Broody Mary

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Two images of Mary I and Katherine of Aragon (top)

McCaldin Arts is excited to announce a new project with an old friend: Martin Bussey, whose music I first sang at the Ludlow Festival a couple of years ago.

We agreed we want to make a work featuring the Tudor Queens Katherine of Aragon, her daughter Mary I, Elizabeth I, with reference to the other wives of Henry VIII.  Martin is extremely well-read in this area of English history, which I am definitely not. So I have been catching-up by reading various books by Alison Weir, David Starkey, Jessie Childs, David Loades and Anna Whitelock.

Mary I has had a bad press. It suited her successors to denigrate her and she is chiefly remembered as Bloody Mary for her persecution of Protestant heretics.

But there’s so much more to her that she has become the key figure in our project.

Mary’s rule was in many ways unhappy, even disastrous, but she made political and legal changes without which it is unlikely that Elizabeth I could have reigned so successfully. Mary’s private story is not only sad because of her inability to bear the child she so longed-for but is also at the heart of her failures as a ruler because her deeply Catholic conscience could not substitute for the political astuteness she lacked. Several books have recently rehabilitated Mary’s image and our piece is essentially sympathetic to her in recognising her significant achievements while acknowledging her as a woman of her time.

Having completed our research and found our target, we are now ready to start writing the piece. I think I will leave that bit to Martin.

Listen to Martin’s song A Church Romance which I sang on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune with Iain Burnside.