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<   No. 4748   2022-05-04   >

Comic #4748

1 Mercutio: Is there even wine in England at this time?
2 Shakespeare: Oh yes. In June of 1536, Henry VIII’s Parliament passed “An Act limiting the Prices of Wines”, capping the price of imported French wine.
3 Shakespeare: It was in the same sitting as the Second Succession Act illegitimising Henry’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and the See of Rome Act extinguishing the authority of the Pope in England.
4 Mercutio: I guess the MPs needed some light relief after those.

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Wikipedia has a List of Acts of the Parliament of England, 1485–1601, which covers all Parliaments convened during the rule of the House of Tudor. If you scroll down to the heading "1536 (28 Hen. 8)", you will see the list of acts passed during the 28th Parliamentary sitting of Henry VIII's reign. Act c. 14 is "An Act limiting the Prices of Wines", as mentioned by Will in the comic.

You can see that passed in the same sitting was "c. 10. An Act extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome", commonly known as the See of Rome Act 1536. This act made it a crime to in any way support or defend the authority of the bishop of Rome (i.e. the Pope) within the realm of England. It also required all religious and secular officers (I guess of the government), anyone taking holy vows, and anyone starting a university degree to renounce the authority of the Pope and affirm the authority of King Henry VIII and his successors as Supreme Head of the Church, under penalty of high treason. This was part of Henry's ongoing effort to separate the Church of England from the Church of Rome following the dispute over the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1527.

Also passed in the same sitting was "c. 7. An Act for the Establishment of the Succession of the Imperial Crown of this Realm", better known as the Second Succession Act. The prior First Succession Act was passed just three years earlier in 1533. The First Succession Act declared that Mary, the daughter of Henry by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, was a bastard and thus removed from the line of succession to the Crown. This made Elizabeth, Henry's daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn, the new heir presumptive. So, as you can see, Henry really wanted to forget everything about poor Catherine.

The Second Succession Act followed this up after Henry got sick of Anne Boleyn (for failing to provide a male child), and dumped her for Jane Seymour. The Second Succession Act duly declared that Elizabeth was also a bastard child and removed her from the line of succession. At the time the Act was passed, Henry had no other children, so he didn't have any legitimate descendant as an heir. If Henry had died at this time (before the birth of his son Edward by Jane Seymour), the throne would have passed to James V of Scotland, a grandson of Henry VII via his mother Margaret Tudor. Being a devout Catholic and opposed to the English Reformation that Henry had kicked off, Henry saw him as unacceptable. So Henry had the Parliament include an additional clause in the Second Succession Act, which gave him the authority to name his own successors, at any time or in his will.

Not being one for sticking to his decisions (six wives, anyone?), Henry followed up by asking Parliament to pass the Third Succession Act in 1543. This Act returned both Mary and Elizabeth to the line succession, however it did not restore them as legitimate children of Henry. Furthermore, they were in the succession behind the younger Edward, any future children Henry might still have, and any children and other descendants that Edward might establish.

As it turned out, Henry had no further children, with Jane Seymour, any of his future three wives, nor any mistresses (that we know of). So when he died, the throne passed to nine-year-old Edward, who became Edward VI. Edward became terminally ill at the age of 15, childless. The Third Succession Act named his elder half-sister Mary as the next in line, but Mary was a Catholic, and Edward didn't want her on the throne undoing his father's religious reformation. So Edward tried to thwart his father's wishes by naming his own heir, a staunch Protestant: his (approximately) sixteen-year-old cousin-once-removed Lady Jane Grey.

This act of seeming generosity towards his cousin unfortunately ended up sealing her fate. She duly assumed the throne on Edward's death less than a month later. However Mary was now a canny 37-year-old woman, and she quickly rallied support as the legitimate heir. Most of Jane's supporters abandoned her and switched sides. After a mere nine days, the Privy Council switched sides, deposed Jane, and declared Mary queen. Mary had Jane's remaining supporters executed, but she spared Jane's life, holding her in the Tower of London. This didn't last long, however, as Jane's father became involved in Wyatt's rebellion, an uprising protesting Mary's intention to marry Prince Phillip of Spain. Mary thus began to see Jane as a threat, and had her executed in the Tower in 1554, at the age of 16 or 17.

Mary reigned for five years, until her death in 1558. At that point, the throne passed to Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, who reigned for 44 years as Queen Elizabeth I. And the rest is, as they say, history.

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