SIBLINGS AT WAR
Princess Mary rails against her brother’s Protestant agenda, c1551
Unlike Henry VIII, whose break with Rome and flirtations with Protestantism had been politically motivated, his son Edward held strong evangelical beliefs and advocated a full-scale Protestant Reformation in England.
The evangelical establishment around Edward VI, led by his Uncle Edward Seymour, now Lord Protector Somerset, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, initiated a series of religious reforms aimed at framing the evangelical agenda in law. In doing so they enraged Edward’s devoutly Catholic sister, Mary, who refused to accept the legality of the reformist religious legislation, and provoked her into writing this letter to the lords of the Privy Council.
Showing the same spirit and steely resolve as her late mother, Catherine of Aragon, Mary remonstrated with them for breaking the oaths they had sworn to her late father, Henry VIII, and for ignoring his wishes. “It grieveth me I say,” she wrote, “for the love I bear to them, to see both how they break his will, and what usurped power they take upon them.”
Mary persisted in having Latin mass celebrated in her household but, in doing so, she misjudged her brother, who by 1551 would no longer tolerate her disobedience. On 28 January, the 13-year- old king informed his sister: “It is a scandalous thing that so high a personage should deny our sovereignty.”
Two months later, they had an emotional confrontation at Westminster, but neither Mary’s tears nor her declaration that she was prepared to die for her faith persuaded Edward to relent. For the next two years, the king maintained the ban on the mass in Mary’s private chapels.