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The setting up the king's supremacy instead of the usurpations of the papacy, and the rooting out the monastic state in England, considering the wealth, the numbers, and the zeal of the monks and friars in all the parts of the kingdom, as it was a very bold undertaking, so it was executed with great method, and performed in so short a time, and with so few of the convulsions that might have been expected, that all this shews what a master he was, that could bring such a design to be finished in so few years, with so little trouble or danger (Slavin, 19)."
Cromwell's position was no less tenuous than that of his predecessor, Wolsey. Henry did not become a tyrant without warning. Ridley reports that even as a young man, before he succeeded his father as king, Henry was prone to outbursts of anger and bad temper (Ridley, 14). Those who moved within Henry's inner circle must have weighed the risks of being in the inner circle as compared to what would be gained by them to take on that kind of risk. Perhaps they hoped to be able to appeal the King's rational judgment, and so long as it was in the King's own best interest to heed the advice of his counselors, he was known for doing so. Henry VIII was an intelligent man, and much as he preferred to delegate the authority to run his realm, he nevertheless was abreast of what was going on around him, and he was actually an astute politician when it was necessary for him to assume that role.
Cromwell had served as an aid to Wolsey, and had learned from Wolsey matters of state and church (Haigh, 105). Cromwell helped Henry VIII find a way to ignore the Collectanea (Haigh, 105). Cromwell proposed that the king seek a dissolution of marriage from an English court, through the Parliamentary authority (Haigh, 105). This was not the solution that Henry immediately accepted, because others among his inner circle, Norfolk and Suffolk among them, hoped to do it through the Church, and believed that they could exact pressure on the Church of England to make that happen (Haigh, 105). They were wrong of course, and it was here that an almost obsessed King Henry VIII, in his desire to make Anne Boleyn his wife, creates the schism between the Church and England, and the Protestant Church of England is born.
It was Cromwell's solution that in the end was Henry's way out of his marriage to Catherine, and his way to marry Anne Boleyn. The 1533 Act of Appeals was the authority that allowed Henry VIII to break with the Church in Rome, and exert his royal supremacy (Haigh, 106). Ann Boleyn and Henry wed, and it was this union that would see England's greatest monarch born, Elizabeth, who would become Queen of England and rule for 44 years.
Meanwhile, the rise of the Protestant Church of England and the Reformation began and would dominate religion in England until Henry's death.
The Henrican Reformation
French ambassador once remarked that King Henry VIII was a Catholic "in all that did not bring him profit (Rex, Richard, 1997, 33)." Exactly what that means might be known only to that particular French ambassador, but when we consider the relationship that led to the Reformation, how that relationship ended, and Henry's subsequent relationships and marriages it might be understood to mean his divorces and marriages. The relationship between Henry and Anne Boleyn was perhaps doomed from the start, since it was that relationship which brought about the schism. In breaking with the Church in Rome, Henry had identified himself with King David of Israel, and Henry began to see himself in the terms that he had manufactured in order to divorce Catherine (Rex, 33).
The model of Old Testament kingship was invoked from the hazy dawn of the royal supremacy in the early 1530s. In the Collectanea satis copiosa, the warehouse of precedents and proof-texts put together to support Henry's campaign against the papacy and the clergy, the cases of Hezekiah and Jehoshaphat are already being proposed as evidence of a Christian king's power over his priests. It was from these raw materials that the new ideology of kingship was forged in the course of the 1530s. When the message of the Collectanea was distilled and repackaged for public consumption in 1534, as the true difference between ecclesiastical and royal power (De vera differentia regiae potestatis & ecclesiasticae), the definition of royal power was almost entirely handled in terms of the scriptures. What was initially at stake, of course, was the basic issue of a king's power over the (or 'his') priests. This claim to authority over the priesthood had been comprehensively denied by the medieval Catholic Church in the name of 'ecclesiastical liberty', a cause symbolically enshrined in the cult of St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury. The dramatic elimination of that cult in late 1538 symbolised the overthrow of the medieval church system in England. It is fitting that it was this event which finally provoked the papacy into formally excommunicating Henry VIII and releasing his subjects from their allegiance (Rex, 33)."
Many of the changes in the laws of England to facilitate the Protestant Church were worked out between the clerics, who were actually the benefactors of Henry's confusion and by the fact that he seemed somewhat overwhelmed by what he had done in breaking with Rome, and Anne Boleyn's brother, Rochford, and Cromwell (Haigh, 107). Anne Boleyn became known as the "great whole," the home wrecker, and other negative descriptions that she probably did not deserve (Lindsey, Karen, 1995, 47).
Nonetheless, even though there was no turning back for the Church or for Henry, because he had set his sights on marrying Jane Seymour, Henry was a man who by the time he died was religiously confused, if not frightened by what he had done. Throughout the course of the Henrican Reformation, powerful elites vied for positions and control within the newly created Church and community (Ryrie, Alec, 2003, 13). Historian Alec Ryrie (2003) even suggests that this vying for political power within the Protestant movement slowed the progress of the movement, and that makes sense, because it would not behoove the goals of the powerful elites vying for that power to allow progress to be made without their own positions becoming firmly affirmed by the monarchy (Ryrie, 13). Some historians believe that by the end of 1538, Henry was having a difficult time with the way the movement was advancing, and that he wanted to slow it down (Ryrie, 15). There is every indication that Henry was having second thoughts about what had transpired with declaring heretics, and the execution of Catholics.
The response to the Reformation by the people of England was a divided one; those who continued to practice Catholicism in secrecy, and putting their lives at risk to do so; and those who were timid Protestants, because they were, at first, uncertain as to the direction that this new Church would take, or whether or not it would succumb to the forces of Rome (Ryrie, 14).
As we all know, the Protestant movement did not stop, and even though the last years of Henry's life are viewed by historians as a Counter Reformation (Ryrie, 9). When Henry's daughter, Mary, who had been born to Catherine, succeeded him to the throne, she started about reversing everything her father had done, and reignstated Catholicism with the same vigor and a greater ruthlessness than that which had been demonstrated in the attempt to eradicate it (Ryrie, 93-95). Just as the Catholics went into exile under Henry, so did the Protestants go into exile and hiding under Mary Tudor (Ryrie, 95).
It was after Henry's death, when his son, Edward, briefly sat upon the throne, and Protestantism remained firmly imbedded as the English Church.
In Edward's reign, the Protestantism that Katherine Parr had embraced and Elizabeth had somewhat reluctantly embodied was flourishing. Released from Henry's equivocations, the English church was now fully reformist. The nine-year-old king was controlled by his uncle, the power hungry Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and Somerset's ally, the even more power-hungry John Dudley, soon to be Earl of Northumberland. The boy had been much influenced in his religion by Katherine Parr, but he had not inherited her instinct for gentle tolerance. His own religion was a harsh, judgmental Protestantism that his uncle and later Northumberland carefully fostered (Lindsey, Karen, 1995, 205)."
However, following Edward's death, Mary Tudor overcame the forces of Protestantism that would have seen Lady Jane Grey become Queen of England in order to presser Protestantism (Lindsey, 210). Understanding the nature of the politics, Mary did not immediately execute Jane Grey (Lindsey, 210). Later, to satisfy the politics of her husband, Philip, Mary agreed to have Jane Grey executed (Lindsey, 211).…[continue]
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