The Role of the State: The King's Great Matter & Break with Rome

> Kings need for divorce with Catherine Of Aragon

>Measures taken to prepare for divorce

>Acts of Reformation

>Opposition to royal supremacy

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  • Created by: samantha
  • Created on: 16-11-11 01:51

Kings Great Matter ( late 1520's - early 1530's )

Topic of Debate

  • Historians disagree about the main reasons behind why Henry VIII wanted his divorce with Catherine of Aragon
  • Majority of historians agree the main issue is the sucession to the throne
  • Some said it could be due to his relationship with Anne Boleyn, the legitimacy of his daughter Mary, or even his religious conscience

Henry & Catherines Marriage

  • Point of controversy
  • Catherine & Arthur ( Henry's brother) were betrothed for 6 months before Arthur died 6 month later --> Catherine married Henry after
  • Legitimacy of Mary questioned as a result
  • If it was proven Arthur and Catherine had never consumated their marriage the pope could annul the marriage through papal dispensation --> Catherine remained addiment that the marriage was never consumated
  • Despite sources claiming that Henry & Catherines marriage was happy to start with Henry later claimed the pope was wrong to allow Catherine and himself to marry
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Succession Issues

Henry wanted a male heir to suceed him in order to secure the countries stability and continue the Tudor Dynsaty.


  • Only had 2 successful pregnancies ; Henry ( died in infancy) & Mary
  • was unlikely to produce any more children as a result of several miscarriages, still births and reaching the age of menopause


  • well educated --> to marry a prince not be a queen in her own right
  • hand in marriage was a marketable commodity
  • Henry did not want mary to Mary to be the heir to the throne as the last female ruler caused civil war = wanted to ensure stability in the country

Henry FitzRoy ( Duke Of Richmond ) = Henry VIII's illegitimate son --> made matters more complicated

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Henry's Options


  • Not popular amongst nobility
  • challenged those legitimate to throne
  • could result in civil war


  • May not have male heir
  • needs to happen before Henry dies


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Further Implications = The Spanish

  • In may 1527 spanish ambassador reported to spain informing the spanish king of Henry's intentions to null the marriage.
  • The amassador mentioned Henry's views of how the marriage was invalid because Catherine had been his brothers wife and that Pope Julius II was wrong to grant the marriage.
  • At this stage Henry had told Catherine nothing --> needed to act with secrecy and speed; did not take into account that Catherine could hear from others most significantly the spanish ambassador
  • The news would be likely to upset Catherine ( been living in sin with Henry -> very religious woman), upset the papcy ( the pope is infallible) and upset the spanish ( catholic ran country --> Catherine was their princess)
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Histrorical Debate

historians have questioned why after so many years of marriage henry finally decides that his marriage is invalid.

'Reasons' which support his idea of the marriage being invalid were sought from religion and superstition

Henry had already proven he could have a son ( Duke of Richmond) and his male heir produced with Catherine died in early infancy ( Henry believed this was God's punishment to him for marrying his brothers widfow)

Henry required Pope Clement VI to annul his marriage to Catherine = means marriage could no longer be regarded as valid

Henry expeted the pope to respond favourably to his request for annulment but this was not the case

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Pope did not allow annulment because :

  • the original granting of the dispensation
  • was being held captive by Charles V ( Catherines Nephew)
  • Biblical basis of the claim was contradicted

Biblical Basis

1. Leviticus :  " if a man takes his brother's wife it is an impurity; he has uncovered his brothers nakednes, they shall be childless"

To Henry having a daughter was as good as being childless, proved he was being punished.

2. Deuteronomy: " If brothers dwell together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead shall not be married outside the family to a stranger; her husband's brother shall go into her and take her as his wife"

This worked against Henry's arguement

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Anne Boleyn

  • debate over whether Anne and Henry's relationship was strong enough to spark want for divorce
  • Henry had tired of Annes sister and became attracted to Anne --> Anne played ' hard to get'

Reginald Pole ( Archbishop of Canterbury during Mary's reign) stated that Anne was lonely and greedy

G.W Bernard argued in 2005 that Annes reluctance to consumate the relationship meant that Henry could not allow Anne to become visably pregnant as it would present him in a bad light

Anne = fiesty, uncompromising, unpleasent towards Catherine and Mary, influenced henry greatly especially religion.

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Formal Seeking For Annulment

  • Henry decided in 1527 to seek annulment of marriage to Catherine formally
  • petitioned to the pope to seek annulment
  • Cardinal Wolsey ( Archbishop of Canterbury) opposed annulment
  • in december negotiations began in rome
  • pope was under control of Charles V --> pope was unable to grant Henry the annulment
  • delayed matters = pope sent Campegio to hear Henry's case
  • By the end of 1529 Anne was Henry's constant companion, Catherine = still queen
  • July '29 = Henry expected to hear a result, but meeting was adjurned to Rome, prelonging process
  • October '29 = Wolsey replaced by More, court did not meet again until now
  • November '29= Henry called parliament to pressure pope
  • Henry had hoped Catherine would back away into a nunnery, but Catherine was determined to fight for her position
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Reformation Parliament

  • met from 1529-1536
  • name = misleading --> makes it seem organised, but it was ad hoc
  • London Mp's = influential people i.e. lawyers (aquainted with church law) and merchants began to attack abuses of the church
  • Henry had 3 options to place pressure on the pope:


  • in order to get them to cave
  • charge leaders with praeminure ( form of treason) as blackmail


  • forcing the church to grant the crown a large sum of money


  •  give himself more power
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Submission of the Clergy, Supplication of the Ordi

Submission of the Clergy

  • charging of churchmen with praeminure for following Wolseys example
  • Henry offered to remove charges for a fine of £100,000 and for the acknowledgment of his role as the 'supreme head of the church as far as the word of God allows'
  • 'as far as the word of God allows' = escape clause for church

Supplication of the Ordinaries

  • MP's petitioned for Henry to take action against the church's abuses
  • Henry presented specific demands from the church ; A) surrender right to pass new church laws, B) all future changes in church law required consent of king
  • only laws approved by kings committee would be approved

Act to Remove Annates

  • Henry created bill to remove annates--> economic attack on papacy
  • not fully supported by house of commons
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Situation By 1532 & Establishment of Royal Suprema

Situation By 1532

  • Henry = unable to recieve annulment
  • Wolseys execution did not affect pope
  • Submission of the Clergy, Supplication of the Ordinaries and Act to Remove annates proved insufficient
  • Pope presumed Henry would only see divorce as temporary phase
  • Anne became increasingly frustrated
  • Anne convinced Henry that the divorce would be granted soon --> went to france and consumated marriage

Establishment of Royal Supremacy

  • Carthusian monks of London Charterhouse = spiritual advisers for Henry VII & Henry VIII
  • strictest and holiest of monastic orders --> gained lots of respect
  • five monks = executed in a horrific manner for refusing to swear the oath entitling the right of Annes children to the throne
  • Did this to deter others from denying oath
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Act of Reformation & Act in Restraint Appeals (153

Act Of Reformation

  • Warham died --> elected Cramner as archbishop of canterbury as he was reformative, well known amongst Boleyns incredibly intelligent, good at picking out religious referances to promote reasons to back up divorce
  • Henry still very much regarded himself as Catholic and so did not want any radical changes
  • Henry broadened evidence by looking for support across Europe
  • Cramners work 'Collectanea Statis Caposia' proved English Bishops could allow annulment without referance to Rome
  • Legislation needed to be passed to ensure matters could be heard in England rather than rome

Act In Restraint of Appeals

  • Act to prevent appeals to rome --> crafted by Cromwell to block Catherines Appeal rooting historical precedent to 14th cent,
  • parliamentary support gained
  • most significant step in breaking away from papacy
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Acts of 1534

Two parliamentary sessions this year:15th Jan-30th March,3rd Nov-18th Dec

  • Managed by Cromwell to achieve formal break with Rome
  • Cromwell became increasingly indispensible with the king
  • aimed to reinforce legislation by
    • confirming prohibition of payments of annates to rome
    • granting right to elect bishops and abbots to the king
    • confirm supreme legal authority to secular rulers
    • establish new significant legislation

New legislations include:

  • ACT FORBIDDING PAPAL DISPENSATION & PAYMENT OF PETERS PENCE: gave king more power, priests no longer allowed to own more than one parish, restricted archbishops rights in church law, prevented taxation paid to rome
  • ACT OF SUCCESSION: declared Mary illegitimate, act of treason to deny Annes childrens legitimac, requirement for whole nation to swear oath
  • ACT OF SUPREMACY: did not add to kings powers but entitled him to fruits and tenths, made it treasonable to call the monarchs heretics
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Chronicles Of Edward Hall

  • much evidence for activities of reformation parliament come from the chronicles of Edward Hall
  • MP in reformation parliament --> lawyer and close friend of Cromwells
    • bias views towards protestantism/reformation
  • chronicle begins in 1399 presenting Henry's views of unification of the houses of York and Lancaster
    • writing history book from Henry's perspective
  • likely for account to suggest house of commons was determined to pass legislation against church
    • refelected his own view & sympathy with protestantism
    • secured patronage from Henry and Cromwell
    • adds to bias
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Opposition to Royal Supremacy

opposition came from a variety of areas, motivated by a variety of concerns:


  • merchants/tradesmen afraid pope would pressure rulers to restrict trade with England --> depended on export of wool & cloth ( sheep rearing = biggest industry). Charles V controlled majority of europe including the port England exported cloth from


  • Members from the house of commons opposed elements of legislation as they undermined parliaments power


  • People were loyal to the pope, including laity and humanists
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Elizabeth Barton

  • holy maid of kent
  • servant girl = suffered from visions as a result of an illness
  • visions suggested people should pray to the virgin mary and follow traditional teachings of the church
  • those who wished to pressure the king out of the divorce manipulated Barton
  • 1528 = Barton invited to private meeting with Wolsey, 2 with Henry VII
  • 1532 = prophecized Henry's 'death' if he divorced catherine
  • prelonged campaign to destroy her reputation
  • confessed to making visions up
  • Hung at Tyburn in 1534
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Bishop Fisher

  • Bishop of Rochester 1504
  • protege of Margaret Beaufort
  • involved with humanism
  • regarded by some as the real author for the attack on Luther
  • Part of the Aragonese Faction
  • stated "rather die than see the marriage disolve"
  • 1532= spoke out against divorce
  • 1533= arrested
  • 1534= Bill of attainder loged against fisher for supporting Barton
  • refused to swear oath of succession ---> arrest for treason
  • ordered to be hung drawn and quartered at Tyburn but public spoke out and was beheaded in 1535.
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Thomas More

  • Chancellor appointed by Henry VIII
  • Henry promised he would not be involved with negotiations
  • reformation became more political -> became harder for More not to speak out
  • after Submission of the Clergy More resigned
  • 1533= More is invited to Annes coronation but does not attend --> public demonstration of lack of support for the kings marriage
  • Cromwell tried to implicate him with supporting Barton --> failed
  • Called to take oath for act of succession -> refused -> imprisoned in london tower
  • best legal mind in England = argued that he did not break oath as he did not speak out against it
  • 1535 = tried for treason at Westminster
  • Richard Rich provided evidence against More stating that when visting him in prison More spoke out against the oath by saying " parliament could not make the king supreme head of the church!"
  • More denied this --> lost the case
  • before taken from court More spoke his mind
  • Beheaded 6th July 1535
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