It has often been queried by historians, proper historians that is, with degrees and everything, why Mary I had such a desire to kill. Her nick name, given to her after her death, was Bloody Mary and that was not because of the heaviness of her menses! but because she had the reputation of being a persecutor and cold blooded killer of those of the Protestant faith.
Mary was the eldest child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon his first wife (or should that just be ‘wife?’ That depends which side of the argument you are, pro or anti Anne Boleyn and the other four.) Mary became monarch after the death of her brother Edward, the sixth king of that name. She reigned for just five years from 1553 to 1558. During this time she condemned 257 Protestants to die the terrible death of being burned alive. Legend has her responsible for 50,000 deaths but this is slightly inaccurate by 49,713 souls and must have been a misprint. Printing was still, in real terms, in its infancy and these typos did happen from time to time. Her father killed 57,000 people who refused to recognise him as the rightful head of the church and Mary had a long way to go to catch up with that!
Mary was determined to return England to Catholicism, the religion of her childhood, and married Catholic King Phillip II of Spain. Despite the well known saying ‘no one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ after Mary married Phillip the populace of England certainly was expecting the Spanish Inquisition (or would that then be the English Inquisition?) and many accepted the Catholic faith to avoid the comfy chair.
Despite the inaccuracy of the numbers, the question still remains, was she a cold blooded killer or did she in fact have a reason for her manic killing spree? That 257 represents about one a week during her reign, a lot in a country still under populated because of war, famine and the plague.
New evidence came to light last year which may shed light on this. A copy of a map was found in the back of a book in a library in Cornwall, England. Previously only two extant copies of this map were thought to be in existence, but this third turned up and blew academic research sky high. It had Mary’s signature in her own hand along with words in Latin in a different hand. Translated the words say, ‘’I will kill all pigs’’, on the face of it a strange thing for Mary to put her name to. She was Catholic, not of the Jewish or Islamic faith.
The strange words may now have been given meaning following research by a *Dr Don Ashtray-Pill, an independent historian and the author of many books on mediaeval history. Dr Pill found that Mary was fascinated by what today would be called Geography but was more commonly described as Cosmographia during her lifetime. In 1545 she obtained a rare copy of ‘Wonders of the sea and rare animals, as they are found in the midnight lands in the sea and on the land’ by Sebastian Münster. (Sebastian’s brother is credited for being the founder of the family on which the 1960s CBS television programme ‘The Münsters’ was originally based.)
‘Wonders of the Sea…’ was printed in many languages including English, Czech, French Italian and Latin. Mary’s copy was in Latin. It was so popular that 24 editions were produced in 100 years, the success mainly being due to the fascinating woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf, Manuel Deutsch and others.
The inclusion of Holbein’s work made Mary look at the Holbein oil painting anew and she noticed with distaste that whilst Holbein was a skilled and painter, her friend ‘Cremuel’ (as her father’s concubine Anne Boleyn called him) had been painted looking fat and greedy ‘like a hog’. It was pointed out to Mary that he could hope for no better as he was not only guilty of treason, but was known also to be a Protestant.
Mary mused on these words but it was not until several years later that she understood what the speaker was really trying to say. In the meantime Mary’s hatred of Protestantism grew and grew. She blamed the rise of the bastard faith on everything bad that had ever happened to her, her parent’s separation, her mother’s downfall, her father’s alienation of her, her lack of rights and privileges as the daughter of a king….she even blamed her short stature on Protestantism, though that was more likely to have been genetic as her great uncle, Richard of Shrewsbury, also had dwarfism https://doublehistory.com/tag/dwarfism
The map that was found in the book in the library in Cornwall is known as ‘Islandia’ and was created by Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish map maker and geographer, recognized as the creator of the first atlas, the ‘Theatre of the World’. In his later life he was appointed official geographer to the man who was Mary’s husband, Philip II of Spain. It is considered that the map may have been specifically commissioned for Mary by her husband due to her fascination with anything geographic, a rare sign of communication if not affection between the two. The excerpt of the map (above) shows sea monsters that some believed inhabited the surrounding waters. Mistakes about marine life have ranged from inaccurate assumptions about the behavior of known species to fanciful depictions of animals that “might” exist.Some speculate that this monster-riddled map is aimed at dissuading Europeans from moving to an island that the current settlers preferred to keep to themselves! These beasts in the seas all have their own story and none more pertinent to Mary than the story of the the Sea Swine or Sea Hog described by Olaus Magnus a few years earlier and I quote:
”After pointing out that a “monstrous Fish” appeared off the coast of England in 1532,
Olaus Magnus wrote, “Now I shall revive the memory of a monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog’s head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon’s, two eyes on both sides of his Loyns, and a third in his belly inkling toward his Navel; behind he had a Forked-Tail, like to other Fish commonly.”
Olaus Magnus then went on to compare the beast to heretics, Protestants, who, he believed, lived and behaved like swine. The naturalist had been born a Catholic, but his homeland of Sweden was Protestant by the time he produced his monster filled map.
When Mary heard of this she embraced the idea that Protestants were swine, hogs or pigs, with fervour and decreed that if unrepentant they should be cooked like swine – roasted on fires – which does not say a lot about her knowledge of cookery but does explain why 237 Protestants were burned during her reign.
And on that sombre note Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff will go and eat a cheese sandwich, having rather put himself off the lovely pork chop that he treated himself to earlier. For some reason Jefferty does rather fancy a Vodka and Tomato juice – strange that!
The Munsters: TV programme
Sea Monsters by Joseph Nigg
Blurry and Moo – Blog by Richard Ian
The Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens: Michael Ashley
Facebook page ‘Richardian’
A few other Facebook pages that I cannot be bothered to name
Lady White Art
* The author called Dr Don Ashtray Pill has asked for his real name to be disguised to protect the innocent and spare the blushes of his family and friend.
** Art work reproduced by kind permission of Lady White Art.
© Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff, 2nd March 2015