- Act of Supremacy 1559
The Act of Supremacy 1559 (1 Eliz, c. 1) was an Act of the
Parliament of England, passed under the auspices of Queen Elizabeth I of England. It replaced the original Act of Supremacy 1534issued by Elizabeth's father, Henry VIII, which arrogated ecclesiastical authority to the monarchy, and which had been repealed by Mary I of England. Along with the Act of Uniformity 1559it made up what is generally referred to as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement.
Act of 1559
The Act rewound the clock to the state of religious affairs as they were on the death of Edward VI. It revived 10 acts which Mary had reverted, significantly tightened up the definition of what constituted
heresy, and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Governorof the Church of England. Supreme Governor was a suitably equivocal title that made Elizabeth head of the Church without ever saying she was. This was important because many felt that a woman could not rule the church.
Oath of Supremacy
The Oath of Supremacy, imposed by the Act of Supremacy 1559, provided for any person taking public or church office in
Englandto swear allegiance to the monarch as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Failure to so swear was a crime. The Oath was later extended to include Members of Parliament and people studying at universities. All but one of the bishops lost their posts, a hundred fellows of Oxford colleges were deprived; many dignitaries resigned rather than take the oath. The bishops who were removed from the ecclesiastical bench were replaced by appointees who would agree to the reforms.
Text of the Oath as published in
I, A. B., do utterly testify and declare in my conscience that the Queen's Highness is the only supreme governor of this realm, and of all other her Highness's dominions and countries, as well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things or causes, as temporal, and that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority ecclesiastical or spiritual within this realm; and therefore I do utterly renounce and forsake all foreign jurisdictions, powers, superiorities and authorities, and do promise that from henceforth I shall bear faith and true allegiance to the Queen's Highness, her heirs and lawful successors, and to my power shall assist and defend all jurisdictions, pre-eminences, privileges and authorities granted or belonging to the Queen's Highness, her heirs or successors, or united or annexed to the imperial crown of this realm. So help me God, and by the contents of this Book.
This had a specific impact on English Roman and European Roman Catholic parish histories since it expressly indicates that they must forswear allegiance to Roman Catholicism, inasmuch as the Church of Rome was directly a foreign jurisdiction, power, superiority and authority. However, during the early years of her reign Elizabeth practiced, in large measure, religious clemency and tolerance, which was an attempt to harmonise the state of affairs between the Roman Catholics and the
Church of England. This was necessary for Elizabeth to fully establish her power, hold off threats of invasion from France and Spain, and overcome the accusations of illegitimacy that plagued her early years. In the last twenty years of her reign, as Roman Catholic power within England waned (because Roman Catholics were forbidden to take public office and were slowly deprived of their lands and fortunes) and anti-Spanish, anti-Jesuit sentiment increased, however, Elizabeth made numerous Catholic Martyrs. Perhaps the most famous of these was Fr. Edmund Campion.
An act to the same effect was passed in Ireland in the following year, the "Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560" (2 Eliz. c. 1).
Queen Elizabeth the First of England
Elizabethan Religious Settlement
List of Catholic martyrs of the English Reformation
Religion in the United Kingdom
*UK-SLD|1518143|the Act of Supremacy 1558
* [http://history.hanover.edu/texts/engref/er79.html The Act of Supremacy] – Full text
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