The Last Death of Catholic England

The grand funeral of Anne of Cleves, the neglected fourth queen of Henry VIII, took place during the reign of Mary Tudor, when English Catholicism was resurgent.

Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein the Younger
Anne of Cleves, by Hans Holbein the Younger

It was a pivotal year in English history. In July 1553, Edward VI died aged 15, probably of generalised septicaemia following a pulmonary infection. The Duke of Northumberland’s attempt to secure the Protestant succession by installing his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne collapsed after little more than a week. Edward was succeeded by his sister, Mary, half-Spanish and ardently Catholic. For the time being, it seemed, Protestant England was dead, as a programme of wholesale re-Catholicisation began, intended to bring the English Church back into the papal fold.

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