Tag Archives: Reformation Parliament

Henry VIII clauses

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008The so-called Henry VIII clause is topical at the moment so I thought I’d write a short post about what it is and where it originates. Essentially, according to the Parliamentary website,  “the Government of the day sometimes adds this provision to a Bill to enable a repeal or amend after the Bill has become an Act of Parliament.” That’s not what’s causing the current furore – the problem is that the resulting Act can be changed without further parliamentary scrutiny if the Government so wishes. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers in its report of 1992-93 defined a Henry VIII clause as,  “a provision in a Bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further Parliamentary scrutiny.” [HL 57 1992-93, para 10].

 

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01And what you might wonder does the matrimonially challenged Henry VIII have to do with this? Well, these provisions are named after the 1539 Statute of Proclamations by the Crown which meant that Henry VIII could legislate simply by having a proclamation read out. That sounds suspiciously like kicking Parliament into touch and ruling as an absolute monarch.  However,  G.R. Elton didn’t believe that the act was meant to enable to the king to rule without Parliament or make his own laws rather it was an extraordinary power to be used when speed was of the essence.  The example that is generally used is that proclamations were used to prevent the export of English coinage abroad. Elton references price control – or in other words Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, was merely underlining, with typical belt and brace thoroughness, by a Parliamentary Act the way in which proclamations had always worked in regards to enacting well rehearsed uses such as changes to coinage. Elton also notes that the law made it quite clear that this was not an excuse for Henry to go around arresting, imprisoning or executing anyone just because he didn’t like the cut of their jib.

 

It is unsurprising that the mastermind behind this nifty piece of maneuvering was none other than Thomas Cromwell. Essentially things were moving fast in terms of domestic and religious policy as well as foreign policy which was decidedly volatile at the beginning of 1539. Even Cromwell had to agree that the so-called Reformation Parliament was “tractable” – and given that a large number of MPs were on Cromwell’s list of friends, family and acquaintances it is perhaps not surprising. Even so, Cromwell did not always have time to draft a bill and then wait for the parliamentary process to be completed before a bill became law. The act makes it clear at the very beginning:

An act that proclamations made by the king shall be obeyed. Forasmuch as the king’s most royal majesty, for divers considerations, by the advice of his council hath heretofore set forth divers and sundry his grace’s proclamations, as well for and concerning divers and sundry articles of Christ’s religion as for an unity and concord to be had amongst the loving and obedient subjects of this his realm and other his dominions, and also concerning the advancement of his commonwealth and good quiet of his people (which nevertheless divers and many froward, wilful, and obstinate persons have wilfully contemned and broken, not considering what a king by his royal power may do, and for lack of a direct statute and law to coerce offenders to obey the said proclamations… at all times by authority of this act his proclamations, under such penalties and pains and of such sort as to his highness and his said honourable council or the more part of them shall see[m] necessary and requisite; and that those same shall be obeyed, observed, and kept as though they were made by act of parliament for the time in them limited, unless the king’s highness dispense with them or any of them under his great seal.

 

Cromwell seems to have intended the proclamations to be administered by common law but as the quote from the act demonstrates, ultimately because of Parliamentary intractability on the part of the Lords, the proclamations were to be administered by a council: workable in theory but not in practice. The act was amended in 1543 to change the mechanism by which the council worked but finally repealed in 1547 after Henry’s death– not that it seems to have made a jot of difference as proclamations continued to be a perfectly legal way of doing things.

Proclamations would cause the Stuarts no end of problems – you could probably argue that Charles I lost his head over them given that he ruled and collected taxes without the aid of Parliament for more than a decade. Parliament was quite clear that the king didn’t have the right to go around demanding money – taxes had to be voted to him by Parliament and for him to suggest otherwise was illegal. He misused proclamation assuming that he could be behave as an absolute monarch.

And that is where I shall stop as I have no desire for this post to move from an interesting historical meander into political debate about the rights and wrongs of its use in the modern day. If nothing else it proves that Cromwell was a seriously wily political operator.

 

Bush L  “The Act of Proclamations: A Reinterpretation” The American Journal of Legal History. Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1983), pp. 33-53

Elton, G.R.Tudor Rule and Revolution: Essays for G R Elton from His American Friends

G. R. Elton, The Rule of Law in Renaissance England, in TUDOR MEN AND INSTITUTIONS 265-94 (A. J. Slavin ed., 1972), reprinted in 1 STUDIES IN TUDOR AND STUART POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT 260-84 (1974)

 

http://www.constitution.org/sech/sech_074.txt

 

 

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Sir William Paget

WilliamPagetWilliam Paget is typical of Tudor administrators.  He rose not because of his bloodline but because of his ability.  He was educated at Cambridge.  His tutor was Stephen Gardiner (I told you they were all related and now I’ll add that they all know each other!)  After Paget completed his studies Gardiner, who would become Bishop of Winchester and by the end of Henry VIII’s reign  conservative scion of Catholicism, found Paget a role in his own household.

Somewhat ironically then Paget first makes his appearance on the political stage in 1529 in Henry VIII’s so-called Reformation Parliament- for his parliamentary biography double click on the image which accompanies this post. He continued working for Gardiner until it became apparent that Cromwell was the horse to back.  Inevitably his letters to Cromwell at this time can be found in Henry VIII’s letters and papers.  He appears again as Jane Seymour’s secretary which naturally enough brought him into close contact with Jane’s brothers Sir Edward Seymour and Sir Thomas Seymour.

Increasingly Paget became associated with the so-called Protestant faction of Henry VIII’s privy council even though he was also secretary to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. He also served for a time as Ambassador in France – diplomacy, spying etc.

The removal of Thomas Cromwell in 1540 left Henry VIII without a single capable man of all business.  The privy council resumed some of its former importance and men such as Paget who had proved themselves solidly reliable were able to garner more power to themselves now that it wasn’t all focused on one individual.

 

 

Paget tends to be identified as one of the key figures in the transition of power from Henry VIII to Sir Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford when Edward VI ascended the throne. Seymour shortly afterwards became Duke of Somerset followed by becoming Lord Protector.  Henry VIII’s will envisaged the sixteen strong privy council sharing responsibility for guiding the young king and governing during his minority rather than investing power in the hands of one man.  It says something for Paget’s powers of persuasiveness. Inevitably when Somerset fell from power Paget, who’d gained a title by then as well as a substantial estate including land belonging to Burton Abbey in Staffordshire, also found himself under a cloud…in the Tower.  He’d regained his position by 1552 (so a man with essential survival skills).

Those survival skills are demonstrated but the fact that he continued in office during the reign of Queen Mary rising to the role of Lord Privy Seal.  Although he was keen on Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain he was less enthusiastic about the idea of executing Princess Elizabeth – which was probably just as well.  In 1558 when Mary died he chose to retire from public life but he acted as an advisor, on occasion, during Elizabeth’s reign – making him the most unusual of Tudor administrators – a man who kept his head and served not one but four of the Tudors. And what makes it even more amazing is that he had agreed to bypass Mary and place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He died in 1563 at the age of fifty-eight.

In addition to manoeuvring his way through the snakes and ladders of Tudor politics Sir William found time to marry and father ten children. Three of his four sons survived to adulthood.  I have posted about them elsewhere on the History Jar  https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/sir-william-paget/  as the youngest son, Charles, turned out to be anything but loyal to the Tudor crown.  He was a catholic conspirator against Elizabeth.  There is an irony in this because one of Paget’s roles during the reign of Henry VIII was counter-intelligence.

 

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