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4.6 out of 5 stars26
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2012
I decided to buy and read this book after reading a biography of Katherine of Aragon (Mary Tudor's mother) and was not disappointed. This biography of England's first Queen in her own right takes you through all stages of Mary's life, from her birth at Greenwich to her death at St James Palace. Linda Porter's attention to detail gives you a good understanding of who the real Mary Tudor was. Linda Porter gives you details not only on Mary's relationships with the people who were close to her such as her maids, her parents and the people responsible for her everyday upbringing as a child but also her expenses, the organization of her household, what Mary was good at and what she liked to do such as gambling. This book also goes into detail about how Mary's marriage came about and how the negotiations were conducted which gives you a glimpse into how the English viewed foreigners at that time. I also enjoyed reading the chapter 'King Philip' about Mary's husband, Philip II of Spain who I knew very little about before reading this book.

In the majority of the book Linda Porter manages to place Mary's actions and opinions in the context of the time in which she lived. You get a good view of not only what was expected of Mary but what Mary had been brought up to expect from others. As a child she was brought up as a Princess and an important Royal member of the Tudor dynasty and she had expected to be treated in a certain way. When her father King Henry VIII took away her royal title and made her a bastard child Mary defied her father who expected her to obey him and accept her lot. You can understand how difficult it must have been for Mary who had known nothing but a royal life to now accept that she was only Lady Mary, illegitimate bastard. This is something that Mary could never accept. Just like she could never accept the protestant religion which was being forced upon her by her brother Edward VI and his advisors even though she had been a committed Catholic all her life. This was a woman who dared to defy not one but two Kings and managed to secure the English throne despite efforts to deprive her of her birth right.

She was brave, bold, stead fast, courageous and a strong woman who had suffered greatly not only for what she believed in but for being a woman and not the boy her father craved. If it had not been for the burning of the large number of Protestants in such a small space of time Mary may well have been viewed in a much different light.

The reason I am only giving this 4 stars instead of 5 is because of how the subject of Elizabeth is treated, the tone and wordage used clearly in my eyes shows that the author was trying to show Elizabeth in a bad light. The author seems genuinely surprised that Elizabeth resented being kept prisoner in the Tower of London and it almost feels that she is attacking Elizabeth for not being grateful which seems strange to me considering she was kept under house arrest for the majority of her sister, Mary I's reign. What exactly is Elizabeth to feel grateful to Mary for? Not having had her head cut off? Which according to the same book she had Philip II to thank for as he advised Mary not to treat Elizabeth too harshly.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in finding out more about Mary I, this is one of the better books out there about Mary Tudor. Very detailed and very factual, alot of work and research has clearly gone into this book and it is obvious that Linda Porter has a passion for her subject.
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VINE VOICEon 7 January 2008
Mary Tudor seems to be eternally eclipsed by her half-sister Queen Elizabeth and her overpowering father Henry VIII. She seems to be rather her mother's daughter and the King's of Spain wife and above all the religious fanatic who burned Protestants at the stake and went down in history as "Bloody Mary".

Well, of course there is always an element of truth in it. But there is so much more to England's first ruling Queen. Linda Porter wrote indeed an excellent biography as she did not only full fletched picture of the events of her life but describes what these meant and what effect they had on Mary. One does understand so much better how Queen Mary "ticked". Linda Porter gives the reader a deep psychological understanding of this Tudor Princess and Queen. But understanding does not mean approving and Linda Porter is critical and she states her criticism. Mary and Mary's reign is very complex and often difficult to judge properly. I have - not only with her but in general - a horror of religious fanaticism and of course this is a major problem with Mary, whatever the causes for this maybe. On the other hand she did not remove Elizabeth form the succession even though she must have known where her half-sisters real views lay. But this biography helps to understand and to evaluate more subtle way, putting Mary in perspective of her time and the general views held. It is no easy read, but a very rewarding one. This is a biography I very much recommended
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Mary Tudor has always been a kind of place holder in my mind, along with Edward VI, connecting the longer reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. She was the long-suffering daughter of spurned Katherine of Aragon, and is remembered as a bitter, unattractive, hysterical, and vengeful queen who ruled for only a few years.

Author Linda Porter straightened me out. Porter finds that Mary was well-educated and confident, an accomplished musician, something of a fashion-setter, and a woman who knew her own mind. I was fascinated to learn that Mary was what we might call a problem gambler, for a time spending as much as a third of her income on cards and dice. She employed a fool to entertain her, a woman named Jane Cooper. A woman fool in a Tudor court! Who knew?

But as we know, Mary's life was not all games and laughs.

Porter takes us from her relatively peaceful childhood to the upheaval of her adolescence when Henry VIII decided that his need for a male heir was paramount. Mary's status changed from heir to the throne to illegitimate daughter of the King. Porter describes the family loyalties, religious considerations, and politics involved clearly and objectively. She backs up her findings with end notes and a comprehensive bibliography.

Most of the book is not controversial, in spite of the promise implicit in the American title. (The book has gone through a series of titles: Mary Tudor: The First Queen was the U.K. title, the U.S. hardcover is The First Queen of England: The Myth of "Bloody Mary" and the paperback edition is The Myth of "Bloody Mary: A Biography of Queen Mary I of England.) Mary turns out to be surprisingly interesting and mostly sympathetic in this biography.

Porter only addresses the "Myth of Bloody Mary" late in the book, and rather briefly. She puts the violence and horror of the hundreds of people burned at the stake into historical perspective. But you can't just explain away the Reign of Terror aspect of Mary I. Yes, it was a violent time, but the special brutality of burning people alive was reserved for heretics. Mary intended to make an example of those she condemned to the stake, despite the counsel of her closest advisors, including her husband. Philip, who would later rule a Spain that was still in the throes of the Inquisition, had no qualms about burning heretics, so he and others who advised her against mass executions were doing so for pragmatic reasons, not out of sympathy or horror. They knew that the burnings would be as likely to turn the public against Mary as to discourage heresy.

Even though I wasn't convinced that Mary didn't deserve her bloody nickname, I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the book. If you read and enjoy this book, be sure to read Linda Porter's Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr.
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on 14 August 2011
I have over the years read a lot of Tudor History, but writings on Mary Tudor have been sparse.
This biography has helped me to understand the woman, the Queen, and her times, and shows what a difficult life she lead. She unflinchingly kept her faith against so much opposition and stayed true to her mother Katherine of Aragon. This book was so well written that I feel I have actually been living her life with her and was bereft when she died after such a short reign.

If you wish to understand this much maligned woman then read this book - it is long overdue.
A fabulous read - I am now looking forward to reading Linda Porter's biography of Katherine Parr.

Read this book - you will surely not regret it.
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on 11 October 2007
Dr Linda Porter has brought Mary Tudor's world to the printed page in a thrilling and extremely enjoyable portrait of England's first, and most misunderstood, queen. This biography is a must read and essential for anyone interested in understanding the consequences of Henry VIII's reign. For those interested in Elizabeth's childhood and time before she became queen -- and that includes fans of David Starkey's 'Elizabeth' -- this book provides a new illuminating window into the relationship between the Tudor siblings, as well as the forces that drove Mary into treating Elizabeh as she did once she was queen. Full marks for 'Mary Tudor' and Linda Porter!
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on 10 October 2007
This book shows Mary to be strong in will and bold in her actions to gain the crown. It locates her in history as a competent member of an ongoing line of strong European royal women. It opened to me the cut and thrust of the Continental and English conflicts of Queen Mary's life and reign. The excitement of this time, when many risked wealth, position, honour and life itself for power and belief, shouts to you from the pages. Linda Porter uses quotations not merely to support her arguments, but to pull you into the life of those turbulent times; of statesmen, gamblers, would be saints and sinners. You should read this book.
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on 17 May 2012
This book is a long overdue corrective to the normal image of Mary Tudor as a prim fanatic. Drawn from original sources and going through her life from start to finish, it reveals her as a person of culture and quite considerable humanity. It also gives valuable information on the progressive policies of Mary in economic and social fields. Contrary to what some reviews here say, I think that it does give adequate weight and treatment to the heresy burnings; it doesn't attempt to disguise their horror but places them in the context of the times, and discusses why even now they loom so large in our perception of the Queen. The book is written from a sympathetic but not biaised viewpoint, and I think is valuable for anyone interested in the Tudor century, either for serious history or as background to the extensive fiction available for this period.
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on 12 November 2007
Linda Porter provides a refreshing and fascinating insight into the life of Mary Tudor. The narrative is easy to read providing both in-depth analysis for the scholar as well as glimpses of the personal Mary that intrigues the layman. It is a thoroughly delightful read with plenty to keep the reader interested. It is a challenge to take on such a vilified character and Porter has done with aplomb. Highly recommended for anybody interested in this period of history.
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on 26 February 2012
Good for Linda Porter for giving Queen Mary I's reputation a helping hand! Personally I have always disagreed with the label 'Bloody Mary' and I think that this book will really help people to see the real Mary Tudor as both a woman and Queen. It explores her personality, relationships with her family members and determination to do right by the people of England, all of which are important factors in understanding our first Queen.

Linda Porter has written this book in a way that makes it easy to read, whilst absorbing the information, and makes it really enjoyable. Few biographies are able to keep the tone of historical seriousness whilst creating drama, danger and passion.

I would definately recommend this book. And if you want to read more into Mary I would suggest reading Judith M Richards' book Mary Tudor and Eamon Duffy's book Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor if you are interested in Mary's religious policy.
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on 17 October 2007
This is a fresh and uplifting look at Mary's reign. Very easy to read and told as a fast paced piece of narrative rather than a laborious biography.
The only trouble with this book is its sheer lack of objectivity. Mary's religious persecution of Protestants is displayed as a rather casual, everyday past-time instead of the brutal theological legislation that it actually was. No English monarch burned so many people in such a short period-300 in 3 years-and yet Porter seems genuinely surprised that her case study has entered history as 'Bloody' Mary rather than Mary the saint. The fall of Calais is another event which Mary is considered to be non-liable, when it is well known that the fall of England's last bastion on the continent was greeted with uproar in England itself. These points aside, Porter has given us a wonderful book on the first female sovereign of England and brilliantly succeeds in portraying Mary as a woman AND a head of state. Very Good!
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