Like mother, like daughter..?

This was intended to be posted on Mothering Sunday, but I was kept I’m a day behind… To mark mothers’ day I thought I’d talk about various mother-daughter relationships, mainly regarding daughters that never really knew their mothers and will hope to leave the question of whether daughters were impacted by their mothers throughout history. I think I will focus on a very interesting relationship between two remarkable women of history- Catherine of Aragon and Mary I.

Firstly, I think the relationship between Catherine of Aragon and Mary I. I think that there is an immediate link between them in our insight of Mary’s reign. Mary was born in 1516 and was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. As it soon became apparent that Catherine would not produce a healthy male child a strain was placed on their marriage, but for a while everything ploughed on. As their only child, it was assumed that Mary would succeed after Henry. She live the life of a true Princess, living luxuriously and was often spoilt by both of her parents. She was betrothed notably to both the Dauphin of France (French version of the Prince of Wales) and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, depending on who her father was allied with at the time. The Emperor was her cousin on her mother’s side and her mother was very fond of Charles and therefore the match was much supported by her. For a time she wore a brooch inscribed with ‘The Emperour’ who was sixteen year her senior. The contract was soon abandoned, but his obviously left a mark. She was generally refered to as the Princess of Wales although never formally invested with the title.

Things went downhill for Catherine and Mary with Anne Boleyn triggering the bitter divorce battle.  In 1531 Catherine was banished from Court and was not allowed any contact with her daughter. At this time Mary began to suffer from ill-health including irregular menstruation and depression and it is disputed as to the main cause of this- stress, puberty or her own personal emotions getting the better of her? It was Catherine’s fight that I believe really spurred on the Henrican Reformation. If she had quietly entered a nunnery I do nt think that the Reformation would have taken place. In 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn and Henry’s first marriage of twenty-four years was annulled and Mary became known as ‘the Lady Mary’ rather than Princess and was declared a bastard. The line of sucession was instead transferred to Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth (I) and her household dissolved and servants dismissed and was expelled from Court. She later served as Lady-in-Waiting to Elizabeth. Ouch. She was described as ‘unconsolable’ when Catherine died in early 1536. Many of her supporters rebelled against Henry in the pilgrimage of Grace in 1537 and were executed for it, just after her reconciliation with Henry on the gentle persuasions of Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn’s successor. Jane died giving Henry his son, Edward (VI). Mary was made her half-brother’s godmother. Her Godmother and best friend of her mother, (Blessed) Lady Margaret Pole was literally hacked to death on 1541. Following the execution of Kitty Howard, she was invited to act in the place of Queen- a role she played to perfection as her mother did. Her last stepmother, Katherine Parr, was a similar age to Mary and they were quick friends. Katherine bought the royal family closer together and this can be seen in the portrait The Family of Henry VIII at Hampton Court and the Succession Act of 1544. In this Mary was placed in the line of succession after Edward although still legally illegitimate. Anyway, I’m rambling…

So how did her mother influence her actions as Queen?

I think one of the first things we notice is her choice of a husband. Prince Phillip (II) of Spain was her mother’s great-nephew and son of the Emperor Charles V. Perhaps the Spanish match was in memory of Catherine..? I don’t think Mary ever forgot her roots in Spain. Her grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, had founded the Spanish Inquisition and it only seemed fitting that she should carry on their work in the form of the English Counter- Reformation and her burning of Protestants. I think that in this Mary teaches us a very important lesson in life- we must never forget who we truly are. It’s why I love her…

Next, how she would be remembered. Catherine had fought somewhat recklessly, not thinking entirely of consequences against Henry with the ultimate consequence being, in the worse of cases, her execution. But she wasn’t just going to end the fight which could be interpreted as brave or plain stupid… In her burning Mary did the same. History and popular legend has remembered her as ‘Bloody Mary’. Would she really care? I think not. She was doing what she knew to be right. Actions similar to her mother’s…

Also, the way that she devoted herself to men. Catherine had stayed by Henry untill the very end, devoting herself to him as was expected of a wife in Tudor England. I think Catherine did want this to pass onto her daughter as I think it was one of her strongest morals. We saw this, as previously mentioned, with things like Mary’s ‘The Emperour’ brooch. Mary would later devote herself to Phillip of Spain, declaring herself in love with him on the first viewing of his portrait. She was often persuaded by Parliament to instead consider an English husband. She refused- she had fallen in love with Phillip and would have no other.

finally, how she had a natural way with attracting popularity. It may seem strange to us now, but throughout most of her life and especially in her early reign, Mary was very popular, as was Catherine of Aragon. I know it does not seem as if it was Catherine’s influence, but more genetics, as Henry too attracted much popularity (again, it seems very strange to us now), but perhaps there is a slight sense that Mary watched her parents from an early age and made some useful mental notes. I like to think of it that way anyway…

I’m not quite sure how much Catherine really did influence Mary, but I do like to think that she was one her greatest influences throughout her life and reign. I think their personalities were relatively similar although Mary did seem to inherit some of her father’s rudeness, authority and general Tudor-ness (because I use such perfect historical terminology). I really do love them both and their relationship fascinates me…


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Filed under Henry VIII, Mistreatment of women, On this day..., Six Wives, Tudor

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