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Henry FitzRoy and Henry VIII's ‘Scruple of Conscience’

  • J. Duncan M. Derrett


The history of Henry VIII's first ‘divorce’, a topic of so many implications, naturally has mysteries to be solved. Further study of contemporary documents can be expected to clarify much that still tantalizes us. Yet there is another aspect of the subject of Henry's marital status which has hardly been investigated, namely the state of the law on Henry's capacity to act if he were really incestuously married. If it were a fact that he was incestuously married, it must needs follow that he lacked some of the powers he would have had if he were not subject to this disability: and this is a fact of which his advisers will have taken notice. To bring legal material bearing on this aspect of the problem back into light may help to clear up one of the mysteries, namely how we are to explain the king's ambiguous attitude towards his marriage between the years 1525 and 1527.



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1 Mackie, J. D., Earlier Tudors (Oxford, 1957), p. 325.

2 Constant, G., Reformation in England, 1, tr. Scantlcbury (London, 1934), p. 43 , citing Ven. Cal., ii, 479. Pollard, A. F., Henry VIII (London, 1951), p. 141.

3 Martin, C. T., ‘FitzRoy, Henry, Duke of Richmond,’ DNB, xix, 204. Nichols, J. G., Inventories of the Wardrobes ... of Henry Fitzroy (London, 1855), introd., esp. p. xiii. Lee to Wolscy (Apr. 17, 1527): the king intended, if Mary were married abroad, to nominate Henry FitzRoy his successor immediately. Anne was obviously not on the scene.

4 Wriothesley, Martin C., Chronicle of England, 1 (London, 1885), 286287. Grafton's Chronicle, 11 (London, 1809), 382-383. Pollard, A. F., Wolsey (London, 1953), p. 4 (divorce); pp. 90-91 (Richmond). See also Brewer, J. S., Letters and Papers … Henry VIII, IV (introd.), cxlicxlvii.

5 Mattingly, G., Catherine of Aragon (London, 1942), pp. 170 ff.

6 Ibid.

7 Pollard, , Henry VIII, pp. 147148. Letters and Papers, IV, 3051. Mackie, p. 325.

8 Brewer, cxli; Mattingly, p. 173. Henry to Grynaeusin 1531 ( Burnet, G., History of the Reformation, ed. Pocock, N., 1, Oxford, 1865, 78 ).

9 Burnet, pp. 34, 77, 79. Pollard, A. F., Thomas Cranmer (London, 1926), pp. 3233 , referring to Span. Cal. III, 2, 109, and comparing James 11 and Monmouth.

10 A Bricfe Treatise of Testaments and Last Willes (London, John Windet, 1590-91).

11 Swinburn, fols. 66a-67b.

12 Decretal. Greg. IX, 11, 24, 33 (c. intellecto, x de iureiurando).

13 Bartolus on Dig. XLIII, 24, 3. 4. See Bartolus, , Commentaria in primatn Digesti Novi Partem (Lyons, 1547), fol. 162b; Baldus (P. B. de Ubaldis) on feuds (in the proem), In Usus Feudorum Commentaria (Lyons, 1550), fol. 4b (nn. 32-36); Giasone, (Jason) da Maino, In primam Codicis Partem Commentaria (Venice, 1568), fol. 71b (11. 7), i.e., his comment on Cod. II, 3, 25; Fr. Hotman (cited as Hottomanus), Operum Tomus Primus (Lyons, 1599), cols. 845-852. For a simplified form of Hotman's view see Corpus Juris Civilis, Dig. XLIII, 24, 3. 4, with comment of Dionysius Gothofredus, Lyons, 1607, 1, col. 1555 (marg.). The canon law position is shown in the comments of Innocentius, Johannes de Imola (Imolensis), Nicolas de Tudeschis (Panormitanus), and Johannes de Anania on Decretal. II, 24, 33. Also Felinus Sandei on Decretal. I, 33, 13 (c. dilecti, x de maior. et ob.), Commentaria … in V Lib. Decretalium … Pars Prima (Basel, 1567), cols. 1345-48. He says, for example, hominibus invitis non potest dominus alicuius loci subiicerc locum alteri. For the common law see M. 35 H. 6, cited by Henry's judge, Sir Anthony FitzHerbert, Graunde Abridgement, II, fol. xxiiia (fol. 242a in the 1577 ed.); the case of Henry iv's testament, cited from FitzHerbert by Swinburn, fol. 67a, marg. Will. Lambard (cited as Lambertus by Swinburn), APXAIONOMIA sive de Priscis Anglorum Legibus Libri… (London, 1568), fol. 130b (cited accurately by Swinburn). Cowell, J., Institutiones Juris Anglicani (Cambridge, 1605), Eng. cd., 1651, p. 125 ; Meriton, G., Touchstone of Wills …, 2nd ed. (London, 1671), p. 63.

14 Point 5.

15 Col. 851E.

16 Jason, op. cit. Hotman amplifies with better examples.

17 Hanscrecesse von 1477-1530, cd. D. Schäfer (Hanscrecesse, pt. 3, 7) (Leipzig, 1905), PP. 583, 585 (debate of 1520).

18 28 II. 8, c. 7. The legatee is to be taken as heir, any dispute being High Treason. Cf. the confirmation of the power in (1543-44) 35 H. 8, c. I.

19 Swinburn, fols. 57a-58a.

20 Swinburn, fols. 52b-61a.

21 Baldus' comment on Cod. v, 5, 6; the gloss of Accursius on the same (in contemporary copies usually with the text); Simo de Praetis, De Ultimarum Voluntatum Interpretatione (Frankfurt a. M., 1583), p. 149 (item contraltens incestas nuptias … non potest facere testamentum, nisi relinquendo filiis … si habet ex suo legitimo matrimonio); D. Covarruvias à Leyva, Opera Omnia (Frankfurt, 1583), fols. 80b ff. Boerius, N., Decisiones Burdegalenses (Lyons, 1566), p. 219, no. 127, n. 6.

22 Meriton, pp. 65-66.

23 32 H. 8, c. I (1540) and 33 H. 8, c. 5 (1542-43). On the relationship of ecclesiastical laws to common law and statute, which affected construction of these, the influence of 25 H. 8, c. 14 and c. 19, also 25 H. 8, c. 21 was immense.

24 Swinburn confines the rule to chattels, fol. 57a; so Meriton; Perkins, J., Profitable Booke (London, 1586), para. 496 (not conclusive) cited with Swinburn by ‘W. Sheppard’ (i.e., J. Doddridge or Dodcridge, a judge of the K. B., 1612), Touch-stone of Common Assurances, 6th ed. Hilliard (London, 1791), p. 404. Progress of the law can be observed in Blackstone, W., Commentaries …, 11, p. 499 (written ca. 1765).

25 Swinburn, fol. 198b. To his citations may be added Julius Clarus Alexandrinus (cited as Clarus), Tractatus de Testamentis, quaest. 31. (In Selecti Tractatus Iuris Varii, Venice, 1580, it appears at p. 85.)

26 Swinburn, fol. 201a. N. Boerius, Dec. Burd. (cited above), no. 127, n. 17, citing Baldus. Petrus Ducnazius (Pedro Ducñas), Fallentiae Regularum Iuris (Lyons, 1565), p. 386, col. a (reg. 366, lim. 7). This last work, which is rare, may be seen in the Bodleian Library, shelf-mark F.I.9.Jur. He could legitimize Richmond (G. Durandus, Speculum 1, I (De disp.), § Sunt quoque, No. 8: Lyons, 1538, fol. 34 b n) with Parliament's aid, but that would precipitately prejudice any son to be born legitimate.

27 The instinct not to anticipate events is actually put into words in 28 H. 8, c. 7, sec. 9

28 For his career see Letters and Papers, IV, 6149; Revue des Études Juives, xxvii, 49; Wood's Athenae Oxonienses, ed. Bliss, I, 259; Cooper's Athenae Cantabrigienses, I, 177; DNB.

29 The obscurity of the canon, and so of the common, law on this subject is well illustrated by the case of the 24th year of Henry viii which features in R. Brook, New Cases (see March, J., Some New Cases, 1651, p. 30 or Eng. Rep. 860, 73) and appears in his Graunde Abridgement (London, 1573), tit. Bastardie, n. 23.

30 Richard Pace to Henry viii: J. Le Grand, Histoire du Divorce de Henry VIII (1688), in (preuves), 1-4; Constant, 1, 52, n. 63 ad fin.; Hughes, P., Reformation in England, I (London, 1950), p. 157 , n. 2; Span. Cal., III, 2, pp. 193-194.

31 Chapuys to Charles v (May 19, 1536), cited P. Friedmann, Anne Boleyn, II (London, 1884), p. 176, also pp. 286-287; Wriothesley, p. 53.

32 Not as early as Mar. (Constant, 1, 46), for Lee's letter (cited above) is conclusive. Anne was at court from 1522. Wolsey's first letter to Casalc on the ‘divorce’ seems to be Letters and Papers, IV, 3913 (see Burnet, IV, 21 ff.), dated Dec. 5, 1527.

33 Mackie, pp. 314-316; Mattingly, pp. 181-182, 188.


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