30 December 1546 – Henry VIII Signs His Last Will and Testament

Posted By on December 30, 2013

Henry VIII Cornelis Matsys On 30th December 1546, Henry VIII signed his last will and testament, authorising changes he’d instructed William Paget to make on his behalf on 26th December 1546. These changes were made to ensure successful transfer of royal authority to his son, the future Edward VI, and to prepare for Edward reigning during his minority.

The changes included:

  • Changes to proposed titles and grants – For example, Edward Seymour was originally meant to be Duke of Hertford and his son Earl of Wiltshire, but Paget changed it to “duke of Somerset or Exeter or Hertford and his soonne erle of Wiltshire if he be duke of Hertford.” There were also cancelled earldoms which affected John, Lord Russell, and William Paulet, and a cancelled barony for Sir Thomas Arundel.
  • Confirmation of those men who would form a council to advise his son Edward during his minority.
  • The addition of the Suffolk line, the offspring of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Tudor, as heirs after Henry’s own children.

You can read more about the provisions of the will in my article “Henry VIII’s Will” and you can read the will itself at British History Online – click here and scroll down to note 634 (LP xxi. Part 2. 634).

8 thoughts on “30 December 1546 – Henry VIII Signs His Last Will and Testament”

  1. Ann says:

    On reading the will in the 2010 entry, I noted the comments on Henry’s mentioning the possibility of future wives and their children.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that he was planning to dump Katherine Parr. We trust he wasn’t.

    As King, his will had to cover all contingencies, though. This would include his current wife becoming pregnant — ideally with a son. Or dying of natural causes.

    Sir Alan Lascalles’ diary mentions an occasion when some document was being prepared for George VI, in which Princess Elizabeth was specified as the Heir Presumptive, because, however unlikely — and it was VERY unlikely, as all acknowledged — it was necessary constitutionally to allow for George VI’s wife having another child, who might be a son, or her death — World War II was raging, so a war-related death was certainly possible — and the King’s subsequent remarriage to a second wife who might then have a son.

    No one thought this sequence of events WOULD happen, but it was theoretically possible and therefore constitutionally necessary and proper to PROVIDE for it happening.

    Same with Henry VIII; hence the long list of heirs in sequence. If history had been different and his first son, Prince Henry, had lived, he’d have been in his mid-forties and very likely a grandfather himself by 1546 and might have been the only heir mentioned in Henry VIII’s will.

  2. BanditQueen says:

    This is a very detailed and well prepared and thought out will. Henry is concerned for the safety of the realm and his son and makes special provision for all possibilities in the succession. He also seems to have left his daughters very comfortably off. Even without becoming Queen they would have lived as rich ladies of the court. It is sad that a sick and feverish Edward allowed himself to be talked into changing the succession and causing problems for both of his sisters and for his cousins, the Grey sisters. The changes to the council around Edward are insteresting and seem designed to attempt to balance out the varied and waring factions of the court. He also takes the wise precaution of not naming an outright Lord Protector: that was something that Edward Seymour did himself.

    I believe I read somewhere some time ago, although I cannot recall were: it may actually have been in the David Starkey work on the Six Wives; and I think he said it in the documentary that Henry back in 1544 was contemplating Queen Catherine as regent for his son, but that with the trouble over her extremely reformist religious views that he became more suspect of his wife and changed his mind. It would not have been unusual for a woman, the widow of a KIng to be named as Regent: Maria of Guise was regent for the infant Mary Queen of Scots and Blanche of Castile was regent for the young Louis IX. But may-be the waring religious factions became just a bit too obvious to Henry and he could see the entire regency government falling apart if he put the governance of his heir and Kingdom into the hands of one powerful man/woman with a regency council to advise them.

    To balance things out he named people that he knew were loyal and would have Edward’s interests at heart; and held varied religious and political beliefs and crossed the generations in experience and age. He had made a powerful speech to Parliament the previous Christmas Eve, beseeching unity among the court and the council and he hoped that he would be obeyed even beyond the grave. The will shows that Henry’s mind was sharp and that he cared about his children and his widow Katherine. I think the mention of children with Katherine or future wives is a bit odd, but it is just a provision clause; he obviously hopes he may recover and have more children; he clearly is not planning to discard Katherine. In any event it is always possible that his widow could be pregnant at the time of his death. She was not, but he has to make some proviso for this event.

    Sadly, the council, although it did not tear itself apart was not to remain in unity or uniformity for long and personal scheming and ambition, especially between the Seymour brothers took place. Both were removed and executed for treason, one in 1549 and one in 1551. Katherine Parr did not obey the provisions of the will either; she married within six months without the King or councils favour to Thomas Seymour. She was free to remarry, but had to have the permission of the council. Both Princess Elizabeth and Princess Mary also could only marry with the leave of the council. Henry had thought of everything; almost; but history intervened to upset the balance that was intended by his will.

    I also find it touching that he was buried by the side of the one wife that he cared for and who had died to provide him with a son; in Windsor, a palace and chapel that Henry was found off. I also find it touching that he paid homage to the murdered Lancastrian King Henry VI to whom he was directly related through that King’s mother and Owen Tudor, and his grand-father Edward IV. Both tombs are in Windsor. Henry intended for a very elaborate tomb of his own; having appropriated the sarcophacus that was meant for Cardinal Wolsey. He was to have six candle sticks of gold, lions, a very beautiful tomb with his and Jane’s effigy on top of it and the usual bells and whistles. There is a description of the tomb in several old guide books at Windsor. It is also a great piece of irony that Edward and the council decided the tomb was too expensive and such tombs not suitable in his new Protestant England. The tomb was never completed and was later dismantled, sadly, leaving a plain black marble stone to mark the vault in the centre of the choir in St George’ s Windsor with the burial of him, Jane, KIng Charles I and an infant child of Queen Anne in the same vault. The stone was placed there in the reign of William IV who made a complete survey of the royal and noble tombs in England. Another piece of irony and one that is fitting is that the great marble sarcophacus was reused to house the coffin tomb of Lord Horatio Nelson in Saint Paul’s Cathedral. It is fitting as Henry of cours was the founder of the royal navy in which Nelson served the nation so heroically. History is strange.

  3. mrsfiennes says:

    I find it puzzling that no husbands were chosen for Mary and Elizabeth.It just states about the heirs of their bodies and that they had to consult with the council before they could marry anyone.I wonder why it wouldn’t cross his mind that leaving it up to his daughters and council that it could have the potential to create civil war. It shows how how much he was depending on Edward.

  4. Miranda says:

    Hi my name is Miranda Reed. And i have a question i want to ask you. When does Lord Buckingham get arrest for treason?

    1. He was ordered to London on 8 April 1521, put in the Tower on 16 April, and executed on 17 May. The old Duke of Norfolk broke down sobbing when he had to read out the death sentence.. There is sure to be a lot of information online.

  5. Miranda says:

    Ok thanks. were you talking to me Marilyn Roberts?

  6. Dawn 1st says:

    All events catered for at the time of writing, though life is never that straight forward is it.
    Wonder what he would of thought of Lady Jane Grey being thrust in front of Mary after Edward passed away.

    When it comes to be being buried with Jane, I’m always a bit cynical about this decision and the ‘romantic’ notions that grow from it, because unless he was going to be buried by himself, he really didn’t have a lot of choice did he, Katherine of Aragon hacked him off too much, Anne and Katherine he had executed, Anne of Cleeves and Katherine Parr were still alive, so really there was no competition from any of the other ladies. Perhaps he was afraid of being alone who knows, but I think if you take away the ‘Son’ factor, and I reckon it was all based on that alone, not Jane being his ‘most beloved’ there would be a high possibility that she may not have been chosen either. Told you, totally cynical 🙂
    But the coffins in the tomb are apparently in a right poor state, having been disturbed on numerous occasions, it seems that Henry didn’t get to rest in complete peace, poor ol’ thing…

    1. Katie says:

      I completely agree and have always thought the same.

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