Book Review – ‘Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558’ by Phil Carradice

Phil Carradice - Bloody Mary Tudor Terror

Phil Carradice, Bloody Mary: Tudor Terror 1553-1558 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword Books, 2018) ISBN 9781526728654

Thank you to Pen and Sword Books for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how short this book was, that it managed to cram in so much detail. There are so many little details throughout the book that I didn’t expect. It’s a great introduction to the reign of Mary I, and especially her role in the Catholic Counter-Reformation in England in the 1550s. There is lots of detail about the Protestant martyrs of her reign who I didn’t really know much about to be honest, but I do now!

I especially enjoyed the introductory section about Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and the section about Thomas Cranmer’s recantation and execution. John Foxe’s book lists many of the people who were killed under Mary I as Protestant martyrs, and their beliefs and executions are covered in a surprising amount of detail. I haven’t yet got around to reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, just dipping in and out for assignments and blog posts, but this makes me want to spend more time with it.

However, there are also some errors – for example, when mentioning that Mary I last saw her mother Katherine of Aragon in 1530 Carradice says that Katherine went on to live for another 16 years, when it was actually only 6. Just small things like this that a proof reader should have picked up on. I was also a little disappointed with the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount of discussion of Wyatt’s 1554 rebellion or Mary I’s attitude towards Jane Grey after her 9-day reign. I felt that was glossed over a little, where it was actually the beginning of the terror under Mary I.

I also wasn’t sure about the opening of the book and the way that Mary I’s birth was tackled as it came across more like a novel rather than a historical text, which I didn’t really like, and it clashed with the rest of the book which was written in a factual and quite academic tone.

However, I think it is overall well-written and interesting to read. It’s not dry or over-complicated, and I think if students read this it might encourage them to research further, because it makes this period of history seem less complicated than other accounts I’ve read, which is definitely a bonus, as the reigns of Edward VI and Mary I are some of the most complicated of this period.

Chapter Titles

  1. A Birth is Announced
  2. The Lady Mary
  3. Queen at Last
  4. The Spanish Match
  5. The Burnings Begin
  6. Even the Archbishop
  7. Excommunicate
  8. The Burnings Continue
  9. Heretic Hunters
  10. Dignity to the Last


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