The First Act of Succession – 23 March 1534

Posted By on March 23, 2012

This day in history, 23rd March 1534, was an important day for King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn because it was on this day that Parliament passed the Act of Succession. You can read the full Act of Succession in the book “Documents Illustrative of the History of the English Church”, which is available online – click here – but here are the highlights:-

  • Parliament’s declaration that the marriage between “the Lady Katherine” and the King was “void and annulled” – “definitively, clearly, and absolutely declared, deemed, and adjudged to be against the laws of Almighty God, and also accepted, reputed, and taken of no value nor effect, but utterly void and annulled, and the separation thereof, made by the said archbishop, shall be good and effectual to all intents and purposes; any licence, dispensation, or any other act or acts going afore, or ensuing the same, or to the contrary thereof, in any wise notwithstanding; and that every such licence, dispensation, act or acts, thing or things heretofore had, made, done, or to be done to the contrary thereof, shall be void and of none effect ; and that the said Lady Katherine shall be from henceforth called and reputed only dowager to Prince Arthur, and not queen of this realm
  • Parliament’s Declaration that the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was valid – “that the lawful matrimony had and solemnized between your highness and your most dear and entirely beloved wife Queen Anne, shall be established, and taken for undoubtful, true, sincere, and perfect ever hereafter, according to the just judgment of the 1534.”

  • Parliament’s ruling on marriages “within the prohibited degrees” which had been allowed to take place due to papal dispensations and its declaration that “no man, of what estate, degree, or condition soever he be, has power to dispense with God’s laws” – “Be it therefore enacted by authority aforesaid, that no person or persons, subjects or residents of this realm, or in any your dominions, of what estate, degree, or dignity soever they be, shall from henceforth marry within the said degrees afore rehearsed, what pretence soever shall be made to the contrary thereof.”
  • Parliament’s declaration on the children of these unlawful marriages – “and that the children proceeding and procreated under such unlawful marriage, shall not be lawful nor legitimate; any foreign laws, licences, dispensations, or other thing or things to the contrary thereof notwithstanding.”
  • Parliament’s declaration that the succession would pass through the heirs of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn – “And also be it enacted by authority aforesaid, that all the issue had and procreated, or hereafter to be had and procreated, between your highness and your said most dear and entirely beloved wife Queen Anne, shall be your lawful decried children, and be inheritable, and inherit, according to the course of inheritance and laws of this realm, the imperial crown of the same, with all dignities, honours, pre-eminences, prerogatives, authorities, and jurisdictions to the same annexed or belonging, in as large and ample manner as your highness at this present time has the same as king of this realm ; the inheritance thereof to be and remain to your said children and right heirs in manner and form as hereafter shall be declared…”
  • Parliament’s declaration that in the absence of sons the succession would pass to “the issue female” of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn” – “And for default of such sons of your body begotten, and of the heirs of the several bodies of every such sons lawfully begotten, that then the said imperial crown, and other the Premises, shall be to the issue female between your majesty and your said most dear and entirely beloved wife, Queen Anne, begotten, that is to say: first to the eldest issue female, which is the Lady Elizabeth, now princess, and to the heirs of her body lawfully begotten…”
  • The Act to be proclaimed throughout England on the 1st May 1534 – “And be it further enacted by authority aforesaid, that on his side the first day of May next coming, proclamation shall be made in all shires within this realm, of the tenor and contents of this Act.”
  • “The Penalty for injury to the King, disturbing his title to the crown or slandering his marriage”, i.e. for not accepting the Act – “every such person and persons, of what estate, degree, or condition they be of, subject or resident within this realm, and their aiders, counsellors, maintainers, and abettors, and every of them, for every
    such offence shall be adjudged high traitors, and every such offence shall be adjudged high treason, and the offenders
    and their aiders, counsellors, maintainers, and abettors, and every of them, being lawfully convicted of such offence by presentment, verdict, confession, or process, according to the customs and laws of this realm, shall suffer pains of death, as in cases of high treason ; and that also every such offender being convicted as is aforesaid, shall lose and forfeit to your highness, and to your heirs, kings of this realm, all such manors, lands, tenements, rents, annuities, and hereditaments, which they had in possession as owners…”
  • There was also a penalty for publishing or speaking “slander or prejudice of the said matrimony”, which was deemed to be “misprision of treason”
  • Parliament’s declaration regarding what would happen if the King died before the coming of age of his issue – that the issue “shall be and remain unto such time as such issues and heirs shall come to their said several ages afore limited,
    at and in the governance of their natural mother, she living, with such others, counsellors of your realm, as your majesty in your lifetime shall depute and assign by your will, or otherwise, for the same, without contradiction of any person or persons to the contrary thereof”. The penalty for “disturbance” of this arrangement would be “high treason”.
  • Parliament’s declaration that all of the nobles of the realm, “spiritual or temporal”, “shall make a corporal oath in the presence of your highness or your heirs, or before such others as your majesty or your heirs will depute for the same, that they shall truly, firmly, and constantly, without fraud or guile, observe, fulfil, maintain, defend, and keep, to their cunning, wit, and uttermost of their powers, the whole effects and contents of this present Act”
  • Parliament’s declaration “that all manner your subjects, as well spiritual as temporal, suing livery,
    restitutions, or ouster le main out of the hands of your highness or of your heirs, or doing any fealty to your highness or to your heirs, by reason of tenure of their lands, shall swear a like corporal oath, that they and every of them, without fraud or guile, to their cunning, wit, and uttermost of their powers, shall truly, firmly, and constantly observe, fulfil, maintain, defend, and keep the effects and contents contained and specified in this Act, or in any part thereof; and that they, nor any of them, shall hereafter have any liveries, ouster le main or restitution out of your hands, nor out of the hands of your heirs, till they have made the said corporal oath in form above rehearsed.”
  • Parliament’s declaration that refusal to take the oath would mean the person being “taken and accepted
    for offender in misprision of high treason” and having “to suffer such pains and imprisonment, losses and forfeitures, and also lose privileges of sanctuaries, in like manner and form as is above mentioned for the misprisions of treasons afore limited by this Act.”


  • Documents Illustrative of the History of the English Church, Compiled from Original Sources by Henry Gee and William John Hardy, 1896, p232-243