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The English Reformation
The Protestant Reformation played an extraordinary part in European faith,
culture, and politics. Even though the Reformation began in Germany in 1517 and
spread throughout Europe very quickly, England remained Catholic for more than
15 years before crossing over to Protestantism. Henry VIII’s desire for a male
heir precipitated the Protestant Reformation in England in 1527.
In 1509 Henry married his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. She bore their
first and only child, Princess Mary. Henry’s disappointment led to his affair
with Anne Boleyn, who was a Protestant. He tried to get out of his marriage to
Catherine on several occasions. He first claimed that his marriage was invalid
due to the fact that Catherine was the widow of his brother Arthur, Prince of
Wales. Henry sent Cardinal Thomas Wosley to Rome to argue his claim. Pope
Clement VII threw out that claim because he had given Henry special dispensation
to marry Catherine. Henry then replaced Wosley with Sir Thomas More, but the
Pope’s ruling stayed the same. The Pope was deeply influenced by Charles V,
Holy Roman Emperor, the Catholic nephew of Catherine of Aragon. He would not
tolerate a divorce, and the Pope was not going to take sides against him.
With no cooperation, Henry decided to use Parliament to pressure Pope Clement
VII into annulling his marriage. Parliament passed laws that permitted Henry to
appoint bishops in his jurisdiction. He appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop
of York, a friend of Anne Boleyn. In 1532 she became pregnant and Henry was
severely pressured into breaking with the Catholic Church. Because of the
situation, Parliament passed a law ending the pope’s authority over marriage
in England. Therefore, Archbishop Cranmer annulled Henry’s marriage to
Catherine, letting him marry Anne Boleyn, who bore a
daughter, Princess Elizabeth. Pope Clement VII then excommunicated Henry and
the entire nation of England. With the break in the Catholic Church, Parliament
passed the Act of Supremacy, making Henry the head of the church in England,
hence the Anglican Church.
Henry was losing interest in Anne. She never produced a male heir, so he had
her arrested and eventually beheaded for adultery and treason. Months after Anne’s
death, Henry married Jane Seymour, who bore a male heir, Edward. She died in
childbirth and Henry quickly married again. He had three more wives: Anne of
Howard, and Catherine Parr, the wife who survived him. Henry VIII died in
1547, and was succeeded by his only son, Edward VI.
The Anglican Church changed during the reign of Edward VI. He imposed
Protestant practices his father despised. The Common Book of Prayer and
Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church
was issued by him as the official prayer book of the Anglican Church. He also
adopted 42 articles of faith essential
for church membership. At the age of 16, Edward VI died of tuberculosis, and
was succeeded by his sister, Mary I.
Upon ascending to the throne, Mary abolished Protestantism in England and
restored Catholicism. Anglicans who resisted restoring Catholicism were
imprisoned and executed. Many people fled Mary’s wrath to countries abroad,
embracing Calvinism. After five years on the throne, Mary I died and was
succeeded by Elizabeth I, a strong believer
Elizabeth restored the Anglican Church in England and passed the Act of
Uniformity, which established a common prayer book and set the basic ceremonies
of the church. She also reformed Edward VI’s 42-article creed to 39, creating
the Thirty-nine Articles. The articles were the doctrinal foundation of Anglican
practice and tradition. The
church in England, however, remained relatively close to Catholic ritual.
Protestantism in England also had great affects on an international level as
well. The king of Spain, Philip II, widowed husband of Mary I, desired to return
England back to Catholicism. Philip constructed the Spanish Armada to invade
England and dethrone
Elizabeth I. He allied with the Netherlands to conquer England and restore
Catholicism. However, due to bad weather and great English forces, Spain was
defeated and its government suffered economically. The English victory over
Spain secured Protestantism and stimulated nationalism and country pride.
Fourteen years after the Armada, the Thirty Years’ War broke out in Europe.
The Thirty Years’ War was based in Germany in regards to events in the
Protestant Reformation. Germany’s urge for world power curved toward England
and France. The Danish Phase of the war involved French and English forces
against German Habsburgs and Catholic Spain. English and French motive was to
end Habsburg control of Holstein, Germany, making it accessible to Protestant
Much of English literature was inspired by Protestantism. Writers of the
Modern Era believed Protestants tried to establish a
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House of Tudor, Annulment, Anglicanism, Dukes of Cornwall, Princes of Wales, Protestant Reformation, English Reformation, Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII of England, Anne Boleyn, Church of England, Protestantism
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