Category Archives: Politics

On this day in 1536 – Second Act of Succession passed by Parliament

The Second Act of Succession was passed by the English Parliament on 8th June 1536. It had two names at the time ‘An Act concerning the Succession of the Crown’ and ‘Succession to the Crown: Marriage Act 1536’.

The Act was introduced to Parliament following the execution of Anne Boleyn and the new marriage of King Henry VIII to Jane Seymour that had all happened within the previous month.

The new act replaced the First Act of Succession, which was passed in March 1534. In this act as well as Mary still being illegitimate it also declared Elizabeth to now be illegitimate and both were ruled out of the succession. Both girls lost the right to be called Princess and had to be referred to as Lady. Any children that Henry would have with his new Queen, Jane would be the rightful heir to the throne.

The Act however, left Henry with no legitimate children for the time and therefore no heir to the throne. The Act did cover this by declaring that it gave Henry ‘full and plenary power and authority’, which meant that if he still had no legitimate child when the time came to write his will then he could name his successor in letters patent or in his last will and testament.

As well as dealing with the line of succession it also made it an offence to any person who said that either of Henry’s first two marriages to Katherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn were valid or even if someone said Mary or Elizabeth were legitimate. It was also punishable if anyone criticised the sentence passed on Sir Thomas More who was executed for refusing to take the previous oath regarding the succession. If an offense was committed then that person could be charged with high treason and punished.

The Act also required subjects to take an oath to uphold the Act and again it was treason to refuse. Any one accused of treason was not able to seek sanctuary and therefore had nowhere to hide. If accused and convicted of treason then the death penalty could be passed.

Henry and Jane were delivered a son, Edward, in October 1537 and this act meant that he was, from birth, the rightful heir to the English throne.

Henry VIII and familyKing Henry VIII surrounded by his children.

Parliament in the 16th Century – How Members of Parliament were elected to the Commons

To be elected a Member of Parliament in the 16th Century was different to what we know today. There were no polls for the inhabitants of towns to cast their votes instead things were different.

Parliament was only held when called together by the Crown, who was also the only one who had the authority to end it. Parliament was a lot more occasional than the King’s Council which was in court throughout the year. Henry VII only held seven Parliaments’ over the space of 24 years and Henry VIII held nine in 37 years on the throne. One of Henry VIII’s Parliaments’ sat for seven sessions before being dissolved. The reason for Henry VIII holding a lot more Parliaments’ was due to the Reformation and the need to pass laws to recognise Henry as the head of the church. Continuing on from Henry VIII, his son, Edward only held two Parliaments’ over his short reign of six years. Mary held five Parliaments’ over four years and finally in the 45 years on the throne Elizabeth held ten Parliaments’ over 13 sessions. Each session could vary in length from just a couple of days to weeks on end.

Each Parliament had a unique reason for being called from Henry VIII’s Reformation needs to Elizabeth needing to raise funds to support the defence of the country against the Spanish Armada. England could not go to war without the support of Parliament as the Crown could not fund a war on their own without the aid of additional funds from taxes.

In the commons there were 310 seats these were made up of 74 Knights of the shire and then 236 burgesses that represented the 117 parliamentary boroughs. It was normal that each borough sent two representatives with the exception of London who had four.

With each borough sending two representatives how were they chosen if not by public polling? In many boroughs influence was a key factor. Many boroughs were within the influence of the King as he had control over the electorate but in other areas if there was a major noble family had control of large portions of land then they would represent the borough. If there was no influential family then merchants or members of guild families were selected. In some cases though the position was almost hereditary with it being passed down the male line of a family.

Some boroughs did hold a type of election but only a select few were able to vote. In London, two of the four M.P.s were named by the aldermen and the other two by the common council. However, in York, M.P.s were decided by election and the only ones eligible to vote were the mayor, aldermen, sheriffs and a council made up of 24 men.

With the Commons in session they were able to oppose acts as well as pass them. Some notable acts that were opposed during Henry VIII’s reign were the Annates Act, the Royal Supremacy and Treasons Act and the Proclamations Act. Although they were opposed initially they eventually went through and they were sometimes modified in order to appease the Commons. During Elizabeth’s reign Parliament were unsuccessful in getting Elizabeth to name a successor but did secure the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

It was not uncommon for the monarch to attend Parliament; they were viewed as the Manager of Parliament. Henry VIII attended on three or four occasions and Elizabeth attended at times but preferred to send messages or even began rumours if certain topics would displease her, such as talk of her successor.

by Joseph Sympson (Simpson), line engraving, probably 18th century

On this day in 1547 – King Francis I died

Francis was born on 12th September 1494 to Charles, Count of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy. He ascended the throne of France as his father in law and cousin, King Louis XII, died without a male heir.

Francis was a great supporter of the arts and helped the start of the French Renaissance by bringing many artists to work on his great home the Château de Chambord. Like his English counterpart Francis saw many changes during his time on the throne from the exploration of new worlds to the rise of Protestantism as well as the development of a standardised French language.

Chateau                                                   Château de Chambord

Francis was also engaged in many military campaigns mainly against Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. On these campaigns he courted Henry VIII as an ally and signed many treaties with the King of England. On one of the few occasions the two kings met was the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a 17 day event that was designed to build the friendship between the two countries, however at this event negotiations failed.

In 1505 Louis XII ordered his heir presumptive Francis to marry his daughter, Claude and the marriage took place on 18th May 1514. Louis died shortly after the marriage which meant Francis inherited the throne, Francis was crowned King of France on 25th January 1515 with Claude as his queen consort.

Francis died on 31st March 1547 at the Château de Rambouillet and was succeeded by his son Henry II who turned 28 on the day his father died. Francis was buried with his first wife, Claude, in Saint Denis Basilica. Francis died of fever and it was said that “he died complaining about the weight of a crown that he had first perceived as a gift from God”.

Francis I

On this day in 1489 – the Treaty of Medina del Campo was agreed

The Treaty of Medina del Campo was agreed on March 26th 1489. Henry VII needed a strong ally in a wealthy and powerful European country. The English crown was still vulnerable after Henry won the throne in battle against Richard III. Henry VII chose to enter into an alliance with Spain.

The Treaty of Medina del Campo agreed three main points

  1. A common policy between the two countries regarding France
  2. A reduction of tariffs between the two countries
  3. A marriage contract between Henry VII’s son, Arthur and the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, Katherine.

Arthur Tudor was only three years old at the time of the treaty with Katherine six months older. In accordance with the treaty they would be married when they come of age. Henry VII needed to build a strong Tudor dynasty and ensure the future generations so he needed to marry his heir to a Princess from a powerful nation. Katherine’s dowry was set at 200,000 crowns.

The other points of the treaty were that England and Spain would come to each other’s aide if they declared war against France; the terms of the treaty were more beneficial to Spain as they could call upon England to support any Spanish military campaign.

The full terms of the treaty were never held and it was renegotiated twice in 1492 and 1497. Arthur and Katherine were eventually married in 1502. Katherine bought with her half of her dowry; the rest would remain a sore point between Henry and Ferdinand in the years to come.

On this day in 1534 – First Act of Succession is passed

The First Act of Succession was passed on 23rd March 1534 by Henry VIII.

The Act declared his daughter with Katherine of Aragon illegitimate, therefore changing Mary’s status from Princess to Lady. It paved the way for any children Henry had with his new wife, Anne Boleyn, to be the heir to the throne, with any boys would take precedent over girls. Anne’s first child was Elizabeth which made her heir to the throne unless Anne gave Henry what he ultimately desired – a boy.

Another part of the Act required all subjects to swear an oath to recognise Anne as his legal wife and any children they have the true heirs. It also demanded that Henry’s subjects recognise him as the head of the church. Anyone not swearing the oath was arrested under the Treasons Act. Some notable subjects that refused to take the oath included Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher both were later executed for treason.

Henry later altered the act when he married Jane Seymour creating the Second Act of Succession, this Act declared Elizabeth illegitimate alongside Mary and pronounced his son heir to the throne. It was altered again in 1543 when Mary and Elizabeth were returned to the line of succession but behind Edward.

Parliament record

On this day in 1593 – Thomas Snagge died

Thomas Snagge was born in 1536 in Letchworth and studied law at Gray’s Inn, London. He began practising law in London in 1554.

Snagge had a great career under Queen Elizabeth I as he was appointed to the role of Attorney General for Ireland in 1577. Snagge held this role for three years until 1580 and it appears that he disliked being in Ireland, with all official paperwork listing the many complaints he had, in particular complaints about Nicholas White, the Master of the Rolls in Ireland.

Snagge was appointed, in 1580, the position of Serjeant at law, a role that would see him work with a small group of lawyers that took a lot of the work of the common law courts. However with Queen Elizabeth I created the Queen’s Council, this group of lawyers began to diminish. In 1589, Snagge was created Speaker at the House of Commons and the following year was appointed to Queen’s Serjeant.

Snagge died in 1593 and buried in St Mary’s Church in Marston Moretaine

Tomb of Thomas Snagge

On this day in 1513 – Pope Leo X proclaimed Pope

Pope Leo X was born Giovanni di Lorenzo de’Menici on 11th December 1475.

In 1492 Giovanni was admitted into the Sacred College of Cardinals and was present in Rome at the conclave that followed the death of Pope Innocent VIII.

Following Pope Innocent VIII and Pope Julius II, Giovanni was elected Pope on 9th March 1513 and proclaimed Pope two days later on 11th March. However, there was a problem; Giovanni had never been ordained as a priest. On 15th March Giovanni was ordained as a priest and on the 17th was consercrated as a bishop, before being finally crowned Pope Leo X on 19th March. Pope Leo was the last non priest to be elected to the position of Pope.

Pope Leo was in office at the start of the protestant reformation. Martin Luther had begun spreading his gospel around Europe and gaining followers. Pope Leo, in May 1517, summoned Luther to Rome to explain his thesis. Luther cancelled this meeting and instead met with Cardinal Cajetan. Pope Leo would be unable to stop the machine that was the reformation.

Pope Leo also oversaw the election of Charles V of Spain to Holy Roman Emperor.

Pope Leo X died on 1st December 1521 after contracting bronchopneumonia.

Pope Leo

On this day in 1530 – Pope Clement VII forbid Henry VIII from marrying Anne Boleyn

As the battle between Henry VIII and the Pope raged on over Henry’s divorce to Katherine of Aragon. It was becoming clear that it was not just about Henry’s belief that the marriage was never legal; it was about Henry wanting to take a new wife, namely Anne Boleyn.

Katherine did everything she could to protect herself and her daughter, Mary. She was sending letters to her nephew, Charles, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire for his assistance with her cause. Charles. The news of the events in England reached the ears of the Pope, who threatened Henry with excommunication if he went ahead and took a second wife.

The Pope issued the following statement;

“Bull, notifying that on the appeal of queen Katharine from the judgment of the Legates, who had declared her contumacious for refusing their jurisdiction as being not impartial, the Pope had committed the cause, at her request, to Master Paul Capisucio, the Pope’s chaplain, and auditor of the Apostolic palace, with power to cite the King and others; that the said Auditor, ascertaining that access was not safe, caused the said citation, with an inhibition under censures, and a penalty of 10,000 ducats, to be posted on the doors of the churches in Rome, at Bruges, Tournay, and Dunkirk, and the towns of the diocese of Terouenne (Morinensis). The Queen, however, having complained that the King had boasted, notwithstanding the inhibition and mandate against him, that he would proceed to a second marriage, the Pope issues this inhibition, to be fixed on the doors of the churches as before, under the penalty of the greater excommunication, and interdict to be laid upon the kingdom.
Bologna, 7 March 1530, 7 Clement VII.”
 (LP iv. 6256)

Henry VIIIPope Clement VII

On this day in 1536 – Act of the dissolution of the lesser monasteries.

As Henry VIII’s quest to become the recognised Head of the Church in England continued, many acts were passed in Parliament to lessen the power and influence Rome and the monasteries had over the country. Many religious houses fell in line with Henry’s demands that saw them swear to the oath of succession and support the King’s claims that the marriage with Katherine of Aragon was null and void. Henry still had opposition from other houses which he needed to scare and threaten to get them to fall in line with his reformation.

In 1534, Thomas Cromwell was commissioned by Henry to complete a thorough investigation into the income, endowments and liabilities of the religious houses in England and Wales, this included the monasteries. Cromwell delegated the task to a team of trusted commissioners to also investigate the quality of life, the validity of religious artefacts and the morality of the inhabitants.

Reports were sent back to Cromwell in 1535 full of claims of immoral and loose living, with monks showing little regard to the monastic vows. It was recommended to the Cromwell and the King that the monasteries needed to be brought in line and suppress those that would not. The authority to suppress the religious houses use to lay with the Pope but with Henry claiming the church, the Crown now had the authority to fulfil this.

Armed with these reports on 6th March 1536 Parliament passed the Act of the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries. The act stated that if any monastery had an income of less than £200 per year it was to be dissolved and everything given to the Crown. The heads of the houses were to be offered pensions and anyone who lived there was given the option of either moving into a larger monastery or they could leave the religious house and move into the open world forgoing their vows of poverty and obedience but they had to maintain their vow of chastity.

Henry chose to save 67 of the lesser monasteries but they had to pay a year’s income to remain open, therefore earning the Crown money regardless. However, commissioners moved quickly to close down the rest of the houses, in fear that valuables could be smuggled out and hidden. Land was rented to locals and items unwanted by the Crown were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Anything else was left for the locals to loot and buildings were destroyed.

This was just the beginning of what was to come for the monasteries and the reformation.

369Bordesley Abbey, Redditch – one of the many monasteries dissolved by Henry VIII.