Mary I, Queen of England (1553-1558)

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Queen Mary I
Hans Eworth | 1554
Oil on panel | 8 1/2 in. x 6 5/8 in.
NPG 4861

When Mary I became Queen of England she immediately began to restore Catholicism.

Protestant reforms were overturned, and churches were re-furnished with images and devotional items.

Mary’s commitment to rejoining the Church of Rome came with casualties. Within 4 years, 300 people were burned at the stake for heresy, including the old Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

Mary sought to secure the Catholic restoration through a new dynasty, and in 1554 she married the king of Spain, Philip II.

This marriage was unpopular with Mary’s subjects. England’s reformation had sparked tensions with Spain, and there were now new fears that the country was to be subjugated by one of Europe’s leading powers.

Ultimately, Mary’s regime did not have enough time to enact lasting change. Mary died childless in November 1558. Her 25 year old Protestant half-sister Elizabeth ascended the throne unopposed.

“[Mary is] of spare and delicate frame…[with eyes] so piercing that they inspire not only respect, but fear, in those on whom she fixes them”.

the Venetian Ambassador, 1557

Beverley in Mary I’s reign

Mary I’s attempts to reinstate Catholicism had little effect in Beverley.

Heretical Protestant books were burnt in Saturday Market, and there was a brief revival of some religious Orders. However, the local populace and clergy appear to have been committed to the new religion.

In 1554, a former clergymen of Beverley Minster, Robert Thwing, was brought before the Court at York because he was married, a sacrament now banned for priests.

To this charge Thwing said: “he had rather continue with his wife and live like a layman” than return to the Catholic faith.

Explore the Tudor history we tell through this portrait:

Religious reform


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