Mary was the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VIII and the only child of Catherine of Aragon. On her half-brother Edward’s death, she was the claimant favoured by political movements which sought reconciliation with Rome and a return to the catholic forms of worship.
Mary had been the king’s favourite, but in his later years he longed for a son and his daughter’s presence at court may have reminded him of his first wife. Mary was demoted to the status of lady-in-waiting to her young half-sister, Elizabeth, which she evidently resented. Elizabeth was herself demoted after the execution of Anne Boleyn, and both she and Mary lost power to their brother Edward. On Henry’s marriage to KatherineParr, the two girls were re-admitted to court but relations with their father were strained.
Edward feared that if Mary succeeded him, she would undo the Protestant reforms he and his father had undertaken; he therefore disinherited both his half-sisters and nominated Lady Jane Grey but she had little support and was soon disposed of after Mary entered London to popular acclaim. She was crowned in 1553 at the age of 37 but the combination of religious and political rivalry made her marriage to the Spanish nobleman, Prince Phillip, highly undesirable as it was feared that England might become a Spanish possession or satellite. Phillip’s attention turned to military affairs on the continent and he lost interest in marriage. Strained relations with Spain encouraged Phillip to persist in his attempts to win the queen’s affection, but this only inflamed English popular opinion both for and against Mary. (Phillip was technically King of England during Mary’s reign.)
The leading churchman, Thomas Cranmer, was burnt at the stake by her order and she abolished many of her half-brother’s laws. Currency reform and a crackdown on piracy were among the beneficial effects of her reign. She died in London in 1558 and was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth I.
Philip, King of Spain (from 1556) married Mary in 1554 and was very unpopular; the protest from the Commons prompted Mary's reply that Parliament was 'not accustomed to use such language to the Kings of England' and that in her marriage 'she would choose as God inspired her'. The marriage was childless, Philip spent most of it on the continent, England obtained no share in the Spanish monopolies in New World trade and the alliance with Spain dragged England into a war with France.