Henry Viii's Succession Acts

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148.216 Document Exercise, Assignment 1.
Student ID # 99245875

THE FIRST SUCCESSION ACT, 1534.
The Act of Succession 1534 is a statute issued by the English Parliament under the reign of King Henry VIII, which confirmed the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Queen Katherine and validated Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Also, through this Act the line of succession moved to the children of his marriage to Anne, or any future marriages, effectively removing Mary, Henry’s only surviving child from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, as heir. Furthermore, the Act contained a clause that subjects must swear an oath recognising the terms of the Act, any refusal would be held as a treasonable offence. A predominant pre-occupation of Henry during his reign was to establish a clear line of succession for the Tudor dynasty. When his marriage to Catherine of Aragon failed to produce a male heir, Henry became convinced this was punishment under devine law for marrying his dead brother’s wife (Lotherington, p.71). He petitioned the Pope for an annulment of the marriage, however the Pope was under the influence of Charles V of Spain, Katherine of Aragon’s nephew, and ultimately refused Henry an annulment (Robinson, 2010). Henry also had ambitions to marry his mistress Anne Boleyn. There followed numerous Acts of Parliament instigated by Henry and his close advisors; beginning with the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which stated that ‘no appeals were to be made from England to Rome in any matters concerning wills, marriages, or payments to the Church; cases were to go no further than the Archbishop’ (Lotherington, p. 84), that paved the way for a break from the papacy enabling Henry to fulfil his personal ambitions. The main claim in relation to grounds for annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katherine was that it was incestuous, therefore illegal, as Katherine had previously been married to Henry’s brother Arthur, despite Katherine’s solemn claim that her marriage to Arthur had never been consummated (Fraser, pp.139-40). With the backing of Thomas Cranmer; a key figure in Henry’s reformation policies, (Cranmer had replaced Wolsey as Arch Bishop of Canterbury in 1533 after Wolsey’s failure to obtain for Henry an annulment from the Pope (Lotherington, p.82).) Katherine’s claims were disregarded, ‘being before lawful wife to Prince Arthur your elder brother, which by him was carnally known’ (Act of Succession, 1934), thereby allowing Parliament to deem the marriage ‘against the laws of Almighty God’, therefore annulled. The Act goes on to declare the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (secretly married by Thomas Cranmer in January 1533, as Anne was pregnant and Henry was desperate for the child to be legitimate (Fraser, p.187)), valid. The validation of this marriage on Cranmer’s ‘grounds of judgement’ is said in the Act to be confirmed also by ‘the whole clergy of this realm in both the Convocations, and by both the universities thereof, as by the Universities of Bologna, Padua, Paris, Orleans’ (Levine, 1973). Here again Cranmer’s role in the annulment is significant. It was at the suggestion of Cranmer, before his elevation to Arch-bishop (and possibly partly as a result of), that Henry ‘gather enough support to persuade the Pope of the justice of his cause...royal agents were sent to universities across Europe to win backing for the King’s cause’(Lotherington, p.79). While the support garnered may have been ineffective in persuading the Pope, it is almost certainly used as a persuasion tool to back the validation of the annulment to Katherine; and marriage to Anne. Henry’s ambition to secure a Tudor line of succession aligns in the Act with his marriage to Queen Anne. Accordingly the order of succession went ‘first to the King’s sons by Queen Anne and their heirs, second to the King’s sons by future wives and their heirs, third to Princess Elizabeth....’ (Levine, 1973). Glaringly obvious in this order of seniority is...
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