The Church in England on the eve of Reformation

  • Church fabric and wealth; religious doctrine& practice, ecclecesiastical organisation, anticlerical criticisms and the state of the church and monastarie; popular catholicism
  • Religious reformers including Humanists, Lutherans and believers in Royal Supremacy
  • Religious conservatives and the Aragonese Faction
  • Created by: samantha
  • Created on: 16-11-11 23:04

King's Court & Parliament


  • compromised members of nobility
  • courts would move around so that diseases could be less of a risk
  • moving around was also a form of propaganda
  • In return for governmental and military services nobles would receive patronage in form of land, property and positions
  • giving nobles land was important in the role of local government where they were expected to administer order and justice
  • there was always the chance that he might be paid by others to influence the king


  • nobility would also be members of the house of lords -> influenced house of commons
  • house of commons was made up of 300 elected members, usually sons of nobility and gentry --> most elections = unopposed
  • house of lords sat  around 50 nobles and 27  clergy members


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Relationship Between Church & State

  • church owned 25% land --> used to influence religion upon people
  • More land than the king = more money than the king
  • church received land by people giving it to them through wills etc.
  • people would give land because the church taught that if you serve your church you will go to heaven
  • England regarded itself as part of 'Christendom'
  • Canon law  covered churches beliefs, teachings & practices
  • Interpretation of canon law in England depended on the Archbishop of York and Canterbury  --> both archbishops arch dioceses had their own parliament known as convocation
  • archbishops were the most important in absence of the pope
  • Archbishop of Canterbury > Archbishop of York in terms of power
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Church Heirachy


  • most of the higher clergy took degrees at oxford and Cambridge to be able to read the bible and conduct services in Latin
  • The lower clergy were not always well educated men and so had little understanding of what they were preaching
  • clergy were the ones who carried out canon law
  • mainly concerned with manners such as heresy
  • minor offences would be fines however those of a grand extent could be threatened with excommunication
  • by the start of the 16th century the church started facing major criticisms with regards to corruption
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Cardinal Wolsey

  • 1514-1529 = most important person in English government
  • Henry's chief minister
  • not born into nobility, but the son of a butcher
  • much speculation over Henry and Wolsey's relationship  but it is possible to be clear about the key outcomes of their partnership in terms of policies followed
    • Wolsey  succesfully managed foreign policy - highs and lows in this period
    • Wolsey controlled the legal system- exerted influence on legal systems. Wolsey had reliance on written law rather than common law increasing the power of the monarch over nobility. started to formalise laws. laws which are passed on can be more openly criticised  however finalising them gave more power
    • household organisation- tried to recognise those who had access to influence over the king
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Henry's Position at the start of 1529

  • up to now Henry had governed the country without internal strife
  • Henry had a problem greater than any achievement --> no male heir
  • Mary would not be a suitable monarch as the church taught women are inferior and the last female monarch caused civil war
  • Mary's legitimacy was questioned as a result of Catherine's Previous relationship with Henry's brother
  • If Henry did not produce male heir the Tudor dynasty would collapse
  • Henry had an illegitimate son but he would not be regarded as rightful to the throne by nobility
  • 1520's = Henry took on mistresses including Mary Boleyn
  • after tiring of Mary Henry became mesmerized by her sister Anne
  • Duke of Norfolk ( Anne's uncle) wanted rid of Wolsey where as Anne wanted to be queen
  • 1529-47 the church and state were to undergo major reformative changes
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Richard Hunne

  • Merchant tailor in London --> arguably a Lollard
  • son died --> parish priest asked for his christening robes as a mortuary fee but Hunne refused
  • was involved  in a property dispute with the parish priest in 1511 --> priest took hunne to court
  • 1514 Hunne = arrested and a search of his house uncovered a lollard bible
  • Hunne was found in his cell, apparently having hung himself december 1514
  • Body showed signs of struggle as if he had been murdered
  • During his trial for heresy it was said he questionned the authority of the church & denied transubstantiation ---> body burned on command of the chancellor --> coroners court deduced he had been murdered
  • widely believed the church had killed Hunne to protect clergy privalleges
  • Hunne was regarded as a Martyr and the church's reputation suffered
  • Hunne became a topic of debate in the reformation fparliament of 1529
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Religious Reformers & Conservatives

All of the following groups regarded themselves as Christians yet rejected some catholic teachings. Majority would be regarded by the church as heretics.

HUMANISTS: sought to revisit original biblical texts to re-establish a purer religion

LOLLARDS : established since the 14th century, challenging key beliefs of the catholic church , strong in the midlands and eastern England. majority if supporters came from the literate merchant class --> high skill jobs i.e masons

LUTHERANS: similar to Lollards, challenged the church's most essential beliefs. Individual people should have their own relationship with God therefore priests are not needed. Those discussing such views often had links throughout Europe through the cloth trade and were able to read newly published books.

BELIVERS IN ROYAL SUPREMACY : believed that the reigning monarch should rule the church, giving the monarch absolute power in their own country

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Humansim (in detail)

  • More = influential English humanist
  • spent time in european universities to establish links between other humanists
  • Thomas Mores most renowned work was 'Utopia' meaning 'no place' --> looked at different ways  to run society
  • More remained a faithful Catholic
  • Humanism = fashionable & intellectual snobbery


  • Erasmus
  • More
  • Catherine of Aragon
  • Henry VIII
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Lollardy (in detail)

  • underground movement
  • name given as term of abuse
  • followers of John Wycliffe
  • questioned the role of priests
  • regarded as heretics --> held secret meetings
  • did not believe in transubstantiation
  • only way to get to heaven was to reject catholic teachings
  • significant numbers were frightened off when they realised lollardy counted as heresy
  • could be burned if found to have heretical writingsand views
  • by 16th century lollardy sympathisers were in Leicester, Bristol ,Coventry, London, Kent and east Anglia after setting up in academic places such as oxford
  • there are no set figures on how many lollards there were as it was a dangerous claim to admit to
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Lutherans (in detail)

  • protestantism was based on the ideas of Martin Luther and the beliefs ehich it prompted were to change european revolution during the 16th century
  • Luther was a monk challenging the views of the Catholic Church
  • The church of England only became truly protestant for a brief period during Edward VI's reign
  • Henry VIII personally wrote a denial of luthers views in 1521 but there were others in influential positions whom made criticisms too
  • luther wanted to take the church back to its roots
  • initial protest was against indulgences which he argued as corrupt
  • few in England were attracted to the ideas of Martin Luther
  • None of the nobility were supporters
  • His ideas were far too radical and even erasmus disagreed with them
  • Cramner agreed with lutheran ideas
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Believers in Royal Supremacy

  • Wycliffe was one of the first to question why a pope should rule the church in foreign countries as it opposes the powers of the monarchs
  • equivalent to praemunire
  • In the case of Richard Hunne it was discussed in parliament that the clergy should be subject to same laws as the rest of the state
  • Luther and Tyndale began to question the relationship between church and the monarch
  • wanted the ability to choose religious leaders
  • Tyndale was optimistic that religious change would come through a Godly prince
  • Lawyer St Germain provided Henry with legal basis for extending his authority arguing that real authority of the church in any country should go to the king rather than the pope
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Religious Conservatives

  • Church = aware people were calling for reform
  • trusted members of the church such as Thomas More looked at reform themselves
  • protestants increasingly criticized the church the more people became defensive of it
  • More argued the church needed to stick together --> separating would only decrease power
  • More = wpre hair shirt & tortutred heretics at his home to get them to change their ways
  • Observant Franciscan friars and carthusians were seen as good examples on how to live  --> stressed life of solitude and devotion
  • Acted as confessors and preachers
  • More advised Henry on spiritual matters and marrying Catherine of Aragon who became increasingly absorbed by Catholic teachings
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Aragonese Faction

  • Some historians believesome people attatched themselves to Catherine of Aragon to keep catholicism the way it was --> Catherine was extremely loyal to the catholic church
  • the more Catherine suffered trauma in her life the more she turned to religion
  • sought blessings on pilgrimages for succesful pregnancies
  • supported by a spiritual adviser --> influenced her politically too
  • Those who worked for Henry were on Catherines side too   i.e Nicholas Crew
  • Even when Catherine died , some members of the  aragonese faction gained influence over her daughter Mary

        (     Vs.      (   for -----> (

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