Persecution of Protestant and the Failure of Queen Mary I Reign


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The ability Mary lacked to deal with Protestants is the most significant factor in her reign being a failure, her ineffective management of the burnings caused her rule to be undermined by exiled English Protestants. This is demonstrated through her failure to understand that the burnings did not break the morale of the remaining Protestants in England. Mary’s bad management by allowing Protestants to escape to neighbouring countries, although it did reduce opposition to her Catholic restoration in England, she allowed these exiled Protestants to gain more knowledge from neighbouring protestants countries, thus they can be said to have remained a threat to Mary’s Council. Mary’s reign was a substantial failure as it showcases how she was unwise to believe the burnings of the few Protestants that stayed would have toned down the remaining protestants.

Christopher Haigh believes the burnings ‘’failed to intimidate’’ the remaining protestants as well as the burnings lacking a ‘’sustained national campaign’’ which can be seen as a fairly accurate as although Mary’s regime saw the burnings of 300 Protestants, of which large majority occurred on the south,the lack of a coordinated campaign allowed for opposition to gather in the northern parts of the country. Nevertheless, it’s inaccurate to suggest that the burnings didn’t intimidate protestants as many protestants escaped overseas to avoid Mary’s regime. The accounts by John Foxe of Rawlins White execution support this as it shows White being courageous until the very end claiming ‘’thou shall not […] have the victory’’. This kind of acts of courage would have kept the remaining protestants strong and encouraged disruption to Mary’s Catholic restoration. Mary’s failure to understand the power of martyrdom and failure to act by stopping public executions to avoid messages being spread to other protestants show a failure on her burnings campaign making them look more like Mary showing her strength rather than deal with Protestantism, showing how her reign was a failure in dealing with Protestants. Furthermore, Rose Hickman’s states her husband ‘’smuggled some of the good Christians overseas’’ demonstrating how Mary was not wise to allow opposition to escape her authority like that as although she thought she would benefit from this and only have to focus with the remaining Protestants, the exiled Protestants would go on to gain radical ideas in Protestant countries which would prove disadvantageous if they returned to England as they would undermine Mary’s regime.

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On the other hand, historian Eamon Duffy argues that Mary’s burnings were successful at achieving their aim as the executions ‘’passed of quietly’’ despite the nature of these and never escalated to any uprisings against the queen as there wasn’t an ‘’upward curve of disapproval’’ . There is validity to this claim as there wasn’t any direct revolt that arose from these burnings, despite sympathy by onlookers which can be argued to be good management. Nevertheless, Mary’s actions brought criticism from religious figures other countries in Europe such as John Knox through his indirect message in ‘’first blast’’. Duffy’s claim is supported by accounts of churchwardens in Stanford and Devon who claim how Mary’s actions towards protestants caused the ‘’old order being restored’’ as Protestantism left the church in a ‘’state of decay’’ compared to Catholicism.

Edward VI Protestant reformation left many people still Catholic in belief which helped Mary’s cause due to her returning to the old customs people understood increased support towards her. However, this account is not evidence of the results of Mary’s burnings as they date from the start of her reign thus not being accurate about how people felt about Mary’s treatment of the Protestants. Overall, Mary’s actions against the Protestants were still fairly unsuccessful as although burnings seemed as a way to retain power over religion by Mary, this would have only served as a short-term solution as the exiled Protestants would have eventually brought the new teachings they learned back into England which would have been disastrous to Mary’s Catholic restoration. Mary’s reign was a considerable failure in terms of the actions taken towards Protestants and her overall management of the large numbers of Protestants as allowing them to leave proved to only create more opposition to her rule outside of her realm, which would have meant she had no control over when they would strike back, showing her overall management as being a major failure.

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