1 July 1536 – Henry VIII’s Daughters Declared Illegitimate
Posted By Claire on July 1, 2014
On 1st July 1536, Parliament gave the Second Act of Succession its first reading. This superseded the 1534 Act of Succession, which had made Mary illegitimate and had appointed Elizabeth as heir to the throne. The new act declared the illegitimacy of both of Henry’s daughters. Both girls were now barred from the line of succession and, Elizabeth, like Mary, now lost her title of “princess”. This act left Henry VIII with no legitimate heir, just three illegitimate children: Mary, Elizabeth and Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
Thomas Cromwell wrote to Stephen Gardiner on 5th July 1536 regarding the King’s new marriage, saying “Doubts not he knows that the King is married again. He has chosen, as all his nobles and council upon their knees moved him to do, the most virtuous lady and veriest gentlewoman that liveth. Lady Mary is a most obedient child. The late Princess, Lady Elizabeth, is by Parliament pronounced also illegitimate.”
When Mary came to the throne in 1553 as Mary I, her first parliament overturned the annulment of her parents’ marriage, making her legitimate. Elizabeth I never made herself legitimate, perhaps she thought it was best to let sleeping dogs lie.
Also on this day in history…
- 1 July 1535 – The trial of Thomas More began. He was found guilty under the 1534 Treason Act and sentenced to death.
- 1 July 1543 – Treaties of Greenwich signed – In these treaties between England and Scotland, it was agreed that Prince Edward would marry Mary Queen of Scots.
Notes and Sources
- Lehmberg, Stanford E. (2008) The Later Parliaments of Henry VIII, 1536-1547, p24
- LP xi. 29
6 thoughts on “1 July 1536 – Henry VIII’s Daughters Declared Illegitimate”
elizabeth may have been illegitamate but for henry waiting for a son and heir and having her mother murdered out of his 4 children 3 made illegitimate elizabeth was and is he greatest only wish anne and henry could have seen it
Just a quick question – this post only mentions Mary, Elizabeth and Henry Fitzroy (Elizabeth Blount’s son, I believe). But didn’t Henry have other illegitimate children, by Mary Boleyn, for instance? Are they not mentioned because he never formally recognized them? Just wondering, thanks
Henry VIII only acknowledged Henry Fitzroy as his son and all we know about his relationship with Mary Boleyn is that he slept with her at least once, we have no idea when that was or whether it was just the once or a longer term relationship. He may well have slept with her when Bessie Blount was pregnant in 1519 before Mary married Carey in 1520. Mary’s children were born in 1524 and 1526 so are most likely Carey’s children. We just don’t know.
A Short Tall Story:
“Such a Prince are we who will always put leisure before duty.” cried Henry VIII truthfully. “Ah, duty before pleasure, sire.” corrected Cromwell, folding his arms menacingly.
At this signal, the entire court fell on its knees, “Oh please marry Mistress Seymour, Your Liege!” they cried with a single voice – Edward Seymours, actually.
“You move us.” cried the monarch. “Now, enough with the business, let’s go hunting! Come Jane!”
“And the Princess, sire?” said Cromwell quickly.
“Off with her head, of course!!” the merry monarch quipped over his shoulder, pausing to kiss the hand of his latest love. “Oh only joking, Cromers! Don’t look so po-faced! We wouldn’t really hurt our little bastard!’
Poor Mary, declared illegitimate twice, and poor Bess also, a three year old and now also a bastard. Was Henry crazy? He now had no heir. Jane was under the pressure to produce a son, but now this must have been even more so as this would be the only child Henry would have legally. Should he not have at least waited until he had a son. By then he may even have decided to leave them as legitimate as they are valuable in the marriage stakes abroad as Princesses. This was a very risky thing to do and Henry was not husband or father of the year in any case.
Elizabeth, pragmatic as always, must have realized there was nothing to be gained by having herself legitimized. She was accepted as Queen. The country was still Catholic in many areas. To succeed a Catholic Queen, and then bastardize her, would have been impolitic. Elizabeth was also less invested in her mother, having been without her since she was a toddler.