This Act was passed after the Act of Supremacy 1534, which made the king the "Only Head of the Church of England on Earth." The 1534 Act made it treason, punishable by death, to disavow the Act of Supremacy. Sir Thomas More was executed under this Act.
It was introduced as a blanket law in order to deal with the minority of cases who would refuse to accept Cromwell's and Henry's changes in policies, instead of using the more traditional method of attainders.
The Act specified that all those were guilty of high treason who:
|“||do maliciously wish, will or desire by words or writing, or by craft imagine, invent, practise, or attempt any bodily harm to be done or committed to the king's most royal person, the queen's or the heirs apparent [Elizabeth], or to deprive them of any of their dignity, title or name of their royal estates, or slanderously and maliciously publish and pronounce, by express writing or words, that the king should be heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel or usurper of the crown...||”|
The word 'maliciously' was added in several cases to require evil intent, and the Act meant that it was very dangerous to say anything against what the King had done.
The Act also made it treason to rebelliously keep or withhold from the King his castles, forts, ships, or artillery, and to fail to surrender any of them within six days of being commanded to do so. It also abolished sanctuary for those accused of high treason.
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