Henry and Anne engravingOn this day in 1534, the First Act of Succession was passed by Parliament. It vested the succession in the heirs of Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and it required subjects to swear an oath, the Oath of Succession, renouncing any foreign authority and recognising Anne Boleyn as Henry VIII’s wife and their children as legitimate heirs to the succession.

You can read more about the provisions of this act in my article The First Act of Succession.

The Parliament that passed this act sat from October 1529 to 1536 and has become known as the Reformation Parliament due to the fact that it passed the main pieces of legislation which led to the English Reformation.

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4 thoughts on “23 March 1534 – Parliament Passes the First Act of Succession”
  1. I’ve always been interested in imagining what kind of grasp on time people in this era had. Not too many people lived past 40/45 years old and so much happens in such a small amount of time. Succession in 1534 yet just a little over two short years later Anne is put to death. What do you think the concept of time was for them? If you knew your life expect expectancy was only until about the age of 40 instead of possibly 80/90, would you live your life differently? Would you do more? Would you get married and have babies at age 14/15?

  2. Interesing that the Act invests the succession both in the female and the male line and not just tails male but then we do not have any salic laws in England as they did in France so females were not excluded from the crown. But does it also recongise the fact that Henry up to now has not had any success with male heirs and may not have any success? Is there something of the taking what is the situation now and covering all bases just in case Henry and Anne do not have any male children? If so it puts the miscarriage of a male child in 1536 in a new light. It shows that this is merely Henry’s shock reaction and not evidence that he was abandoning Anne as she could not as yet have a male child: Elizabeth was the heir and would be even if Anne and Henry did not have a son, but other daughters. Of course a male son was the ardent desire, but the act makes it clear that Parliamment agrees and must have the Kings agreement that female children of a lawful marriage can and will succeed Henry should Anne not have a living son. The Act was made in 1534 and Henry and Anne had been married for a mere 15 months, so there was plenty of hope and time for a son and heir and as she had a living daughter and may have conceived again (evidence for this is hazy) and Henry had every reason to believe a son would follow soon. It was merely Anne’s sad pattern of loss of two or three children that made him doubt in 1536 that a living son would be born to them. The marriage was far from over in the event of the loss of a male child in January 1536, but Anne was less secure and her enemies found ways to set her up and bring Henry to doubt and to believe the worst of her. But now in 1534 none of that could be imagined and it was to secure the inheritance of a son by Anne that this Act was passed, but the clause allowing female succession is in keeping with English law and a recongition of the status quo.

    Even Thomas More was prepared to accept the main body of the Act as the succession as he crudely put it was the Kings business and the Kings right. What he could not accept was the latter part that incorporated Henry’s new title and the supremacy which denied the Pope as head of the Church. Henry for him was usurping that power and Parliament had not the compentancy to make such a law. But for the rest he was willing to swear to it and to the marriage as well.

    Many others did swear to the Act to protect their families or for a quiet life, or when you read the thing it is so wordy that may-be they did not bother to read it or could not understand what it was on about. So they signed and went on with their lives as many of us do, we sign and do not even really know what we are signing. The majority of people in Tudor England would have agreed and signed and may-be not even cared about the body of the oath and would just have obeyed as the King had given the orders, the consequences were grave, and Parliament had passed the Act. They would have seen obediance as their duty to the King and not even flinched at the oath or they would have put their families first and signed out of fear and hoped for absolution later on. Few people actually refused the oath, but those who did paid the ultimate price and were brave in their refusal and sacrifice. Thomas More and John Fisher were just two; several monks and friars also went to their deaths; the Charterhouse ministers died and so did others of the orders because they could not accept Henry’s titles or the marriage as valid.

    It became treason by a second Act: the treasons Act to write or to dispute or to talk about the marriage and Henry and Anne in any sort of disrespect. Many of the things people could do freely up to that point, including criticise the King and his family or Anne were made treason. This same Act was to really prove a two edged sword, for as many of its rules were to protect Henry and Anne, they were turned against Anne and formed the basis of the laws under which she herself and the men with her were charged with treason and adultery. Many of the things that they said even casually were used against them at their trials and were due to interpretations of the treasons act of 1534 as well as parts of the acts of succession.

    By the way; i love the picture. Is it a Victorian romantic impression?

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