Key issue 2: Religious changes 1547-1558

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1. Religious reform 1547-1553

England 1547

  • Death of Henry VIII (Catholic with teh monarch at the head of the church)   --> Edward VI is protestant
  • Edward Seymour (Somerset) dominates the regency council after the death of Henry VIII 
  • Changes to the ordinary English people's values and attitudes (they have previously been raised on Catholic values)

                       - Catholic churches are visually appealing + traditional

                       - protestant emphasis on preaching

  • Have to convince the high ranking members of the church (Bishops) 

                       - Clergy, Somerset is protestant (moderate)

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2. To what extent did England become protestant un

- Church of England was still Catholic without the pope as the head of the church (still support for traditional practices and changes resulted in unrest)

- Difficult to remove traditional catholic practices                                                                                                        ~Would have to win over the heart and minds of the English people                                                                                                                ~ Protestantism was less visually appealing (harder to convince)

Religous reform under Somerset proceeded slowly and cautiously 

  • Old traditional practices were attacked and destroyed 
  • Bishops were divided in their change
  • Lower clergy opposed the change
  • No fully reformed Church put in place

1547 Protestant reform

  • Royal visitation (examined the state of the clergy and practices of the church)
  • Book of Homilies placed in every church
  • All clergy ordered to conduct their services in English 
  • Iconoclasm, the removal of images and statues
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3. Chantries and Treasons Act 1547

Chantries Act 1547

  • Economic reasons, used to raise money to fund the war against Scotland
  • Religious reasons, to remove/attack superstition by removing them

Treasons Act

  • Parliament repealed the Treason Act 
  • Free to discuss more radical reform 
  • Released more radical views, unrest and iconoclastic attacks

-Government was now in a stronger position to bring in more protestant measures due to

  • The success of the campaign against Scotland
  • Changes through the Act of uniformity 
  • It would satisfy the moderate reformers
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Religious reforms

  • Sacraments consisted of just communion, baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial 
  • Clergy allowed to marry 
  • masses for the souls of the dead not approved
  • masses to be in the vernacular (English)

Success of Gov. attempts to introduce moderate protestantism 

  • Difficult task as many of the clergy did not know the mass, prayers + Bible very well 
  • However showed their willingness to improbve the Church

Religious changes under Nortumberland

  • New ordinal (Jan 1550) universal procedure for the ordination of priests
  • > led to the battle between Ridley and Cranmer + Hooper declined the part of Bishop of Gloucester
  • Changes had already been made + attack on Catholics
  • > july 1547: Royal injunctions ordered the removal of religious images
  • >february 1548: All images to be removed
  • >december 1549: Proclaimation orders the destruction of the remainder of images
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Protestant reforms in 1550

- Conservative Bishops were deprived of their sees

- Gave the reformists a majority among the bishops 

- When parliament met in January 1552 the government was able to embark on a large-scale programme of protestant reform

- A new Treason Act was introduced, made it an offence to question the Royal supremacy or any beliefs of the Church

- Followed by a Second Act of Uniformity 

Reform was widespread across England with the mass population in support of the new religion

- Destroying of religious images, made the imposing of protestantism even clearer to the laity

- Second Book of Common Prayer, removed doubts about the changes from the First Book of Common Prayer, any other form of book was illegal

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Edward's Death + was England protestant? (argument

- There were steady but slow moves towards protestantism throughout Edward's reign, but major ones were only brought in during the last few years of his reign 

  • Second Prayer Book 
  • Act of Uniformity 
  • Forty-Two articles
  • Little time to impact + Forty-Two articles never became law due to Edward's death

- Changed in comparison with 1547

  • Influence of the two protectors 
  • influence of the protestant bishops
  • overseas theologists e.g Martin Luther

- Officially a protestant nation

  • Churches had been changed
  • Altars replaced with communion tables
  • New service used 

Hard to judge the extent to which the ordinary people of England welcomed protestantism, people did not welcome or oppose the changes (ignores Prayer book rebellion + London and East Anglia welcomed the changesFast restoration of catholicism meant protestant changes weren't that strong.

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Religious change: An overview

Edward  - Changing the prayer book to the English from Latin (Vernacular)                                                                  - Catholic mass is now illegal 

Mary   - Heresy laws (thought she was doing right by religion)                                                                      -               - Married Phillip (very catholic) helped bring back catholicism 

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Political crisis?

Political crisis? (yes)

  • Somerset was only able to seize power through manipulating Henry's will
  • The nature of the government changed under Somerset so that it was run through his household 
  • The rebellions of 1549 resulted in the political elite abandoning their support of the government
  • Somerset's overthrow in the autumn of 1549 created instability 
  • The struggle for power between Northumberland + Catholic faction
  • Lady Jane Grey affair resulted in the raising of armed forces
  • Wyatt came close to toppling Mary

Political crisis (no)

  • The legitimate monarch always triumphed
  • the crown passed peacefully from Henry to Edward and from Mary to Elizabeth
  • Even during factional struggles government continued 
  • Henry VIII's will upheld
  • Somerset's attempted coup was short lived
  • The ruling elite supported the rightful monarch: Even in 1553 they supported Mary once Northumberland left London
  • Iconoclasm - Destruction of Catholic art (statues and stained glass windows)
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Religious reform 1553-1558 (Mary)


  •  Fights with Edward in order to continue practicing Catholicism
  • Mother = Catherine of Aragon (Spanish+devout catholic)

Proclamation on religion 16 Aug 1553

  • Does not say she is forcing everyone to be catholic
  • Waiting for Parliament before forcing any changes
  • makes her seem tolerant + builds up support (prevents conflict + able to keep support)
  • Works written in English are not allowed (people may come up with their own ideas)
  • 16th Aug, just ascended to the throne (peaceful)

Mary not proceeding cautiously

  • Devout Catholic, though Edward's early death was a sign from God to restore catholicism 
  • Stubborn (abandoned Royal supremacy)
  • Carries on having catholic mass even after Edward deems it illegal 
  • > Oxford Chalices reappeared + August 23rd altar and cross was set up with mass being said
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Mary's religious views + support

Unsure whether support was due to her religion or the fact that she was the legitimate heir

  • Failure to see that many had profitted from the disolution of the monastries ( unable to get monastries back + rebuild churches)
  • Thought that God had let Edward die as a sign to change the religio in England 
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Mary's religious goals

- Undo the changes made since 1529

  • Restore Papal authority 
  • Restore traditional Catholic practices and belief in transubstantiation
  • Re-establish religious houses that had been dissolved 
  • End clerical marriage and restore the status of priests
  • Secure a long term future for catholicism (by marrying and having children)
  • Persecute those who did not agree with her views


  • People (governing elite) do not like the power the Pope has over religion + Queen
  • To provide an heir Mary would have to marry (foreign= power over court + wars)
  • There were protestants that may not believe in Catholic practices
  • Persecuting protestants may lessen her support as matyrs are made

Reservations of advisors

  • Gardiner was uncertain about restoring Papal supremacy
  • Concerns about trying to restore former monastic property
  • Concerns Mary would proceed too quickly + provoke unrest (might threaten her position as queen)
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How popular were Mary's religious policies? Pt.1

Popularity at her Accession

  • Mary was still catholic and hadn't completely changed with Edward's laws 
  • Oct 1553, Parliament met but refused to repeal the Act of Supremacy (suggests anti-papal feeling)
  • > passed Act of Repeal which undid the changes made under Edward, restored the religious situation of 1547 under the Act of Six Articles
  • Mary used the Royal prerogative to suspend the Second Act of Uniformity + restored mass 

Signs of faction

- Wyatt's rebellion

  • Took place before Mary had changed anything significant
  • Reaction to the fears of the spanish marriage rather than religious changes 

Protestant reaction to catholicism 

  • Early month of 1554 some protestants began to leave England for Germany or Switzerland
  • > mostly gentry, clergy + more wealthy (around 800) + not an option for the less well off


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How popular were Mary's religious policies? Pt.2

Royal injunctions spring 1554

  • Restoration of some traditional catholic practices (e.g Holy days, processions, ceremonies + also led to the deprivation of large numbers of married clergy)
  • Protestant bishops were removed from their offices
  • April 1554, parliament rejected the reintroduction of heresy laws, did not agree until promises were made that former monastic lands would not be restored to the church
  • Parliament refused some of the religious changes (factional struggle between Pagett and Gardiner)
  • Parliaments concern for the sanctity of property rather than opposition to the religious changes

Second Act of Repeal Nov 1554

  • Repealed all religious legislation approved since 1529
  • Mary forced to compromise with the land owners
    • Act protected the property rights of those who had bought church land since 1536
    • Mary forced to recognise parliaments authority in religious matters
    • prevents full-scale catholic restoration

- October 1555, Bishops Ridley and Latimer were burnt at Oxford

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How popular were Mary's religious policies? Pt.3

Burning of Cranmer 

  • March 1556
  • Seen as necessary to Mary as he ended her parents marriage + made her illigitimate + supported LJG
  • Made a matyr for the protestant faith

Death of Gardiner

  • November 1555
  • Removed a restraining influence on Mary
  • Initially encouraged the persecution of protestants (to scare extremists) , soon aware of the failure
  • Followed by an increase in persections

- 274 Executions in the last three years of Mary's reign (believed it was her duty to remove heresy)


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  • Large numbers in attendance (in London + other towns)
  • Welcomed as a chance to make money
  • Earlier in the day (had to move) due to the overwhelming number of people + disruptions
  • Most took place in the south-east
    • greater concentratio of protestants
    • closer to London


  • Some argue that it did much to damage Mary's popularity
  • Some argue it did little to harm or help the catholic cause
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Impact of burnings

Heresy laws were reintroduced in 1554 and burnings are continued from february 1555

John Rogers

  • A Biblical translator who was burnt at the stake for translating the Bible into English
    • multiple copies, results in more people reading it and interpreting it for themselves (solascriptura)
    • vernacular, language of the country
    • against catholic values, was a protestant

John Foxe

  • Suggests there was opposition to the Marian burnings + the burnings turned England protestant 
    • suggests the burnings converted those imprisoned by the dedication (research has challenged this view)
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Mary's death + was England catholic?


  • Mary did not reign long enough for catholicism to hold in the public (new generation born into protestantism as their main religion)
  • Changes made by Henry + Edward were not and could not be completely undone, resulted in long-term rejection of catholic churches
  • New publications - catholic New Testament + new Book of Homilies (plan for catholic revival) > However, little time to make any impact on the people 
  • Government tried to prevent the publication of protestant literature, not successful suggested books from Edward's reign allowed for protestants underground


  • Cardinal Pole, regular visitations to check on clerical behaviour 
  • New publications - catholic New Testament + new Book of Homilies
  • Money was donated to help restore catholic churches destroyed in Edward's reign
  • Took Elizabeth some time to restore protestantism and the Church of England, shows success in the Marian regime
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The religious pendulum pt.1

1547 Catholic Doctrineend of Henry VIII's reign

  • 1547, Removal of catholicism 
    • iconiclasm (removal of icons) + Act of supremacy 

1548 Unofficial protestantism

  • first Book of Common Prayer 

1549 Moves to protestanism

  • first Act of Uniformity

1552 Fully protestant second prayer book

  • 42 Articles, second Book of Common Prayer + second Act of Uniformity

1553 Death of Edward VIII

  • legally protestant, Act of Repeal
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The religious pendulum pt.2

1553 Removal of protestantism 

  • arrest of Cranmer, Latimer, Hooper + Kidley

1554 Restoration of catholic doctrine + Papal supremacy

  • royal injuctions, Heresy laws passed + Cardinal Pole returns to England 
  • second Act of Repeal 

- 1555 Persecution 

  • John Rogers becomes first protestant matyr
  • Latimer + Ridley burned for heresy

1556 Reformed Oath

  • Cranmer burned (showed alligence to the Pope)

- 1558 Death of Mary Tudor (catholic doctrine)

  • Elizabeth returns the Church of England
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