Discuss religious events in England. From Henry VI
II – Elizabeth IEven though in the early reformation Period England became Protestants, the
Anglican Church kept many catholic practices in order not to alienate its
people. However, the first step away from catholic came in the reign of
Henry VIII not for religious reason but for political reasons.
In 1509, Henry married had married Catherine of Aragon, but the union had
produced no male heir to the throne, and only one surviving child, a
daughter, Mary. He wanted a son to succeed him. In this period, people
thought it was unnatural for women to rule over men. At best a woman ruler
meant a contested reign, at worst turmoil and revolution. Henry even came
to believe his union with Catherine, who had many miscarriages and still
births, had been cursed by god, because Catherine had first been his
brother’s wife, Arthur. Henry’s father, Henry VII, had betrothed Catherine
to Henry after his brother prematurely death.
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By 1527, Henry fell deeply in love with Anne Boleyn and he got so
determined to put Catherine aside and take Anne as his wife. For this to be
possible, Henry had to get dispensation from the pope, who refused.
The reformation Parliament
Unable to get the popes approval Henry take things in his own hands. In
1529, parliament convened for what would be a seven-year session that
earned it the title the ‘reformation parliament.’ During this period a
series of legislation that harassed, and finally place royal rein on, the
clergy. In January 1531, the convocation publicly recognised Henry as Head
of the Church on England. In 1532, parliament published grievances against
the church, ranging from alleged indifference to the need of the laity to
an excessive number of religious holidays. In the same year parliament
passed the submission of the clergy, which effectively placed canon law
under royal control and thereby the clergy under royal jurisdiction.
In January 1533, Henry wed the pregnant Ann and in next month parliament
made the king highest court of appeal for all English subjects. Then in
March of that same year, Cranmer became archbishop of Canterberry and led
the convocation in invalidating the king’s marriage with Catherine. In the
following year, parliament ended all payments by the English clergy and
laity to Rome and gave Henry sole jurisdiction over high ecclesiastical
appointment. The Act of Succession in the same year also gave Ann’s
children legitimate claim to the throne and the act of supremacy declared
Henry the “only supreme head in earth of the church of England.” After
failing to recognized the act of succession and the act of supremacy, Henry
had Thomas Moore and John Fisher, bishop of Rochester executed.
Wives of Henry
Henry’s domestic life lacks the consistency of his political life. In 1536,
Anne was executed for alleged treason and adultery, and her daughter,
Elizabeth illegitimate. Henry had four further marriages. His third wife
Jane Seymour died shortly after giving birth to his son Edward VI.
Catherine Parr, Henry’s fifth wife, a patron of humanists and reform.
The king’s Religious Conservatism
Henry’s boldness in politics and his domestic affairs did not extend to
religion. True, because of Henry’s actions, the pope had ceased to be head
of the English church and English bibles were placed in English churches,
but despite the break with Rome, Henry remained decidedly conservative in
his religious beliefs. With the Ten Article , he made only mild concessions
to protestant tenets, otherwise maintaining catholic doctrine in the
country filled with protestant sentiments. Angered at Protestants Henry
lashes out in his sixth article. These reaffirmed transubstantiation,
denied the Eucharistic cup to the laity, declare celibate vow inviolable,
provided for private masses, and ordered the continuation of oral
When Henry died, his son and successor, Edward VI was only ten years old.
Edward reigned under the successive regencies of Edward Seymour, who became
the duke of Somerset. During this time, England fully enacted the
protestant reformation. The new king and Somerset correspond directly with
John Calvin. Henry’s six articles and laws against heresy were repealed,
and clerical marriage and communion with cup were sanctioned. In 1549, the
act of uniformity imposed Thomas Crammer’s Book of Common Prayer on all
English churches. A forty-two article written by Thomas Cranmer was also
adopted, setting forth a moderate protestant doctrine. It taught
justification by faith and Holy Scripture. At this time, England had become
refuge for several Protestants.
All these changes were short lived as Mary I ascended the throne. She
proceeded to restore Catholic doctrine and practice with a single mind-
mindedness. Anyone who