- Act Concerning Peter's Pence and Dispensations
The Act Concerning Peter's Pence and Dispensations –
short titleEcclesiastical Licences Act 1533 – ("25 Henry VIII, c. 21") was passed by the Reformation Parliament in the early part of 1534and outlawed the payment of Peter's Penceand other payments to Rome.
Peter's Pencewas originally an annual tribute of one pennyfrom each householder owning a land of a certain value to the Popeand had been collected in Englandsince the reign of King Alfred. In the twelfth centuryit was fixed at an annual sum of £200 for the whole realm. It was not the largest payment to Rome but it is argued by Stanford Lehmbergthat it was deliberately mentioned in the Act because it was theoretically paid by laymenand thus might have seemed more intolerable than payments affecting clericsonly. [Stanford E. Lehmberg, "The Reformation Parliament, 1529-1536" (Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 191.]
The Act abolished Peter's Pence and all other payments to Rome and accorded to the
Archbishop of Canterburythe power to issue dispensations formerly given by the Pope. The fees which might have been charged for the dispensations were set and required the Royal Assent, confirmed by the Great Seal of the Realm, in matters for which the usual fee was over £4.
The Act's preamble is noteworthy because it is written in the form of a petition from the Commons to the King and is one of the first mentions of a "papal usurpation" and because it reasserts the theory that England has "no superior under
God, but only your Grace". It also claims that the authority of the King's "imperial crown" is diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope.
12 March 1534the Commons passed the Bill and were possibly responsible, argues Lehmberg, for the clauses which claimed that the Act should not be read as a decline from the "very articles of the catholic faith of Christendom". [Ibid, p. 192.] A clause in the Bill gave the Crown the power to conduct visitations of monasterieswhich had been exempt from the Archbishop's jurisdictionand forbid English clergy from visiting religious assemblies abroad.
When the Bill came to the Upper House some clauses were added in the second and third reading. The Bill was passed on the
20 Marchafter the fourth reading and after the Commons assented to the new clauses immediately. One the final day of the session, however, one more clause was added: the King would have the power at any period before the 24 Juneto abrogate the complete Act or just a section of it as he so wished. Lehmberg puts forth the idea that Henry VIII still wanted some leverage in bargaining with the Pope after the French King recently attempted to reconcile Henry with Pope Clement VII. [Ibid.] The final clause was never used as the French mission did not succeed.
*Stanford E. Lehmberg, "The Reformation Parliament, 1529 - 1536" (Cambridge University Press, 1970).
*UK-SLD|1517821|the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533
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