Mary I England's Catholic Queen John Edwards

The English Monarchs Series
Publication date:
31 Aug 2011
Yale University Press
336 pages: 235 x 156mm
16 pp. b/w illus.


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The life story of Mary I - daughter of Henry VIII and his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon - is often distilled to a few dramatic episodes: her victory over the attempted coup by Lady Jane Grey, the imprisonment of her half-sister Elizabeth, the burning of Protestants, her short marriage to Philip of Spain.

This original and deeply researched biography paints a far more detailed portrait of Mary and offers a fresh understanding of her religious faith and policies as well as her historical significance in England and beyond. John Edwards, a leading scholar of English and Spanish history, is the first to make full use of Continental archives in this context, especially Spanish ones, to demonstrate how Mary's culture, Catholic faith, and politics were thoroughly Spanish. Edwards begins with Mary's origins, follows her as she battles her increasingly erratic father, and focuses particular attention on her notorious religious policies, some of which went horribly wrong from her point of view.

The book concludes with a consideration of Mary's five-year reign and the frustrations that plagued her final years. Childless, ill, deserted by her husband, Mary died in the full knowledge that her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth would undo her religious work and, without acknowledging her sister, would reap the benefits of Mary's achievements in government.

John Edwards is Modern Languages Faculty Research Fellow in Spanish, University of Oxford. He lives in Oxford, UK.

"Edwards has comprehensively defeated a persistent and painful historical myth and replaced it with something more complicated, more human and much more accurate. This is the best biography of Mary we have yet seen."—Lucy Wooding, Times Higher Education 

"John Edwards, an esteemed Oxford scholar of English and Spanish History, has courageously attempted to find the real Mary Tudor in this excellent book."—Simon Caldwell, Catholic Herald

"Edwards’s strength is that he is as much a scholar of Spanish as of English history, and so he — uniquely among her recent biographers — can see Mary’s life as she herself saw it: on a European stage. Throughout the book, we see her life, and English politics, through Spanish, Italian, and other European eyes. Merely as a research achievement, this is monumentally impressive…It is the kind of history that can give us a fresh perspective, not only on a long-dead queen, but on ourselves."—Alec Ryrie, Church Times

"An authoritative study of 'England’s Catholic Queen'...a refreshingly, original approach."—Northern History