Saturday, September 10, 2011

Question from LauraQofU - Mary reversing convictions of More and Fisher

Did Mary I reverse the treason convictions of Sir Thomas Moore and Cardinal Fischer after her accession to the throne?


Lara said...

(I'm posting this for PhD Historian who was having trouble with the comment page)

No monarch has/had the personal power to reverse a conviction for treason, or any other crime. The only personal power a monarch could exercise in this regard was to pardon the convicted person. Thus Mary I was legally prohibited from reversing the treason convictions of Thomas More and John Fisher. And since both were long dead when Mary became queen, pardoning either one was moot.
I wonder if you are perhaps confusing "reversal" with "restoration"? When a person is convicted by a court and jury for treason, or when an act of attainder for treason is passed against them by Parliament, the individual's titles, offices, and lands are ordinarily forfeited to the Crown. The convicted person cannot leave a will, and thus his heirs do not inherit. However, it is within the monarch's power and prerogative to "restore" those titles, offices and lands to the executed person's heirs, solely at the monarch's personal discretion.
As a Roman Catholic priest/bishop, Fisher held no secular titles of nobility and owned no inheritable estates in his own right (though as an English Bishop, he did hold estates tied to that office). Neither did he have any legitimate children to whom any estate could have been restored.
As a non-noble secular official, Sir Thomas More did own inheritable estates, but they were forfeited as a result of his conviction under the Treason Act of 1534. More had three daughters (Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily) and one son (John). In practical terms, the son would normally have inherited most of his father's lands, had the father not been executed. John died in 1547, before Mary became queen, so she could not restore property to him (property was only rarely restored to daughters). Evidence suggests that John's several sons, only one of whom was over 21 when Mary became queen, may have all conformed to the Protestant Church, leaving Catholic Mary little reason to favor them.
In any event, both Fisher and More had been executed for refusing the Royal Supremacy, an action that directly insulted the dignity of the same Crown that Mary had inherited. It would have been extremely impolitic for her to have pardoned two long-dead persons that had refused to recognize a supremacy that she herself inherited and held until the papal restoration in 1554.
PhD Historian

Laura said...

Yes, thank you, I was confusing reversal and restoration. It was late at night and I couldn't think of the correct term but wanted to pose the question before I completely forgot it.

I figured at least with Fisher being such an ardent supporter of her mother's marriage, she'd want to do something for his memory at least as she seems to have been very sentimental towards those who supporter her cause.