May – The first Royal Charter is granted to St Albans in England.
June 26 – Christ's Hospital and King Edward's School, Witley, England, are created by Royal Charter.
July 9 – Battle of Sievershausen: Prince-elector Maurice of Saxony defeats the Catholic forces of Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. Maurice is mortally wounded.
July 10 – Four days after the death of her cousin King Edward VI of England, Lady Jane Grey is proclaimed Queen of England – a position she holds for the next nine days.
July 18 – The Lord Mayor of London proclaims Mary I the rightful Queen; Lady Jane Grey voluntarily abdicates.
July 19 – Queen Mary I of England begins her reign.
August 3 – Queen Mary I of England arrives in London from East Anglia.
August 22 – John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, a supporter of Lady Jane Grey, is executed.
August – English explorer Richard Chancellor enters the White Sea and reaches Arkhangelsk, going on to the court of Ivan IV of Russia, opening up trade between England and Russia.
September – Anglican bishops in England are arrested and Roman Catholic bishops are restored.
October 6: Şehzade Mustafa, oldest son of Suleiman the Magnificent is executed in Konya by order of his father.
September 23 – The Sadians consolidate their power in Morocco by defeating the last of their enemies.
October 27 – Geneva's governing council burns Michael Servetus at the stake as a heretic.
December 25 – Battle of Tucapel: Mapuche rebels under Lautaro defeat the Spanish conquistadors and execute Pedro de Valdivia, the first Royal Governor of Chile.
Tonbridge School founded by Sir Andrew Judde under letters patent of Edward VI of England.
Publication in London of The xiii Bukes of Eneados of the famose Poete Virgill, the first published complete translation of any major work of classical antiquity into one of the English languages.
In Ming dynasty China:
The addition of a new section of the Outer City fortifications is completed in southern Beijing, bringing the overall size of Beijing to 18 square miles (4662 hectares).
Shanghai is fortified for the first time.
January 20 – Bernardino de Cárdenas y Portugal, Duque de Maqueda, Spanish noble (d. 1601)
January 22 – Mōri Terumoto, Japanese warrior (d. 1625)
February 24 – Cherubino Alberti, Engraver and painter (d. 1615)
March 29 – Vitsentzos Kornaros, Greek writer (d. 1613)
April 15 – Moses Székely, Hungarian noble (d. 1603)
April 24 – John Maxwell, 8th Lord Maxwell, Scottish noble (d. 1593)
April 29 – Mirza Muhammad Hakim, Mughal Empire emperor (d. 1585)
April 30 – Louise of Lorraine, French queen consort (d. 1601)
May 7 – Albert Frederick, Duke of Prussia (d. 1618)
May 15 – Margaret of Valois, Queen of France (d. 1615)
June 15 – Archduke Ernest of Austria, Austrian prince, the son of Maximilian II. (d. 1595)
July 1 – Peter Street, English carpenter (d. 1609)
July 15 – Archduke Ernest of Austria (d. 1595)
September 26 – Nicolò Contarini, Doge of Venice (d. 1631)
October 8 – Jacques Auguste de Thou, French historian (d. 1617)
October 18? – Luca Marenzio, Italian composer (d. 1599)
November 2 – Magdalene of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, Countess Palatine of Pfalz-Zweibrücken (d. 1633)
November 4 – Roger Wilbraham, Solicitor-General for Ireland (d. 1616)
November 23 – Prospero Alpini, Italian physician and botanist (d. 1617)
November 28 – George More, English politician (d. 1632)
December 13 – King Henry IV of France (d. 1610)
Patriarch Filaret of Moscow and All Rus' (d. 1633)
Giovanni Florio, English writer and translator (d. 1625)
Robert Hues, English mathematician and geographer (d. 1632)
Jasper Heywood, English translator of Seneca (d. 1598)
Amago Katsuhisa, Japanese nobleman (d. 1578)
Pierre de Rostegny, French jurist (d. 1631)
William Russell, 1st Baron Russell of Thornhaugh, English military leader (d. 1613)
February 19 – Erasmus Reinhold, German astronomer and mathematician (b. 1511)
February 25 – Hirate Masahide, Japanese diplomat and tutor of Oda Nobunaga (suicide) (b. 1492)
April 9 – François Rabelais, French writer
May 5 – Erasmus Alberus, German humanist (b. 1500)
May 28 – Johannes Aal, Swiss theologian (b. 1500)
July 6 – King Edward VI of England (b. 1537)
July 9 – Maurice, Elector of Saxony (b. 1521)
August 8 – Girolamo Fracastoro, Italian physician (b. 1478)
August 22 – John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland (b. 1502)
September 26 – Juan de Homedes y Coscon, 47th Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitaller (b. c.1477)
October 6 – Şehzade Mustafa, Suleiman the Magnificent's first-born son by Mahidevran Sultan (b. 1515)
October 7 – Cristóbal de Morales, Spanish composer (b. 1500)
October 16 – Lucas Cranach the Elder, German painter (b. 1472)
October 27 – Michael Servetus, Spanish theologian (burned at the stake) (b. 1511)
October 30 – Jacob Sturm von Sturmeck, German statesman and reformer (b. 1489)
date unknown – George Joye English Protestant bible translator (b. c. 1495)
Gunilla Bese, Finnish noble and fiefholder (b. 1475)
Year 1553 (MDLIII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.