What methods were used by the government to prevent & suppliers opposition?

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Law of Treason

The break with Rome brought the Government on to new and shaky ground with regard to the law of Treason. Under The exsisting law, the Government found itself unable to charge those who opposed the King in words only, so in 1534 the Treason Act was passed.

the new act made it treasonable:

  • to attempt the death of the King, Queen or heir by act or malicious desire expressed in words or writing
  • to call the king in words or writing a heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel or usurper
  • to seize royal castles,ships, ordance and munitions

The core of the Act was that men could die for uttering words only; plotting or other action was needed. The treasdon punishment involved being drawn on a hurdle, hanged, cut down alive, disembowelled, castrated and finally beheaded.

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Injunctions were normally issued by bishops in their dioceses. However, Cromwell began to by-pass the epiocopacy and issue directives directly to the clergy.

The first royal injunction for clergy (August 1536) was used to enforce the Governments doctorial and anti-papal position, raise the standards of the clergy, remove superstitious images and enforce the preaching of scripture.

A second set were required in the Autum of 1538 for parishes to have an english Bible and to keep a register of all bapstisms, marriages and burials.

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Henry VIII

The charecter of henry VIII stands like a colossus astride the massive changes of the 1530s.  His utter conviction that he was Supremem head, his bitter intolerance of opposition and his terrifying ability to lash out at those around him ensured that there were few critics in and around the royal circle.

His personal involvement in the burning of the Protestant Joh Lambert in 1538 revealed the engths to which he would go to remove opposition and assert his authority.

Lambert was burnt at a time when international hostality to Henry's reforms was at its height and the truce of Nice between Charles V and Francis I made real the possiblity of a joint invasion.  To show the 'purity of his catholic fairth, Henry, robed in white, watched pitilessly as Lambert was plunged repeatedly into the flames at the end of a lever.

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Central to any examination of why the Reformation failed o provoke widespread opposition must be Thomas Cromwell, the King's vigilant, loyal, indefatigable and, where necessary, ruthless, vice-gerent in spirituals.

 He worked ceaselessly, writing countless letters by hand, personally investigating many of the cases of treason, and making himself responsible for all matters of internal security.

His enforcement does not appear, though, to have been indiscriminate, and he abided by the lawful methods of trial and investigation.

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Church Visitations

In 1535 Cromwell arranged a whirlwind visitation of all church and monastic property, with the outward intention of assessing the wealth and condition of the church.

The product of these visitations, however, the Valor Ecclesiaticus, was used to justify the dissolution of the smaller monastries.

Through the dissolution Henry removed the last religious group that did not owe direct obedience to him.

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These were public announcements of new laws or situations, made in the localities.

Judges at the assize courts, for example, proclaimed the deaths of Fisher and More.

Cromwell, however, rarely employed such proclamations, perhaps because he recognised that they could only inform, and not secure obedience.

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oaths are used as a test of an individuals religious and political commitment.

Cromwell and henry turned the oath into a dramatic and devastating instrument of judgement to Sir Thomas Mores loyalty. The oath for the First Act of Sucession superficially required recognition of children born to Anne Boleyn and Henry.

Although there was virtually no evidence of opposition at this point, the Government made an enormous effort to get all important men to swear. The oath for the Second Act of Succession (1536) and the oath of supremacy (1536) were less rigorously enforced.

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Royal Correspondance

Cromwell was skilful in using correspondance to generate fear and compliance.

On 16 April 1535, for example, letters were sent to JPs ordering recipients to arrest those supporting the Pope. Letters flooded back to Cromwell reporting arrests and asking for 'further pleasure'. Cromwell was subtly creating an informal police force.

On April 3 1535 he wrote to all bishops ordering them to ensure that all clergy preached the Royal Supremacy, and he enclosed model sermons for them to use. He then followed this up with a circular letter to county sheriffs commanding them to ensure that the bishops fulfilled their duties.

In this way, he effectivly made the sheriffs the watchdogs of the bishops.

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Printed Propaganda.

The government, according to Elton (revisionist historian), undertook an intensive 'full-scale propaganda campaign' using the printing press.

A host of pamphlets rolled off the presses of the Kings printer, Thomas Berthelet.Much of this propaganda was written in an easily understandable form and its contents defended the Kings position and denounced rebellion.

In 1532, for example, the galss of truth, was published in which Henry gave a clear, lively and short version of the law in Leviticus that he argued required him to seek an annulment of his marriage to catherine of aragon. 

The government also prefaced its new statutes with propagandist preambles before they were distributed throughout the country. 

However, it is very difficult to determine exactly how much propaganda was produced and impossible to judge the effects it had upon the people, the great majority of whom were, of course, illiterate.  


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The Pulpit

the 16th century equivelent of television, this was the most effective weapon of getting information accross to the largest number of people.

It was, of course, a platform as useful for those opposing as for those supporting the Government, and there is significant evidence of preists using the pulpit and the confessional to attack the innovations of the Reformation. To combat this, Cromwell introduced a nationwide scheme for licensing preachers and in January 1536 ordered bishops to take action against clergy who were dragging their feet over reform.

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