Mary was the only child of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive to adulthood. Her younger half-brother Edward VI (son of Henry and Jane Seymour) succeeded their father in 1547 at the age of nine. When Edward became mortally ill in 1553, he attempted to remove Mary from the line of succession because he supposed (accurately) that she would reverse the Protestant reforms that had begun during his reign. On his death, leading politicians tried to proclaim Lady Jane Grey as queen. Mary assembled a force in East Anglia and deposed Jane, who was ultimately beheaded. Mary was—excluding the disputed reigns of Jane and the Empress Matilda—the first queen regnant of England. In 1554, Mary married Philip of Spain, becoming queen consort of Habsburg Spain on his accession in 1556, but she never visited Spain.
During her five-year reign, Mary had over 280 religious dissenters burned at the stake in the Marian persecutions. After Mary's death in 1558, her re-establishment of Roman Catholicism was reversed by her younger half-sister and successor Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, at the beginning of the 45-year Elizabethan Era.
Mary was born on 18 February 1516 at the Palace of Placentia in Greenwich, England. She was the only child of King Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to survive infancy. Her mother had many miscarriages; before Mary's birth, four previous pregnancies had resulted in a stillborn daughter and three short-lived or stillborn sons, including Henry, Duke of Cornwall. She was baptised into the Catholic faith at the Church of the Observant Friars in Greenwich three days after her birth. Her godparents included her great-aunt the Countess of Devon, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey, and the Duchess of Norfolk. Henry VIII's cousin once removed, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, stood sponsor for Mary's confirmation, which was held immediately after the baptism. The following year, Mary became a godmother herself when she was named as one of the sponsors of her cousin Frances Brandon. In 1520, the Countess of Salisbury was appointed Mary's governess. Sir John Hussey, later Lord Hussey, was her chamberlain from 1530, and his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent, was one of Mary's attendants.
Mary was a precocious child. In July 1520, when scarcely four and a half years old, she entertained a visiting French delegation with a performance on the virginals (a type of harpsichord). A great part of her early education came from her mother, who consulted the Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives for advice and commissioned him to write De Institutione Feminae Christianae, a treatise on the education of girls. By the age of nine, Mary could read and write Latin. She studied French, Spanish, music, dance, and perhaps Greek. Henry VIII doted on his daughter and boasted to the Venetian ambassador Sebastian Giustiniani, "This girl never cries". Also, as the miniature portrait of her shows, Mary had, like both her parents, a very fair complexion, pale blue eyes and red or reddish-golden hair. She was also ruddy cheeked, a trait she inherited from her father.
Despite his affection for Mary, Henry was deeply disappointed that his marriage had produced no sons. By the time Mary was nine years old, it was apparent that Henry and Catherine would have no more children, leaving Henry without a legitimate male heir. In 1525, Henry sent Mary to the border of Wales to preside, presumably in name only, over the Council of Wales and the Marches. She was given her own court based at Ludlow Castle and many of the royal prerogatives normally reserved for the Prince of Wales. Vives and others called her the Princess of Wales, although she was never technically invested with the title. She appears to have spent three years in the Welsh Marches, making regular visits to her father's court, before returning permanently to the home counties around London in mid-1528.