Act for the Marriage of Queen Mary
To Philip of Spain; 1554

Source:  George Burton Adams and and H. Morse Stephens, eds., Select Documents of English Constitutional History (New York and London: Macmillan, 1920).  Transcribed and analyzed by Anyusha Devendra.

Whereas most instant suit hath been made to your most excellent Majesty, on behalf of the most noble and most victorious prince Charles, emperor of Rome, for marriage to be had between your Highness, and his only son and heir the noble prince Philip of Spain: whereupon to the pleasure of Almighty God, to the comfort of your most noble person, and to the great and singular honour, wealth, benefit and commodity of this your realm of England, and of all us your most humble and obedient subjects of the same, there hath passed and been concluded in two sundry treaties, certain pacts and covenants touching the said marriage, with dependences and circumstances of the same; and in the one treaty these articles; first, it is covenanted, and agreed that as soon as conveniently may be, true and perfect marriage, by words of the time present, shall be contracted, solemnised and consummated in England, between the said most noble prince, and the said most virtuous lady, the queen; by force of which marriage so celebrated and consummated, the said most noble prince Philip shall during the said marriage have and enjoy jointly together with the said most gracious queen his wife, the style, honour and kingly name of the realms and dominions unto the said most noble queen appertaining, and shall aid her Highness, being his wife, in the happy administration of her Grace’s realms and dominions; the rights, laws, privileges and customs of the same realms and dominions being nevertheless preserved and maintained: and specially it is provided and covenanted, that the said most noble prince shall permit and suffer the said most gracious queen his wife, to have the whole disposition of all the benefices and offices, lands, revenues and fruits of the said realms and dominions, and that they shall be bestowed upon such as shall be naturally born in the same; and that all the matters of the said realms and dominions shall be treated and maintained in the same tongues wherein of old they have wont to be treated, and by the natural born of the same realms; it is also covenanted that the same most noble queen, by virtue of the aforesaid matrimony, shall be admitted into the society of the realms and dominions of the said most noble prince, as well such as he hath now presently, as such other also as during the same matrimony may come hereafter unto him; and for her dower, in case that her Highness overlive the said most noble prince her husband, she shall yearly receive three score thousand pounds, after the value of forty groats, Flemish money, to the pound: the same to be allotted and appointed upon all the realms, lands and patrimonial dominions, of the said most victorious lord, the emperor, his father, and lest that among their children there might arise some strife for the succession, and thereby disturb the fruit of perpetual concord that is hoped shall ensue of this matrimony between the realms and dominions of either party, the said succession shall be ordered in manner and form following: first, that as touching the right of the mother’s inheritance in the realm of England, and the other realms and dominions depending of the same, the children as well males as females that shall be born of this matrimony shall succeed in them, according to the laws, statutes and customs of the same: and as touching the lands that the said most noble prince shall leave behind him: first, there shall be reserved unto his eldest son the lord Charles of Austria, Infante of Spain, and to the children and heirs of him descending, as well females as males, all and singular their rights which to the said prince do either now or hereafter shall belong, and shall at any time by the death either of the noble queen his granddame, or the most victorious emperor Charles the Fifth his father, (which God long defer), be devolved unto him in the realms of Spain, of both the Sicilies, with all their appurtenances, in the dukedom of Milan, and other lands and dominions in Lombardy and Italy, whatsoever name and title they have, which nevertheless shall be burdened and charged with the aforesaid dower of sixty thousand pounds; in which realms, lands and dominions the children of this present matrimony shall pretend nothing so long as the said Lord Charles the Infante, or any issue of his body lawfully begotten, do live; but if it fortune the same lord Charles to die, and the issue of his body to fail, then and in that case the eldest son of this matrimony shall be admitted into the said right, and according to the nature, laws and customs of the said realms and dominions shall succeed: the same eldest son shall also succeed in all the dukedoms, earldoms, dominions and patrimonial lands belonging unto the said lord the emperor, as well in Burgundy as in the lower Germany: Provided nevertheless and expressly reserved in all and singular the above declared cases of succession, that whatsoever he or she be that shall succeed to them, they shall leave to every of the said realms, lands and dominions whole and entire their privileges, rights and customs, and the same realms and dominions shall administer and cause to be administered by the natural born of the same realms, dominions and lands, and in all things faithfully procure their utility and quiet, and shall rule and nourish them in good justice and peace, according to their statutes and customs: finally that between the said emperor, the prince and his successors, their realms and dominions whatsoever, and the said most gracious queen and her realms and dominions, there shall be from henceforth an entire and sincere fraternity, unity and most strait confederacy, forever (God willing) happily to endure, so as they shall mutually one of them aid another in all things which to themselves and their honour, and to the conservation of their heirs and successors shall be most agreeable, according to the strength, form and effect of the latter treaty of a strait amity, nearing date at Westminster the year of our Lord God one thousand five hundred forty and two, the declaration of which treaty beareth date at Utrecht the sixteenth day of January in the year of our Lord God one thousand five hundred forty and six. And in one other treaty these articles following: first, that the said most noble prince shall not promote, admit or receive to any office, administration or benefice in the said realm of England, and the dominions thereunto belonging, any stranger or person not born under the dominion and subjection of the said most noble queen of England: that the said most noble prince shall receive and admit into the service of his household and court gentlemen and yeomen of the same realm of England in a convenient number, and shall esteem, entertain and nourish them as his proper subjects, and shall bring none in his retinue, nor have none with him that will do any displeasure or wrong to the subjects of the said realm; and if they do, he shall take order to correct them with condign punishment and see them expelled his court; that the said most noble prince shall do nothing whereby anything be innovated in the state and right, either public or private, or in the laws and customs of the said realm of England of the dominions thereunto belonging; but shall contrary wise, confirm and keep to all estates and orders their rights and privileges: that the said lord prince shall not lead away the aforesaid most noble lady the queen , out of the borders of her Highness’ realm, unless she herself desire it, nor carry the children that shall be born of this matrimony out of the same realm of England, but, to the hope of succession to come, shall there suffer them to be nourished and brought up, unless it shall be otherwise thought good by the consent and agreement of the nobility of England: and in case that no children being left, the said most noble queen do die before him, the said lord prince shall not challenge any right at all in the said kingdom, but without any impediment shall permit the succession thereof to come unto them to whom it shall belong and appertain by the right and laws of the said realm: item, that the said most noble prince shall not bear or carry over out of the aforesaid realm, the jewels and precious things of estimation, neither shall he alienate or do away any whit of the appurtenances of the said realm of England, or suffer any part of them to be usurped by his subjects or any other; but shall see that all and singular places of the realm, and specially the forts and frontiers of the same, be faithfully kept and preserved to the use and profit of the said realm and by the natural born of the same; he shall not suffer any ship, guns, ordnances whatsoever of war or defence to be removed or conveyed out of the said realm, but shall contrary wise cause them diligently to be kept and renewed when need requireth, and shall so provide that the same may always be ready in their strength and force for the defence of the realm: item, that the realm of England, by occasion of this matrimony, shall not directly or indirectly be entangled with the war that is between the most victorious lord the emperor, father unto the said lord prince, and Henry, the French king, but he the said lord Philip, as much as shall lie in him, on the behalf of the said realm of England, shall see the peace between the said realms of France and England observed, and shall give no cause of any breach: so it may also please your Majesty for the more perfect corroboration and strength of the said articles, grants, pacts and agreements, and to the intent that the same may be the more inviolably observed and kept, that it may be enacted by the authority of this present parliament, that all and singular the said articles, covenants, grants, pacts, treaties and agreements, had, made and concluded for and concerning the said marriage between your highness and the said prince of Spain, and all and singular the dependences thereof before rehearsed, shall immediately after the said marriage had and solemnised, stand, remain and abide in perfect force and efficacy, according to the effect, sense and true meaning of the said treaty. And where among other the articles above remembered, it is agreed, that the said most noble prince shall, during the said marriage, have and enjoy jointly together with your Majesty, the style, honour and kingly name of the said realms and dominions to your highness appertaining, and shall also aid your Highness being his wife in the happy administration of your realms and dominions, the rights, laws, privileges and customs of the said realms and dominions being nevertheless reserved and maintained: and where also it is provided, covenanted and agreed among other the said articles in the said treaty by and on the behalf of the said most noble prince, that the said most noble prince shall permit and suffer your most excellent Majesty to have the whole disposition of all the benefices and offices, lands, revenues and fruits of the said realms and dominions, and that the said most noble prince shall not do anything whereby the estate and right, either public or private, or the laws and customs of the said realm of England, or the dominions thereunto belonging be innovated: for the more express explanation and declaration of the premises, we your faithful, loving and obedient subjects, do most humbly beseech your Highness that it mat be provided, enacted and established by the authority of this present parliament, that your Majesty as our only queen, shall and may solely and as a sole queen, use, have and enjoy the crown and sovereignty of and over your realms, dominions and subjects, with all the pre-eminence’s, prerogatives, dignities, authorities, jurisdictions, honours, castles, manors, lands, tenements and hereditaments belonging to the same, in such sole and only estate and in as large and ample manner and form in all degrees, acts, exercises and conditions, from and after the solemnisation of the said marriage, and at all times during the same, which God grant long to continue and endure, as your Highness now hath had, used, exercised and enjoyed, or might have had, used or enjoyed the same before the solemnisation of the said marriage: without any right, title, estate, claim or demand to be given, come or grow unto the said most noble prince as tenant by the courtesy of this realm, or in or by any other means by force of the said marriage, of, in and to your said imperial crown, sovereignty, realms, dominions, subjects, pre-eminences, prerogatives, dignities, authorities, jurisdictions, honours, castles, manors, lands, tenements and hereditaments belonging to the same, by any laws, usage or custom whatsoever; the said marriage or any statute, custom, prescription or other thing to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding. And yet nevertheless that it may be enacted, ordained and established by the authority of this present parliament, that all and singular gifts, grants, letters, patents, exchanges, confirmations, leases and other writings, which after the said marriage and during the same shall pass and be made of the said benefices, offices, lands, revenues and fruits or any of them, shall be entitled, set forth and made in the names of the said most noble prince and of your moist excellent Majesty, whether the said most noble prince shall be present within the said realms and dominions or within any of them, or absent; and the same gifts, grants, letters, patents, exchanges, confirmations, leases and other writings, so set forth and made, shall be signed and firmed with the sign manual of your Highness; and the same so signed, and sealed with the great seal of this realm, or with such seal as hath been accustomed, shall be by authority of this present parliament deemed, adjudged, declared and pronounced to be as good, perfect and of like force, strength and effect in the law, to all intents, constructions and purposes, against the said most noble prince, and against your Highness your heirs and successors as if your excellent Majesty had been at the time of the making thereof sole and unmarried. And that it may be also further enacted, ordained and established by the authority aforesaid, that all commissions, instructions, pardons, writs of summons, prorogations, or dissolutions of  parliaments, royals assents, adjournments of terms, original writs and other process, instruments, licenses, judicial acts and all manner writings, other than the said gifts, grants, letters, patents, exchanges, confirmations, leases and other writings concerning or in any wise touching the said benefices, offices, lands, revenues and fruits or any of them, after the said marriage, and during the time of the same, whether the said most noble prince shall be present within the said realms and dominions, or within any of them, or absent, after the signing by your Majesty of the warrants or writings of them heretofore used to be signed, shall pass, be set forth and made from time to time in the names of the said most noble prince, and your most excellent Highness, by such offices and ministers and in such manner, form an order and hath been used and accustomed to pass, be set forth and made in the time or times of your Graces most noble progenitors or any of them; and shall be by the authority of this present parliament, of the same and like force, strength and effect in the law to all intents, constructions and purposes, as if you most excellent Majesty were then sole and not married; the said marriage or any law, usage or custom to the contrary in any wise notwithstanding.


Document analysis:

        This document is an act of Parliament decreed by the English parliament in 1554, concerning the marriage of Mary I to the future Philip II of Spain. As an official act it should be seen as a public document which was intended to be read, although not by the masses. It would have been written by parliamentary ministers. This explains the very formal nature of the language used “…your most excellent Majesty, on the behalf of the most noble and victorious prince…”. The members of parliament would also have been gentry, which is perhaps the reason why so much emphasis was put on both the preservation of England’s laws and customs as well as the requirements for only English nobles to take English offices.

         The act officially would have been produced in order to formalise arrangements for the marriage of Philip and Mary. In fact the document seems to serve as a sort of business contract between England and Spain. It tells Spain what she can expect from the marriage and also reassures the English that Philip would not have too much power, nor would England become an outpost of the burgeoning Spanish empire. The document’s immediate audience would have been the English parliament but the act would have been published and as a result it was also intended for consideration by the two individuals concerned and the English and Spanish gentry, those with the most at stake where a union was concerned.

         As the document is an act of parliament it is therefore laying down how the marriage should proceed and function. As a result it can be said to be believable, since there are no opinions or beliefs asserted within the document. There are, however, aspects of the document which do seem somewhat unlikely. The concept of “…entire and sincere fraternity, unity and most strait confederacy…’ between England and Spain must have seemed a fairly remote possibility at the time, considering the fractious relations between the two countries, particularly where religion was concerned. There is also confusion over the exact role that Philip would play. At several points it is emphasised that he would enjoy “…the style, honour and kingly name…” yet the act also stipulates that Mary “…as our only Queen, shall and may solely and as a sole Queen, use and enjoy the Crown…”. It is therefore unclear whether the English ministers wished Philip to become involved in affairs of state or not.

        As this document is an act of Parliament every detail and every possible eventuality is described and therefore there is little room for assumptions. One exception is the section in which future succession is explained. It is assumed that the couple will have children, rather than might have children. This shows the importance of having healthy male heirs in Early Modern Europe, especially for monarchs whose successions were somewhat insecure and therefore children were needed to continue their respective- in this case Tudor and Habsburg- dynasties.

        The language of the document suggests the deference shown at the time towards those of royal blood. It suggests that marriage was used as a political tool to cement alliances between the various European powers: it was less about a personal relationship and more about enhancing the relations between England and Spain. The complicated details of succession suggest that succession had been a contentious issue in the past and that royal dynasties felt somewhat insecure. The many references to the hope for “…perpetual concord…” suggests recent strife between the two European nations. It is emphasised several times that the laws and customs of each realm or dominion should be respected which perhaps tells us that in the past politically expedient marriages had resulted in one nation dominating the other. England seems to have had more to lose than Spain, perhaps because a foreign king could be expected to exert more control than a foreign queen. “…first that the said most noble prince shall not promote…to any office…any stranger…”. The importance of the nobility in England is emphasised by the fact that they would have to give their consent to the royal children being taken out of the country. The document tells us that a long-standing conflict is in process between Charles V, the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, and Henry II of France. Interestingly, considering England’s historic enmity with France, it is stipulated that England would not help in any conflict. We can see a determination for minimal Spanish involvement in the section that says Philip would not be entitled to any “…right, title, estate…”.

        There are several pieces of information which I would like to have about the circumstances in which the document was produced. It would be interesting to know why a union between England and Spain was desired by those two countries, why each country needed the other and what each country stood to gain from such a marriage. Such information would explain the continual seeking of ‘perpetual concord’ described in the document. It would be especially interesting to know which country was deemed to be the wealthier or more powerful at the time the act was decreed. The fact that Philip was denied many rights in the act, such as the right to remain King after Mary’s death, suggests that there was a certain amount of animosity on the part of Parliament. It would be interesting to know why this was.

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        Charles V planned a division of his territories between his son Philip and his brother Ferdinand. Philip would have Spain and the Netherlands and Charles considered it essential for him to gain England as a means of counter-balancing the rival power of Valois France. (Source: Tittler). Charles also longed to bring England back into the Catholic fold. “There was about the English match an imaginative boldness typical of the Emperor, coupled with a greater awareness of economic and strategic realities” (Source: Elliott). Charles envisaged an empire of 3 logical units: England and the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, and America. A permanent and closer unity between England and Spain would transform the balance of power in Europe to the detriment of France. Spain could control the Channel (vital for transatlantic trading routes) and could encircle France (Source: Ridley).

        Mary admired Charles, who had often advised her on political matters, and also admired Philip’s ardent Catholicism. She understood the trade advantages that would result of the marriage and was also aware of the formidable military advantages that would occur as a result of an alliance with Spain. An alliance with the Netherlands would also be useful, while Mary also had a natural affinity for the Spanish as her own mother, Catherine of Aragon, had been the daughter of the legendary Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. (Source: Ridley). The trade aspect was particularly important: as part of the marriage treaty with Philip, English merchants would enjoy access to the huge riches of South America and there would also be continued ties with the valuable Dutch market. (Source: Tittler). Englishmen could once more figure on the diplomatic and military stage and the Spanish offered inducements such as recovering French territories previously lost in the 100 Years’ War. (Source: Grierson).

        Spain was deemed to be the more powerful of the two nations. Her vast empire included the Netherlands, Franche-Comté, Naples, Sicily, Milan and the Indies. The wealth generated by the latter territory enhanced the nation’s prestige. England, in contrast, was militarily and financially relatively weak.

        Although the final marriage treaty held merit from an English point of view, the sudden prospect of a foreign Roman Catholic monarch aroused great xenophobia and indignation in England. Prominent men such as Sir Thomas Wyatt objected to Philip’s obvious Catholicism; there had been poor relations between the two countries since Henry VIII’s conversion to Protestantism. Both the Houses of Lords and Commons deliberately curtailed the potential extent of Philip’s participation in English affairs (Source: Tittler). Stephen Gardiner, Mary’s Lord Chancellor, realised the danger of England falling under Spanish domination and therefore insisted on all kinds of complicated guarantees in the marriage treaty (Source: Ridley).

        The mutual benefits of the marriage for England and Spain- the military alliances, trade alliances and religious significance of Roman Catholicism to both parties- explain why the document continually refers to the need for amity between the two nations. The details of the long, bloody Habsburg-Valois wars explain why the English were so keen to not be involved and included a clause against it. Perhaps the English anticipated that this was a major reason for Spain to be so keen on the match, which indeed it was, as was previously explained. Spain’s power and influence explain to us why the English were so keen to minimise Philip’s involvement in English affairs, as is demonstrated several times in the document. The history of animosity between the two nations sheds light on the caution exercised by Parliament in writing the marriage act.
 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:
The Reign of Mary I (Robert Tittler)
The Life and Times of Mary Tudor (Jasper Ridley)
King of Two Worlds: Philip II of Spain (Edward Grierson)
Imperial Spain 1469-1716 (J. H. Elliott)
 
 

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