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" (Bernard, 333). Such statements seem to be explicit justifications for the stripping of the monasteries; they imply that Henry was not a pawn to the policies instituted by Cromwell but, instead, he found his own obscure religious beliefs to be one of the major contributors to decisions regarding the new Church of England.
Bernard also argues that rather than wholly rejecting both Catholicism and Lutheranism, Henry VIII wished to reinstitute the form of Catholicism that existed at its onset, following the first councils convened under Constantine. Historically, after seeing the holy cross on the battlefield and seizing control, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, which ended Christian persecution. He also organized the Council of Nicaea, which created a Christian orthodoxy and established an organized Church backed by the state. As a result Christianity flourished during his reign, and the seeds of monastic orders and faiths were sown. This harkening to the bygone golden age of Christianity, according to Bernard, was Henry's method of forging "the middle way." (Bernard, 333).
This idea is congruous with the basic lens through which Henry VIII should be viewed: he wanted to build a lasting and stable monarchy. So, to wholly embrace Lutheranism would be to tear open age-old religious divides between his people -- between those who might sympathize with the Protestants and those who remained committed Catholics. Nevertheless, he was conscious of clerical abuses of power and, more importantly, he needed an undisputed male heir. Obviously, these were competing pulls. It would have been easier to remain ambivalent regarding the Protestant Reformation in the rest of Europe, if he did not believe it necessary to remarry. Accordingly, Henry VIII made the best of a delicate dilemma: he rejected the Church in the aim of stability, and as the new head of the Church of England he was able to eliminate the problems that he perceived.
This apparent middle road approach was undeniably successful; under the reign of Henry VIII the Church of England stood. It was his successors that truly began to bring about more fundamental changes to the way in which the Christian faith in England was observed. Lord Summerset, while acting on behalf of Henry's son, abolished the mass and introduced the English Prayer Book. This, by contrast to Henry's alterations, was a drastic change to the way English Christians would live. Summerset's policies were decidedly Lutheran -- rather than Calvinistic or Zwinglian -- and he was removed as Protector largely because of these measures. The Duke of Northumberland, on the other hand, continued reforming the Church, but he modeled it after the Swiss form of Protestantism.
Once again there was a backlash, but this time it was sponsored by Queen Mary after Edward VI's death. Her attempt to restore Catholicism failed, perhaps not because the notion lacked support, but because of the violent and aggressive means by which she undertook it. Mary's ultimate failure -- and the public revolts that ruined her reign -- indicated that the top-down reformation had struck a chord with much of the populous. Yet, it remains difficult to argue that it was theological objections that caused the unrest under Mary; it must be assumed, once again, that the leading factor was the kingdom's demand for stability and peace. The burnings that Mary enacted may have served little more ideological purpose but to remind citizens what horrible crimes a powerful and oppressive Church could accomplish in the aim or rooting-out heresy. Therefore, it should be anticipated that the reign of Queen Elizabeth and the establishment of the Anglican Church can be understood from this point-of-view as well. Queen Elizabeth's rule was a return to the middle road, a return to stability, and a return to peace. So overall, the popularity of the English Reformation rested on the shoulders of a stable, powerful and even-handed government.
Bernard, G.W. "The Making of Religious Policy." The Historical Journal, 41, 2, 1998. Pages, 321-349.
Brigden, Susan. New Worlds, Lost Worlds. New York: Viking, 2000.
Cowie, Leonard. 1986. The Black Death and Peasants' Revolt. London: Wayland Publishers.
Dickens, A.G. The English Reformation. London B.T. Batsford, 1964.
Haigh, Christopher. The English Reformation Revised.…[continue]
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