Henry VIII

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Was the Church popular on the eve of Reformation?


  • Church needed to be reformed, didn't need a Reformation.
  • 1500-1550 2500 people left money to Church in wills, people gave tithes.
  • Conservative literature- William Bond 1526 "Pilgrimage of Perfection"
  • Catholicism was familiar- most people were conservatists.


  • 1511 John Colet's sermon in Convocation described clergy as "unduly ambitious and greedy", criticism from within the Church as Colet was Dean of St Paul's Cathedral and a humanist. 
  • 1529 SImon Fish's pamphlet 'Supplication of the Beggars' described clergy as ravenous wolves- however easily countered by Thomas More's 'Supplication of the Souls' 1529.
  • Wolsey (Chancellor of England, Archbishop of York, Bishop of Lincoln) guilty of nepotism, absenteeism, pluralism.
  • Opposition- Lollards were small underground movement confined to London and Buckinghamshire. 1511-12 Bishop Longland of Lincoln burnt 5 Lollards for heresy despite hearing 350 cases (shows weren't much of a threat).
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Hunne and Standish Case

Hunne Case 1514

  • Richard Hunne found dead in Church cell- was in gaol (prison) for heresy.
  • A clergyman and two gaolers were accused of murdering him but never brought to trial.

Standish Case 1515

  • Friar Standish attacked the benefit of clergy and authority of the Church and so was unpopular with bishops.
  • Henry VIII intervened to state that the only superior to the King is '"God alone".
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  • Seen as the embodiment of what was wrong with the Church (pluralism, absenteeism, nepotism, and had at least 2 illegitimate children)
  • Wolsey made Papal Legate in 1518- so Henry thought he could get the Pope to agree to annul Henry's marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Was an impossible task.
  • Tried the 'nunnery plan', tried to become the 'acting Pope' while Clement VII was a captive, and tried to set up a court in Blackfriars in 1529.
  • After failure of Blackfriars and success of Charles V (CoA's nephew) Wolsey was sacked.
  • 1529- Cardinal Wolsey falls from power for failing to solve King's 'Great Matter' (start of Henrician Reformation).
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Henry VIII's attitude

  • Pious Catholic, attended Church regularly.
  • Pro-papal and had good relations with the papacy.
  • 1521 made 'Fidei Defensor' by Pope Leo X for writing 'Defence of the Seven Sacraments' affirming the sanctity of the bond of marriage and authority of the Pope.
  • The break with Rome was a last resort.
  • Even during the Reformation, Henry condemned works of heretics like Tyndale.
  • Was an erastian (believed in erastianism- the Church was controlled by the King, not the Churchmen)
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Why did Henry want to annul CoA?

Reasons for Henry's annulment:

  • No male heir- had a daughter Mary born in 1516, not suitable.
  • Lack of male heir was a punishment from God for marrying his dead brother's wife.
  • Leviticus Argument- claimed that if a man marries his brother's wife it is unlawful and will be childless.
  • Attracted to Anne Boleyn- wanted to marry her and have children with her.

Reasons against Henry's annulment:

  • Duteronomy Argument- claimed that a man could marry his brother's wife if the brother was dead.
  • Leviticus Argument not true- Henry wasn't childless, had a daughter.
  • CoA's marriage with Arthur hadn't been consummated- not a true marriage.
  • Pope Julius II granted Henry a 'dispensation' for him to marry CoA in 1509.
  • CoA refused the annulment, refused the 'nunnery plan' and her nephew Charles V had Pope Clement VII as his prisoner.
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Thomas Cranmer

  • Archbishop of Canterbury 1532 in succession to Warham who opposed divorce.
  • Cambridge scholar and chaplain to Boleyn family.
  • His appointment emphasised Henry's power over Church- Cranmer favoured reforming ideas and influenced by Luther.
  • Married Henry to Anne Boleyn Jan 1533 and declared Henry had never been married to CoA in May 1533.
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Thomas Cromwell

  • Helped to draft Acts of Parliament which created the new Church.
  • Henry's secretary and Henry's most powerful and trusted advisor in 1530s.
  • Principle architect of Dissolution of Monasteries.
  • Took Henry's hazy ideas and transformed them into workable policies; Supremacy Act, Treason Act.
  • Promised to make Henry the "richest man in Christendom"
  • Executed in 1540 for heresy under his own Treason Act.
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Key terms

Simony- the buying and selling of Church offices.

Pluralism- holding more than one Church office by one person.

Absenteeism- Churchmen were absent from their Church, a result of pluralism.

Nepotism- preferment in Church offices was given to friends and relations.

Erastianism- the Church was controlled by the King and not Churchmen.

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Acts of Parliament

Act in Restraint of Appeals 1533- all legal cases which arose in England were to be settled in England. Stopped CoA appealing to the Pope- break with Rome.

Succession Act 1534- Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn, was legitimate (born in 1533) but Mary (born in 1516) was a *******. Also named CoA 'Princess Dowager' as she was merely Henry's dead brother's wife.

Act of Supremacy 1534- Henry was the 'Supreme Head' of the Church and demoted the Pope to the 'Bishop of Rome'.

Treason Act 1534- treason could now be spoken, keeping people loyal and showing the royal power (also shows Henry isn't wholly successful if he had to enforce this). 

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Dissolution of the Monasteries 1536-40

  • Valor Ecclesiasticus was the survey of Churches compiled by Cromwell, allowed Henry to find out how much the monasteries were worth.
  • Henry wanted their wealth but claimed it was because of their corruption.
  • 2 stages- smaller moasteries first (as they were a weak target) on basis of corruption and then larger monasteries with claim they had voluntarily surrendered to King.
  • Court of Augmentations handled the vast sums gained, set up in 1536 by Cromwell.
  • The King was so greedy that he stripped alters, lead off rooves, stained glass and even door hinges.
  • 1539 Dissolution of Glastonbury Abbey, buildings torched and looted by King's men.
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Support and Opposition to Reformation


  • Carried through by the King who was a powerful monarch.
  • Had support of Parliament.
  • People thought it was temporary to get King's divorce.
  • Political revolution not religious- no changes in religious practice.
  • Opposition harshly dealt with, support brought rewards.


  • Bishops like Warham opposed.
  • CoA, but didn't want to cause a rebellion.
  • Opposition from abroad- Emperor Charles V.
  • Pilgrimage of Grace 1536- 30,000 rebels well organised and successful in taking control of the North. Rebels wanted monasteries resotred, Mary back in succession, dismissal of reformers. Henry unable to raise sufficient forces so the King faked a free pardon and a Parliament meeting in the North so he could destroy leaders with ease and send in troops to execute the rebels.
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Changes in Royal Policy

  • Ten Articles 1536 and Bishops Book 1537- theology of Church based on Lutheran ideas. Bishop's Book failed to show that good works and not faith alone was involved in salvation, so lacked royal approval.
  • Cromwell's Injunctions 1536 and 1538- aimed to improve spiritual education of the young, provide English Bible in every parish, destroy images that were object of superstition.
  • Act of Six Articles 1539- six key theological issues considered, all held Catholic positions, rejecting Lutheran ideas and showing England was a Catholic, not Protestant country.
  • King's Book 1543- thorough revision of Bishop's Book, showed the King's beliefs in Catholicism as he emphasised importance of mass, images and confession. 
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