Why didn't "Bloody Mary" have her sister Elizabeth executed?

Queen Mary died in 1558, having married the Spanish king and done her best to make England Catholic again - executing over 200 Protestants along the way - after her father Henry VIII’s break with Rome. Her half-sister Princess Elizabeth was kept under virtual house arrest for the last few years of her reign. Elizabeth’s Catholicism was iffy, to say the least, and she did much to end England’s religious struggles after being crowned as Elizabeth I, even as she firmly reasserted the Church of England’s independence from Rome.

Why wouldn’t Mary have ordered the princess’s arrest, trial and execution on some pretext when it became clear that Elizabeth would probably succeed her? Why wouldn’t Mary have done more to assure a Catholic succession?

Because Elizabeth was, after all, and despite religious considerations, her sister?

Or *was *she? :dubious:

Oliver Stone, Dan Brown has a pitch to make…

She didn’t need to kill her, she could’ve just removed her from the line of succession, but chose not to. I’m not sure what the reason was, but I seem to recall that 1). Queen Liz kept her religious feelings to herself so that people might hope she was a cryptocatholic and 2) If she didn’t inherit the throne it would go to the Scottish branch of the family which was considered a Bad Thing by the Tudor’s and the English in general.

Mary was Queen back when English monarchs still had real power but her power wasn’t absolute. There was a substantial segment of the ruling class and the people who were opposed to Mary’s religious views. An order to execute the Protestant heir to the throne might well have triggered a civil war.

Mary couldn’t remove Elizabeth from the succession. King Henry VIII’s will had been made law by parliment before his death setting the succession to go from Edward to Mary to Elizabeth (if none had children during their reign.)

Edward tried it. He was a steadfast Protestant and didn’t want to leave the throne to his Catholic sister Mary when he died, so he left it to his cousin Jane Grey. Mary easily recaputured her throne because even if people disagreed with her faith, they acknowledged that she was the rightful heir by law.

Mary couldn’t disinherit Elizabeth because her own claim to the throne rested on Henry VIII’s Act of Succession. She may have been tempted to have her executed (and Elizabeth herself apprently feared that it would happen a time or two) but she couldn’t do it. Phillip of Spain, Mary’s husband knew that his sickly wife was not long for this world, and that Liz was next in line. At this time of her life, Liz was a lovely girl, he had his eye on marrying her as soon as Mary kicked it. He protected Elizabeth, much to Mary’s frustration.

Elizabeth flirted heavily with Phillip to encourage his protection, but had no intentions whatsoever of ever marrying him. Her claim to legitimacy was that her father’s marriage to Mary’s mother, Katherine of Aragon, wasn’t legal because of a Biblical prohibition against marrying the widow of one’s dead sibling.

Elizabeth also had strong partisan support. At Mary’s coronoation, she brought her own army, which made formal submission to Mary, but sent a very clear message: Elizabeth could call up an army of her own if needed. As Mary became more and more unpopular during her reign, Elizbeth grew in the love of the people. To execute her would have caused rebellions.

Lastly, Mary did have some emotional attatchment to Elizabeth. She had hoped that Elizabeth would convert to Catholicism and be her beloved baby sister as she was when Elizabeth was a child-- before Liz learned to think of politics first. She was genuinely hurt by Elizabeth’s rejection of her faith and her wink-wink support of rebellions that occured during Mary’s reign. (Liz was never foolish enough to give her approval of the rebellions, but she was savvy enough to not dissaprove, either, and offend those who wanted her on the throne.)

My theory: Bloody Mary was always chewing betel nuts. Makes you kinda mellow, ya know? :slight_smile:

And on top of all that, Elizabeth kept her nose very clean. I think Mary would’ve needed at least a slight misstep on Elizabeth’s part to get some court support.

Henry VIII needed to look for reasons to divorce and behead his wives, after all, and because of sexism, this queen (wasn’t she the first?) was probably the least powerful adult monarch of England to that time.

She was the first queen of England to reign effectively, since Matilda and Jane Grey had successful revolts against them immediately they succeeded to the throne.

If Elizabeth hadn’t been heir to the throne and so popular, Mary would have had all she needed to execute her. Treason was in the eye of the beholder at the time. Elizabeth was known to have close associations with some of the leaders of the rebellions which took place during Mary’s reign, which was more than adequate reason for her to lose her head.

The Countess of Salsibury in Henry VIII’s reign was executed because of her close blood ties to the throne, and the fact that a religious garment was found in her house. This garment had also been used as the banner symbol for one of the rebellions that took place during Henry’s reign, and that was taken to be enough evidence to have her killed.

And if he didn’t have them, he’d make them up. Anne Boleyn was almost certainly not guilty of the charges against her. In fact, on some of the dates when she was supposedly commiting adultery in one palace, it can be proven that she was in another location alltogether, surrounded by people. (One of the dates was when she was recovering from childbirth.) Right before she was executed, the king’s marriage to Anne was annulled, so in essence, she was executed for adultery when she had never been married to the king.

Katheryn Howard was executed for adultery as well, but there’s no evidence she actually “soiled her sovereign’s bed.” She had been unchaste before her marriage-- that much she admitted, but she steadfastly maintained she had never cheated on Henry. Even under torture, the men with whom she was accused never admitted to anything beyond flirting. One finally confessed that she might have intended to sleep with him, so Henry had a law passed quickly that intending to commit adultery was treason, as was concealing your sexual history if the king expressed interest in marrying you. With this, Katheryn could be retroactively found guilty and killed.

She was not the first queen. The first was Queen Matilda, but that was a bad example because Matilda’s short reign ended in civil war.

Mary was powerless because she allowed herself to be powerless. . Mary capitulated to the notions that women needed a man to guide them and thus lost the love of her people by marrying a foreigner. (The English were very xenophobic at this time.) She allowed herself to be bullied.

Elizabeth was much smarter. She knew she could never marry. If she married a foreigner, she would lose the love of her people and be subject to her husband’s whims. If she married a subject, she could cause a civil war from jealous factions. She was intelligent enough not to let people know this, though, and up until her old age, she kept suitors dangling, gaining their favor and protection for England while she stretched out the process as long as possible. She played with the notion that she was an indecisive woman, using it to her advantage. She also knew how to keep her court in check and make sure the power stayed in her own hands instead of with her council.

Yeah, I’ve read Alison Weir’s biography of Henry VIII, so I know all the charges were build up. It’s been a few years, so I’ve forgotten details.

What I was trying to say is that Elizabeth not only kept on the straight and narrow, she also gave all outward appearances of being the purest woman in the kingdom. So it would have been hard to make made-up charges stick.

Katherine Howard, while not guilty of adultery, was dumber than a box of bubonic plague. She admitted she and that other kid (they were each about 15) had called each other “husband” and “wife” although they weren’t married. What did she expect Henry VIII would do? He already had a reputation.

You’re forgetting about the incident with Edward Seymour. He married Katherine Parr after the death of Henry VIII after he found that his brother (who had been appointed protector) wouldn’t allow him to marry Elizabeth. Liz was sent to stay at Katherine Parr’s house and Seymour set out on a campaign of seduction. Katherine Parr initially thought it was harmless until she caught Elizabeth and Seymour in an embrace. It was the scandal of the kingdom for a while, with Elizabeth rumored to be pregnant by him. Her staid Protestand pose was probably a reaction to this incident.

Nor did she keep to the straight and narrow. Mary stated several times that she had enough evidence of Elizabeth’s complicity in the rebellions of her reign to execute the girl several times over if she chose. While Elizabeth was smart enough never to put anything in writing, it is known she met with some of the plotters or their assistants and did nothing to discourage uprisings in her name. She was walking a fine line-- she didn’t want to give her sister overt proof of her activities, but she also didn’t want the plotters to feel like she had abandoned them.

Elizabeth’s popularity prevented that. If she had less support from powerful people and from the English popluace at large, it would have been a relatively simple matter. Henry VIII did it all the time. He was renowned for executing anyone who had even a tenuous claim to the throne.

Very likely she expected that he would forgive her past indescretions if he ever discovered them because he was so passionately in love with her. She knew what had happened with her cousin Anne Boleyn. Anne had once been betrothed to Henry Percy, and it’s very likely that she slept with him. (Percy hinted as much when he was ordered to break it off with Anne.) The king seems to have forgiven it and didn’t bring it up again until he was tired of her.

While she was incarcerated, Katheryn Howard was given an offer by the king’s officials: if she would admit that she had been married to Francis Dereham, they would annul her marriage to the king and send her into exile instead of executing her. Katheryn refused, likely remembering the same offer had been made to Anne Boleyn.

In addition to physical attraction, Phillip had political reasons to keep Elizabeth around. After Elizabeth, the heirs would have been Mary Queen of Scots (the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister Margaret) and the remaining Grey sisters, Katherine and Mary (the granddaughters of Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary).

Mary of Scots was half French, being the daughter of Mary of Guise (and she married Francis II of France 7-8 months before Mary I of England died). Having her on the English throne would have been disastrous for Spain.

The Grey sisters couldn’t have been considered serious contenders for the throne since their father had only a few years earlier tried to put their elder sister Jane on the throne.