Friday, 15 January 2010

'Bloody Mary’ Attraction at The London Dungeon. Yea or Nay?

You have to feel a little sorry for recent scholars of Mary’s reign. Having tried so hard to dispel the image of ‘Bloody Mary’, a popular London tourist site then decides to dedicate a whole attraction to the propagation of this stereotype.

This February, The London Dungeon hosts ‘Bloody Mary: Killer Queen’ which will relate the story of England’s infamous first crowned queen regnant.

For a mere £22 (//end of sarcasm – I am a humble student after all), visitors will:
- “Enter Bloody Mary’s private chapel and witness the fanatically Catholic Queen pass judgment on petrified heretics.”
- “Experience the horrifying sights, screams, smells of the most painful method of execution known to man – being slowly burnt alive.”

How lovely.

I’ve never been to The London Dungeon, purely because their attractions look like they are designed for twelve-year-olds, but I’m incredibly curious about this new Mary one. Granted it sounds beastly and I can’t help feel uncomfortable about this. The description of the ‘fanatically Catholic Queen’ passing judgment within her chapel is, well, disturbing at best.

But maybe that is the point. The other attractions at this particular venue are not exactly pleasant in tone. Is there a difference between experiencing the 1666 Great Fire or a trip through Traitor’s Gate, and witnessing the persecutions of 1555-1558?

Perhaps I am uncomfortable because it is so crude and it deals with a still contentious issue – the intense persecution of the Protestants. You only have to look to certain responses to Prof. Eamon Duffy’s fabulous book, Fires of Faith: Catholic England Under Mary Tudor, to understand that prevailing attitudes continue. Take this poster, ‘CJB’, responding to a favourable review of the book on The Telegraph website (FYI, I am not a Telegraph reader!):

“Apologetics for the unforgivable based on lazy moral relativism that seeks to excuse anything. Even Professor Duffy's '...surprising discovery [of] the simultaneous development of a forward-looking, humane, learned and pious religious life in Mary's short reign...' is correct that 'right' doesn't obviate the 'wrong'. Of course, similar excuses for any other group would be equally silly - doesn't the argument presented in the article sound a bit too much like '... at least Mussolini made the trains run on time ...'?”

I am probably being overly sensitive and grossly biased owing to my attachment to the lady in question, but does anyone else find this attraction somewhat controversial?

For more information on the attraction visit:


  1. This is a shame, a caricature of a complex woman, who, after all, has to be seen in the context of her own time and beliefs. I don't condone the burnings etc. but didn't many rulers (of a wide variety of religious persuasions) persecute those they viewed as heretics? It seems unfair to single out Mary, in particular, as the "fanatic," the "Killer Queen" etc.

  2. £22?! I think thats is abit pricey! I have been to the york dungeons, they were ok but I didnt learn much. It was just abit of fun if anything!

  3. That review ... yikes! I have to agree with the poster above, Mary was not the only one who persecuted heretics, and she revived her FATHER'S old heresy laws in order to do it! Comparing her to Mussolini is just ridiculous.

    Also, that exhibit just sounds ... unpleasant, to be frank, haha.

  4. Unfortunately this type of thing is the main way Mary is presented to the public at large. I would be interested to know why this particularly attraction site has chosen this subject and at this time.

    I think Matterhorn stated it well with the term ‘caricature’. Last year we had several fantastic exhibits connect to the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession which aimed to question prevailing stereotypes regarding this monarch (especially the British Library and Tower exhibits). Though this upcoming attraction is purely created for entertainment purposes, thus is distinct from the BL and Tower exhibits, it is nonetheless ‘selling’ Mary to the public, and in a way most unoriginal and unpleasant.

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