Sunday, October 18, 2015

Question from Harietta - Mary and Elizabeth's restoration to the succession

Was the restoration of Mary and Elizabeth meant to be a "back-up" measure, since Henry VIII had no other possible successors after Edward, other than nephews and nieces? If he had had legitimate daughters after Edward's birth, would they have been before their half-sisters of unclear legitimacy? Would Mary and Elizabeth not have been restored to the succession? If Edward had had a sister he viewed as legitimate and who would have been raised Protestant, how might this have affected the succession after his death? Would there have been no Nine Days Queen?

5 comments:

Laura M said...

Obviously if Edward had had a full sister, or one that he viewed as legitimate who was raised, as he was, as a Protestant, he wouldn't have had to appoint Jane Grey as his heir. However, the question of Mary and Elizabeth is an entirely different matter. If Henry had somehow managed to father more children after Edward, the would have been further down in the line of succession, because they were never relegitimized by Henry, and only Katherine Parr's intervention on their behalf brought them back into royal favor and led to them being named Henry's heirs.

Harietta said...

Thanks both of you for your wonderful answers! p, if I may ask, why do you object to "what if" questions? Is it because there are so many possible variables that an answer would inevitably be biased in favor of one "perspective" or theory?

PhD Historian said...

Well, Harietta, I am an academically trained research historian, so my concern is with what did or did not actually happen. And as a historian, I believe we can (or at least should) learn from our own historical past. And ideally the knowledge gained should be applicable to our decisions and actions today (though sadly that is rarely the case). But asking “what if” is like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It may be great fun to debate the question, but the answer is absolutely unknowable and has absolutely no practical application whatsoever.

Lara Eakins said...

Dang it - I didn't mean to remove that previous comment... I'll get it restored as quickly as possible. Sorry!

PhD Historian said...

This question directly concerns my area of research interest, so I feel obligated to respond to it, even though I usually object to speculative “what if” questions of history.

Was the restoration of Mary and Elizabeth meant to be a "back-up" measure, since Henry VIII had no other possible successors after Edward, other than nephews and nieces? In short, yes. The Third Act for the Succession (1544) restored Mary and Elizabeth to the succession without reversing their statutory illegitimacy. At that time, the English heirs of Henry VIII and Edward VI within the Tudor bloodline were all descended from Henry’s younger sister Mary Tudor Brandon and were all female: Frances Brandon Grey, Jane Grey, Katherine Grey, Eleanor Brandon Clifford, and Margaret Clifford (Mary Grey was not born until 1545). Even Henry’s two Scottish heirs descended from his elder sister Margaret Tudor Stuart Douglas were both female: forty-year-old Margaret Douglas and eighteen-month-old Queen Mary Stuart (Margaret Douglas’s son Henry, Lord Darnley was not born until December 1545). It was assumed in 1544 that Edward would go on to wed and sire sons, of course, but in the event that that did not come to pass (as indeed it did not), better in Henry’s view that the Tudor crown should be worn by an illegitimate female sired of Henry’s own loins (i.e., Mary or Elizabeth) than by a legitimate female sired of a male from beyond the Tudor bloodline. In other words, an illegitimate daughter of Henry VIII was preferable to a legitimate daughter of some other man.

Henry did have other possible successors in 1544, but they were from well outside the Tudor bloodline. Henry Hastings was the senior surviving Lancastrian claimant to the English crown by virtue of his descent from Edward III via that king’s fourth son, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s Beaufort-Pole direct lineal descendants down to Hastings’ own mother, Catherine Pole. Edward Courtenay was the senior surviving Yorkist claimant through his paternal grandmother Catherine of York, younger sister of Henry VIII’s own mother Elizabeth of York (both Catherine and Elizabeth were heirs of Edward IV).

If he had had legitimate daughters after Edward's birth, would they have been before their half-sisters of unclear legitimacy? Yes.

Would Mary and Elizabeth not have been restored to the succession? Almost certainly not. Having fulfilled the “heir and a spare” principle through the siring of an additional (albeit fictional) daughter, Henry would almost certainly have left the Second Act for the Succession to remain unaltered. That act had barred both Mary and Elizabeth from succeeding to the crown and rendered both illegitimate. The Third Act and the women’s restoration to the succession would very probably never have been considered.

If Edward had had a sister he viewed as legitimate and who would have been raised Protestant, how might this have affected the succession after his death? The answer to this question depends in part on whether or not one accepts the traditional view that Edward was motivated to eliminate his half-sisters from the succession in order to preserve the reformist religious changes he had championed during his brief reign. If that traditional view is accepted, then Edward would perhaps have allowed his putative Protestant younger sister to ascend the throne upon his own death.

I do not subscribe to that traditional view, however. It is my belief that Edward would never have allowed any of his sisters (including Mary and Elizabeth) to wed while he himself remained unmarried and childless, unless he was absolutely certain that his own death was imminent. In that event, Edward would very probably have compelled his younger sister to accept a husband of his (Edward’s) own choosing, were she old enough to marry. Only then would he have accepted the younger sister as his successor. If she were not yet old enough to marry, some alteration of the traditional pattern of royal succession would probably have been proposed.

Would there have been no Nine Days Queen? Probably not, no.