Anyone who peruses the numerous Tudor groups on Facebook will be well aware that the centuries-old prejudices against Mary I, England’s first queen regnant, are still alive and well. For many people who profess to be interested in the period, the reigns of Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth I, are still seen as those of ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’. Elsewhere, Mary is hardly remembered at all. I was once a guest speaker at an event where the host for the evening, a television presenter and household name, enthusiastically described Elizabeth as ‘our first queen’. More than two decades of new and fruitful research on Marian England and several popular biographies seeking to revise and amplify our understanding of the queen have apparently not cut much ice with the general public. Myths die hard. The enduring, almost visceral dislike of Mary Tudor is part of our national consciousness. As a result, most people know almost nothing about Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain. In his fine new book, Alexander Samson provides a detailed picture of the origins of this union and offers much food for thought about its place in English history.
The wedding took place in Winchester Cathedral on 25 July 1554, just over a year after Mary had been proclaimed queen. Her route to the throne was a difficult one. As the only surviving child of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, she was brought up, in her father’s