 85r


2 M. 6bis f. 86r compressedThe last line of the account describes the role of the Officers of Arms, who proclaimed at the church door, in French, her 'style' (i.e. titles).

College of Arms reference: M. 6bis f. 86r


3 Num Sch 20 12 compressedThis pedigree roll depicts the descent of Queen Mary from King Harold, thus showing her as the rightful direct successor to the kings of England from the time preceding the Norman Conquest of 1066. The section of roll reproduced here commences with Edward II. The author of the roll includes narrative passages for each monarch to Henry VII, Mary's grandfather and the first Tudor monarch. Of Richard III, whom Henry defeated in battle, the author writes: 'and as yt is sayd he caused hys brother's chyldren to be morthered [murdered] wythe in the towre of London and after he had rayngned iii yeres he was slene at Bosworthe Fylde be [by] Henry the Sevent... and lyeth buryed at Lecester'. In the entry for Edward V, one of the 'Princes in the Tower' whom Richard III is said to have killed, he writes that he and his brother were put in the Tower, 'but of the maner of the Deathe of the yonge kynge and hys brother there there (sic) is Divers and sonndrye opynyenes'

Ref: College of Arms MS Num Sch 20/12

4a I. 18 f. 131r compressedThese pages from the account of the proceedings at the Coronation of Queen Mary I describe part of the role of the Officers of Arms at the ceremony. On coming before the Queen, Garter King of Arms made his obeisances three times, then 'w[ith] a lowd voyce proclaymed her style', i.e. titles. This was done in Latin, French, and English, and the words are shown in this manuscript in larger letters than the surrounding text. The English version, rendered in modern English spelling, reads: 'Of the most high, most puissant (i.e. powerful), and most excellent Princess Mary the First by the Grace of God Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England & Ireland Supreme Head'.

College of Arms reference: I. 18 ff 131r and 131v

5 I. 7 f. 76r compressed


Text of the warrant of Queen Mary to the Exchequer to pay 'our trusty and welbelovid garter principall king of armis, heraulds and pursuyvants of Armis... in redy monye upon the sight hereof and w(ith)out delaye the some of one hundredth poundes starlinge' for their service at her Coronation.

College of Arms reference: I. 7 f. 76r

6 I. 2 p. 14 compressed

Arms and badge of the Princess Mary. This manuscript was probably produced under the auspices of Thomas Wriothesley, Garter King of Arms (d 1532). Mary's arms combine the Tudor arms (the lions of England and fleur-de-lys of France) quartered with those of her mother, Catherine of Aragon. The supporters are a greyhound and a falcon, both of which were used by Henry VII. The greyhound was used by the Richmond family – Henry VII's father, Edmund Tudor, was the 1st Earl of Richmond.

College of Arms reference: I. 2, p. 14

9 Vincent 152 p. 72 compressed

Arms of the Princess Mary. These are taken from MS Vincent 152, known as 'Prince Arthur's Book' because the painting on page 1 of the arms of Henry VIII impaling those of Catherine of Aragon was altered to make the dexter side appear to belong instead to Henry's brother Prince Arthur. Like I. 2, this manuscript is believed to be a product of the so-called Wriothesley workshop and therefore composed before Wriothesley's death in 1532.
College of Arms reference: Vincent MS 152, p. 72


7a Charter compressed

The Officers of Arms received their first formal charter of incorporation from Richard III in 1484. When Richard was defeated by Henry VII at Bosworth Field a year later, the victorious King revoked the many grants of property made by his predecessor. The College continued to function as a corporate body but had no home for its activities and records. It was only 70 years later, in 1555, that they received their second charter of incorporation from King Philip and Queen Mary, and were granted a new building. The College still operates under that charter, and the current building stands on the site of the premises granted it at that time (the original building, Derby Place, burned down during the Great Fire of London in 1666). The 1555 Charter is still owned by the College, and the opening passages are depicted here. The King and Queen are shown inside the initial capital P. The illuminated initial and decorated border are not coloured.

8 Vincent 435 p.1 compressed
This entry in a miscellany compiled in the 16th or early 17th century transcribes instructions of Queen Mary to the Council of the North, led by her cousin Francis Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord President of the Council from 1549 to 1560. The scribe's original copy has the document as having been issued in the names of both Queen Mary and her consort, King Philip, using the plural in the body of the text, e.g. 'their realme' and the 'kinge and quenes Ma[jesties] Councell' (lines 3 and 7 of the main body of the text). However, this has later been amended with 'her' inserted and words to be omitted, such as Kinge and their, underlined. On line 7 of the heading 'their' and the final s of 'Highnesses' have been scribbled out. When Philip and Mary married the Marriage Act ensured they were effectively co-rulers, and the Privy Council instructed that they be joint signatories to royal documents. Therefore it is possible that these alterations was made after Mary's death, during the reign of Elizabeth I, when relations between England and Spain deteriorated to the point of war and Philip sent the Spanish Armada to attack England.

College of Arms reference: Vincent MS 435 p. 1

10a I. 14 f. 23r compressed

10b I. 14 f. 23v compressed

10c I. 14 f. 24r compressed

Account of the procession to Westminster Abbey for the funeral of Queen Mary, 1558. The procession begins with two porters with black staves and continues with a myriad of church officials, servants, gentry and nobility. They are itemised here minutely, with details given of anything carried as part of the ceremonial. The heraldry on show is very evident, with first page including the information that the standard of the greyhound was borne by Sir Oliver Lawrence, with his horse trapper depicting escutcheons of arms and a chevron on his horse's forehead and on Sir Oliver's own long gown and hood (the longer passage at the foot of the page). The next page, fourth line from the top, tells us that the standard of the lion was borne by Sir George Howard, again with his horse trapper adorned with escutcheons. An embroidered banner was borne by Viscount Hereford. The traditional achievements of an heraldic funeral were carried by Officers of Arms – the helm and crest by Chester Herald; the 'target' (i.e. targe, a small shield) by Norroy King of Arms; the sword by Clarenceux King of Arms, then the 'cote of arms' by Garter Principal King of Arms. In the diagram on the last page the cross represents the 'chariot' on which the Queen's bier was borne, covered in black cloth. Accompanying the chariot were men on horseback, each carrying a banner, and these are shown on the diagram. They include the banners of Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mary ('Our Lady'), and St George.

Ref: College of Arms MS I. 14, ff 23r-24r

11. I. 15 f. 39r compressedDescription and diagram of standards borne at the funeral of Queen Mary. The heading shows that they were made of white and red taffeta, so that the designs would have been painted on. The colours are represented in 'trick', a shorthand used to designate the colours of a design, both quicker and less expensive than painting every illustration.

Ref: College of Arms MS I. 15 f. 39r

12 I. 9 f.144r compressedDepicted here is a detailed description of the funeral bier of Queen Mary. It is drawn by five horses, with trappers covered in escutcheons of arms, and each with a chevon on its forehead. On each horse rides a page of honour holding a banner. 10 gentlemen ride by the bier, five on each side, again each holding a banner. A banner is fastened to each of the four corners of the bier. Four heralds each bear a banner of a saint. Two noblemen ride at each corner of the bier as 'assistaunce to the corsse [corpse]'. Queen Mary's body is covered with cloth of tissue, and on that lay the 'presentacyon' appareled in robes of estate, wearing the crown, with the orb ('Ball') and sceptre in her hands. At her head kneeled one gentleman usher, and another at her feet.

Ref: College of Arms MS I. 9 f. 144r

The College of Arms Newsletter is produced every three months and sent automatically and free to those who subscribe. Other benefits for those who submit their names in this way include advance notice of College of Arms events, relevant publications, and media appearances.

We use session cookies to improve your experience with our website. If you continue using our website without changing your settings, or accept, we'll assume you are happy to receive the cookies set. To find out more about how we use cookies, please read our privacy policy.
To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.