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Succession, Acts of

Succession, Acts of, 1534, 1536, 1543. Henry VIII used statutes to make the adjustments to the succession that his complicated matrimonial history necessitated. The first Act (25 Hen. VIII c. 22) declared Mary illegitimate as a consequence of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The second (28 Hen. VIII c. 7) after Anne Boleyn's execution declared both Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate and vested the succession in any future offspring of Henry's new wife, Jane Seymour: in the absence of legitimate issue the king was authorized to decide the matter by letters patent or will. The third Act (35 Hen. VIII c. 1), while recognizing Edward's claim, declared that should he die without heirs, Mary and Elizabeth would succeed in turn. By his will, made in December 1546, Henry repeated these arrangements but added that the succession would then go to the Suffolk line, offspring of his younger sister Mary. The Stuart line, descendants of his elder sister Margaret, was ignored. These repeated changes, from a man anxious to establish a clear succession, could only store trouble for the future. Lady Jane Grey's claim in 1553 was from the Suffolk line. Ironically, the winners, 56 years after Henry's death, were the Stuarts, whom he had tried to push aside because of his dislike of the Scots.

J. A. Cannon

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