It is an official declaration that describes why the Parliament had found, the year before, that the marriage of Edward IV of England to Elizabeth Woodville had been invalid, and consequently their children, including Edward, Richard and Elizabeth, were illegitimate and, therefore, debarred from the throne. Thus Richard III was proclaimed the rightful king.
Edward's marriage was invalidated because the king was said, on the testimony of a priest, to have precontracted a marriage to Lady Eleanor Butler.
And how also, that at the time of contract of the same pretensed Marriage, and before and long time after, the said King Edward was and stood married and troth-plight to one Dame Eleanor Butler, Daughter of the old Earl of Shrewsbury, with whom the same King Edward had made a precontract of Matrimony, long time before he made the said pretensed Marriage with the said Elizabeth [Woodville] Grey, in manner and form above-said.
The document also claims that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother used witchcraft to get the king to marry her. Since Richard's brother George, Duke of Clarence, had been executed and attainted, his descendants forfeited all rights to the throne, leaving Richard the true heir. For good measure, the document also hints that George and Edward were themselves illegitimate, while Richard, "born within this land" was the "undoubted son and heir of Richard, late Duke of York".
Edward's reign is also criticised. He was led by "sensuality and concupiscence" and delighted in "adulation and flattery", being easily influenced by "persons insolent, vicious and of inordinate avarice", a reference to the Woodville family. In contrast Richard is a man distinguished by "great wit, prudence, justice, princely courage, and memorable and laudable acts in diverse battles."
After Richard was overthrown, the act was repealed by the first parliament of the new king, Henry VII. Henry also ordered his subjects to destroy all copies of it (and all related documents) without reading them. So well were his orders carried out that only one copy of the law has ever been found. This copy was transcribed by a monastic chronicler into the Croyland Chronicle, where it was discovered by Sir George Buck more than a century later during the reign of James I.
The repealing Act was passed in the first Parliament of Henry VII, stating that the original Titulus Regius
be void, adnulled, repelled, irrite [invalidated], and of noe force ne effecte
and that the original be destroyed, and that any copies should be either destroyed or returned to Parliament on pain of fine and imprisonment.
A law report from his reign states:
...that the said Bill, Act and Record, be anulled and utterly destroyed, and that it be ordained by the same Authority, that the same Act and Record be taken out of the Roll of Parliament, and be cancelled and brent ['burned'], and be put in perpetual oblivion.
The 100-year gap during which Titulus Regius was censored coincided with the ruling period of the Tudor dynasty. During this period it was known that Richard had claimed that a marriage pre-contract invalidated Edward's sons' right to the throne, but it was not known who Edward's supposed "real" wife was. Thomas More assumed that the act referred to Edward's longtime mistress Elizabeth Lucy, a view that was repeated until Buck discovered the original document. The Tudor king Edward VI was enumerated to recognise the legality of Edward V's reign.
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