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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,109 ratings  ·  76 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.<br /><br />Daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, wife of Philip of Spain, and sister of Edward VI, Mary Tudor was a cultured Renaissance ...more
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by St. Martin's Press (first published September 27th 2007)
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Patricia The name Bloody Mary was unfairly given to Mary Tudor, Daughter of King Henry VIII and Katherine of Argon.

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Jun 16, 2011 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. <br /><br />In terms of biographies, this is a rather inclusive portrait of Mary Tudor and wonderful ...more
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
<i>This review can be found on <a href="" rel="nofollow">my blog</a>!</i><br /><br />Another awkward review of a book I put in my top ten of this year. Whoops. Apparently I cant choose them well?<br /><br />The title really drew me in. I wanted to see how Porter would refute all the things that are attributed to Queen Mary I. But, she couldnt deny them. She accepted that they happened, but put them in the context of Marys beliefs and the times, along with kind of looking at how her father was.<br /><br />But, that, literally, was about 5-10 pages that she did that in. ...more
Oct 01, 2014 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.<br /><br />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 continued ...more
Dec 03, 2008 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 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 Aragons 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. Elizabeth ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jan 14, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
<br /><br /><br /><br />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. <br /><br />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 nations. ...more
Wylie Small
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a tough one to review. It's definitely 5 star-worthy when it comes to research and detail. This book is impeccably researched! I give it 3 stars for general readability, though. The author is obviously a huge fan of Mary and tends to quantify her behavior with excuses or explanations. Probably the most egregious example of this is the author's treatment of the burning of 300 Protestants under the Marian regime. According to the author, Mary wasn't really responsible for more than a ...more
Jan 17, 2009 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.<br /><br />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.<br /><br />The authors bias ...more
Lígia Bellini
Jan 03, 2016 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
Jan 01, 2013 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.<br />Granted her treatment could have used more details as H.F.M. Prescott ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
Feb 02, 2015 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. <br /><br />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 definately ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, group
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.<br />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.<br />I enjoyed her reassessment of a much misunderstood ruler. The book is ...more
C.S. Burrough
Oct 23, 2015 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. <br /><br />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 - ...more
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely the best biography I have ever read on Mary I. It is meticulously researched, examining Mary's life, reign, relationships with her father, mother, stepmothers, brother, sister, husband etc. <br />Naturally their is focus on the burnings that took place during Mary's reign, and fortunately Linda Porter does not try to make excuses for these brutal acts, but she does put it in to context for the 16 century.<br />What is refreshing in this biography is to read about the achievements of Mary's short ...more
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
My book blog --------------&gt; <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow"></a><br /><br />Superbly written biography of a much-maligned, and undeservedly so, queen. Could not put it down. Full review to follow shortly.<br /><br />+++++++++++++++++++++++++<br /><br />Updated review:<br /><br />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 Katherine's ...more
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
With <u>The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary"</u> 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 Boleyn, ...more
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 <i>Historical Novel Society Review</i> November 2009 issue.)<br /><br />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 Marys life is thoroughly reexamined: from her supposed religious fanaticism to her seemingly loveless marriage and the derangement ...more
May 10, 2013 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. <br /><br />It's true that Mary, after 450 years, continues to be maligned under history's scrutinizing lens, but as with many popular ideas about historical ...more
Dec 03, 2013 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
Susan Abernethy
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Link to my review of this book:<br /><br /><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
Feb 22, 2017 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.
₵oincidental   Ðandy
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Provides a comprehensive view of a much-maligned &amp; much-misunderstood Tudor personality. Worth reading.
Sasha Wolf
Interesting, but not very well written and poorly referenced, with a lot of speculation about Mary's state of mind presented as fact.
Katie (wife of book)
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Tudor history
Shelves: history-tudor
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!<br />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.<br />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 into ...more
Mar 12, 2017 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 &amp; helps you understand Mary.
Mar 10, 2016 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 stage, ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: a-hardback, x-2012, mine
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 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 Queens reign (Yes, in Danish so the reading takes a while) and I decided to re-re-re-re-rex10-read Pride and Prejudice.<br /><br />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 horses saddle, what the sky looked like You ...more
Jan 03, 2014 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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Tudor Book Blog B...: Elizabeth's Imprisonment 21 31 Aug 18, 2015 03:16PM  
Tudor History Lovers: April 2015 - The First Queen of England, by Linda Porter 21 81 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  

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<i>Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. <a href="" rel="nofollow">See this thread for more information.</a></i><br /><br />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
“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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