Hot Best Seller

The Myth of "Bloody Mary": A Biography of Queen Mary I of England

Availability: Ready to download

In this groundbreaking new biography of "Bloody Mary," Linda Porter brings to life a queen best remembered for burning hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake, but whose passion, will, and sophistication have for centuries been overlooked.Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaiss In this groundbreaking new biography of "Bloody Mary," Linda Porter brings to life a queen best remembered for burning hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake, but whose passion, will, and sophistication have for centuries been overlooked.Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaissance princess. A Latin scholar and outstanding musician, her love of fashion was matched only by her zeal for gambling. It is the tragedy of Queen Mary that today, 450 years after her death, she remains the most hated, least understood monarch in English history.Linda Porter's pioneering new biography—based on contemporary documents and drawing from recent scholarship—cuts through the myths to reveal the truth about the first queen to rule England in her own right. Mary learned politics in a hard school, and was cruelly treated by her father and bullied by the strongmen of her brother, Edward VI. An audacious coup brought her to the throne, and she needed all her strong will and courage to keep it. Mary made a grand marriage to Philip of Spain, but her attempts to revitalize England at home and abroad were cut short by her premature death at the age of forty-two. The first popular biography of Mary in thirty years, The First Queen of England offers a fascinating, controversial look at this much-maligned queen.


Compare

In this groundbreaking new biography of "Bloody Mary," Linda Porter brings to life a queen best remembered for burning hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake, but whose passion, will, and sophistication have for centuries been overlooked.Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaiss In this groundbreaking new biography of "Bloody Mary," Linda Porter brings to life a queen best remembered for burning hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake, but whose passion, will, and sophistication have for centuries been overlooked.Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaissance princess. A Latin scholar and outstanding musician, her love of fashion was matched only by her zeal for gambling. It is the tragedy of Queen Mary that today, 450 years after her death, she remains the most hated, least understood monarch in English history.Linda Porter's pioneering new biography—based on contemporary documents and drawing from recent scholarship—cuts through the myths to reveal the truth about the first queen to rule England in her own right. Mary learned politics in a hard school, and was cruelly treated by her father and bullied by the strongmen of her brother, Edward VI. An audacious coup brought her to the throne, and she needed all her strong will and courage to keep it. Mary made a grand marriage to Philip of Spain, but her attempts to revitalize England at home and abroad were cut short by her premature death at the age of forty-two. The first popular biography of Mary in thirty years, The First Queen of England offers a fascinating, controversial look at this much-maligned queen.

30 review for The Myth of "Bloody Mary": A Biography of Queen Mary I of England

  1. 5 out of 5

    Orsolya

    Truly the case of a victim (of sorts) being made out to be the blood-thirsty "bad guy", Mary Tudor unfortunately has a bad reputation. Although this viewpoint has been more than avidly blamed on Elizabethan propaganda, the image remains. Linda Porter dives past the traditional stereotypes and bad blood (pun intended); to present Mary's reasoning behind her actions and her remaining scars from childhood of much pain. In terms of biographies, this is a rather inclusive portrait of Mary Tudor and w Truly the case of a victim (of sorts) being made out to be the blood-thirsty "bad guy", Mary Tudor unfortunately has a bad reputation. Although this viewpoint has been more than avidly blamed on Elizabethan propaganda, the image remains. Linda Porter dives past the traditional stereotypes and bad blood (pun intended); to present Mary's reasoning behind her actions and her remaining scars from childhood of much pain. In terms of biographies, this is a rather inclusive portrait of Mary Tudor and wonderful for those seeking a book with more detail on her versus just an overview. Much overshadowed by younger half-sister Elizabeth, it is time for Mary to shine. I mean, she WAS England FIRST queen regnant. Although at times Porter seems to beg for pity, Mary true personality still shines through and one finally understands her convictions and actions. Mary is a strong and passionate female who could teach a thing or two to today's modern youth. Her zeal is beyond what an average child today can even try to encompass. Smooth, easy-flowing, and filled with factual information over opinions and speculation, Linda Porter's work is intended to demyth Marian oppositions. Certainly recommended for those who merely root for Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth but wanting to see a clearer picture.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caidyn (he/him/his)

    This review can be found on my blog! Another awkward review of a book I put in my top ten of this year. Whoops. Apparently I can’t choose them well? The title really drew me in. I wanted to see how Porter would refute all the things that are attributed to Queen Mary I. But, she couldn’t deny them. She accepted that they happened, but put them in the context of Mary’s beliefs and the times, along with kind of looking at how her father was. But, that, literally, was about 5-10 pages that she did that This review can be found on my blog! Another awkward review of a book I put in my top ten of this year. Whoops. Apparently I can’t choose them well? The title really drew me in. I wanted to see how Porter would refute all the things that are attributed to Queen Mary I. But, she couldn’t deny them. She accepted that they happened, but put them in the context of Mary’s beliefs and the times, along with kind of looking at how her father was. But, that, literally, was about 5-10 pages that she did that in. And this book is over 400 pages. See the issue? This book was too long for the topic by a whole lot. It didn’t help that Porter didn’t focus on the subject matter for most of it. Over 200 pages of this book set the stage, yet they really revolve around telling me about what other people did/said. So, her mother, her father, Anne Boleyn, the birth of her brother, the series of wives following Anne, etc. It didn’t even focus on the friendships she had, which was a shame since she was close with two of her father’s wives, Anne of Cleves (who actually converted to Catholicism) and Katherine Parr. Basically, I didn’t learn anything about Mary as a person — which I think would have gone towards dispelling the “Bloody Mary” myth. It glossed over humanizing her. To me, you have to come into this book already having a sympathetic look towards Mary (which I do) and already know some about her life (again, I do). So, I wouldn’t suggest it to beginners. Even when Mary starts ruling, the book awkwardly glances its focus around to other people and things. I can honestly say that I learned nothing new about Mary through this book that I had known from previous books where her reign was discussed or even TV shows. In other words, I just can’t picture myself recommending this book to anyone because I know there’s a wealth of information about her. The book just didn’t draw upon it for some reason and I can’t understand why not. I loved reading little snippets of things she wrote. Why not capitalize on it? I’m out a book on Mary I, sadly, and I’m going to have to scour to find something to fill it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting this book turned out to be. In my quest to research Margaret Pole, I was directed to this book. Of course, the focus is on Mary, but as her governess through some of the most difficult times of her life, Margaret features heavily through the first quarter of this book. The level of detail included in Porter's narrative is comprehensive without becoming overwhelming or boring. Even after I reached the point in Mary's life after Margaret's death I conti I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting this book turned out to be. In my quest to research Margaret Pole, I was directed to this book. Of course, the focus is on Mary, but as her governess through some of the most difficult times of her life, Margaret features heavily through the first quarter of this book. The level of detail included in Porter's narrative is comprehensive without becoming overwhelming or boring. Even after I reached the point in Mary's life after Margaret's death I continued reading and was happy to learn more about this unpopular queen. I had always felt that Elizabeth's greatest strength was PR. How else could this cruel, manipulative ruler end up with a reputation that is so much more positive than her father and sister? Porter's research supports this idea and explains that Mary was not truly as "bloody" as the myth suggests. In fact, she was far less violent than her father. Reading about Mary's life makes it easy to understand some of the decisions that she made, some of which led to disastrous consequences. Porter provides information without injecting motive. She offers suggestions regarding why Mary may have chosen to do (or not do) things, but does not state with certainty, as some nonfiction writers do, why Mary made those choices. Easy reading for nonfiction and great insight into the life of this much maligned queen.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This biography was fascinating and left me wondering why she would be nicknamed "Bloody Mary" when the rest of her family (the Bloody Tudors!)was truly worse as far as I'm concerned. With the legacy/examples left by her father, her step-mother and others (as well as her passive-aggressive sister, Elizabeth) she was a strong, passionate, yet misunderstood and lonely woman who only lived her life as she had to, to survive and become the first ever Queen of England. I would think all of royalty of This biography was fascinating and left me wondering why she would be nicknamed "Bloody Mary" when the rest of her family (the Bloody Tudors!)was truly worse as far as I'm concerned. With the legacy/examples left by her father, her step-mother and others (as well as her passive-aggressive sister, Elizabeth) she was a strong, passionate, yet misunderstood and lonely woman who only lived her life as she had to, to survive and become the first ever Queen of England. I would think all of royalty of the past (and maybe current) would be lonely, not alone, but lonely. How would you ever know who to trust? Just makes me grateful to be "plain folk."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    My preference has always been for Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth, but I have always admired Katherine of Aragon’s conviction and stubbornness. After reading this biography, I have an even greater admiration for Mary and the emotional suffering she went through as well as the bouts of illness she experienced throughout her life. Her torment over her half-sister Elizabeth is heartbreaking and I kept wanting the two sisters to be truly able to bond away from all of their burdens even though My preference has always been for Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth, but I have always admired Katherine of Aragon’s conviction and stubbornness. After reading this biography, I have an even greater admiration for Mary and the emotional suffering she went through as well as the bouts of illness she experienced throughout her life. Her torment over her half-sister Elizabeth is heartbreaking and I kept wanting the two sisters to be truly able to bond away from all of their burdens even though I already knew that was impossible. I never realized that long before she became queen, Mary resigned herself to the possibility that she would never marry. But once she became queen, the marriage question returned, mainly because the nobility could not fathom a queen ruling in her own right. Mary had a great deal of internal conflict over marrying, but once her mind was made up that it was the right decision and God’s will, she went forward with grace. The nobility was not excited about having Philip of Spain as the bridegroom and king consort, but they were not as against it as popular belief would have it. Philip made a great effort, at least in the first couple of years, to politely charm England’s subjects. Mary fully expected to do her duty to her husband and country by producing heirs, but her loyalties rested with England above all else. Mary never became pregnant, but she experienced two phantom pregnancies. These are still hard to explain today without contemporary accounts of bodily examinations. However, Mary’s situation was not unheard of. By the 1530s, Lady Lisle had already produced healthy children and thought she was pregnant again. Months went by before she and her household realized there was no child. These women showed many signs of pregnancy and it is amazing to me how this can happen and there still is not a good explanation for it. I cannot fathom the embarrassment and despair that Mary must have felt when she learned there was no child…on two different occasions. Yet throughout it all, she stuck to her faith and found comfort in it, even as she felt that her half-sister was betraying her and endured her husband’s long absences from her. --- You can see the original post on my blog here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Meghan Monahan

    Overall, Linda Porter does a fine job of bringing England's first (and most notorious) Queen Regnant to life. Mary is often painted as a tragic, slightly mad, religious fanatic who had little agency in her life and reign. Porter puts those myths to bed and portrays a more human and well-rounded Mary, a woman with great courage but also many flaws. It is ironic that in a book that sets out to show Mary Tudor as a fully fleshed out woman, her sister is reduced to a two dimensional caricature. Eliz Overall, Linda Porter does a fine job of bringing England's first (and most notorious) Queen Regnant to life. Mary is often painted as a tragic, slightly mad, religious fanatic who had little agency in her life and reign. Porter puts those myths to bed and portrays a more human and well-rounded Mary, a woman with great courage but also many flaws. It is ironic that in a book that sets out to show Mary Tudor as a fully fleshed out woman, her sister is reduced to a two dimensional caricature. Elizabeth is portrayed as simply "Anne Boleyn Jr.", or an ungrateful, scheming harlot who tormented her sister. As anyone who has studied Tudor England can attest, this is simply not true and Elizabeth herself was a far more complex person. Porter also attempts to gloss over the burnings of over 300 people in less than four years, the event that gave Mary her nickname as "Bloody Mary," Porter tries to rationalize Mary's behavior and does succeed in giving Mary's motivations a depth and a foundation in the political reality of the time which paints Mary as a more human character. However, when Porter tries to whitewash the suffering of hundreds of people who were imprisoned, tortured, killed or exiled under Mary, it becomes too much. This biography gives Mary real depth which she deserves, but by glossing over the real tragedies of her reign, Porter does a disservice.

  7. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    This book offers the reader a balanced and insightful portrait of Mary Tudor or better know to most as 'Bloody Mary'. Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and later wife of Philip of Spain and has been portrayed as the main instigator for the burning of hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake during her reign. This book shows that she was a better Queen than most historians grant and under her leadership she attempt to place England at the forefront of the European na This book offers the reader a balanced and insightful portrait of Mary Tudor or better know to most as 'Bloody Mary'. Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and later wife of Philip of Spain and has been portrayed as the main instigator for the burning of hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake during her reign. This book shows that she was a better Queen than most historians grant and under her leadership she attempt to place England at the forefront of the European nations. I have read a few books on Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, this being the first on Mary Tudor and I found it to be a great read, well researched and presented and offers a decent account of a misunderstood monarch. Overall this book is well worth the effort and I think most readers will be surprised at the true story of ‘Bloody Mary’ and have a good time learning about this forgotten Queen.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gareth Russell

    One of the best biographies on an English monarch produced in the last few years - sympathetic without being hagiographic, and impeccably researched, it’s a fantastic testament to Dr Porter’s work and very enjoyable.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wylie Small

    This book is a tough one to review. It's definitely 5 star-worthy when it comes to research and detail. This book is impeccably researched! I give it 3 stars for general readability, though. The author is obviously a huge fan of Mary and tends to quantify her behavior with excuses or explanations. Probably the most egregious example of this is the author's treatment of the burning of 300 Protestants under the Marian regime. According to the author, Mary wasn't really responsible for more than a This book is a tough one to review. It's definitely 5 star-worthy when it comes to research and detail. This book is impeccably researched! I give it 3 stars for general readability, though. The author is obviously a huge fan of Mary and tends to quantify her behavior with excuses or explanations. Probably the most egregious example of this is the author's treatment of the burning of 300 Protestants under the Marian regime. According to the author, Mary wasn't really responsible for more than a handful of these deaths. The rest were parsed out to localities. This I did not buy. I would also have been more interested in Mary's two false pregnancies. Even during this time period, this must have been a highly unusual occurrence. What did the author think caused this phenomenon? Stress, an overwhelming desire for an heir (which harkens back to Mary's dad, Henry VIII), or a hormonal or health-related issue? How did Mary process this humiliating disappointment and did it have long-lasting effects on policy or her personal life? Perhaps this is another book in itself. Overall this is a very comprehensive chronicling of Mary Tudor's life. If you can get past the obvious pro-Marianisms (often to Elizabeth I's detriment), then this is quite a fascinating historical piece.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Nadal

    A solid, thorough biography of Mary I. The author's deep research really shines through in the second half of the book where she mixes the story of Mary's life with an analysis of Mary's reign and how her policies set the stage for Elizabeth's later success. The author is clearly sympathetic towards Mary, though she still acknowledges her faults. While her argument that Mary's reign and personal qualities were more positive than history has acknowledged was not new to me, if the dust jacket is r A solid, thorough biography of Mary I. The author's deep research really shines through in the second half of the book where she mixes the story of Mary's life with an analysis of Mary's reign and how her policies set the stage for Elizabeth's later success. The author is clearly sympathetic towards Mary, though she still acknowledges her faults. While her argument that Mary's reign and personal qualities were more positive than history has acknowledged was not new to me, if the dust jacket is right and this book was the first popular biography of Mary in decades when it was published, it would have been a good corrective to the conventional wisdom at the time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    "The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" was a sympathetic, but not entirely vindicating, take on England's most vilified Queen. The author did an excellent job supporting her opinions with historical fact. Mary has often been portrayed as a religious fanatic, determined to return England to the Catholic Church, without regard to how many Protestants she had to burn a the stake. While Mary certainly did burn many, the reasons are so much more complex than mere religion. The authors b "The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" was a sympathetic, but not entirely vindicating, take on England's most vilified Queen. The author did an excellent job supporting her opinions with historical fact. Mary has often been portrayed as a religious fanatic, determined to return England to the Catholic Church, without regard to how many Protestants she had to burn a the stake. While Mary certainly did burn many, the reasons are so much more complex than mere religion. The authors bias against Mary's sister, Elizabeth, was obvious throughout the book. While generally accepted historical fact does indeed support many of the authors opinions, I felt that her view of Elizabeth is a bit clouded. Mary's marriage to Phillip was explored in great detail, which is an area I feel has been neglected in most accounts of Queen Mary. While Mary's "love" of Phillip does not appear to have been reciprocated, he did appear to have a genuine fondness for her. Mary has often been painted as a love-sick schoolgirl pining for her distant husband. While her letters do indicate that she wanted her husband to return to England, my feeling was that she wanted him there for dynastic, rather than personal, reasons. Without an heir to the throne, her Protestant sister Elizabeth would inherit the crown upon Mary's death. An excellent read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lígia Bellini

    That was such a great reading! I always thought that Mary became that "vile" woman, because she was a victim since her childhood. She was separate from her mother, her father didn't want her to be a Queen and also made her sign a document, stating she wasn't from a vallid marriage and this way, became a bastard daughter. She was in constant fear! Henry VIII was a monster and kept changing his feelings, thinkings and this way, people around him, had to pay for the consequences. Mary was alone and That was such a great reading! I always thought that Mary became that "vile" woman, because she was a victim since her childhood. She was separate from her mother, her father didn't want her to be a Queen and also made her sign a document, stating she wasn't from a vallid marriage and this way, became a bastard daughter. She was in constant fear! Henry VIII was a monster and kept changing his feelings, thinkings and this way, people around him, had to pay for the consequences. Mary was alone and sick! Whoever she had, Henry took from her! Reading this book, the author brings the most interesting events during Tudor court. And no matter how many books i read about it, my views about Henry VIII won't change. He was the most villain! He ruined everything, just for lust for Anne Boleyn. Mary didn't have the same luck as Elizabeth. She didn't have lots of people to trust. So, she wasn't that wise during her reign. Unfortunately, she became a fanatic catholic, and with that she brought bloody days for England. I think that her whole life was a struggle to become something, to be recognized. And in the end, Elizabeth ruled, but creating an even worse image, about her sister Mary.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carolina

    There have been perennial books popping up every now and then about Henry VIII and his six wives and his larger than life daughter, Elizabeth I. Although there have been several other biographies done in the past of Mary I that give a new perspective to this much maligned figure, I think no one has done what Porter has done -and this is work harder to dispel the rumors and the reputation she has gained over time as "Bloody" Mary. Granted her treatment could have used more details as H.F.M. Presco There have been perennial books popping up every now and then about Henry VIII and his six wives and his larger than life daughter, Elizabeth I. Although there have been several other biographies done in the past of Mary I that give a new perspective to this much maligned figure, I think no one has done what Porter has done -and this is work harder to dispel the rumors and the reputation she has gained over time as "Bloody" Mary. Granted her treatment could have used more details as H.F.M. Prescott in the "Spanish Tudor" and "Mary Tudor" and (more recently) Whitelock (with "Mary Tudor") did. Nonetheless what she did is question the testimonies written about her at the time and put on the evidence of what her reign did that later Elizabeth continued but improved. However my only nitpick is that though she was very thorough where the subject of her reign was concerned, she tended to excused her a lot which I found very troublesome at times. Nonetheless, it is a biography I recommend, that is greatly researched and a good eye-opener to this Queen.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    I love anything about the Tudors and people surrounding them. I thought this book was very well written, although I want to find more on Mary and others. I feel like I got lost in some of it. I was very sad for Mary and her upbringing. Obviously being Henry's child is not all it's cracked up to be. She went through so much with her father. That being said, she did have his Tudor blood and stood up for herself at all possible times. You would think that Henry would at one point think, she is defi I love anything about the Tudors and people surrounding them. I thought this book was very well written, although I want to find more on Mary and others. I feel like I got lost in some of it. I was very sad for Mary and her upbringing. Obviously being Henry's child is not all it's cracked up to be. She went through so much with her father. That being said, she did have his Tudor blood and stood up for herself at all possible times. You would think that Henry would at one point think, she is definately my child!! I am glad that he FINALLY saw reason and brought her back into her rightful place along with her sister Elizabeth. Then the little jerk brother takes it all away from them again and she has to fight to get her status back again! The brat! But she did and so did Elizabeth. I was so sad to read in this book of Anne of Cleves passing. I know they all pass away at some point, but I really loved her and it was a little sad to read of her passing. Mary mourned her passing, along with many others. I look forward to many more Tudor books.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Val

    Linda Porter gives a much more sympathetic portrait of Mary I than her reputation. She does it by giving many more details of her reign than some accounts have done and a much more rounded woman and Queen is the result. She includes all the information she can find, but even so, if she left out all the speculation along the lines of 'Mary must have felt...', '...thought...' or '...wondered..', it would be a much slimmer volume. I enjoyed her reassessment of a much misunderstood ruler. The book is Linda Porter gives a much more sympathetic portrait of Mary I than her reputation. She does it by giving many more details of her reign than some accounts have done and a much more rounded woman and Queen is the result. She includes all the information she can find, but even so, if she left out all the speculation along the lines of 'Mary must have felt...', '...thought...' or '...wondered..', it would be a much slimmer volume. I enjoyed her reassessment of a much misunderstood ruler. The book is written in an accessible way. I could not help wondering what sort of woman and Queen she would have been if Anne Boleyn had stayed in France.

  16. 4 out of 5

    C.S. Burrough

    'Bloody Mary' Tudor was for centuries maligned from all sides. A focus of anti-Catholic prejudice, she was reviled for her Marian persecutions which saw 280 martyred Protestant 'heretics' burned at the stake. This was unremarkable in an age that saw religious persecution from both sides sweep reformation Europe. Marys father before her, sister after her and Habsburg cousins alongside her oversaw similar barbaric acts of state, each in no short measure yet over many more years on their thrones - 'Bloody Mary' Tudor was for centuries maligned from all sides. A focus of anti-Catholic prejudice, she was reviled for her Marian persecutions which saw 280 martyred Protestant 'heretics' burned at the stake. This was unremarkable in an age that saw religious persecution from both sides sweep reformation Europe. Marys father before her, sister after her and Habsburg cousins alongside her oversaw similar barbaric acts of state, each in no short measure yet over many more years on their thrones - centring comparably more diluted pictures of what might today be tagged 'tyranny'. Particularly notable was the rate at which Mary's victims fell in the few short years she reigned. Her detractors have argued that, had she lived and ruled longer, burning religious dissenters at that same rabid rate, her record could have become outstanding on the basis of numbers alone. Yet hypothetical estimates, no matter how oft reiterated by anti-Catholic commentators, can never translate into historical fact. Her apologists have maintained that, steering such horrific policies were lawmakers, ministers and parliamentarians rather than any sole monarch - especially not the staid Mary Tudor who, as England's first anointed female ruler, had no predecessors to follow the example of, relying girlishly upon her male decision makers. Yet rulers of Mary's time held the final authority to accept or reject any policy. Perhaps the bottom line is that, regardless how classically feminine or modest her regal persona, she had throughout her life displayed such superlative survival instincts and bravery as to well match her majestic pedigree, culminating in the sheer hardiness of successfully fighting for her throne against all odds. And whatever her perceived passive nature, her victims still burned, at that notoriously high rate. This book sets out to rationalise Mary's deeds and foibles by examining her tragic personal background and those challenging events, personal and political, influencing her reign. As England's first queen regnant (excluding the disputed reigns of Lady Jane Grey and the Empress Matilda), she endured the 16th century chauvinism of her ministers and chroniclers, with their sexist attitudes continuing down the centuries by her many male biographers. Outshone in posterity by her Protestant younger half-sister Elizabeth I, this monarch of only five years, brought down to us as dour, standoffish and neurotic, has stood little chance of a fair hearing to modern generations – until now. The forth and penultimate Tudor monarch, remembered for her restoration of Roman Catholicism after the short-lived Protestant reign of her half-brother Edward VI, Mary famously married Philip of Spain against considerable diplomatic advice to the contrary and despite public opposition to a foreign king consort. Though many years his senior and initially against marrying at all, Mary adored and devoted herself to Philip, who showed little more than contempt towards her, remaining mostly oversees on business. In this loveless marriage she remained childless, dying young and alone after a series of phantom pregnancies. Elizabeth I devotees will forever know Mary as her younger sister's jailer, as they read of young Princess Elizabeth's time in the Tower of London following her unproven links to various failed rebellions to overthrow Mary and replace her with Elizabeth. Linda Porter demonstrates, at least in this book's first two-thirds to three-quarters, what a talented biographer she is. Her work sparkles for much of the piece. Her empathic approach, her commendable eye for detail, bring the milieu and its inhabitants beautifully to life, transporting the reader there to judge for ourselves. The sense of being 'guided' through whom, what and why we ought judge, is apparent throughout, though at first seemingly benign. Porter is protective of Queen Mary like a lioness of her cubs, with only the scantest, tokenistic acknowledgement of her shortcomings. This partisanship, whilst ever endearing, develops to the point of conspicuity in parts, raising the fundamental question of balance. Not the first sympathetic take on Mary Tudor I have read, this is one of the most benevolent, verging on sounding agenda-driven. Though I enjoyed it immensely, I have two criticisms: Firstly, the book's last quarter or even third lost its momentum, with those dull patches inevitable to such detailed books extending to drawn out passages penned seemingly just for the sake of listing, rather than wasting, every last ounce of miscellaneous detail researched. This becomes exasperating towards the book's conclusion, countering an otherwise brilliant telling. This flaw, however, is not uncommon in this increasingly popular genre, with each author competing to cram in the most arbitrary detail, often haphazardly in patches. My other criticism is that I felt that the author, as a strident apologist of Bloody Mary and her destructive religion in that era, overstated her case throughout. There a point to this – to counteract the literary destructiveness for so long piled upon this poor queen, who clearly had her good side. The second half of book's title, The Myth of "Bloody Mary", indicates this as being the book's semi raison d'être. This was, after all, the only daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and a granddaughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. She had to have had some inherent greatness and indeed this was seen in her oratory prowess and her bravery in claiming the throne by force after it being so unjustly snatched from her by hostile forces driven by the politics of religion. She was also an irrefutably kind and merciful figure – except when it came to religious dissent. Even most of her worst detractors she pardoned on assuming her throne. We read about her torturous youth, bastardized and disinherited from the line of succession after her parents' history making divorce. About her enforced estrangement from her only close ally, her demoted and ostracized mother Queen Catherine of Aragon, under King Henry's cruel orders. We understand how this was all because of her half-sister Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn. How Mary, in adulthood, saw Anne Boleyn in Elizabeth. Her many psychosomatic illnesses are well documented and explained. She was indeed a melancholy younger figure before ultimately transcending her sorrows to triumph and take rule. Yet even then, her brief time in power was marred by heartache, right down to the loss of Calais to France, from which she was said to never recover. Few, on true reflection, could not feel for Mary Tudor the woman, whatever her faults as a queen. Such is the compassionate footing of this biography, which aims to kill off the unjust legend of that bitter religious extremist so long portrayed in books like this. (Other recent biographers too have become kinder in their treatment of this queen). Yet the overall effect of Linda Porter's unabashedly biased approach is to sound almost unbalanced. The reader becomes wary of being spun a propagandist commentary rather than the more rounded picture we expect from well formed biographies. That said, it should be noted that history's most noteworthy commentators, those from the opposing side of this classic propagandist divide, are equally guilty of this transgression. There is no such thing as an impartial account in this genre – any such dispassionate efforts, so dry and soulless, can only be relegated to school textbook shelves. What makes any such work so heartfelt and gripping is not its indifference but the passion with which it is presented. Such is the key ingredient of an entertaining read, whether fiction or fact. Despite its glaring subjectivity, which I see as standard in good historic biography, I loved this book. Recommended reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James

    Definitely the best biography I have ever read on Mary I. It is meticulously researched, examining Mary's life, reign, relationships with her father, mother, stepmothers, brother, sister, husband etc. Naturally their is focus on the burnings that took place during Mary's reign, and fortunately Linda Porter does not try to make excuses for these brutal acts, but she does put it in to context for the 16 century. What is refreshing in this biography is to read about the achievements of Mary's short Definitely the best biography I have ever read on Mary I. It is meticulously researched, examining Mary's life, reign, relationships with her father, mother, stepmothers, brother, sister, husband etc. Naturally their is focus on the burnings that took place during Mary's reign, and fortunately Linda Porter does not try to make excuses for these brutal acts, but she does put it in to context for the 16 century. What is refreshing in this biography is to read about the achievements of Mary's short reign, it was far from the disaster that popular legend has sadly lead many people to believe. There were explorations just like in the reign of her half-sister Elizabeth, with the commissioning of the Queen Mary Atlas, and Mary's religious policy was far from straightforward as again, popular legend has led people to believe. Occasionally perhaps the sympathy towards Mary can get a bit too much, but generally this is the best biography I have read on Mary so far. It doesn't seek to whitewash the controversies of the burnings (which sadly, some books on her do), or present her as a sad lonely little old woman, who would have been better off as a housewife, which, as Porter herself says, is equally as bad as the "Bloody Mary" reputation. Instead, this biography attempts to place the reign of England's first crowned Queen Regnant as a success, highlighting the many obstacles she overcame. She was prepared for her throne, and was prepared to fight to keep it. She could be singleminded and argumentative towards members of her council, and she was certainly not ruled in any way by her husband. She was kind and generous to her friends and servants, and enjoyed music and her court was far from dull and dowdy. Personally, I find the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth by far the most interesting among the Tudors. As Porter says, by praising one there is no need to vilify the other. And this biography highlights why their reigns should both be looked upon as successful periods in English history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah - All The Book Blog Names Are Taken

    My book blog --------------> http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl... Superbly written biography of a much-maligned, and undeservedly so, queen. Could not put it down. Full review to follow shortly. +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Updated review: This is one of the best biographies I have read this year. It is all the better for me personally in that it is a much more balanced look at the first queen of England, Mary I. In the matter of Henry and Katherine's divorce, I've always been firmly in Katherine's My book blog --------------> http://allthebookblognamesaretaken.bl... Superbly written biography of a much-maligned, and undeservedly so, queen. Could not put it down. Full review to follow shortly. +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Updated review: This is one of the best biographies I have read this year. It is all the better for me personally in that it is a much more balanced look at the first queen of England, Mary I. In the matter of Henry and Katherine's divorce, I've always been firmly in Katherine's camp and found it heartbreaking in that Mary is so overshadowed by Elizabeth and her reputation so blackened by Foxe. It is as though even in death, she has continued to suffer at the hands of others, 500 years on. Mary went from both parents doting on her (as much as parents - especially royal parents - did in the 1500s), to being taken first away from her mother, the incomparable Katherine of Aragon, to slowly but surely having nearly every person who ever mattered to her taken away one after another. It can't be a surprise to anyone that she turned out the way she did/ Time and again she was subjected to terrible psychological torture as her father first separated Mary from her beloved mother, and then continued to force her hand in accepting the divorce of her parents. And you only have to look at the cruel execution of the elderly Countess of Salisbury and what can only be described as her state-sanctioned murder that was botched horribly, to see how this mental torture continued for Mary. However, I do also feel like the saying that references 'how Mary turned out' is not entirely accurate, as I feel like after reading this, a lot of peoples' perceptions of Mary will be quite different. There is no doubt that the religious aspect, the executions that gave her the nickname 'Bloody Mary' later on, had a major impact on her reign. But so often people are then willing to overlook, or do not know about at all, the similar experiences under the reign of Elizabeth. I feel like this book was very all-encompassing and did not only look at Mary herself, but how the world around her impacted her life. We are privy to her life from birth, through her briefly happy childhood, to the horror of the divorce and being forced to attend Elizabeth, reconciling (so to speak) with her father, being subjected again religious battering from her brother, her triumphant ride into London to take the throne from her cousin Jane Grey, the subsequent terrible marriage to Philip, phantom pregnancies, and finally her death. (As a side note, this book presents quite possibly the saddest line I have ever read in regards to Jane's execution: "Then the axe fell swiftly and cleanly and this hideously manipulated, unloved slip of a girl was gone." UGH! It still gets to me. Mary's marriage and phantom pregnancies are especially heartbreaking to me. As a young woman she had assumed she would end of not marrying. Then she becomes queen and it never occurs to any of her counselors that she can or should remain unwed. It seems fairly straightforward to me why she clung to Philip and the marriage so tightly, and why she wanted so desperately to be pregnant - from the time her mother passed away (and even before then, really, once they were split up), Mary had no blood family to call her own. Being married and having a child could have been a way for Mary to fill that void that had existed so long within her. I don't know how to describe it but heartbreaking. You can't help but have wanted her to have a child, to overcome everything terrible in her life that had occurred in her earlier years. I can't even imagine how devastated she was. All in all, this is a superbly written account of a queen who deserves a second look and deserves much more respect than she has gotten in the centuries since her death. Porter gives a much more balanced and unbiased account of Mary's life. It is highly recommended for those interested in the Tudor era. As an additional note, I recently read somewhere that because of the way their tombs are designed, with Elizabeth's on top of Mary's, that Mary's is in danger of being crushed under Elizabeth's. This would be tragic, and yet one more time that Elizabeth gets the one-up on Mary. I hope this can be rectified before it is too late.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    With The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" Linda Porter offers a fresh look into the life of Mary the First. She was the queen best-known for her persecution and subsequent burnings of Protestants, but as Porter reveals, there was so much more to Mary Tudor. The daughter of Henry the Eighth and Katherine of Aragon, Mary was a privileged princess and heir to the English throne during her childhood. When Henry the Eighth set his sights on divorcing Katherine and marrying Anne Boley With The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" Linda Porter offers a fresh look into the life of Mary the First. She was the queen best-known for her persecution and subsequent burnings of Protestants, but as Porter reveals, there was so much more to Mary Tudor. The daughter of Henry the Eighth and Katherine of Aragon, Mary was a privileged princess and heir to the English throne during her childhood. When Henry the Eighth set his sights on divorcing Katherine and marrying Anne Boleyn, Mary was declared a bastard, losing her title of princess and separated from her mother. It was a long, dangerous journey from that time to the time of her father's death, when she was declared second in line for the throne in Henry's will, after her brother Edward the Sixth. During this time period, Mary was bullied to give up her religion and in danger of losing her liberty for sticking with her beliefs. When Mary finally ascended the throne in 1553, it was after a long struggle throughout her life to become the queen she'd been born to be. Linda Porter immerses the reader in 16th century England in this biography of Mary the First. She vividly captures the time period by having numerous primary sources throughout the book and providing great insight into the politics and lifestyle of the time. Most of all she captures the life of Mary, not providing a prejudiced account of her life like so many historians, but rather telling the facts of her accomplishments and short-comings. She shows Mary as the determined, proud woman that she was, deeply reliant on her Catholic faith during her very difficult life but also fond of fashion, entertainment and gambling. Porter shows the great strength Mary the First possessed in being the first female ruler to rule England on her own. Yet she also shows how Mary believed it was her duty to marry so she could provide an heir for England. Mary was a woman who longed to be loved and loved her husband, Philip of Spain, immensely, though he didn't return her affection. After reading The First Queen of England I felt great sympathy for Mary, but I also respected her as a queen who ruled to the best of her ability and could have done much for England, had she not died prematurely in 1558. Throughout the biography, Linda Porter shows how much of the image of "Bloody Mary" comes from Queen Elizabeth the First's reign. Queen Elizabeth was Mary's younger sister and predecessor. Elizabeth blackened Mary's reputation not only by outshining her reign with her own glorious one, but by spreading propaganda against Mary. This book makes it clear that Mary doesn't deserve the bad reputation she's had for 450 years, because in her time persecuting people of other beliefs was a common practice. Mary was no more "bloody" than the other Tudors or rulers of her time. I highly recommend The First Queen of England: Myth of "Bloody Mary". It is a highly fascinating, meticulously researched biography that turns the myth about Mary the First on its head. Definitely read this if you love history and learning about the Tudors.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather Domin

    (I'm re-reading this in April 2014 - since I couldn't include it the first time, this time I'll copy/paste my review from the Historical Novel Society Review November 2009 issue.) This fascinating biography of Mary Tudor cuts through centuries of assumption, legend, and demonization to reveal a more even-handed portrait of the first true English queen regnant. Every aspect of Mary’s life is thoroughly reexamined: from her supposed religious fanaticism to her seemingly loveless marriage and the de (I'm re-reading this in April 2014 - since I couldn't include it the first time, this time I'll copy/paste my review from the Historical Novel Society Review November 2009 issue.) This fascinating biography of Mary Tudor cuts through centuries of assumption, legend, and demonization to reveal a more even-handed portrait of the first true English queen regnant. Every aspect of Mary’s life is thoroughly reexamined: from her supposed religious fanaticism to her seemingly loveless marriage and the derangement resulting from two phantom pregnancies. Instead of a wizened crone who burned heretics to warm her frigid body, Mary is revealed as a woman of her time, a true Tudor whose every action bore careful forethought and purpose, even if those thoughts do not mesh with modern-day morality. We watch a vivacious and intelligent child, the delight of her parents, grow into a beautiful and articulate young woman, the trend-setter of her day, who endures terrible traumas and psychological torment to become a Queen whose heartbreaks eventually lead to a sad conclusion. Mary was by no means an innocent, but neither was she the unhinged monster of legend, the “bad Tudor” shelved away in the dark to make room for Elizabeth’s light. Mary’s life, like all lives, had its share of triumphs as well as failures, and Porter’s exhaustive research makes this passionately clear. Highly recommended for any Tudor library.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I thought this was a fantastic portrait on Mary Tudor. She is so easily glossed over in the shadow of her long-reigning, younger sister, but what I learned from this book was that Elizabeth modeled herself after Mary in many ways after her succession. Mary served as a role model for her, exemplifying what to do (and what not to do) as a queen in her own right. It's true that Mary, after 450 years, continues to be maligned under history's scrutinizing lens, but as with many popular ideas about hi I thought this was a fantastic portrait on Mary Tudor. She is so easily glossed over in the shadow of her long-reigning, younger sister, but what I learned from this book was that Elizabeth modeled herself after Mary in many ways after her succession. Mary served as a role model for her, exemplifying what to do (and what not to do) as a queen in her own right. It's true that Mary, after 450 years, continues to be maligned under history's scrutinizing lens, but as with many popular ideas about historical figures during this era, I think that's due in part to the strength of Tudor propaganda. Porter does a wonderful job of showing a well-rounded view of Mary--her joyous birth, her tragic childhood, and the complicated relationships she had with her sister and husband. This is a wonderful book for anyone looking to better understand Mary personally as well as politically. I think it's comprehensive enough that if you don't know much about the Tudors it's a good jumping off point, but there is also plenty of information in here that would interest seasoned historians.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

    I found this book to be a bit of a slog to get through - maybe I was just trying to read it at the wrong time of the day. For the most part I was able to read about 10 pages at a time. That being said, I am extremely happy that I did read this book. I have never before read a book that had Mary as anything other than a secondary character. From early on in the book I knew that I owed Queen Mary and her memory a huge apology as I like so many others, fell victim to the propaganda regarding Mary. I found this book to be a bit of a slog to get through - maybe I was just trying to read it at the wrong time of the day. For the most part I was able to read about 10 pages at a time. That being said, I am extremely happy that I did read this book. I have never before read a book that had Mary as anything other than a secondary character. From early on in the book I knew that I owed Queen Mary and her memory a huge apology as I like so many others, fell victim to the propaganda regarding Mary. I would definitely recommend this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Kramer

    This is a meticulously researched and well written historical biography that is likely to leave the reader with a much more favorable impression of "Bloody Mary". I enjoyed it, but Mary's murder of Jane Grey will always keep me from having a truly sympathetic view of Mary's reign. This is a meticulously researched and well written historical biography that is likely to leave the reader with a much more favorable impression of "Bloody Mary". I enjoyed it, but Mary's murder of Jane Grey will always keep me from having a truly sympathetic view of Mary's reign.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Monica (crazy_4_books)

    Excellent book if you're interested in the topic. Mary Tudor was a woman with many demons who suffered so much. That doesn't justify her actions & the nickname Bloody Mary, because she sent to execution hundreds of protestants during her reign, but she had in a way her reasons, just read this book! Excellent book if you're interested in the topic. Mary Tudor was a woman with many demons who suffered so much. That doesn't justify her actions & the nickname Bloody Mary, because she sent to execution hundreds of protestants during her reign, but she had in a way her reasons, just read this book!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Susan Abernethy

    Link to my review of this book: https://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2018/... Link to my review of this book: https://flhwnotesandreviews.com/2018/...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Megan Deppe

    It's very interesting to update Goodreads as you read a biography of someone's life; the percentage that you've finished the book really makes you reflect on where you're at in their story. Just an amusing side note. I've been interested in Tudor England for a long time and it was very interesting to read a view of Mary Tudor that took time to explore her life without necessarily bowing to the view of her that has persisted since her sister's reign. All of the major events in her life (and there It's very interesting to update Goodreads as you read a biography of someone's life; the percentage that you've finished the book really makes you reflect on where you're at in their story. Just an amusing side note. I've been interested in Tudor England for a long time and it was very interesting to read a view of Mary Tudor that took time to explore her life without necessarily bowing to the view of her that has persisted since her sister's reign. All of the major events in her life (and there were quite a few) are explored in both how they affected her and how they influenced the world around her, even when Mary herself was not present, and the author takes time to talk about how the actual time these events took place in was a factor. It's easy to put down Mary over Elizabeth because Mary did things that were more expected for women in her time while Elizabeth branched from that, but it doesn't mean that Mary herself was a poorer woman. While I was disappointed that there was not more discussion about Jane Grey and how her life (and death) was a part of Mary's reign, overall I think it's a good read into a woman that is often dismissed in history because the one who followed her overshadows her so easily.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zosi

    Another book that is not a super easy read, but I found its readability better than the Katherine Parr book by the same author and I enjoyed it more so I rounded up slightly. In all other respects this is a seminal biography that really underscores who Mary was and what her contributions to England were, though they are often overlooked and/or maligned. The author’s attention to detail is exhaustive and yet the focus of the book always manages to stay on Mary even when talking about events she w Another book that is not a super easy read, but I found its readability better than the Katherine Parr book by the same author and I enjoyed it more so I rounded up slightly. In all other respects this is a seminal biography that really underscores who Mary was and what her contributions to England were, though they are often overlooked and/or maligned. The author’s attention to detail is exhaustive and yet the focus of the book always manages to stay on Mary even when talking about events she wasn’t personally a part of. Much attention is given to how the ground was set for Elizabeth through the choices Mary made as queen regnant, and how Elizabeth was successful in part because she knew to avoid mistakes that Mary had made. A must read for those interested in the Tudor era who don’t mind a more scholarly read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachael Hewison

    Like a lot of people I am guilty of thinking of Mary Tudor as 'Bloody Mary', a monarch who burnt many people at the stake and was a miserable and lonely figure. This book did a great job of correcting my assumptions and if anything took the shine off Elizabeth I, whose relationship with Mary was very complicated. It is a very detailed biography of our first Queen regnant, and although I found my interest slightly waning when Mary takes the throne, on the whole Porter provides us with a wealth of Like a lot of people I am guilty of thinking of Mary Tudor as 'Bloody Mary', a monarch who burnt many people at the stake and was a miserable and lonely figure. This book did a great job of correcting my assumptions and if anything took the shine off Elizabeth I, whose relationship with Mary was very complicated. It is a very detailed biography of our first Queen regnant, and although I found my interest slightly waning when Mary takes the throne, on the whole Porter provides us with a wealth of information without it becoming overwhelming or boring. It is difficult to know exactly what Mary's thoughts and feelings were but Porter makes a good attempt to offer suggestions as to why Mary made certain decisions which was good for overall context. A great read for anyone wanting to learn more about Mary Tudor.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lezley

    A really interesting biography of Mary Tudor (I no longer want to say "Bloody Mary" which I would have done had I not read this book). Considering Mary was the First Tudor Queen, she suffered a lot of tensions involved with ruling an empire run by men. The author is sympathetic to the unfair characterizations of Mary over the centuries and tries to review her reign from a more modern perspective. A really interesting biography of Mary Tudor (I no longer want to say "Bloody Mary" which I would have done had I not read this book). Considering Mary was the First Tudor Queen, she suffered a lot of tensions involved with ruling an empire run by men. The author is sympathetic to the unfair characterizations of Mary over the centuries and tries to review her reign from a more modern perspective.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    A bit dry and naturally skewed in several places, I nonetheless enjoyed reading a book about Mary that did not paint her as some sort of weak willed ruler, yet ruthless killer. It does try to be somewhat objective overall and admit some of Mary's faults, such as her penchant for gambling and overspending on clothes. A bit dry and naturally skewed in several places, I nonetheless enjoyed reading a book about Mary that did not paint her as some sort of weak willed ruler, yet ruthless killer. It does try to be somewhat objective overall and admit some of Mary's faults, such as her penchant for gambling and overspending on clothes.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...