The Reign of Queen Elizabeth: Containing The Space of Forty Four Years, And Four Months
Queen Mary’s Death Concealed For Some Time 1558
THE Death of Mary, though foreseen, struck the counsellors and ministers with astonishment. They were all of the prevailing religion; and had advised, or at least approved the persecution which the protestants lately groaned under, and now, in all likelihood, the protestants were going in their turn to govern.
Mary’s death was therefore concealed for some hours, to give time to consult what was to be done. But as the Parliament was sitting, it was not in their power to decide any thing concerning the succession, especially as it was clearly settled by the will of Henry VIII, authorised by an act of Parliament which had never been repealed. Their consultation therefore ended only in a message to inform the Parliament of the Queen’s death. This was all that could be done on this occasion.
The House of Lords Deliberate Upon The Succession
The news was first communicated to the House of Lords, who immediately considered the rights of the persons who might pretend to the crown. If this affair had been left, to the decision of the Civil or Common Law, there would have been no small difficulty, so much had Henry perplexed
it by his divorces, and by contradictory acts of Parliament. But in England, the Parliament, which includes the King, Lords, and Commons, is the supreme legislator, and, when force does not interpose, the validity of its laws are unquestionable.
Henry VIII. obtained an act, empowering him to settle the line of succession as he should think proper. He placed Elizabeth next to her sister Mary, though both had been declared bastards. This sufficed to give Elizabeth a right, which the Parliament could not contest, since it was a parliamentary right, as founded in the act to empower Henry to settle the succession.