|"Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01" by Hans Holbein the Younger - |
The Frick Collection.
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -
The Reformation Parliament 1532The Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates: In March 1532 the Lords debated the Bill of Annates, marking the first serious attack on the papal power in England. Hitherto the pope had received the ‘Annates’ that is, revenues of a diocese for one year after the appointment of a new bishop, abbot, or prior. By the terms of the act he would in future only receive five per cent and if, as a result, he refused to consecrate a bishop, then the consecration would take place without papal consent.
Parliament’s reaction showed that it was not completely submissive to the King. The Lords opposed the bill fiercely, and the King conceded the addition of a clause that suspended the effect of the act until confirmed by royal letters patent (hence ‘conditional’). Even so, the bill met strenuous resistance, which called for Henry’s repeated attendance in the Lords.
In the final division on 19 March, the spiritual peers voted solidly against it. Even in the Commons, the government faced problems. This shows, not that members were desperate for the pope to continue to receive Annates, but that there was real concern about a full-frontal attack on the spiritual prerogatives of Rome. Parliament felt the king was using it for his own purposes.
In April Convocation, the body of lower clergy that met at the same time as Parliament, responded with a document defending their practices. Henry handed the reply to Audley with a hint that the Commons would not like it; he described it as ‘very slender’ and ‘very sophistical’. On 10 May Henry confronted Convocation with the demand that it should pass no new legislation unless he licensed it to do so. There followed five days of hectic manoeuvring. When Convocation initially refused, Henry summoned a delegation from Parliament, telling them menacingly that ‘they [the clergy] be but half our subjects’.
|Sir Thomas More. His resignation|
was a blow to Henry and Cromwell
Henry's marriageIn the first week of December Anne Boleyn became pregnant. This meant that the marriage had to take place as a matter of urgency. The impasse was broken. The longed-for heir had to be legitimate, and Henry could not wait for Rome. On 25 January 1533 Henry and Anne were secretly married in a pre-dawn ceremony. At the end of March Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury.
The break with Rome1533 was the decisive year that saw England break with Rome – and it was achieved by Thomas Cromwell through parliamentary statute.
A coronation and a birthIn May Cranmer declared that Henry’s marriage to Katherine was invalid. On 1 June Anne Boleyn was crowned. On 7 September her daughter, Elizabeth, was born. The birth of a daughter kept open the question of female succession, and meant that Mary’s claim to the throne was kept alive.
The constitutional revolutionOn January 15 1534 the fifth session of the Reformation Parliament met. The spring session was very active, amounting to a constitutional revolution.
ExecutionsThe reign of Henry VIII is notorious for its executions: two wives, one bishop, two statesmen and many other prominent people. However, these were carried out according to due legal process – however the law might be manipulated.
Thomas More was tried in Westminster Hall before his execution in July 1535. In May 1536 Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, Lord Rochford, were tried by their peers (the House of Lords) also in Westminster Hall.
On the other hand, Thomas Cromwell was executed without trial in July 1540 after parliament passed a bill of attainder. The Yorkist, Margaret countess of Salisbury, was executed in May 1541, two years after Parliament passed a bill of attainder against her.
Religious legislationThe dissolution of the monasteries: In March 1536, during the last session of the Reformation Parliament, Cromwell secured the passage of an Act that dissolved all monastic houses under £200 p.a. (372 in England, 27 in Wales) and vested their property in the Crown. The heads of the houses were pensioned off. Others had the choice of transferring to other houses or becoming secular priests.
The successionThe hottest political issue of Henry’s last years was the succession and a possible regency, as Prince Edward would not attain his majority until 1555. In July 1544 the King signed the Third Succession Act that restored Mary and Elizabeth to the succession after their brother (though without legitimating them) and empowered Henry to settle the succession by his ‘last will and testament signed with the King’s own hand’. Henry’s actual will was drawn up just before his death in January 1547. It confirmed Mary and Elizabeth’s reinstatement to the succession and excluded the Stewart line in favour of the Greys. The power during Edward’s possible minority was to be exercised by a Regency Council.
|Henry VIII, his (dead) third wife, Jane Seymour, his son|
and his two daughters
Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
- Henry VIII’s decision to bring about the break with Rome through Act of Parliament had momentous consequences. In doing so, he strengthened parliament and made it the final arbiter in religious matters.
- The matter of the succession was left open. The king’s will was given legal force, but only through Act of Parliament. Could the will be over-ridden?
- The Succession Acts of Henry’s reign established that in default of a male a female could succeed to the Crown.