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When we talk of Bloody Mary we often think of the legend of Bloody Mary, the phantom or spirit conjured to reveal the future. Historically according to the folklore the divination insinuated that young women walk up a flight of stairs backwards holding a candle and a mirror with the lights dimmed. As they gazed upon the mirror they could see the face of their husband or otherwise see the face of the grim reaper indicating that they would die before getting a chance to marry. Over the years the folklore has been

subjected to many interpretations and historic variations. In the modern version Bloody Mary allegedly appears if you call her name thirteen times with a lit candle in a dimly lit room in front of the mirror. The apparitions often appear as a witch, ghost and many a times covered in blood, hence the name.

Through history however, Mary I also known as Mary Tudor, Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 until her death in 1558, was deemed as Bloody Mary with respect to the Marian persecutions that transpired during her fiver year reign. Mary was the only living child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. Mary is best known in history for her attempt to reverse the effects of the English Reformation which had been set into motion during the reign of her father. The reformation of the 16th century in England is what gave rise to the phenomenon that would over the years fractionate the practice of Christianity in western and central Europe.

Mary took to her throne on July 19th 1553, a Queen alas at the age of thirty-seven, a position that she had come to fill over years of fierce, strong and unwavering determination. Mary believed that after everything that had transpired in her life she was put on the throne which was to reverse the English restoration project. She grew up as a devout Roman Catholic and her first order of business was to get traditional religion back to where it was before the revolution. Under her rule it was illegal for protestants to follow of profess their religion. The ‘Book of Common Prayer’ was banned and so was any form of protestant ritual or writing. The heretics were executed under the legislation that punished anyone who went against Catholicism.

The standard treatment for those guilty of crimes in England was execution itself by being hanged, drawn and quartered, but the legislation adopted a measure which allowed them to punish the condemned by burning them. It is said that during her reign for five years at least 280 people were recognised as burned at the stake as a result of this legislation, thus earning her the infamous title of, ‘Bloody Mary’.

However, the claims of her being a ruthless queen is not one that many agree with. The royal bloodline through the years were participants of various ruthless killings including her father. Her legacy is one much more than just the persecution of protestants during her reign. Even as centuries pass her name in history has gone down as the violent despot, which in fact is a topic of debate in itself. Her tale has been subjected to many controversial debates such as a sexist innuendo of her legacy, her stained legacy during a shifting national identity that was subjected to propaganda. All of these have played a part in her reign as the first Queen of England.

As the first queen of England she faced a lot of arduous obstructions, men as well as women stood opposed to the idea that a woman could effectively rule the country in what was considered to be at the time a, ‘a man’s world’. Mary on the other hand rose to the occasion and became her own person as she reigned as the Queen of England, she brought about many revolutions with regard to trade as well as education. It is so easy to get lost in the violent transgressions that transpired during her rule that the good tends to slip away. The first Queen of England was much more than what she was mythicised to be, more than just, ‘Bloody Mary’.

Namira Khan
Amity University, Kolkata


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