Mary came to the throne under the most popular demonstrations of enthusiasm that had ever existed for an English monarch. On July 19, 1553 the Lord Mayor of London proclaimed Mary as queen. Church bells rang and the fountains in the streets ran with wine. Dancing and singing went on into the night when bonfires were lit. An Italian visitor wrote that the whole city shone with lights.

Queen Mary by Antonio Mor

The threat of Mary’s right to the throne being usurped had come dangerously close to succeeding. She had even been advised by her cousin, the Emperor Charles, to give up her fight and hope that Northumberland would be merciful. Mary did not heed this weak advice. On receiving the summons to visit her sick brother she was intercepted and warned that it was a plot and her brother was dead. She retreated to Kenninghall and wrote to the Council commanding them to proclaim her right and title in her city of London. Quickly common people as well as nobles fled to her side and an armed camp was set up at Framlingham castle. A succession of towns declared themselves to her and sent arms and men. After desertions in Northumberland’s forces, London was hers. Back in Framlingham, Mary’s first act was to order the crucifix to be set up in the parish church. To Mary there was no question that this victory against all odds was a miracle. In Mary’s mind God had opened the way for her to bring back the people to the only true religion. The people had backed her as the true and rightful heir and Mary had fought for this right against those who had tried to alter the succession. Mary made her triumphant progress from Framlingham eventually meeting up with Elizabeth and her retinue at Wanstead, east of London. Mary entered London on the evening of August 3, 1553.

Mary by Hans Eworth

At the beginning of her reign Mary acted slowly on the subject of religion and appeared able to compromise. She allowed her brother Edward to be buried in Westminster Abbey with the Protestant service while she attended a private mass in his memory. Mary’s coronation was on October 1, 1553 and her first Parliament met on October 5. The first act was to repeal the divorce of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon declaring the marriage lawful. When Mary decided to marry her cousin Philip of Spain, the son of the Emperor Charles V, a group of men met in London. They did not trust foreigners and were worried that England would fall under foreign domination. Sir James Croft, Sir Peter Carew and Sir Thomas Wyatt, son of the poet, were considered the leaders. Jane Grey’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, joined the conspiracy. On January 25, 1554 Wyatt raised his standard at Maidstone, Kent. Wyatt took the town of Rochester by force. Wyatt was persuaded to march on to London. He camped out around Blackheath and Greenwich on January 30, 1554. He demanded to have custody of the Tower with the queen in it and the removal of her councillors that he would replace with his own. The loyalty of the city seemed to be in doubt and it was Mary herself who saved the day. Like all Tudors, she acted her best in a crisis. Instead of seeking her own safety she made a public speech at the Guildhall on February 1 in which she stated that, “a number of Kentishmen have assembled themselves against us and you. Now loving subjects, what I am ye right well know. I am your Queen, to whom at my coronation, where I was wedded to the realm… you promised your allegiance and obedience unto me. And that I am the right and true inheritor of the crown of this realm of England, I take all Christendom to witness. My father, as ye all know, possessed the same regal state, which now rightly is descended unto me. I cannot tell how naturally the mother loveth the child, for I was never the mother of any, but certainly if prince and governor may as naturally and earnestly love her subjects, as the mother doth love the child, then assure yourselves that I, being your lady and mistress, do as earnestly and tenderly love and favor you. And now, good subjects, pluck up your hearts, and like true men, stand fast against the rebels, both our enemies and yours, and fear them not, for I assure you I fear them nothing at all!” The populace and the counselors were dazzled. Wyatt found that the bridges were now heavily defended and by February 7 after some skirmishes Wyatt was asked to surrender. He did.  Mary moved ahead with her plans to marry Philip.

Many of the accomplishments of Mary’s reign go unrecognized. She opened trade with Russia giving the Muscovy Company an royal charter in 1555. Guilds were strengthened. Towns and boroughs were incorporated with Mary granting twice the number of charters per year than her predecessors. To facilitate trade a market was granted weekly and fairs twice a year. Five charities were set up to provide poor relief in London. She overhauled excise and customs with a new Book of Rates. Plans for recoinage was put on hold because of war, crop failure and disease. The plans were instead the basis for the 1560-1561 recoinage under Elizabeth.

Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor by H. F. M. Prescott, Mary Tudor by David Loades, The First Queen of England by Linda Porter, Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock