16th century reformation of the Church of England Essay

This essay has a total of 2442 words and 13 pages.

16th century reformation of the Church of England

16th Century

Of the

Church of England

Under the Tudor Monarchies

Professor Quigley
Paper by: Eric Jones

What happened that caused such an abrupt move in the Church of England towards a
reformation in the 16th century? Why did the church change hands from Catholic to
Protestant so many times? Finally, how did the church become a middle of the road church
that most were able to accept as the Anglican Church? These are the questions I hope to
answer in this short paper on the Reformation of the Church of England during the
sixteenth century as we take a quick peek at the influential rulers of that time period.
From Henry VIII and the split with Rome to the middle of the road Anglican Church of
Elizabeth I, we see a new and separate church evolve from that of Rome.

The abrupt move in the Church of England towards a reformation started out in a much
different manner than in continental Europe. It had come about mainly for reasons to due
with Henry VIII attempts to gain an annulment from his first wife Katherine.1 Henry VIII
did not simply seek an annulment for his own personal gratification in the need or want
for a new wife, but that he was in desperate need for a successor to the royal thrown.2

The marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine had remained fruitless in the attempts to produce
a male heir to the English Royal Thrown, with Henry believing that a curse listed in the
Book of Leviticus stating that a man who marries his brother’s wife will not be able to
produce children from this nuptial and the only surviving to this point had been his
daughter Mary.3 Having that Katherine had been previously married for a short time to
Henry’s brother Prince Arthur, who died within months of their marriage, he used this as a
means to seek an annulment from the marriage and sought the then pope Clement VII to
declare the marriage void.4

Henry had a trust and a belief that the papacy in Rome would grant him the annulment that
he sought and it may have happened if it had not been for really bad timing.5 The pope
was under the control of the Holy Roman Emperor, who just happened to be the nephew of his
wife Katherine of whom he was seeking the annulment from.6 Although the pope tried to
appease all parties involved, it failed through the use of stalling in the courts and
turned down proposals by Queen Katherine herself whom no longer recognized the
jurisdiction of the English courts and claimed that she and Arthur had never consummated
the marriage in the first place giving little validity to the claim Henry was making for
reasons of annulment.7

The failure to be granted his most sought after annulment brought some hesitation to the
king, but under a new direction with the help of his minister Thomas Cromwell he was able
to set up a new arena to legitimize his separation from the queen by installing himself as
a kind of pope in his own right of the Church of England.8

Thomas Cramner was assigned as the archbishop of Canterbury and with the kings eyes as
well as a few other anatomical items now looking towards the sister of Katherine, Anne
Boleyn who was now impregnated, the whole assignment of annulment needed to be hastened to
assure legitimacy.9 Cramner’s archiepiscopal court was conveyed as the highest and one
true court in dealings with religion under the Act of Appeals which totally shut out any
links between Rome and the Church of England.10 In May of 1533, the much sought after
annulment was granted by Cramner who acted as more or less a puppet serving the kings
needs, and thus a separation from Rome was fully complete with the needs being met now at

The results of the pregnancy of Anne Boleyn were yet another daughter for Henry VIII.12
With still no heir to the English thrown he wed several more times with only one producing
a son. The son would become the next King of England as Edward VI, followed by his eldest
daughter Mary, and the daughter that was produced in the union with Anne Boleyn,

Aside from the manner in which England reformation started, the Church of England remained
under Henry VIII throughout his lifetime mainly Catholic in theology.14 His unintentional
break with Rome for personal reasons now gave him the power that was usually yielded by
the pope and as well as the extra monies usually funneled to them in allegiance to the
church under the Roman papacy.15 This newfound freedom from any other countries ties to
control over any English way of life gave way to the first real English Monarchy, where
all allegiance was to stay within the boundaries of the small island nation.16

By the end of Henry VIII life, he had enacted a change that was notable yet did not change
official church doctrine.17 The dissolving of monasteries and raping them of their
abundant wealth of money, treasures and land, of which most proceeds went directly to the

With the death of Henry VIII in 1547, England was changed in it’s state supported nature
in the Church of England when the new King stepped up to the thrown. Edward VI was the
only surviving legitimate son of Henry VIII, hence giving him the best claim, and his
short rein changed the atmosphere of the church from that of a Catholic nature to that of
a Protestant one.19 When Edward VI seated the thrown, he was a mere 9 years of age.20
Being that he was so young, his uncle the Duke of Sumerset, a Lutheran made most of the
decisions as the Regent to the thrown as Lord Protector.21 Later Northumberland served in
this position and was mainly influenced by yet another offshoot of the Protestant
religion, that of a Zwinglist and Calvinist.22 Edward’s reign added to the reformation of
his father by changes such as the introduction of The Book of Common Prayer in it’s two
versions, although both versions were the work of Cramner, the first of which written at
the time when the Duke of Sumerset presided as Regent was most Lutheran in nature and
found to be largely unacceptable, the second written at the time of Northumberlands
Regency found the book having more qualities of Zwinglism, no doubt the direct influence
of the Regents at the different periods played major roles in the developments of
religious attitudes of their time.23

With the life of Edward VI there was a spread of Protestant influence in England, but with
his death so too died Protestants. Mary Tudor was now Queen of England, the older half
sister of Edward who was the product of the first marriage between Henry VIII and
Katherine of Aragon, whom may have had 288 people burned to death during her reign in
attempts to bring Catholicism back to England.24 Mary I was married to Philip II King of
Spain which also made him the King of England.25 Mary’s thrown days were limited to five
years from 1553 to 1558, where she managed to reengage the church back to its papal links
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