We all know the legend. Step inside your bathroom, light your single candle and utter the words “Bloody Mary” thrice over. Within the darkened reflection of the mirror will surface a woman, both sad and sadistic, determined to change your life (or end it) forever.
Sure, it’s all hocus pocus chatter, but there’s a dark tale that forms the basis of this urban legend, and we’re going to share it with you.
Queen Mary I was born Mary Tudor on February 18, 1516, in Greenwich, England at the Palace of Placentia to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. By all accounts she was a healthy baby girl, who soon grew to be overcome by shame, a direct result of her father’s extreme displeasure in having a girl as opposed to a boy. The pleasant King Henry VIII, you see, had his mind dead set on helping to bring a male into this world, so that he might one day take the royal throne.
It didn’t work out so well.
When Mary was 17 her father annulled his marriage to her mother, and took things one step further by essentially casting aside his daughter, forbidding her to even see her mother.
The mental strain had already set in for Mary. And the angry vengeful ghost we associate with that name, was actually becoming a severely depressed and constantly saddened human being. A far cry from the murderous villainous we were taught would pop up in the mirror should we repeat her name in a dark room, gazing into a mirror.
If you somehow saw Mary after that little chant, it wasn’t brutality she wished upon you, it was likely a sadness she could not shake. If the specter of Mary exists, it doesn’t exist to harm anyone, that’s for damn sure.
Henry VIII would again marry, once more seeking a woman that would give him the son he so desperately wanted. However, Elizabeth, Henry VIII’s second daughter didn’t receive quite the same treatment. In fact, Henry VIII took strides to keep Elizabeth seated as his future successor.
What a change of heart, eh?
Mary was forbidden from seeing Elizabeth and even declared illegitimate. No matter the cost, Henry VIII wanted to keep Mary from any position of royalty.
Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn would essentially help Mary to take one step closer to the throne when she was beheaded for treason.
For years Mary suffered a string of medical conditions that left her chances of giving birth quite slim. However, Mary did eventually take her place on the throne in 1553 and she married Philip of Spain with designs on conceiving an heir.
But pregnancy would not be a smooth ride for Mary. The public held an uncertain eye on Mary, convinced that she may be faking her pregnancy. Rumors spread like wildfire.
Mary eventually took to a private chamber where she would spend her days until giving birth to her child. But the child didn’t arrive when anticipated. And suddenly, and strangely, Mary’s stomach began to shrink in size. Mary never gave birth, and she attributed the strange occurrence to punishment from God.
The ordeal left Mary heartbroken and angry.
In 1554, after Mary had failed to deliver a baby, England was divided between Protestants and Catholics. And Mary, perhaps brimming with anger or frustration over her situation decided that she would aim to unite her people under “the true religion.” She signed an act shortly before Christmas in 1554 that would result in the Marian Persecutions (a series of religion based executions). An estimated 300 Protestants were burned at the stake, and thus the dreadful moniker, Bloody Mary was born.
Today’s medical advancements can perhaps provide an explanation for Mary’s failed birth. The condition is known as pseudocyesis, or “phantom pregnancy” and while it is a legitimate condition it’s extremely rare, as it is essentially the brain convinces the body that it is with child, the supposed bearer experiencing abdominal growth and some symptoms that are common among those truly with child.
We’ll never know Mary’s precise condition, but she lived her years battling a string of physical ailments which may very well have played a part in the woman’s failed pregnancy. The truth is, not much of that matters, for Mary earned her nickname of “Bloody Mary” not due to her issues with childbirth, but with her infamous decision to murder hundreds of Protestants.
“Bloody Mary” is now a name of eternal legend. Her decision to execute so many innocent people no doubt aided in the negative stigma we now relate to the woman (who really was an unfortunate victim from the moment of her birth). So, should you ever brave a Bloody Mary session in your bathroom, don’t be too shocked to see a haunted face staring back at you, a lifetime of failure turned to flame within two sunken eye sockets. Just don’t pull that stunt if you’re pregnant, you never know what the ghosts of history’s past may have designed for you.
Bloody Mary has been depicted in film and television on countless occasions. If you find yourself intrigued by the story, and you’re interested in watching a film or two about, or related to the fact-based case, try looking into the following:
- Tudor Rose (1936)
- Pearls of the Crown (1937)
- Marie Tudor (1966)
- Elizabeth R (1971 BBC Mini-series)
- Elizabeth (1998)
- The Virgin Queen (2005 TV Mini-series)
For a few more fantastical films, designed not as period pieces specifically, but rather outright horror films with direct Bloody MAry influences, check out:
- Agent 077: Mission Bloody Mary (1965)
- Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1975)
- Bloody Mary (2006)
- Dead Mary (2007)
- The Legend of Bloody Mary (2008)
- Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Respect for helping fill a few holes: All That is Interesting