This article reassesses Henry VIII's succession acts. It argues that the first was primarily concerned with the breach with Rome, but that the second and third revolutionized succession law. Parliament accepted Henry's right to limit the succession to legitimate 'heirs of his body', so excluding collaterals, and to designate in their place whoever he wished to succeed. This allowed him to deny the crown to Mary and Elizabeth because of illegitimacy, but enabled them to succeed as his nominees. The original legislation shows an awareness of the contradiction in this. The consequent difficulty in reconciling common law and statute was at the heart of the 1553 crisis, the claims of both Mary and Elizabeth and the ongoing Elizabethan succession debate. The accession of James I punctured Henry's scheming and marked a return to common law rules.