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Mary I

Mary Tudor was the fifth child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon but the only one who survived infancy. She was born on 18th February 1516 at Greenwich Palace. After her parents' divorce she lived at Hatfield with her half-sister Elizabeth and succeeded to the throne on the death of Edward VI. Her reign saw the persecution of hundreds of Protestants, but she did revive the Roman Catholic monastery at Westminster for a few years. England also lost its last remaining possession in France at this time and Mary is supposed to have said that when she was dead the word 'Calais' would be found engraved on her heart.


On 25th July 1554 in Winchester Cathedral she married Prince Philip of Spain. She insisted that Philip receive the title of king consort and all official documents bear their joint names. However he left England a few years later when he realised he would have no heir.


She was crowned in the Abbey on Sunday 1st October 1553. Both Anne of Cleves and the future Elizabeth I followed the queen as she processed into the Abbey. Coronation oil 'tainted' by her Protestant brother Edward VI at his coronation was not used but a new supply was sent by the Catholic bishop of Arras.

Burial and funeral effigy

Dying childless on 17th November 1558 she was buried in a vault in the north aisle of Henry VII's Lady Chapel in a coffin, above which the large monument was later erected. The wooden effigy carried at her funeral still exists and both head and unclothed body (having previously been separated) are on view in the new Jubilee Galleries.

Elizabeth I's coffin was later placed on top of Mary's.

James I erected a large monument above the graves but this only bears the effigy of Elizabeth on it. Mary is mentioned in one of the inscriptions, which can be translated:

Partners both in throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of the Resurrection".

Photos of her funeral effigy can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading

Mary I. England's Catholic Queen by John Edwards, 2011

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004

The funeral effigies of Westminster Abbey, edited by A.Harvey & R.Mortimer, revised edn. 2003

Mary Tudor. A Life by David Loades, 1989

The drama of coronation by Alice Hunt, 2008

The Real Tudors: Kings and queens rediscovered by C.Bolland and T.Cooper, National Portrait Gallery exhibition 2014

Papers about her funeral are at the National Archives, Kew, Surrey


18th February 1516


17th November 1558


14th December 1558


1st October 1553


14th December 1558


Lady Chapel

Memorial Type


Mary I
Mary I by Master John (floruit 1544-1545) [Public domain]
Mary I
Prince Philip of Spain and Mary I as depicted on Westminster Abbey's charter

© Westminster Abbey

Mary I
Mary I funeral effigy

© Westminster Abbey

Mary I
Sisters inscription on Elizabeth I's tomb

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

The biggest challenge we face is actually time – getting all our work done alongside the daily routine of the Abbey as a working church, visitor attraction and home to 1,000 years of history.


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