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Act of Supremacy

The Act of Supremacy (1534) was the declaration by an act of Parliament under King Henry VIII of England that he was 'the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England' and that the English crown shall enjoy 'all honors, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.' Henry, who had been declared 'Defender of the Faith' for his pamphlet accusing Martin Luther of heresy, now was confirmed as head of the Church of England. This made official the English Reformation that had been brewing since 1527, along with a rather long-lasting distrust between England and the Catholic Church. The act was a result of Henry's want of an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon; however, the Pope Clement VII had refused to grant it. The Act of Supremacy caused any act of allegiance to the Pope (or any other non-Episcopalian religion, for that matter) to be considered treasonous. This act was repealed in 1554 by Queen Mary I, who was a staunch Catholic.

The second Act of Supremacy (1559) was the reinstation of the original Act of Supremacy (1534), where the English monarch was again the head of the Church of England, above the authority of the Pope. This was reinstated by Queen Elizabeth I, the Protestant monarch after the Catholic Mary I. Anyone who took public or church office was forced to take the Oath of Supremacy; there were penalties for violating that oath. However, Elizabeth, who was a politique, did not prosecute nonconformists, or those who did not follow the Church of England, unless their worships caused problems to the authority of the English monarch.