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The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  2,742 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
In this groundbreaking new biography of “Bloody Mary,” Linda Porter brings to life a queen best remembered for burning hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake, but whose passion, will, and sophistication have for centuries been overlooked.

Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaiss
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by St. Martin's Press (first published September 27th 2007)
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Jun 16, 2011 Orsolya rated it really liked it
Truly the case of a victim (of sorts) being made out to be the blood-thirsty "bad guy", Mary Tudor unfortunately has a bad reputation. Although this viewpoint has been more than avidly blamed on Elizabethan propaganda, the image remains. Linda Porter dives past the traditional stereotypes and bad blood (pun intended); to present Mary's reasoning behind her actions and her remaining scars from childhood of much pain.

In terms of biographies, this is a rather inclusive portrait of Mary Tudor and w
Oct 01, 2014 Samantha rated it really liked it
I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting this book turned out to be. In my quest to research Margaret Pole, I was directed to this book. Of course, the focus is on Mary, but as her governess through some of the most difficult times of her life, Margaret features heavily through the first quarter of this book.

The level of detail included in Porter's narrative is comprehensive without becoming overwhelming or boring. Even after I reached the point in Mary's life after Margaret's death I conti
Dec 03, 2008 Pat rated it really liked it
This biography was fascinating and left me wondering why she would be nicknamed "Bloody Mary" when the rest of her family (the Bloody Tudors!)was truly worse as far as I'm concerned. With the legacy/examples left by her father, her step-mother and others (as well as her passive-aggressive sister, Elizabeth) she was a strong, passionate, yet misunderstood and lonely woman who only lived her life as she had to, to survive and become the first ever Queen of England. I would think all of royalty of ...more
May 13, 2010 Amber rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone looking for an in-depth biography on Mary I.
Recommended to Amber by: N/A
My preference has always been for Anne Boleyn and her daughter Elizabeth, but I have always admired Katherine of Aragon’s conviction and stubbornness. After reading this biography, I have an even greater admiration for Mary and the emotional suffering she went through as well as the bouts of illness she experienced throughout her life. Her torment over her half-sister Elizabeth is heartbreaking and I kept wanting the two sisters to be truly able to bond away from all of their burdens even though ...more
Meghan Monahan
Overall, Linda Porter does a fine job of bringing England's first (and most notorious) Queen Regnant to life. Mary is often painted as a tragic, slightly mad, religious fanatic who had little agency in her life and reign. Porter puts those myths to bed and portrays a more human and well-rounded Mary, a woman with great courage but also many flaws. It is ironic that in a book that sets out to show Mary Tudor as a fully fleshed out woman, her sister is reduced to a two dimensional caricature. Eliz ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
"The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" was a sympathetic, but not entirely vindicating, take on England's most vilified Queen.

The author did an excellent job supporting her opinions with historical fact. Mary has often been portrayed as a religious fanatic, determined to return England to the Catholic Church, without regard to how many Protestants she had to burn a the stake. While Mary certainly did burn many, the reasons are so much more complex than mere religion.

The authors b
Lígia Bellini
Jan 03, 2016 Lígia Bellini rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That was such a great reading! I always thought that Mary became that "vile" woman, because she was a victim since her childhood. She was separate from her mother, her father didn't want her to be a Queen and also made her sign a document, stating she wasn't from a vallid marriage and this way, became a bastard daughter. She was in constant fear! Henry VIII was a monster and kept changing his feelings, thinkings and this way, people around him, had to pay for the consequences. Mary was alone and ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin
Feb 02, 2015 Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
I love anything about the Tudors and people surrounding them. I thought this book was very well written, although I want to find more on Mary and others. I feel like I got lost in some of it.

I was very sad for Mary and her upbringing. Obviously being Henry's child is not all it's cracked up to be. She went through so much with her father. That being said, she did have his Tudor blood and stood up for herself at all possible times. You would think that Henry would at one point think, she is defi
Jan 01, 2013 Carolina rated it really liked it
There have been perennial books popping up every now and then about Henry VIII and his six wives and his larger than life daughter, Elizabeth I. Although there have been several other biographies done in the past of Mary I that give a new perspective to this much maligned figure, I think no one has done what Porter has done -and this is work harder to dispel the rumors and the reputation she has gained over time as "Bloody" Mary.
Granted her treatment could have used more details as H.F.M. Presco
C.S. Burrough
Oct 23, 2015 C.S. Burrough rated it really liked it
'Bloody Mary' Tudor was for centuries maligned from all sides. A focus of anti-Catholic prejudice, she was reviled for her Marian persecutions which saw 280 martyred Protestant 'heretics' burned at the stake.

This was unremarkable in an age that saw religious persecution from both sides sweep reformation Europe. Marys father before her, sister after her and Habsburg cousins alongside her oversaw similar barbaric acts of state, each in no short measure yet over many more years on their thrones -
Sarah -
Dec 27, 2012 Sarah - rated it it was amazing
My book blog -------------->

Superbly written biography of a much-maligned, and undeservedly so, queen. Could not put it down. Full review to follow shortly.


Updated review:

This is one of the best biographies I have read this year. It is all the better for me personally in that it is a much more balanced look at the first queen of England, Mary I. In the matter of Henry and Katherine's divorce, I've always been firmly in Katherin
Heather Domin
(I'm re-reading this in April 2014 - since I couldn't include it the first time, this time I'll copy/paste my review from the Historical Novel Society Review November 2009 issue.)

This fascinating biography of Mary Tudor cuts through centuries of assumption, legend, and demonization to reveal a more even-handed portrait of the first true English queen regnant. Every aspect of Mary’s life is thoroughly reexamined: from her supposed religious fanaticism to her seemingly loveless marriage and the de
May 10, 2013 Katie rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a fantastic portrait on Mary Tudor. She is so easily glossed over in the shadow of her long-reigning, younger sister, but what I learned from this book was that Elizabeth modeled herself after Mary in many ways after her succession. Mary served as a role model for her, exemplifying what to do (and what not to do) as a queen in her own right.

It's true that Mary, after 450 years, continues to be maligned under history's scrutinizing lens, but as with many popular ideas about hi
'Aussie Rick'
Jan 14, 2010 'Aussie Rick' rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

This book offers the reader a balanced and insightful portrait of Mary Tudor or better know to most as 'Bloody Mary'. Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon and later wife of Philip of Spain and has been portrayed as the main instigator for the burning of hundreds of Protestant heretics at the stake during her reign.

This book shows that she was a better Queen than most historians grant and under her leadership she attempt to place England at the forefront of the European na
Dec 04, 2013 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, tudors
Linda Porter gives a much more sympathetic portrait of Mary I than her reputation. She does it by giving many more details of her reign than some accounts have done and a much more rounded woman and Queen is the result.
She includes all the information she can find, but even so, if she left out all the speculation along the lines of 'Mary must have felt...', '...thought...' or '...wondered..', it would be a much slimmer volume.
I enjoyed her reassessment of a much misunderstood ruler. The book is
Tasha Cooper
Dec 03, 2013 Tasha Cooper rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book to be a bit of a slog to get through - maybe I was just trying to read it at the wrong time of the day. For the most part I was able to read about 10 pages at a time. That being said, I am extremely happy that I did read this book. I have never before read a book that had Mary as anything other than a secondary character. From early on in the book I knew that I owed Queen Mary and her memory a huge apology as I like so many others, fell victim to the propaganda regarding Mary. ...more
Braylea King
Jun 23, 2017 Braylea King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is wonderful, easy to read, and gives a detailed account of one of the most misunderstood monarchs in British history. Much of this book focuses on Mary's childhood and rise to power, not giving a clear explanation about her name "Bloody Mary", though. However, I would still highly recommend it.
Jessica Tench
Feb 22, 2017 Jessica Tench rated it really liked it
Shelves: tudors
A bit dry and naturally skewed in several places, I nonetheless enjoyed reading a book about Mary that did not paint her as some sort of weak willed ruler, yet ruthless killer. It does try to be somewhat objective overall and admit some of Mary's faults, such as her penchant for gambling and overspending on clothes.
Jul 16, 2017 Katie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Tudor history
Shelves: tudor-history
Mary is always overlooked in favour of her father, half-sister, her unlucky cousin, or even her younger half-brother. It was great to read a biography just for Mary!
In films she is always portrayed as a crazy old woman. In reality, she was a beautiful, educated princess who was brought up to be queen.
It's heartbreaking to read the trauma she went through at the orders of her father. Mary watched her proud Spanish mother being debased and destroyed by the divorce, and Mary herself was bullied int
Mar 12, 2017 Hana rated it it was amazing
A very good book. I always loved Elizabeth I but I wanted to know more about Mary because I often thought that she was very maligned. She endured quite a lot throughout her life but she was always faithful to herself and for what she believed was right. Of course, I don't necessarily agree with everything that she did but this book shows you that she was more than just 'Bloody Mary'. It gives much good information's & helps you understand Mary.
Mar 14, 2010 Samantha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
With The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" Linda Porter offers a fresh look into the life of Mary the First. She was the queen best-known for her persecution and subsequent burnings of Protestants, but as Porter reveals, there was so much more to Mary Tudor. The daughter of Henry the Eighth and Katherine of Aragon, Mary was a privileged princess and heir to the English throne during her childhood. When Henry the Eighth set his sights on divorcing Katherine and marrying Anne Boley ...more
Mar 10, 2016 Rhea rated it really liked it
This biography attempts to redeem England's first Queen Regnant, Mary I, who has been immortalized as Bloody Mary, the fearsome tyrant who burned 300 people at the stake in the name of her Catholic fanaticism, married an unpopular Spanish king, and died a bitter, unhappy woman. In contrast, her half-sister and successor Elizabeth I is enshrined in history as Gloriana and England's most beloved and successful ruler ever, who ruled for 45 years, broadened literacy and brought Shakespeare to the st ...more
Sep 17, 2012 Midgetbee rated it liked it
An interesting read, if at times a somewhat infuriating one. The author attempts to see Mary Tudor as something other than the sad, frumpy little woman easily eclipsed by her sister and forgotten by her husband that is so often portrayed by books about this period, but at times her opinions and desire to rehabilitate Mary bring things almost to the point of farce. If anything, it shows the folly of thinking that just because someone is nice in their private life, they must be excused the nastier ...more
Feb 05, 2012 Jodi rated it really liked it
Have taken a couple of weeks to read this book as had magazines from my friend in Denmark covering the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Queen’s reign (Yes, in Danish so the reading takes a while) and I decided to re-re-re-re-rex10-read Pride and Prejudice.

So, on to The First Queen of England. The Prologue was written in the style of a novel which is not how I like my non-fiction to be. Telling me what a historical figure thought, how she turned in her horse’s saddle, what the sky looked like
Oct 22, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-ebooks, history
3.5 stars. For some reason it took me a long time to make my way through this book, and I felt that the author made a couple of amazing leaps of logic early on (for example, speculating that a certain scholar might have been Mary's tutor because he had known Prince Arthur - her mother's first husband - and then later on talking about it as if it were settled fact) but on the whole I enjoyed it very much. It's easy to get the impression that virtually nothing happened in Mary's life between her c ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing
This by far has been one of the best books that I have read on Mary I. I have always been fascinated with her, I don't think she deserves the labels that have been placed on her. Yes, she did kill people for their religious beliefs, but this is not anything new given the time period. Monarchs before and after Mary have done the same thing, but it seems that only Mary is singled out and given the title as being *bloody*. Porter did a good job of dispelling a lot of myths in regards to Mary. Like ...more
Mar 29, 2011 Anthony rated it really liked it
If you are a fan of English history, especially the Tudor Era, then this is a must read. The author uses newly discovered and previously unused sources, such as actual manuscripts and letters from the main historical figures to present a biography of Mary Tudor that is well written and fascinating to read. The author claims, and very convincingly, that the bad reputation that Queen Mary has, and her nickname, "Bloody Mary" is very much unfounded. The author cites all the positives done during Ma ...more
Nicole (Reading Books With Coffee)
I liked this book, and I really liked reading about Mary. It was a nice change from reading about Henry VIII's wives and about Elizabeth I.

I really liked that it didn't focus too much on her childhood, her dislike of Anne Boleyn and her relationship with her sister. It is a very good overview of Mary's life and what was going on during her lifetime. There were plenty of details about Mary without getting bogged down in them.

The one thing I noticed is that Porter sees Mary in a very positive li
Mar 07, 2009 MAP rated it really liked it
Ultimately, a very good book about Mary Tudor. It only really dragged in one place, and the who's who was explained very well.

I only wish we could have spent a little more time in her childhood, pre-divorce b/n Katherine and Henry. There also anecdotes I've seen in several other books but not in this one, such as Mary being so innocent that Henry came in and used a vulgar word and she didn't even flinch because she didn't know what it meant. Maybe that's apocryphal, but the author brought up sev
Jennifer Gelert
Mar 19, 2013 Jennifer Gelert rated it really liked it
I love British history. My mother used to say I had a crush on Henry VIII because I did numerous reports on him. I knew the story of his daughters and how is pride and desire for a male heir affected them. I thought I knew the story of Bloody Mary as she was called in so many books I read. But in this book, the author paints a quite different picture of Mary Tudor. Why she did certain things and how her name and story was misunderstood and changed to suit different meanings. She reigned 5 years ...more
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Tudor Book Blog B...: Elizabeth's Imprisonment 21 29 Aug 18, 2015 03:16PM  
Tudor History Lovers: April 2015 - The First Queen of England, by Linda Porter 21 80 May 11, 2015 07:46AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Part V: The Neglected Wife 2 11 Jan 28, 2014 12:38PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Philip 3 12 Jan 27, 2014 08:52AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Wyatt's Rebellion 6 12 Jan 27, 2014 07:06AM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Mary's Escape (Ch. 6) 5 14 Jan 17, 2014 01:17PM  
Tudor Book Blog B...: Jane Grey (Ch. 7) 6 11 Jan 17, 2014 01:14PM  
  • Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII's Discarded Bride
  • The Mistresses of Henry VIII
  • Edward VI: The Lost King of England
  • Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics
  • The Sisters Who Would Be Queen
  • The Sisters of Henry VIII: The Tumultuous Lives of Margaret of Scotland and Mary of France
  • Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen
  • Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes Who Shaped the Virgin Queen
  • The Tudor Chronicles: 1485-1603
  • Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery
  • Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor
  • A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg
  • Tudor Queens of England
  • The Other Tudors: Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards
  • Catherine of Aragon: The Spanish Queen of Henry VIII
  • Elizabeth Wydeville: The Slandered Queen
  • Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, 1527-1608
  • Mary Boleyn: The True Story of Henry VIII's Mistress
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Linda Porter was born in Exeter, Devon in 1947. Her family have long-standing connections to the West Country, but moved to the London area when she was a small child. She was educated at Walthamstow Hall School in Sevenoaks and at the University of York, from which she has
More about Linda Porter...

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“The barbarity, duplicity and sheer effrontery of the English were often remarked upon. ‘Pink, white and quarrelsome’ was the splendid description of one group of disgusted Spanish visitors.” 0 likes
“In 1485, the year of the accession of Mary’s grandfather, Henry VII, England suffered its first outbreak of the sweating sickness, a type of virulent influenza that tended to be more prevalent in the warmer months. It struck swiftly and with frightening effect, killing seemingly healthy people in the space of 24 hours.” 0 likes
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