The Twisted Tale of Bloody Mary  (2008)




Director:     Chris Barnard.

Starring:     Miranda French (Mary Tudor),  Simon Kirk (Dudley),  Jorge Bala (Philip of Spain),  Jason Sharp (Henry VIII),  Elizabeth Rees (Young Mary).

Mary Tudor as tragic figure




Spoiler Warning: 

King Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine, but the Pope would not allow it.  So the King says that the marriage to Catherine was never valid.  As a child, Mary says that this was not true.  She adds that  she herself had a good relationship with her father, but the desire for a male heir drove a wedge between the King and his daughter.

Catholics are burned at the stake. 


Part One:  The King's Great Matter.

"1525. King Henry has been married to his Spanish Queen, Catherine, for 16 years.  Their only surviving child, Mary, is nine."

Her father found another queen, Anne Boleyn.  Mary the child says she was a bad queen.  Catherine, the good queen, will not agree to say that her marriage to Henry was never legitimate.  She says their marriage was made in heaven.  The King insists that he will have his new wife.  And Mary was never truly happy again.

"1533.  Henry divorces Catherine and marries his mistress Anne Boleyn  -- contrary to the Pope's commands.  Henry makes himself head of the church in England.  A centuries-old tradition is overturned.  The English people are bewildered and angry."

Some people paid a heavy price for the opposition to what Henry was doing.  One was the Bishop of Rochester and another was Sir Thomas More.  "So much blood."

Mary is 17 now, but deprived of her royal title after the divorce of her mother and father.  No longer is she a princess.  She is only Lady Mary.  That meant that she was a bastard child. 

Mary refuses to become a Protestant.  She regarded the talk of a new church as heresy.  Anne gave birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, but after that she had three miscarriages.  There was talk of Anne's affairs with other men and this gave Henry the excuse to get rid of Anne, who was beheaded in 1536.   

Mary continued to think that she was the King's rightful heir.  Those Catholics who opposed Protestantism came to see Mary as a symbol of the rebellion against the new religion.  This makes Henry furious at her.  The King threatens Cromwell himself that he better do something about Mary or else there will be consequences.  So Cromwell has Mary write a letter to her father in a very penitent tone.  But she still would not say she was a bastard, but rather the true Princess that she always was. 

Three messengers are sent to Mary to tell her of her father's extreme displeasure with his daughter, who continues her obstinacy against him.  But the King is merciful and he will give Mary once last chance.  There is one condition.  Mary has to acknowledge that her father as the Supreme head of the Church, that the Pope has no authority in England and that Mary herself is illegitimate. 

Mary very reluctantly agrees to the conditions.  She considers killing herself. 


Part Two:  England and the Heretics. 

1537.  A boy is born to Henry and Jane Seymour.  He will be the future King Edward VI.  Everyone was very relieved.  Things eased up for Mary and she was acknowledged to be second in line to the throne. 

Henry becomes very ill and develops boils all over his body.  He dies in 1547.  His only legitimate son, nine-year old Edward, inherits the Crown, becoming Edward VI.  The executors chose Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's elder brother, to be Lord Protector of the Realm.  Another executor was Lord Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.  John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, later Lord Northumberland, was another executor. 

1549.  Act of Uniformity signed by Edward VI.  The mass is to be said in English.  Much of the "baggage of Popery" is gotten rid of.  People now had to adopt what they called the "New Learning".

Mary remains Catholic.  She stays away from London.  Dudley was especially angry at Mary for remaining Catholic.  He knows that Edward VI is sickly and Mary could soon become Queen of England.  He wants her to face the penalties of being a heretic. 

Three messengers come to speak to Princess Mary.  They inform her that she must conform to the laws on the observance of mass that apply to everyone.  If she does not stop worshipping in the Catholic way, there will be serious consequences.  She says she can't do this, that she would rather have her head cut off than betray her God. 

Mary writes a letter that is read before the Council.  Dudley says that they are facing open rebellion from Mary and her fellow heretics.  He advocates a virtual crusade to root out the power of the Catholics.  He also talks of poisoning Mary's food. 

The Council speaks with Mary.  Mary speaks in her old Catholic ways.  Dudley calls it heresy.  Mary says they cannot take her soul, her God. 

Mary says that all her life is pain.  She tells a messenger to give the King her ring and say she will obey the King in everything except that which will take away her soul. 

Catholics come to Mary to go to mass with her. 

1553.  At the age of 16, Edward VI dies of causes that are not certain.  Rumors abounded that Northumberland poisoned the King.  They said that Dudley wanted to put his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey on the throne.  But many influential people and common people rose up in support of Mary.  They didn't want Northumberland and Lady Jane Grey.  Mary is crowned Queen. 

Her brutal persecution of Protestants caused her opponents to give her the nickname of "Bloody Mary".  She has Northumberland's head cut-off. 


Part Three:  Triumph and Despair.

All laws banning the hearing of mass are repealed.  The Pope is once again the Head of the Church.  Protestants can't practice their religion.  Protestant ministers have to give up their wives. 

One of the common people says that Mary might have been a success if she just had not married that Spaniard.  Her cousin Charles V suggested she marry his only son, Prince Philip of Spain.  Mary worries that at 37 she is too old for the Prince.  And he has a seven year old son.  Mary is very indecisive about her decision.  Her maid-in-waiting encourages her to follow her heart.  She urges her to marry Philip. 

Pressure is put on the Prince to marry the Queen of England.  He's not that enthusiastic because he has heard that she is very plain looking. 

Thomas Wyatt organizes resistance against the idea of Mary marrying Philip.  A rebel army descends on London.  Mary is calm and brave.  She gives a speech in public asking the public to defend her against these rebels and traitors.  She says that she is willing to die with her people if they stand up for her. 

The rebellion is crushed.  All over England men are hung from gibbets.  Mary's heart becomes harder after that rebellion. 

Winchester, 20th July, 1554.   There were great celebrations in honor of the marriage of Mary and Philip.  Philip could not speak English.  Mary the Virgin feels awkward about having sex with Philip. 

The talk is that Mary is now going to have a baby.  In the last week of April 1555, Elizabeth was released from house arrest, and called to court to be a witness to the birth.

In July 1555, her abdomen receded.  The whole thing was a false pregnancy.  When the Prince is informed of this, he says there's nothing for him here in England anymore, so he will return to Spain. 

Three successive harvests failed in England due to heavy summer rains.  Then England lost Calais to the French.  Many of the people thought this was the work of God punishing Mary for marrying the Spaniard. 

Mary blames the "New Learning".  The burnings at the stake start.  She says she is cleaning out the curse of heresy

John Miller is accused of being in league with the devil.  He refuses to recant his beliefs.  He is burned at the stake.  Even women are burned at the stake.  [All told 283 were executed, most by burning.  Mary even executed Thomas Carnmer.]

17th November 1558.  Death of Queen Mary I.  Elizabeth Tudor becomes Queen Elizabeth I of England. 

"During Mary's reign 283 people were burned for heresy.  The reign of Elizabeth heralded the dawn of Empire. 'Bloody Mary' did not fit into that story."



I enjoyed the movie.  It was short and sweet and to the point.  Now we see Mary in her own light and can be a bit more sympathetic to her, but, on the other hand, we also see the burnings at the stake. It's probably not that easy making a film about an unhappy, plain looking woman who was often very reclusive.  Her love life was non-existent and she was a virgin until the age of 37.  Then the poor woman had a false pregnancy that had to be terribly embarrassing for her.  Her husband left for Spain never to see her again.  Mary was very devout, but also very stubborn.  Her religion was all the stability she had in a sad life beset with problems.  Long story, short, it was good to have a film biography of a much ignored queen. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 




Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)