An Act Marriages to stand notwithstanding Pre-contracts. [1540.]
WHEREAS heretofore the usurped Power of the Bishop of Rome hath always intangled
and troubled the meer Jurisdiction and regal Power of
this Realm of England and also unquieted much the Subjects of the same, by his usurped Power in them, as by making that unlawful which by Godís
Word is lawful, both in Marriages and other Things, as hereafter shall appear
more at length, and till flow of late in nor Sovereign Lordís Time, which is
otherwise by Learning taught than his Predecessors in Times past of long Time
have been, hath so continued the same, whereof yet some Sparks be left, which
hereafter† might kindle a greater Fire,
and so remaining, his Power not to seem utterly extinct
II. Therefore it is thought most convenient to the Kingís Highness, his Lords Spiritual and Temporal,† with the Commons of this Realm, assembled in this present Parliament, That two Things specially for this Time be with Diligence provided for, whereby many Inconveniencies have ensued, and many moelse† mought ensue and follow (2) as where heretofore divers and many Persons, after long Continuance together in Matrimony, without any Allegation of either of the Parties, or any other at their Marriage, why the same Matrimony should not be good, just and lawful, and after the same Matrimony solemnized and consummate by carnal Knowledge, and also sometime Fruit of Children ensued of the same Marriage, have nevertheless, by an unjust Law of the Bishop of Rome, which is, That upon Pretence of a former Contract made, and not consummate by carnal Copulation (for Proof whereof two Witnesses by that Law were only required) been divorced and separate, contrary to Godís Law, and so the true Matrimony, both solemnized in the Face of the Church, and consummate with bodily Knowledge, and confirmed also with the Fruit of Children had between them, clearly frustrate and dissolved (3) Further Ď also, by reason of other Prohibitions than Godís Law admitteth, for their Lucre by that Court invented,† the Dispensations whereof they always reserved to themselves, as in Kindred or Affinity between Cousin Germanes, and so to fourth and fourth Degree, carnal Knowledge of any of the same Kin, or Affinity before in such outward Degrees, which else were lawful, and be not prohibited by Godís Law, (4) and all because they would get Money by it, and keep a Reputation to their usurped Jurisdiction, whereby not only much Discord between lawful married Persons hath (contrary to Godís Ordinance) arisen, much Debate and Suit at the Law, with wrongful Vexation, and great Damage of the innocent Party hath been procured, and many just Marriages brought in doubt and Danger of undoing, and also many Times undone, and lawful Heirs disherited, whereof there had never else, but for his vain-glorious Usurpation, been moved any such Question, since Freedom in them was given us by Godís Law which ought to be most sure and certain ; (5) but that notwithstanding, Marriages have been brought into such an Incertainty thereby, that no Marriage could be so surely knit and bounden, but it should lie in either of the Parties Power and Arbiter, casting away the Fear of God, by Means and Compasses to prove a Pre-contract,† a Kindred and Alliance, or a carnal Knowledge, to defeat the same, and so under the Pretence of these Allegations afore rehearsed, to live all the Days of their Lives in detestable Adultery, to the utter Destruction of their own Souls, and the Provocation of the terrible Wrath of God upon the Places where such Abominations were used and suffered :' (6) Be it therefore enacted by the King our Sovereign Lord; the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by Authority† of the fame, That from the first Day of the Month of July next coming, in the Year of our Lord God† 1540, all and every such Marriages as within this Church of England shall be contracted between lawful Persons (as by this Act we declare all Persons to be lawful, that be not prohibited by Godís Law to marry) (7) such Marriages being contract and solemnized in the Face of the Church, and consummate with bodily† Knowledge, or Fruit of Children or Child being had therein between the Parties so married, shall be by Authority of this present Parliament aforefaid deemed, judged and taken to be lawful, good, just and indissoluble, notwithstanding any Pre-contract or Pre-contracts of Matrimony not consummate with bodily Knowledge, which either of the Parties so married or both shall have made with any other Person or Persons before the Time of contracting that Marriage which is solemnized and consummate, or whereof such Fruit is ensued, or may ensue, as afore, and notwithstanding any Dispensation, Prescription, Law, or other Thing granted or confirmed by Act, or otherwise ; (8) and that no Reservation or Prohibition, Godís Law except, shall trouble or impeach any Marriage without the Levitical Degrees ; (9) and that no Person, of what Estate, Degree or Condition soever he or she be, shall, after the first Day of the said Month of July aforesaid, be admitted in any of the Spiritual Courts within this the Kingís Realm, or any his Graceís other Lands and Dominions, to any Process, Plea or Allegation, contrary to this foresaid Act.
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