Timetable of Legal History logo

King Henry VIII had been king of England for 37 years when his lords met for Parliament in 1545. His tyranny over his people had become a bane of their existence as he became the poster child fat bastard. He had killed or imprisoned most of his wives and though then wedded to Catherine Parr, his hold over his country was that of a tyrant.

But wealthy and rich tyrants attract a certain kind of admirer. Amidst his Lords and lawyers of the court, some were smart enough to suggest publicly whatever it took.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the extraordinary preamble to an otherwise mundane statute of 1545, An Act concerning the Grant of one entire Subsidie and two whole Fifteenes and Tenths granted by the Temporaltie, for which the official legal citation is 37 Hen.VIII. c. 25:

"We, the Kings Majesties most humble faithful and obedient Subjects, the Lords spiritual and temporal and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, prudently calling to our remembrance, how long wee have enjoyed the special grace and blessing of God, before all other nations of the world, having continued and prospered now these many years under so godly and virtuous a Prince, whose most excellent virtue and wisdom, besides other his innumerable benefits conferred to this Realm, have conserved us in tranquility and peace, even from the beginning of his Reign, until now of late that his Highness hath been compelled for God his friends and his own causes to move war in one place and to defend in another against the ancient enemies of this Realm, as well the Frenchmen as the Scots; and also considering the infinite costs and charges which his Highness hath necessarily sustained both by Sea and by Land, for the surety comfort and safeguard of us his natural and faithful subjects against the main force & violence of our said enemies, who against all honour and faith have attempted to make divers and sundry invasions spoils burnings and depopulations in this his Majesties Realm of England and other his Highness Dominions.

"The force and malice whereof notwithstanding, we the people of this his Realm have for the most part of us so lived under his Majesty's sure protection, and do yet so live out of all fear and danger as if there were no war at all, even as the small fishes of the Sea in the most tempestuous and stormy weather do lie quietly under the rock or bank side, and are not moved with the surges of the water, nor stirred out of their quiet place, howsoever the wind bloweth.Henry VIII

"We cannot for our most bounden duties but knowledge and confess our selves to have and enjoy under his Highness, and by his most gracious and godly regiment, all that ever we have in this world, rendering unto his Majesty next God our most humble and immortal thanks with our most humble sute and lowly prayer on our knees that it may please the same to persevere in studying and caring for us, who being left to ourselves are not able to continue one day in such sort as his Highness hath preserved us almost these forty years ; And albeit we have nothing worthwhile wherewithall to recompense any part of his Majesties infinite goodness, sundry ways heretofore declared towards us, yet to shew ourselves mindful of our most bounden duties towards his Majesty our most gracious and dread Sovereign Lord, and likewise in consideration of his Majesty's more than fatherly affection towards us his Graces poor subjects, hath not hitherto for the surety and defence of us our wives and children either spared to employ his most royal person, or to consume his own treasure and possessions, we have consulted together and determined, for a remembrance and declaration of our good wills and thankful minds again towards his Majesty, to beseech his Majesty most humbly to accept and graciously to receive at our hands the simple token or gift which we do herewith present to his Majesty in writing freely with one assent granting the same, most humbly beseeching his Majesty to accept the same, as a poor token of our true and faithful hearts towards him, as it pleased the great King Alexander to receive thankfully a cup of water of a poor man by the highway side; And that this our grant herein may be ratified and confirmed by his Majesty's royal assent...."


Editor's note: we've changed some of the archaic English spelling to modern English for readilibility (eg. Highnesse became Highness; realme became realm; faithfull became faithful; and Majestie became Majesty). No changes were made to the title or in the event of uncertainty of the word in its ancient form (eg. "sute").