It is the 18th of February 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1516.

We will make our way back in time over 500 years ago with a shortlist of the best beverages named after people. Now, I am ranking these not according to my preference but according to general and age-appropriate consensus, a consensus, albeit made up in my head.

5. The Roy Rogers. It's just a Shirley Temple for people who don't want to order a Shirley Temple.

4. The Shirley Temple. Except, no one under 40 knows who Shirley Temple was.

3. The Margarita, named after Margarita Henkel, a German ambassador's daughter in Ensenada.

2. The Arnold Palmer, two average drinks together, making one excellent drink.

And the number one drink named after a historical figure… Well, wouldn't you know it? It just so happens that it is a drink based on a pejorative sobriquet for a woman born on the 18th of February in 1516. The Bloody Mary is named after Queen Mary I, daughter of Henry and sister of Elizabeth. Note: 10 days ago, we remembered Mary, Queen of Scots. That's Mary Stuart. This is the slightly earlier Queen Mary Tudor. (But saying "Mary Tudor" is usually a reference to the daughter of Henry VII).

Here's the brief bio of the infamous queen. She was the first daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. This put Mary in one heck of a lineage of powerful women. Catherine, of course, was the first choice for Henry. Catherine's mom was none other than Isabella I of Castile and then Aragon when she married King Ferdinand. Yes, that Isabella and Ferdinand (they of the 1492 debacle).

King Henry was reportedly very taken with his first daughter, but as we know, not so much her mom. Mary had to watch her father abandon her mother only to take up with Anne Boleyn, who produced the younger and much more Protestant Elizabeth. With Edward's birth to Henry and Jane Seymour, the heat was taken off both women as the specter of a woman as queen caused some consternation. After Edward's death, Mary was made Queen after a questionable last-minute dash to coronate lady Jane Grey in 1553. There's an argument that Lady Jane Grey was queen for nine days and thus the first Queen of England.

But come on, Mary is the first legit queen of England in the sense that she wasn't a "queen consort" subject to her husband. She would be Queen Regnant, that is, queen in her own right. 
This was important because she famously married Phillip of Spain, linking the Iberian Peninsula and the Low Countries with England in an alliance to keep the French at bay. Unfortunately for the couple, they produced no heir as Mary most likely had reproductive issues that precluded her from having a child.

And then, of course, there is the issue of her nickname. She is more responsible than some for deaths-by-state and less than others. Her father, Henry VIII, is the closest thing to a villain in the story of early modern England in terms of state murder, weakening state infrastructure, and bad relations on the continent. But he started the church that won the battle, and Mary was on the vanquished side. One crucial distinction also has to do with death for treason or heresy. They were virtually interchangeable, your choice word simply indicating why you thought they were a dangerous enemy to a peaceful state.

One last point as we aren't trying to rehabilitate Mary but put her in her appropriate context. Since these early days, the Puritans were masters of self-promotion by which they painted themselves as the most oppressed of all people. There were real persecutions and martyrs, but also a well-tuned persecution-martyr promotional flare. Foxe's "Book of Martyrs" and the celebrity of Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth, as a Protestant and Virgin Queen, cemented her as a white hat. And thus Mary got the historical black hat, but also the drink. So, she's got that.

Mary I died in 1558. She was only 42, having been born on the 18th of February in 1516.

The reading for today comes from Christina Rossetti, "Lent."

It is good to be last not first,
Pending the present distress;
It is good to hunger and thirst,
So it be for righteousness.
It is good to spend and be spent,
It is good to watch and to pray:
Life and Death make a goodly Lent
So it leads us to Easter Day.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 18th of February 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who will return any drink that doesn't come with a stalk of celery, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. And remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true. Everything is going to be ok.