Four hundred years ago this year there took place in England one of those events which may genuinely be described as crucial for the whole development of the Western world, not only in the sphere of religion but also in that of ethical, political and social movement. In itself, the event was quite ordinary and simple, and not altogether unexpected. It consisted in the death of an aging, lonely, disappointed and embittered lady. But this lady happened to be the Queen of England, the wife of Philip of Spain, and the leader of the Counter-Reformation in her kingdom. Her name was Mary Tudor.
She had been through unfortunate experiences prior to her accession. Her mother was the ill-fated Katherine of Aragon, who had first been married to the elder son of Henry VII, and then became the first of the many brides of Henry VIII. Mary was her only child to survive infancy, and the failure to produce a male heir was one of the reasons for the unsavory affair which touched off the Reformation in England. Mary herself grew up under the shadow of her mother’s ill-treatment and a prey to the fickle moods of her father. For a time, when the king’s marriage with Katherine was pronounced null and void, she was even declared illegitimate and excluded from succession to the throne. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that she later identified the Reformation with a great wrong, and regarded those who espoused it as mistaken at the very best, if not irreligious and hypocritical.
Mary was not unkindly treated during the reign of Edward VI, and was given her rightful position as next in succession should Edward die without any children of his own. Her religious convictions were respected, although Reformers like Ridley made futile efforts ...1
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