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.