Sunday, September 21, 2008

Question from Diane - Why didn't Mary I execute Elizabeth

I'm new to this site so this question may have been covered before but I have always wondered why Mary I would put someone like Cranmer or Lady Jane Grey to death and not Elizabeth. Elizabeth was the personification of all Mary's troubles yet her life was spared. I feel that as Queen Mary was prepared to overlook personal attacks against herself but never against her faith in the Transubstantiation. Elizabeth never openly "denied the Mass" as Jane, Cranmer and those executed for heresy did. She took instruction and attended Mass (even though she complained in private). I don't mean this question to be a religious debate but only to discuss Mary's personality and motivation. How do others feel?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the real reason Mary 1 didn't execute Elizabeth was because she knew that by doing so it might cause people to revoke/rebel, and in some way Mary actual like Elizabeth. When Elizabeth was declared a bastard, and Mary 1 was once again in the king's favors, she was able to form a relationship with Elizabeth , and actual doted on her younger sister. Mary 1 had mixed feeling toward Elizabeth because of all the things that happen between Mary 1 and Elizabeth's mother "Anne". Therefore Mary 1 was always worry that Elizabeth would try to take the throne, and not sure if she could trust her, since they have different religious beliefs, And she was Anne's daughter,and on the other hand she cared for her sister,since she watch her grow up.

PhD Historian said...

Simply put, Jane Grey and Thomas Cranmer were executed with Mary's consent, not on her personal orders. That is, Mary did not suddenly issue a royal command to be "off with their heads." Instead, both were found guilty in courts of law and by juries of their peers of having committed crimes against the state, and those crimes were punishable by death. Mary was actually very reluctant to execute Jane, in fact, and postponed the court's sentence for almost three months. Mary consented to Jane's death only when it finally became clear that Jane posed a threat to the security of the realm. So it is not really correct to say that Mary put them to death. She did not. The state legal system did, with Mary's reluctant permission.

Elizabeth was never charged with any crime during Mary's reign, and thus was never tried or found guilty of any offense that warranted her death. The state could not very well execute someone who had not been found guilty of anything in a court of law. And Elizabeth was always clever enough during her sister's reign to keep herself clear of legal trouble, though sometimes only barely so.

Lastly, Mary's faith involved a very great deal more than a belief in transubstantiation, and those attacking her faith attacked all of it, not just that one doctrine.

STephen said...

the short answer is:
Jane grey was a convicted traitor and lived on as an "hostage" until the behaviour of her father, warranted her death.
Religious leaders from the previous reign were burned as heretics.
Elizabeth was both the undoubted heir and popular. Mary required evidence of treason and would have had her executed if she could have acquired the proof

Foose said...

I think Mary was under considerable pressure from her husband Philip as well as from her Council not to execute Elizabeth. From Philip's point of view, the next heir by descent, if not by Henry VIII's will, was Mary Queen of Scots, who was half-French, engaged to the next French king, and wholly Francophile by upbringing and inclination. The Habsburg position on the Continent would be critically endangered if Mary Stuart became Queen of England. Even though Elizabeth was a Protestant and Mary Stuart Catholic, Philip could not afford to put religious considerations ahead of the political situation and seems to have actively opposed any move against Elizabeth beyond internal exile.

If Mary Stuart had died during Mary Tudor's reign (or if the Queen had borne a child), I think Elizabeth would have been executed. It might have been difficult to find a pretext, but one would have been found.

Mary Tudor tried to get around the problem of Elizabeth (couldn't stand her, but couldn't execute her) by pointedly promoting Margaret Douglas, Mary Stuart's aunt and her own first cousin, as her preferred heir. (Also, although Margaret's parents' marriage was somewhat suspect, she was the next heir by descent after Mary Stuart, again if one ignored Henry VIII's will.) There was never much enthusiasm for Margaret, though, among the English councillors and aristocracy, even though she did have a son named Henry and was of the Catholic faith.

It's kind of ironic that Mary Tudor was such a big fan of Margaret Douglas, since the Countess of Lennox was a sort of fractured mirror-image of Elizabeth. Like Elizabeth, her legitimacy was suspect and her mother scandalous; as with Elizabeth, Margaret's non-royal parent, Angus, was generally regarded as an ambitious good-looking upstart who treated very cruelly his stepchild, much as Anne Boleyn treated Mary; in addition, Margaret was involved in not just one but two discreditable amorous episodes in her youth. Margaret's Catholicism helped her with Mary, but I also think the Queen was determined to find an alternate heir. But she never could drum up any useful support for her choice.

Anonymous said...

but mary did die