Almost independent of the German Refomation was the Reformation in England, but this proved to be crucial because of the future imperial role of England. Personal rather than religious issues were to drive the Reformation in England. It would be the monarch the Church had awarded the title 'Defender of the Faith', Henry VIII that would make the Reformation possible in England. Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife, the Spanish princess Queen Catherine. He desired the young, vivacious and Protestant Anne Boelyn. He was furious when Pope Clement VII refused to approve the divorce. In response he rejected papal authority over the Church in England. It was Thomas Cramer that was to oversee the final break with Rome. Henry with the assistance of his new Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Caranmer founded the Anglican Church and set himself up as head of the new church (1534). Here he was aided by a new minister, Thomas Cromwell. While sparked by his personal life, the break with Rome had many advantages for Henry. Both politicaland economic issues were involved. One of the most important was the wealth of the Church was now at his disposal. Much of this he seized by closing the monastarires. Huge quantities of land were in the hands of the monastaries. By distributing the land and wealth, Henry essentially bought the support of the nobility and gentry which was at the time still largely loyal to the Catholic Church. It would also begin the economic moderization of England. The first tentative steps toward actual reformation was a liturgy in English and The Book of Common Prayer. Henry's lesser known and very devout Protestant son Edward VI played a major role in the success of the Reformation in England.
Almost independent of the German Refomation was the Reformation in England, but this proved to be crucial because of the future imperial role of England. Developments in Germany had affected some English Christians, but the King would determine the direction of the English Church. Personal rather than religious issues were to drive the Reformation in England and they would have profound political consequenes. King Henry VIII was no Protestant. In fact, the pope had awarded him the title of 'defender of the faith' in the early struggles with Protestants. Henry was deeply committed to both the Catholic church and liturgy. There was in England, as in other countries, a long history of struggle between the crown and pope for control of national churches, in this case the Church of England. The Crown by the 16th century had largely established its control, manifested by selecting thebishops and the Archbishop of Cabterbuty. The papacy, however, still had conciderable influence. More than religion was at stake in controling the English Church. Much of the wealth of England was locked away in the momastaries located throughout the country. They accounted for a substantial share of England's agricultural land, the primary basis for wealth in medieval economies. The breakup of the monastaries would begin the economic modernization of England. It was one factor explaining why capitalism would be adopted in England at sych an early stage and the industrial revolution would first occur in England.
Matin Luther launched the Protestant Revolution when he posted his "95 thesis" on the door of the church in Wittenberg. The Reformation was a first as much German national resistance to the Roman pope as a theological movement. At the time English King Henry VIII supported his wife's nephew, Charles V, and his efforts to supress the Reformation. The theological debates soon turned to efforts to arrest Luther and stamp out Pritestantism. And gradually the Reformation spread beyond Germany asnd the Holy Roman Empire.
Henry was actually a good Catholic. It opposed the Protesant Revolution abd support the papacy. In gratitude the pope gave Henry the title of Defender of the Faith--a title the English monarchy still uses. It was Henry, however, set the Reformation in motion in England. Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife, the Spanish princess Catherine when she did not give him a male heir. He was furious when Pope Clement VII refused to approve the divorce. Clement was under the control of Charles V, Catherine's nephew. Henry was adament on the issue. Not only was he determined to have a male heir, but he was infatuated with Anne Boleyn. The outcome was to be that he rejected papal authority over the Church in England. When Henry declared himself head of the church in England, he didn't think he was changing the doctrine or liturgy of the Church in any way. He did not see it as a break from Catholcism or conversion to Protestantism. In fact his last wife almost lost her head when she attempted to push Henry toward Protestanism. Henry's break from Rome was political, not theological.
Thomas Cromwell, Henry's new minister, moved exert the king's authority over the English church. The Church of England had for
centuries been somewhat independent of Rome, much more so than the continental Catholic churches in France, Spain, Italy, etc. and had
many conflicts with papal control over the centuries. Great Britain, being an island, was more insular than its neighbors across the
channel. The English Church had been accustomed to running its own affairs in conjunction with its own monarchy. Kings often appointed
bishops and ratification of these appointments by Rome was often extremely problematic. Relations between the English church and the
Pope had always been difficult and strained. Cromwellstoped short, however, of a complete break with Rome. Cromwell had an increasingly anti-clerical Parliament compile the "Supplication Against the Ordinaries" (1532). This was a lengthy list of
grievances against the Roman Catholic Church. Cromwell's next step was he "Submission of the Clergy". The English church in a convocation accepted Henry's assertion of control and demand that ecclesiastical legislation be approved by the crown. Next Cromwell obtained Acts which ended payment of annates to Rome and forbid any appeals to the pope on Church matters.
It was Thomas Cramer that was to oversee the final break with Rome. Pope Clement continued to refuse to grant Henry the divorce he sought. The pope did, however, accept Thomas Cranmer, Henry's nominee as archbishop of Canterbury (1533). Cranmer upon assuming office invalidated Henry's marriage with Catharine. He also crowned Anne Boleyn who Henry had secretly married as queen of England. This left Pope Clemet little choice. The pope excommunicated Henry. Cranmer sealed the break with Rome by the Act of Supremacy which established the king as head of the Church of England.
Cromwell then pushed a series of laws through a compliant parliament designed to create support for the separation and to severly deal with any Catholic opposition. It was necessary to ensure that opponents would not simply wait for Henry's death for his Catholic daughter Mary to inherit the throne. Thus the Act of Succession recognized Henry's children by Anne as the rightful heirs. Other steps were designed to compel compliance, especially the Act of Treason and by a required oath of supremacy. Some prominent Englishmen refused to submit and abandon the Catholic Church, including Henry's former chancellor Sir Thomas More. They were executed. Thus the Renaisance prince of the new enlightened age who had been so exhuberently embraced by his people crossed a threshold of execution and suppression.
Cromwell crafted a strategy for winning public support for Henry's break with Rome. While sparked by his personal life, the break with Rome had many advantages for Henry. One of the most important was the wealth of the Church was vulnerable. Huge quantities of land were in the hands of the monestaries. Over the ceturies, the Church had acquired huge areas of land. Much of it was in the hands of monastic orders. Cromwell's supervised an accounting of the lands and properties in Church hands (1535). Cromwell then pushed an Act through parliatment which targeted the moastaries and their property (1536). The crown seized many small monastaries. Within a few years all of England's monastries had been seized and broken up. Much of the land was distributed to the landed gentry, thus building considerable support for Henry and the new English Church. By distributing the land and wealth, Henry essentially bought the support of the nobility and gentry which was at first still largely loyal to the Catholic Church. The breakup of the monastaries had little to do with church doctrine. Of course it undermined the church's power and wealth, but he wasn't seeking to change the belief system. Catholic priests and bishops simply woke up one day and discovered that their new boss was the King and not the Pope. But the secular clergy (those not in monastic orders) found that nothing much at the local level had changed. The services went on more or less as usual.Of course significant changes in worship and doctrine did come later in the next reign. Henry by breaking up the monastaries essentially ensured the loyalty of the faithful to him. He almost guaranteed by this step there would be no return to Catholicism.
Perhaps even more important are the unintended consequences. Breaking up the monastaries had a huge economic impact, unlocking the Church's control over these lands. It also expanded the English gentry by increasing the areaof land available. And the gentry would be the rock solid support for democracy and opposition to royal absolutism in the future Civil war and Glorious Revolution.
There was opposition to Henry's actions against the Church. Henry hacted swiftly to deal with organized oposition in the north. The opposition organized Pilgrimage of Grace.
Henry's initial steps were focused on control of the Church and its wealth. The name of the Church did not change, it continued to be called the Church iof England. Only slowly did Protestant doctrinal reforms enter the new English Church. This was in part because Henry had very traditional attitudes on religion and was not particularly drawn to Protestant theology. Henry authorized the "Ten Articles" which has some Protestant influences (1536-37). Next he allowed the Bible to be published in English (1537). There was still considerable support for the old Church. The "The Six Articles" enacted by Parliament showed little evidence of Protestant principles (1539).
Henry's lesser known and very devout Protestant son Edward VI played a major role in the success of the Reformation in England. The first tentative steps toward actual reformation was a liturgy in English and The Book of Common Prayer. It was really his son Edward VI, under whom Protestantism began to take root in England. During Edward's reign, some radical changes were introduced, the most important being the Book of Comman Prayer which was a modification of Roman Catholic services including the Mass and of course translated into English. Services were no longer in Latin. Edward had been raised a Protestant and chose bishops were strongly influenced by the Reformation and the theology of Luther and Calvin.
Philip II of Spain and Mary I of England by their marriage hoped to being England back to the Catholic Church. Edward's sister Mary returned the country to Catholicism when she became queen and persecuted Protestants. Influential Protestants were burned at the stake. Interestingly, Mary had the power to do that, but not increase taxes for which she needed parlimentary approval. Her persecutions earned her the title of 'Bloody Mary' in English history. At this point in time, it would have been difficult, but not impossible to return England to Catholicism. All depended on Mary's ability to prodyuce a child with Philip. In the end, her failure to produce an heir doomed the effort. It would be Anne Boleyn after all through her daughter Elizabeth that would decided the religious faith of England.
Elizabeth I was one of the greatest monrarchs in English history. She presided on the emergence of England as an important naval power. She was like her father a skilled politican and egotistical, unliked her father she had a sence of the responsibilities of office and duty to her people. She was immensely popular throughout her reign. When Elizabeth came to the throne she restored Protestantism and England became an increasingly Protestant country, but will a still important Catholic party. The building diplomatic difficulties, especially the depredations of the Sea Dogs, combined with the religious issue finally convinced Philip to build the Great Armada and invade England. The Armada's failure doomed any prospect of restoring the Catholic Church. Elizabeth endorsed Protestantism in a more conservative and tolerant spirit than her brother Edward, and the great theologian Richard Hooker (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity) helped define what many historians have called "the Reformed Catholicism" of the Anglican Church. Under Elizabeth I the extreme Protestants and the more conservative, Catholic-inded churchmen reached a kind of
compromise called the Elizabethan settlement, which established the Church of England as the "via media" (the middle way) between
Protestantism and Catholicism. One of Elizabeth's famous statements was that she refused "to make windows into men's souls", and she tolerated Catholics (her greatest composer Byrd for instance). Elizabeth tolerated Catholics if (a big "if" of course), they were not political in their religion or engaged in conspiracies to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. There were many fierce Protestants of
Puritanical bent under Elizabeth who thought the Anglican Church much too "Popish" in its liturgy and in the retention of prelates and sacraments, but Elizabeth successfully resisted extremists on both the
Protestant left and the Roman Catholic right. Her relative openness on religious questions probably contributed to the great intellectual and artistic achievements of her reign. A revealing example: when the question arose as to whether private auricular confession to priest (as in Catholic tradition) should be retained, her policy was typically "via media" (the middle way): "All may; none must; some should." This is why private confession is still part of Anglicanism today.
By the 18th century the Church of
England had become very Protestant, but the Oxford Movement in the 19th
century restored nearly all of the Catholic emphasis in the so-called
Oxford Movement (one of the most famous leaders was of course John
Henry Newman, who eventually became a Cardinal in the Roman Church).
Monastic orders of monks and nuns, for instance, were reestablished and
also the centrality of the Mass. These still exist today.
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