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Augustana History Department
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Queen and Cardinal
By: Monica Donner
This discourse examines why the gender of Mary I, despite her monarchical status, determined her initial deference to her cousin, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, and her husband, Philip II . Letters from Cardinal Reginald Pole's appointed legations, the Reconciliation of England (1553-1558) and the Peace of France and the Holy Roman Empire, indirectly provide context to the patriarchal relationships between Charles V, Philip II, and Mary I. Her deference can be seen in matters such as her marriage to Philip, ordering her husband's access to governmental powers, and whether to return England to Catholicism under the control of the supreme pontiff. Once Cardinal Pole arrived in England, Mary followed his advice in matters of religion until her death in September of 1558.
The view of gender in the sixteenth century allowed Mary I, Queen of England (1553-1558) to be guided by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (1553-1556), and then her husband, Philip King of Spain (later Philip II of England) (1554-1558) because women were viewed as socially, intellectually, and morally disadvantaged from birth. With the exception of Mary's accession to the throne, both men advised or directed her decision on various matters of religion, government, and marriage. However, Pole's legation letters also show the lack of guidance Pole, as a sixteenth century cardinal, could give Mary I as a queen.
Mary was a product of a sixteenth century society that did not regard women as equals. Two of the most established authorities in England described and defined how women were subordinate to men, the church and the law. Described by contemporary male authors, who believed that women were morally, intellectually, and physically deficient when compared to men . For example, John Foxe, a leading contemporary writer, claimed it was the 'will of God' that it was so . The Bible confirmed this belief as cited in scripture from Adam and Eve to the apostle Paul. The Bible was regarded 'as the social and political blueprint' to this patriarchal society. Thus, she chose the advice of the emperor and her husband because she was socially trained to concede to their advice.
Considering the choices Mary could have made, her cousin and husband were experienced politicians that guided her decisions which effectively reduced the debt incurred by her brother Edward VI . She married someone who could aid her country financially, and perhaps even politically. Even though she was a fervent Catholic, she brought about religious change through parliament and not the apostolic see, with the strong persuasion of the emperor and her husband.