Henry VIII Part VII: Fighting Opposition

In March of 1534, the Act of Succession was established as a way to keep Mary from being a part of the succession to the throne. The Act meant that the children that came from his marriage to Anne would be recognized first. Next, the King’s councilors were the first to take the Oath of Succession and then others would follow, such as inferior officers, Justices of the Peace, and all house-holders. If someone refused to take the oath, they were subjected to being seen as guilty of treason.

An Act was passed in the spring of 1534 that addressed the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop’s power of dispensation was passed onto the King who had control of these types of decisions. The Act also stated that 2/3 of any profits that the Archbishop made would be given to the King. When the Act was issued, the King was also given the power to visit the monasteries. Around the same time, the Act of Parliament was passed. It delivered one-tenth of all clerical income to the Crown.

In was mid-1534 when Henry wanted to make sure that all of his subjects were clear on the changes in power regarding the Church. The influence that the Church once had was now replaced by the King. He went as far as to order all parish priests to erase all references to the Pope from the prayer books. In the end, he hoped that no parishioner had a doubt in their mind who was the Head of the Church. Although Henry used fear to make the people and clergy follow his wishes , not everyone stood by and embraced all of the changes.

Opposition came in the form of John Fisher (who was a bishop and cardinal) and Thomas More, who both refused to take the Oath of Succession. The Act of Succession was known all over the lands and people were told if they said or wrote anything that went against the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn or any of his lawful heirs would be found guilty of treason. Those who opposed the king were subject to a death.

Anne Boleyn’s child was a stillborn and Henry ordered the details of the event to be kept secret so that he did not lose face once again. Henry started to discuss with Cranmer and Cromwell the possibility of leaving Anne without having to return to his first wife. The subject was not acted upon at that time because the couple spent the summer together in 1535 and by October, Anne was pregnant once again.

In the meantime, the Treason Act was passed in 1534 that made it an offense to deny any of the King’s titles. It became treason to try or wish against the King or Queen (or heirs to their royal estates). If something published anything slanderous or even whispered against the King, it was considered treason. It was forbidden to call the King a tyrant, heretic, infidel or usurper. Henry wanted to make sure that no one could go against the fact that he was now considered the Supreme Head of the Church. Parliament could also enforce the Act of Succession under penalty of death.