28th July 1863. Treasonable Thoughts.
Between 1530 and 1540 Henry VIII was to execute 300 on Treason charges.
The Treason Act of 1534 aimed against those who disavowed Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy claimed many victims including three Carthusian priors and a monk who were hanged and quartered in 1535, a few weeks before the beheading of Sir Thomas More and Cardinal Fisher on Tower Green, London.
On the accession of his son Edward VI in 1547, all forms of high treason introduced since 1351, except forging and counterfeiting, were abrogated.
However the Act created new treasonable acts such as denying the King was Supreme Head of the Church, and attempting to interrupt the succession as determined by the 3rd Succession 1543 Act which had returned the right of Mary and Elizabeth to succeed after their half-brother.
After Elizabeth succeeded in 1558, an Act of 1570 stated that a charge of High Treason could be used if there was an intention to cause: ‘bodily harm to the Queen, levy war, incite others or say she ought not to enjoy the Crown, or publish in writing, saying she is heretic, tyrant or usurper…or to say that enacted by Parliament do not govern a successor’.
The underlying reason behind the Tudor Treason Acts was a paranoia aimed to protect the succession in favour of the Family who had defeated the last of the Plantagenets in 1485.
Potential interlopers were condemned with Henry VIII determined that the succession should go via his heirs, and not to the likes of Buckingham who had been executed back in 1521 for ‘having treasonable thoughts’.
It resulted in the loss of his estates Penshurst and Thornbury, which the Crown acquired along with twelve castles.
Sir Thomas Cromwell, the King’s Chief Minister, produced a new Treason Bill which made it High Treason punishable by death and confiscation even to question verbally any of Henry’s titles let alone in writing or by act and said that verbal treason had been an offence in Common Law since the middle of the last century.
However Cromwell ironically, was ‘hoist by his own petard’ being charged with High Treason and Heresy, and trumped-up charges that he had sworn to marry the King’s daughter Mary in 1538 and usurp the throne. He was executed.
The charge and penalty was a repeat of what Cromwell himself had suggested for dealing with the remaining Plantagenets, including the aged Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.
Lady Jane Grey was executed for treason along with her husband, the Protestant, Guildford Dudley, son of John Dudley, created Earl of Warwick by Edward VI in 1547, after Jane had been proclaimed queen for 9 days, in place of Catholic Mary the rightful heiress.
When Mary succeeded in 1553 she abolished all Treason Acts since 1351 and Not until the Statute Law Revision Act of Today in 1863 was section 2 of Mary’s Act repealed, and not until 1967 was the remainder repealed.