On this day in 1536, Henry VIII found himself without any legitimate children. Well, he didn’t find himself that way, really, he made it so.
The sixth Parliament of King Henry VIII’s reign met on 8th June 1536 and passed the Second Act of Succession. This act removed Henry VIII’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, from the succession and declared them illegitimate. It wasn’t a change for Mary, as she’d been made illegitimate and removed in 1534, but two-year-old Elizabeth, whose mother, Anne Boleyn, had been executed on 19th May 1536, was now affected.
I explain what happened at this Parliament and I also share another “on this day” event from the very same day in 1536 in this video. You can scroll down for the transcript.
On this day in Tudor 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.
This parliament went on to pass the Second Act of Succession, removing the king’s daughters, Mary, his daughter by Catherine of Aragon, and Elizabeth, his daughter by Anne Boleyn, from the line of succession and declaring them bastards.
Mary had already been declared illegitimate on 23rd March 1534, in the First Act of Succession. That act had also declared the validity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and recognised the rights of their issue, i.e. Elizabeth and any future children, to inherit the throne. However, following the fall and execution of Anne Boleyn in May 1536, it was imperative that Parliament do something to change this legislation. The Second Act of Succession confirmed the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and declared that “the issue of this marriage is also illegitimate”, going on to state that “the succession to the throne be now therefore determined to the issue of the marriage with Queen Jane.”
Parliament praised the King for his “most excellent goodness to enter into marriage again” with Jane Seymour and the bill went on to praise the new queen:
“and [forasmuch as you] have chosen and taken a right noble, virtuous, and excellent lady, Queen Jane, to your true and lawful wife; who, for her convenient years, excellent beauty, and pureness of flesh and blood, is apt to conceive issue by your Highness; which marriage is so pure and sincere, without spot, doubt or impediment […]”
The passing of this Second Act of Succession meant that although the kind had three living children, he had no legitimate children or heirs, for his son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset, was also illegitimate, being the son of Henry VIII’s mistress Elizabeth, or Bessie, Blount. This parliament was actually Fitzroy’s last public appearance. He was recorded as being “consumptive and incurable” by imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys on 8th July 1536 and he died on 22nd July 1536.
The pressure was now on Jane Seymour to produce a living son and heir as quickly as possible. Of course, she went on to give birth to a healthy son on 12th October 1537, a boy who became King Edward VI on the death of his father in 1547.
On the very same day that her illegitimacy was being declared by Parliament, Mary, the king’s eldest daughter, wrote to her father from her home at Hunsdon. Letters and Papers has a record of her letter:
“Begs his daily blessing. Though she understands, to her inestimable comfort, that he has forgiven all her offences and withdrawn his displeasure long time conceived against her, her joy will not be full till she is allowed to come to his presence. Begs pardon for her continual suit and rude writing, for nature will suffer her to do no otherwise. Hopes God will preserve him and the Queen, and send them a prince.”
However, the king did not want anything to do with his daughter until she toed the line and obeyed him and submitted to him. I’ll give you a link to my video which explains a bit more about this – https://youtu.be/piFHGOhSXEI