Standing in a dark bathroom, illuminated by a single candle, you simply look into the mirror and chant her name three times: Bloody Mary. A ghost is then said to appear, sometimes holding a dead baby, other times promising to come after yours.
While the folklore may be fabricated, the woman behind the mirror was as real as can be, and a royal figure at that.
Known later in life as Queen Mary I, the first queen regnant of England, the legendary monarch now known as Bloody Mary was born Mary Tudor on February 18, 1516, in Greenwich, England at the Palace of Placentia.
The only child of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary’s lifetime of shame over her own femininity began at the young age of 17 when her father annulled his marriage to her mother, frustrated by the lack of a male heir to the throne. This left the young Mary totally separated from her mother and forbidden from ever visiting her again.
The King went on to marry his now ex-wife’s maid of honor, Anne Boleyn, who disappointed him with yet another daughter, Elizabeth. Worried that Mary may interfere with Elizabeth’s succession, Boleyn pressed Parliament to declare Mary illegitimate, and succeeded.
Of course, Boleyn was later beheaded by her husband for treason, but by this time the damage to Mary’s name had been done, and she stood last in line for a seat on the throne.
Since her teen years, Mary had been plagued with terrible menstrual pains and irregularity in her cycles, which would be attributed to her eventual physical and psychological stress later in life.
She was also known to be struck with deep and frequent periods of melancholia, depressive spells which would stay with her throughout her relatively short life.
Despite all the odds and afflictions stacked against her, Mary did eventually take the throne in 1553 at the age of 37 and promptly married Philip of Spain in the hopes of conceiving an heir.
Starved for love and forever seeking the approval of her father, Mary would replay this codependent pattern with her new husband, whom she was “ready to lavish all her frustrated emotions on.”
Ten years her junior and in no way as excited to reciprocate her amorous feelings, Philip fulfilled the negotiated duties expected of a royal marriage, and two months later Mary’s greatest wish came true: She was with child.