English Reformation Parliament

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The English Reformation Parliament, which sat from 3 November 1529 to 14 April 1536, was the English Parliament that passed the major pieces of legislation leading to the Break with Rome and establishment of the Church of England. In Scotland, the 1560 Parliament had a similar role. Sitting in the reign of King Henry VIII of England, the Reformation Parliament was the first to deal with major religious legislation, much of it orchestrated by Thomas Cromwell.



After the failure of Cardinal Wolsey to win the Court of Blackfriars, Henry VIII was frustrated. He was left without a male heir, and his wife, Catherine of Aragon, was considered to be past child-bearing age. In 1529, Henry opened what would later become known as the English Reformation Parliament. It opened in the month of October and ran until December 1529 without forming a coherent plan on what to do. Because of this, Henry used it to discredit Wolsey. Soon after this Henry turned his attentions to the church itself.


The major pieces of legislation from the Reformation Parliament included: [1]

An Act passed to prevent the Clergy being subject to separate canonical courts. Instead they were now to be trialed in the same way as everybody else in England was and not be looked upon favourably by the courts.

1530 Praemunire charges reinstated

The Parliament accepted the reinstatement of the charge named Praemunire where individuals could be convicted of a crime for appealing to any power outside of the realm for resolution of a situation within England. In particular, the law was aimed at those recognising the Pope's authority. The law gave leave that charges could be dropped if fines of £118,000 were paid.

1532 Rome deprived of a portion of Annates normally remitted

The session of 1532 saw plan and purpose that had not been evident in earlier sessions. [2]

The first Act of Annates (the Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates) was passed allowing only 5% of the money normally remitted to Rome. Annates were monies (church taxes effectively) that were collected in England and sent to Rome. They were levied on any diocese by Rome as payment in return for the nomination and papal authorization for the consecration of a bishop. One third of the first year's revenues from the particular diocese went to Rome. The king passed legislation threatening to deprive the Pope of these revenues. During this year even more intensive work was done to try to get Pope Clement to agree to the divorce Henry required. The Parliament threatened that if Henry did not get his annulment/divorce within a year, then all payments to Rome would be stopped. The anti-clerical Act titled Supplication Against the Ordinaries was also passed.

1533 All appeals to Rome, religious or otherwise forbidden

The Annates threat was carried out but not yet legalised by Parliament. Cromwell's Act in Restraint of Appeals was passed, preparing the way for further Praemunire charges against leading Catholic clergy and nobles who disagreed with the King's wish to divorce.

1534 Act Concerning Peter's Pence and Dispensations

Payment of Peter's Pence (a tax collected annually from householders) to the See of Rome was abolished. The act also eradicated Pluralism in the clergy (the right to hold more than one parish) and forbade English clergy from attending religious assemblies abroad.

1534 Act of Succession

Declared Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's marriage invalid and Mary as the illegitimate product of this marriage. The Act of Succession secured the children of Henry and Anne Boleyn to which the whole nation had to swear an oath by. To reject the oath was made treasonous.

1534 Act of Supremacy; Annates reserved to the English Crown

The Second Act of Annates was passed, called the Act in Absolute Restraint of Annates. The annates were, along with the supremacy over the church in England, reserved to the crown, and the English crown now took all revenue charged for the appointment of bishops. The Act of First Fruits and Tenths transferred the taxes on ecclesiastical income from the Pope to the Crown. The Treasons Act 1534 made it high treason punishable by death to deny Royal Supremacy. The first Act of Supremacy (among other things) began the process by which the dissolution of monasteries was to be undertaken. It quickly followed the receipt of a survey called Valor Ecclesiasticus , but applied only to religious houses with an income of less than two hundred pounds a year.

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  1. The names of these acts (and others) may be found at the List of Acts of the Parliament of England, 1485–1601.
  2. GR Elton 1955 England under the Tudors p 130.