Mary was born at Greenwich Palace, 8 February 1516, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragón.
When Henry VIII died in 1547 he was succeeded by his 9 year old son, Edward VI.
On 6 July 1553, at the age of 15, Edward VI died from a lung infection. Edward did not want the crown to go to Mary, who he feared would restore Catholicism and undo his reforms, as well as those of Henry VIII. For this reason, he planned to exclude her from the line of succession. However, his advisors told him that he could not disinherit only one of his sisters, but that he would have to disinherit Elizabeth as well, even though she embraced the Church of England. Guided by John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, and perhaps others, Edward excluded both of his sisters from the line of succession in his will.
In contradiction of the Succession Act, which restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession, Edward VI and his advisors devised that he be succeeded by Dudley's daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII's younger sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France. Lady Jane's mother was Frances Brandon, who was Mary's cousin and goddaughter. Just before Edward VI's death, Mary was summoned to London to visit her dying brother. She was warned, however, that the summons was a pretext on which to capture her and thereby facilitate Lady Jane's accession to the throne. Instead of heading to London from her residence at Hunsdon, Mary fled into East Anglia, where she owned extensive estates. On 9 July, from Kenninghall, Norfolk, she wrote to the privy council with orders for her proclamation as Edward's successor.
On 10 July 1553, Lady Jane was proclaimed Queen by Dudley and his supporters, and on the same day Mary's letter to the council arrived in London. By 12 July, Mary and her supporters had assembled a military force at Framlingham Castle, Suffolk. Dudley's support collapsed, and Mary's grew. Jane was deposed on 19 July. She and Dudley were imprisoned in the Tower of London. Mary rode triumphantly into London on 3 August 1553 on a wave of popular support. She was accompanied by her half-sister Elizabeth, and a procession of over 800 other nobles and gentlemen.
One of Mary's first actions as Queen was to order the release of the Roman Catholic Duke of Norfolk and Stephen Gardiner from imprisonment in the Tower of London, as well as her kinsman Edward Courtenay. Mary understood that the young Lady Jane was essentially a pawn in Dudley's scheme, and Dudley was the only conspirator of rank executed for high treason in the immediate aftermath of the coup. Lady Jane and her husband, Lord Guildford Dudley, though found guilty, were kept under guard in the Tower rather than executed, while Lady Jane's father, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Suffolk, was released. Mary was left in a difficult position, as almost all the Privy Counsellors had been implicated in the plot to put Jane on the throne. She appointed Gardiner to the council and made him both Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor, offices he held until his death in November 1555. Gardiner formally crowned Mary Queen of England at Westminster Abbey.
Half-Spanish and a devout Roman Catholic, Mary married the future King of Spain, Philip II, as his second wife, in 1554. The marriage was unpopular a provoked Wyatt's Rebellion. Mary's great aim was to restore the authority of the Pope and return the country to Roman Catholicism. She earned her nickname `Bloody Mary' for persecution of Protestants, about 280 of whom were burned. Some of these, such as Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, were political victims; others were militants of a kind who would have been burned under Henry VIII. Mary's failure to produce an heir assured a Protestant future. Lady Jane Grey and her husband were executed in the fall-out of Wyatt's rebellion.
In 1557 Philip, now King of Spain, made a short visit to England, enlisting the country in his war against France. The result was the loss of Calais (1558), the last remaining English possession in France. Mary said that when she died the words 'Philip' and 'Calais' would be found engraved upon her heart.
Mary, who had once been courted by her husband's father, Charles V, was devoted to Philip though he found her repellent. She insisted that he should have the title of king and, although he spent more time in Spain, both their names appeared on Acts of Parliament and both their faces on the coinage. So desperate was she for a child that in 1555 she convinced herself she was pregnant.
Mary died at Whitehall on 17th November 1558 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.