Bloomsbury £8.99 (368pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Mary Tudor, By Anna Whitelock

"One sees nothing but gibbets and hanged men." The aftermath of Sir Thomas Wyatt's Kentish rebellion of 1553 characterises the tormented reign of Mary, sandwiched between the Stalinist revolution of Henry and the economic flowering of Elizabethan England. But worse was to come for Mary.

Later in that decade, victims at the stake included the Canon of St Paul's, the former Bishops of London and Worcester and the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Neither Mary nor [Cardinal] Pole expected to burn so many," writes Whitelock. "They wanted the heretics to be reconciled rather than die."

Mary's Catholic certainty was the obverse of Protestant intransigence. Her burnings were prompted by high-minded motives but in consequence "Protestantism was associated with... English liberty".

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