End of Reign of Queen Mary I “Bloody Mary”

Queen Mary I, despite the controversial reigns of Empress Matilda and Lady Jane Grey, has long been lauded as the first queen regnant of England. However, being England’s first queen may be the only aspect of her monarchy that she is praised for; following her accession to the throne in October of 1553, Queen Mary began repealing Protestant reforms promoted by her predecessor King Edward VI. Supported by the Heresy Acts, Queen Mary earned her nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ through the execution and immolation of over 250 Protestants on the stake in the span of four years.1 Despite strong discontent from her advisors, and even husband, she continued with the practice until her death in 1558.

During Queen Mary’s time in power, she did little to promote the livelihoods of the vagrants and poor people she ruled. Over her 5 year reign, she produced two poor relief laws: one aimed to provide assistance to the deserving and the other to add structure to poor relief. The first provision required beggars to be licensed if they wanted to beg outside of their parish’s jurisdiction; beggars who could not produce their badge upon request were beaten or lashed. The second provision mandated wealthy parishes to donate to the funds of their less affluent counterparts at a rate ‘according to their ability’. Compared to her predecessors, Queen Mary’s impact on social welfare matters was negligible. Given her deathly strong Catholic convictions, it is surprising that Queen Mary I did little to embrace her religious role as patron to the poor.


1 The Heresy Acts outline how to respond to the presence of different, provocative theories that challenge ones own religious beliefs. The original act called for the arrests of heretic preachers.


Fideler, Paul A. Social Welfare in Pre-industrial England: The Old Poor Law Tradition. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

“Mary I (r.1553-1558)”. The Official Website of the British Monarchy. British Government, n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

“Mary I: Queen of England.” Tudor History. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016.

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