On a related topic to my Martyrs’ post, I was also thinking about how Mary I came to be known as Bloody Mary and whether it was inevitable.
In the beginning of her reign, she had her vengeance on the people who were involved in deposing her mother. Charles II did this too, so we’ll just skim over that for the moment. Lots of people if they had the power would take bloody vengeance on those that have wronged them.
But, I don’t think that it was inevitable that Mary’s reign would descend into the burning horror that it did.
I think the turning point was executing Jane Grey.
Up until this point, Mary was taking a fairly moderate line, believing that she could gently nudge people to convert to Catholicism. However, the Wyatt plot made it inevitable that she would have to do something about Jane Grey. But she was extremely reluctant to do so. She believed that Jane’s age required mercy and she sincerely believed Jane when she said that she had been forced to take the crown. Unfortunately, two things coincided with one another: the Wyatt rebellion and being told that Prince Philip would not come to England to marry her while Jane was still alive.
Executing Jane was probably the hardest decision that Mary ever made. Right up to the execution Mary was trying to find a reason not to go ahead: plead your belly, convert to Catholicism. I think it hardened her towards difficult decisions. If she could execute her cousin, someone of royal blood, a teenager, someone she may not even have believed was truly guilty of treason, and which troubled her conscience, no-one was safe. Sending heretics to the stake was probably a much easier decision seen as it didn’t contract her conscience.
So, I think the execution of Jane Grey was the turning point in Mary’s reign. It wasn’t inevitable. If Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, hadn’t led a rebellion declaring for Jane, Mary’s reign may have passed as a much quieter one.
And, Elizabeth I is usually seen as setting the foundations for intentionally and publically executing princes with the death of Mary Queen of Scots, but Jane Grey was a queen, although not an anointed one (but neither was Edward V and we still see him as a king). Never mind the death of Mary of Scotland paving the way for the execution of Charles I, the execution of QUEEN Jane Grey set the foundations for the later executions of Mary of Scotland and Charles I/