To what extent was England dominated by Spain and the serving of Spanish interests during the reign of Mary? Mary I had widespread popular support throughout England and made a triumphal entry into London once she was made Queen. She was determined to re-impose Catholicism and marry Philip II of Spain, which caused some controversy amongst the public. Philip was Spanish and therefore distrusted, and many in England now had a vested interest in the prosperity of the Protestant church, having received church lands and money after Henry dissolved the monasteries. Marys firm catholic beliefs instilled to her when she was a minor were very strong when she took the throne; however it is questionable how much her marriage alliance with the Spanish Prince affected her policies and decision making, thus allowing Spain to dominate England between 1553-58. At age 37, Mary turned her attention to finding a husband and producing an heir.
Her cousin Charles V suggested she marry his only son, Prince Philip of Spain. Philip had a son from a previous marriage, and was heir apparent to vast territories in Continental Europe and the New World. Prince Phillip was Catholic, heir to the Spanish throne and related to Catherine of Aragon, Mary’s mother. Mary wanted to marry him. Lord Chancellor Gardiner and the House of Commons unsuccessfully petitioned her to consider marrying an Englishman, fearing that England would be relegated to a dependency of the Habsburgs. The Catholic marriage was unpopular with the English; Gardiner and his allies opposed it on the basis of patriotism, while Protestants were motivated by a fear of Catholicism. When Mary insisted on marrying Philip, protests broke out. Thomas Wyatt led a force from Kent to depose Mary in favour of Elizabeth, as part of a wider conspiracy now known as Wyatt’s rebellion.
Although the alliance gave way to a relationship with France, it gave Spain a large influence in how the country would be run and Mary’s want for a marriage affected her decision making for England. Gardiner and Paget worked together to limit Philip’s powers in England. Although he was to be given the title of King, he would have no power to appoint Spaniards to English offices, to dictate foreign policy, or to retain any power after Mary’s death. Philip stayed in England for fourteen months. He pursued a role within the English government, but was disliked within the Privy Council. Mary, however, often took advice from outsiders such as Charles V’s ambassador Simon Renard and this tended to reduce the importance of the Privy Council in policy matters. During this time it became clear that Mary was besotted with Prince Phillip which suggests Spain were becoming increasingly involved in England’s relations. Phillip could influence Mary at any point which may have affected her authority as Queen. During Mary’s reign from 1556, Philip tried to overcome the resistance of the Privy Council and involve England in war with France. Philip’s cause was helped by the invasion of Thomas Stafford – a Protestant exile in France.
In April 1557, he landed at Scarborough was almost immediately defeated and was executed in May. Once persuaded, Mary sent 7000 troops to assist the French war, who were also Catholic after news they were to depose Mary. Although Henry II of France denied initiating the raid, England declared war on France. The English navy lent Spain important support at sea. Although the troops succeeded in the capture of St. Quentin, the war was regarded as disastrous because in January 1558, England lost Calais; the last English territorial possession in France, held by England since 1347. St. Quentin was handed over to Spain and it became clear there had been no gain for England in supporting Spain which aggravated the Public. However, Mary did not join the War with France until June. It had broken out in January and Mary had originally denied Phillip her help as she saw no threat. It was not until the plot against Mary was established that she got involved in the war, which suggests her marriage did not dominate her decision in protecting the Monarchy and Catholicism.
Moreover, Mary had successfully made improvements to the English Army. She had increased ship building and developed the Militia with the Militia Act which was passed in 1558, the foundation for Elizabeth’s Armies, and national defences were built up. An Arms Act was later introduced in providing weaponry to the Army for any attacks. The English navy was reorganised and re-equipped. The main aim was to help Philip in his war against the French, but the improvements were important in helping Elizabeth to defeat Philip’s own Armada thirty years later. However, In January 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt raised a rebellion in Kent. The rebels marched on London intending to capture Mary and prevent her marrying Philip of Spain. The government discovered the plot, and exiled Courtenay. Wyatt’s plot was strengthened when many of the Government troops led by Thomas Howard deserted to Wyatt.
The combined force advanced to Southwark but could go no further because London Bridge was strongly held. Wyatt and his followers revolted after small fights. About sixty men died in the rebellion and 100 more were executed. The rebellion was a direct cause of Mary’s marriage alliance to Phillip. It had been hugely unpopular and many felt she had allowed Spain to dominate the Country to pursue her want for a Catholic England. Moreover, many believed the marriage led to a decline in the Wool Trade, which increased unemployment and encouraged dislike towards Mary. On the other hand, the marriage treaty was Philip was highly favourable to the English, since it would give the future King of England born to Mary and Philip possession of the Netherlands, even perhaps the whole Spanish Empire. Although Mary was besotted with Philip and her want for an heir, it can be argued her need for a Catholic England and strengthening the English Empire was more important.
During her reign, Mary looked to return to a Catholic England, but her Privy Council was divided. William Paget and Mary’s supporters wanted to return to the situation at the death of Henry VIII, a church Catholic in doctrine but independent of Rome. At the cost of her religion, Mary burnt Protestants at the stake, which arguably suggests religion dominates her final decisions throughout her time as queen. Her marriage alliance and the war with France indicate Mary was solely trying to restore Catholicism in England.
In conclusion, Mary I was completely in love with Philip II. Her marriage to him allowed the Spain to influence English foreign policy making, in particular the French War which benefitted Spain and cost large amounts of money for England. The public quickly became angry towards the queen because of the unpopular alliance and her want for a Catholic England over the protection of the Empire. Overall, Spain did dominate England in pursing their interests during Mary’s reign as seen by her involvement in the French War which ultimately led to the loss of Calais.
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