On this day in history, 8th June 1536, exactly three weeks after the execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, the sixth Parliament of Henry’s reign met. It went on to pass the Second Act of Succession, removing the king’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the line of succession and declaring them bastards. This left the king with no legitimate children or heirs, just three illegitimate children: Mary, Henry Fitzroy and Elizabeth.

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Also, on this very same day, twenty-year-old Mary, Henry VIII’s eldest child, wrote to her estranged father in an attempt to be reconciled with him and to come back to court. She obviously thought that now her stepmother was out of the way, all would be well. However, her treatment was to get worse.

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8 thoughts on “8 June 1536 – The Second Act of Succession and a letter from Mary to Henry VIII”
  1. I know Mary has a bad reputation as queen and very well should. However I also pity her for the way she was treated. How would any of us like to be told by our own fathers that we are bastards? Today bastardy is not frowned on as much but in the 16th cent it meant a lot. This could ruin a good marriage match for her along with other things. On top of this her whole life she has been taught and believed the Pope was head of the church. Now her father comes along and tells her to stop believing that. ‘I am now head of the church in England’. Unlike Henry most people can’t change their beliefs on a whim. I fear that had Mary not submitted to her father’s will he was quite capable at this point in his life of executing her. Is it any wonder she was broken? This doesn’t excuse her actions during her reign but it may help explain her mental processes.

    1. It’s not uncommon for abused children to grow up to be abusive. Seriously, though, Henry’s treatment of Mary shows (IMO) that his purported “concern” about the succession was simply a cover for an ego trip — not merely his rivals (Charles and Francis) had sons, so Henry needed one too but primarily recognition of his supremacy. No monarch who genuinely cared about the succession would have replaced a “one strike loser” (Mary — due to gender) with a “two strike loser” (Elizabeth — gender and age) — especially if he had died at any time from the birth of Elizabeth until the birth of Edward, he guaranteed civil war (except no one would fight for Elizabeth)

  2. Mary whilst being very sorry for her for the break up of her parents marriage, I feel did bring a lot of her fathers treatment of her on herself, she seems to have been of the same mould as her mother and openly disobeyed him and incurred his wrath on many an occasion, it is difficult to put ourselves in her position but she had only been a girl when Zher father fell for Anne Boleyn and was placed in the unenviable position of being in the middle of her two warring parents, she was an intelligent girl and her mother had no doubt told her that her father was trying to say they had not been married thus Mary was a bastard with no claim to the throne, this would have upset her and angered her we can understand but she was in no position to defy him, in an age when children were reared so strictly by the upper classes/ nobility and Royalty and they were taught to obey honour and revere their parents as it says in the bible, Marys behaviour was considered unnatural and foolish, she was no Richard Coer De Leon to raise an army against her father, as he did against Henry 11, but a mere girl and as she grew into a teenager her behaviour became more mulish and stubborn, all this we can understand and sympathise with, she had been her fathers darling and he was known to be very proud of her, she had been taught from a young age that she was her fathers heir apparent then some woman comes along and her world is turned upside down, her sympathies quite naturally being female were all for her mother, Henry had turned into an ogre like from the fairy story enchanted by a dark witch, the witch being Anne and Mary being young and naive could not and more to the point, would not believe that it was her father who was responsible for his treatment of her, but his evil mistress, her mothers suffering and her own were all down to her, when Anne became queen she reached out the olive branch to her but it done no good, she also said she could walk beside her as an equal, and not behind this in itself was a generous overture of the queen, but again Mary would not relent, she had to be forcibly man handled into the carriage to travel to Hatfield when Elizabeth was sent there to reside over her new household, Anne fed up to the teeth with her step daughter said rather spitefully she could wait on her baby sister, when she was told she was to be known merely as the lady Mary she wrote the King a stinging letter saying she had been granted the title of Princess Mary as her parents union had given her it, and therefore she could not give it up, she did not seem to realise all this angered her once benevolent father and he must have felt at times that he had two Katherines to deal with, as single minded as her mother when she believed she had right on her side she made her own unhappy existence much worse than it could have been, had she remained neutral there would have been no seperation from her mother ( possibly) as it was Katherine who angered Henry into making that decision, she would have lived at court and been with her father whom she always loved, although Anne was there, maybe he would have let her visit Katherine from time to time, after her step mothers arrest and execution she must have been overjoyed and believed Anne was guilty of the charges against her, hating her as she did this coloured her view, many years later she remarked that Elizabeth resembled Mark Smeaton, in fact Elizabeth looked very like her mother with her fathers colouring, thinking that the dark days of misery were behind her at last she wrote him a letter which was candid and humble, but she overestimated Henry and received not the warm reply she wanted but several gouty old men who at once began barking at her to sign this document they had with them, Mary eyes must have widened in horror as she read it for it was the acceptance of her father as Supreme Head Of The Church, this was against her Catholic teaching and yes you cannot change what you have been brought upto believe all your life, just because the King makes it so but there was nothing poor Mary alone and powerless could do, Henry must have read her letter and been somewhat irked by the fact that here she was begging for an audience after flagrantly disobeying him for so many years, and thinking just because Anne was dead, that he would forgive her wilful behaviour, he must have impressed upon his council not to endure any disobedience, he knew his daughter and he wanted that document signed, they dare not return without it, Norfolk who looks frightening enough in his portrait told her had she been his, he would have beaten her head against the wall till it was as soft as a boiled apple, an unecessary remark but said to beat her into submission, it worked and when they left Mary must have been quite distraught as she had sent the letter to her father in high spirits, now she was miserable, did her youth and young womanhood turn her into the woman she later became its hard to say, but today a child physcologist would have done his best to turn her into a normal happy and balanced person by focusing on herself and not her parents problems, Marys misfortune was that she was born in the 16th century and a princess, who her father was trying to disinherit, as Michael says, how would any of us like it if our father was trying to take away our birthright and reduce us to the status of bastard? But Marys opposition to her father and his new wife only made life more difficult for her as it did Katherine, as King he had complete control over his kingdom he controlled his subjects lives, both Mary and her mother were fighting a losing battle, after much to her dismay she signed the document Henry did relent and was glad to have his daughter at court again, there is a touching moment where it is said he walked up and down the room with her arm in arm talking, and she sat next to him and Jane, it is a pretty picture the King and his new queen and his beloved child all seated together, Mary must have felt the happiest she had for years and it is nice to know she had that happiness again, her mother also would have approved of Jane I think, as she was Catholic and kind to her daughter, Mary enjoyed a tranquil family life at court again for a whole year before losing her stepmother of whom she had grown very fond of, sadly her half brother was to grow up with reformist views which caused him and his sister to clash, so here was enmity and discord again, he also denied her right to the crown and so no wonder when she did become queen, she was determined to bring back what she believed was the truth faith, her bitter experiences which stemmed from Anne Boleyn who she abhorred as being the cause of all the discontent in the realm, the catalyst for breaking from Rome as she remarked many years later when she was queen, must have created in her the desire to turn the country completely Roman Catholic again, hence the fires of Smithfield but Mary did not make the law, as queen she had to see it was carried out, the vengeance with which she did so though maybe was partly
    down to her bitter experiences when she had to conduct mass in private during her brother’s reign and in part to her unhappy youth when her father decided to sweep Roman Catholicsm aside although he was at heart a Catholic, to Mary the new faith symbolised Anne Boleyn and everything she hated that is what I believe anyway, but iv said this before Mary was a likeable woman who was known for her generosity and charity, she had many friends and she was loved in the north, the country rallied to her when Jane Grey had the throne proof of the loyalty she inspired in many, she had two lifelong friends, Jane Dormer and Susan Clarincieux, (not sure iv spelt that right) who loved her as did her household, she was also merciful to those who had committed treason her cousins Francis and her husband, though he never learnt and lost his head after he made another attempt to put Elizabeth on the throne, she pardoned Jane and Guildford and only executed them under great duress, she did not like killing people just as Henry V111 is sometimes called a psychopath, that term in untrue as is Mary Tudors only legacy to the country in the fires of Smithfield, there was a lot more to Mary than many realise.

  3. Parliament confirmed the legitimate succession in the only marriage Henry recognised, his new one to Jane Seymour, begging the King more or less to marry again and praised him for doing so. Talk about sucking up to the King, we are made to feel sorry for the poor badly done to Majesty, but his new wife is praised as the pure Queen and his succession now is undisputed. I am convinced these Acts of Succession came as a Template as the same words are said over and over again with different marriages. Anne was his true wife and Elizabeth his true heir and the Oath of Supremacy was made regarding that marriage. It was a matter of convenience and of course a need for a male heir.

    Mary had indeed hoped that she would find favour with her father and her new stepmother soon wrote to her and vice versa. Mary had asked Cromwell to help her find a way of reconciliation and her submissive and contrite letter to Henry followed from this contact. Mary had believed Anne Boleyn was responsible for her ill treatment, which she was, but Henry had authorised it and now he directly made certain she knew he would only accept her back on condition she submitted to him. He was Head of the Church and she must sign an article to accept that unfortunate fact. Mary must also sign to say her parents marriage was not legal and she was illegitimate as under the Second Act of Succession. Henry would see Mary once she had accepted everything and submitted totally. Anne had ordered her to be hit and pinched and serve her daughter, she had given orders to bully her, but now Henry used psychological torment and the Commission he sent implied her life was in danger if she didn’t agree. With good sense, Eustace Chapuys persuaded Mary of the hopelessness of her situation, that the Emperor could not help her and he suggested a way out. Mary could sign the document and say she did so under duress and make a secret protest to the Holy Father who would grant her absolution. Bullied by the Commission she complied and eventually Jane arranged for father and daughter to meet.

    Mary must have been quite shocked to find her father was acting in such a way and had supported in part at least the ill treatment by Anne, who had gone further by giving orders that the girl be physically harmed for her defiance in not calling her Queen. She now realized that Henry had at least allowed this even if he did intervene at times and move Mary to her own house. Henry had a soft spot for Mary and she could still move him to pity. When they eventually met it was an emotional reunion and it was probably difficult for both of them. Henry was pleased to see his pearl as he had called her after four years apart. He gave her money, he gave her gifts, he showed her great affection and she and Jane stayed with her for a few days.

    I believe Esther is absolutely correct, this was as much about his Supremacy as anything else, because now this was how he expressed his power and authority. Everyone had to submit to that or face charges of treason and that included his own daughter, who could not be seen to be defying him or others would follow suit. It was also about his integrity and power as her father, because she was bound to obey him as his child as well as his subject. Mary was popular among the people, her mother had been popular among the people, her father had once also been popular among the people, but now that popularity waned. Henry knew this and he was desperate for Mary to accept his full authority and power and this was what she now did. It was the only way to move forward, for the Royal family to show a united front and for the family to be together again. Jane may not have been happy with the way Mary had been forced into submission as part of her reconciliation with her father, but she was delighted when she came to Court later that Summer and was received formerly. Now they could have a relationship.

  4. I am not a historian, but am fascinated by the Tudors in particular. I have learnt so much from you all. Do we really know what medical condition Mary suffered from? What caused her phantom pregnancy?

    1. Hi Bovisand, at the end of her life modern doctors believe she was actually suffering from cancer, which caused her stomach to swell, this made her think she was pregnant which was very sad, she had been plagued by ill health most of her life, her periods were said to be so dreadful she probably had endriometis, migraines quite possibly made worse by anxiety and she had bad teeth, due to her love of sugary confections and she occasionally suffered from toothache, yet she rode and hunted whenever she could and loved dancing, she had plenty of stamina, and her death at the age of 42 was very sad, her husband Philip of Spain was also very sad to learn of her death, he had not loved her but he had come to regard her with respect, her reign is often overlooked by her sister Elizabeths golden memory.

      1. As a child and teenager Mary suffered from various stomach ailments for which there seems little modern explanation but they could have been triggered by anxiety about her future and her separation from her parents. Her difficult periods made her very ill as well. Endometriosis makes it difficult to conceive and can sometimes lead to cancer of the uterus which makes sense as it was as you say most likely cancer which caused her stomach to swell and her to believe she was pregnant. Her mother also had cancer which killed her. It is very possible that she inherited it. It was indeed very sad because she was desperate for children, as heirs but also because Mary adored Philip, who didn’t feel the same. Although for many years, most of her youth and twenties, Mary was very beautiful, far more so than Elizabeth, her illness took it’s toll and weight loss made her age prematurely. By the time of her marriage she had ceased to be beautiful and Philip did his duty and spent much time in the Netherlands as he was training for Kingship. It was ill health that cut her reign short and allowed Elizabeth to ascend at a much lower age, 25 and then she was fortunate to live until she was sixty nine for 45 years. Interestingly Elizabeth also had nervous ill health when she suffered times of stress, stomach problems and so the two half sisters were not so different perhaps.

        1. Yes both Mary and Elizabeth suffered from what is believed to have been pyschosomatic illnesses, hardly surprising when you consider their traumatic early lives, apart from both suffering from the stain of bastardy and knowing that both their mothers had been repudiated by their fathers, both having been the victims of his wrath, Elizabeths mother actually being done to death by him, and then growing up in the cloak and dagger court which was Henry V111’s, Elizabeth especially was in fear of her life at one time knowing there were plots carried out in her name to put her on the throne, all this while Jane Grey was in the Tower, the anxiety both sisters must have suffered we cannot imagine in our own cosy world, their brother prince Edward was the undisputed heir to the throne, their fathers darling and they were both painfully aware that as far as he was concerned they were nowhere near as precious as Edward, although Henry V111 did love all his children and delighted in their intelligence, but a traumatic upbringing can have an effect on ones state of health and it was known that all her life Elizabeth suffered from migraines as had her sister and she also suffered from palpitations of the heart, she appears to have inherited her mothers highly strung and hysterical nature which would have caused stress – which can trigger heart palpitations, whilst she was queen she was wary of the assassins bullet knowing that many would have liked to topple her from the throne, such very real anxiety can upset the normal motions of the body, her periods also her laundry women noted were very few and there was general talk that she may not be able to have a child, without some difficulty at least, maybe Elizabeth herself thought of that knowing her mothers sad childbearing history, and that could have been one of the reasons she decided to stay single, but she may have suffered from the hormonal effects of menstruation which can cause a very real depression in lots of women, and then the menopause after which can cause havoc as well, Mary sadly as we have discussed may have suffered from endometriosis which would have rendered her infertile, therefore sadly she would never have been able to have a child, it seems Henrys children his daughters at least, both had ill health although they survived the dangerous years of babyhood and infancy, and Elizabeth survived the smallpox it was Edward who was a very healthy baby but sadly he fell victim to some kind of lung infection quite possibly the dreaded TB, and so England lost who could have been a great King there, although frail in body the Tudors were highly intelligent beings and Mary was exceptionally brave riding through the country gathering men to arms in her service when her throne was in dispute.

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