November 19, 2012
Honors European Studies
King Henry VIII and his English Reformation
When Henry VIII took the throne of England in 1509, he entered a world that teetering on the edge of catastrophe. Inter-marriages between thrones were the only strands keeping countries together and the Reformation and had already begun to sweep through Europe; weakening the social and religious constant that was the Roman Catholic Church. While there was support for an English Reformation; ultimately King Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the papacy in Rome to legitimize an heir to the throne of England, and ensure that a Tudor posterity would reign unchallenged.
When considering England in the 1500’s, it cannot be overlooked that while Henry played an ambitious role, the true power lay invested in his consulates; especially Sir Thomas Wolsey his Lord Chancellor and chief advisor. Henry was unique, in that unlike most nobility, he possessed “the heart of learning” according to Erasmus and was so dedicated to attaining an education that one of his court, Sir Thomas More commented that “he has more learning that nay English monarch ever possess before him” (Durant, 523). This, coupled with his deep religious faith, (he was known to be able to cite scripture for any occasion), lent him a participant in the international game of religious allegiance. Henry rebuked the reformer Martin Luther, in his work Assertion of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther, which gained him the title of Defensor Fidei, by Pope Leo X (Durant, 532). The true heart of the religious power however, remained in the hands of Sir Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York; whom at the zenith of his reign received a third of all the ecclesiastical revenues of England and was seven times more powerful than the pope (Durant, 527). All of Wolsey’s affairs, both international and domestic, were claimed to be in the name of the King, but even the common man could see that Wolsey was Henry’s...
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