Religious Reformation in England
After Henry VIII’s chief adviser, Cardinal Wolsey, failed to get enough support from the Vatican so that Henry could divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, Wolsey was charged with treason and replaced. Thomas Cromwell was Henry’s new adviser, and it wasn’t long before Henry took Cromwell’s advice to heart in a manner that would change history: Cromwell proposed that Henry VIII make himself the head of the Church in England. Henry brought together the Parliament in 1529 to discuss the matters of the Church. Henry believed that if he threatened with reforming the Church, then the Pope would be more inclined to listen to Henry and allow him to divorce his wife.
As of this point in time, Catholicism was the only religion in England that was legalized
Because it was the only religion, it was very important in the everyday lives of the English people. It helped the king’s subjects to cope with life and death, and Catholic schools were the only form of education in England. Monasteries also provided people with health care, and Christianity provided the people with a sense of a moral compass that would prevent them from adultery, drinking, and gambling. If a person publicaly disagreed with the Church, it was grounds for capital punishment that mostly meant burning at the stake. The threat of this punishment forced most people to be devout in their beliefs and following the Church and its teachings faithfully despite many not fully understanding the doctrines, as the Bible was written in Latin.
Martin Luther was off-put by the increasing corruption among the high leaders in the Church, including the increasing political and financial power they had. Luther, a German monk, believed that people should be following the scripture that the Bible teaches instead of the authorities in the Church gaining in power. Martin Luther believed in the teachings of John Wycliff, the founding member of the Lollards who argued that believing in the Church should be based off of the scripture that needed to be accessible to everyone. Martin Luther believed that it was faith, not the abundance of good works, that determined the salvation of one’s soul. Luther attacked the Church in 1516 because they offered “indulgences”, or taking bribes as a form of good works, which Luther saw as financial corruption of the Church.
These reforming ideas rubbed off on Thomas Cromwell as he made his way around Europe before becoming the adviser of Henry VIII. His attacks on the Church’s corruption is what brought him to the attention of the king in 1529, and Cromwell asked Parliament in 1532 to issue “The Commons Supplication against the Ordinaries”, which was a list of abuses by the clergy and the church in England. This empowered King Henry, who became more powerful as the head of the Church of England. Because Henry had argued that his marriage to Catherine was invalid, and now that he was breaking away from the Catholic Church, he married a pregnant Anne Boleyn in 1533. Henry and Catherine were announced to be null and void and in the summer of that year Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England. Their first child was a girl, Elizabeth, much to the dismay of Henry.
In 1536, Henry VIII began to dissolve the monasteries around England, bringing about a religious revolution that was not largely opposed by the English people. Most people complied with this reformation, but two men who did not comply were Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher. To deal with these two men, they were convicted of treason and executed. Though the people themselves did not protest, most of the clergymen did. Henry VIII was forced to give in some to a rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace in Northern England. Henry only gave in for a short amount of time before he raised enough money to have an army squash the rebellion. With the rebellion crushed, the reformation in England was free to take hold at the will of Henry VIII and the Tudor line.