Religion, Politics, or Lust; which is the most useful in explaining the Henrician Reformation
As well as Henry being in desperate want of a male heir, factors such as anti-clericalism and the growing Protestant reformation led to the eventual Henrician Reform during the 16th century. It was this Reform that broke the Church of England away from the Pope and the conventionality of the Catholic Church. During the Reformation a larger proportion of secular control was put over the church and the service and clergy were all converted to the Protestant religion.
Henry’s lust for both power and wealth: religion in the form of the breaking away from the Catholic Church and radicalist ideas all played intrinsic roles in the Reformation. Lust appears to be the most useful when looking to discuss the Reformation as, as well as his lust for wealth it was also his lust for Anne Boleyn that was a significant contributor to the overall Reform that took place. Both “lust” “religion” and “politics” are intertwined when discussing the way in which Henry’s want for a male heir contributed to Reform.
Once Henry had ascended to the throne in 1509 there was an expectancy that he would produce a male heir, however, despite having six children only one survived- Mary Tudor. His inability to produce a male heir with Catherine of Aragon both narrowed his political standing and led to him questioning the level to which his marriage was legitimate due to his religious standing. Henry had previously been titled “Defender of the Faith” for writing an anti-Lutheran book called the “Assertion of the Seven Sacraments” and so it is made clear that when he does choose to break with Rome it is for more political reasons than religious.
Owing to his religious beliefs suggesting his marriage to Catherine of Aragon may be illegitimate-as it is written that a man is prohibited from marrying his brothers widow-Henry tried to gain an annulment on the grounds that God had not blessed the marriage. Pope Clement denied this request forcing Henry to appoint a different archbishop so that the divorce could be granted therefore forming a new Church of England. Henry’s lust for a male heir which he believed was unattainable with Catherine due to religion and therefore ruined his political standing contributed to the Reformation as he began to question the authority of the Pope.
Henry’s lust for Anne Boleyn was a key factor in his decision to break with Rome and useful when discussing the Henrician reform. By 1525 when it was clear that Catherine of Aragon was unable to produce a male heir, Henry was ready to marry Anne Boleyn as she would not accept that status of being a mistress. It is commonly suggested that Henry only began to consider divorcing Catherine of Argon after he had met Anne Boleyn as there is no actual evidence of him having prior plans to do so, and also by marrying Anne Boely he had the chance of producing a male heir.
Consequently, Henry’s lust for Anne Boleyn-and a male heir– that led him to wanting a divorce concluded with him breaking with Rome meaning that this lust is very useful when trying the explain the factors causing the Henrician Reform. The rise of radical theories and ideologies from religious beliefs has to be taken into consideration when trying to understand and explain the Henrician reform. The influences of Protestant Reform spread throughout both England and Europe as it was the ideologies that actually encouraged the reform to happen, stemming from Martin Luther who openly criticized the Catholic Church.
Examples of the Reform that Martin Luther talked about were appearing in England among the better educated classes and throughout England there were common lawyers who refused the privileges of the Clergy who had been influenced by Lutheran ideas and therefore antagonized Rome. As a result of the extension of knowledge of radicalist ideas spreading through England; the criticism of the Catholic Church plays a big part in understanding why the Reformation happened.
Henry’s lust for wealth and the religious aspects of the Reformation is also emphasized through the political idea of Erastianism that became very prominent during the Henrician reform. Erastianism is the philosophy that the state should have authority over the church. During the 16th century money was given to monasteries so that people would not enter a place of limbo before they died called purgatory. With the introduction of new ideas there was a theological objection of the idea of purgatory and also allegations that the monks in monasteries were corrupt.
It was argued that monks were living a lie because monasticism began with taking vows and living a simple life however, it was clear that their ideals had changed as they were suing the money given to them to make their lives better. Reformers argued that they had lost their original ideals and therefore Catholic monastries should be closed. When the monastries were closed the money that they had was inevitable then taken by Henry meaning that as well as gaining extra wealth he was also using religion to contribute to the eventual Reformation showing that religion is a key consideration when trying to explain the Reform.
Thomas Cromwell’s lust to reform the Government’s feudal system has to be taken into account when trying to explain the Henrician Reform. Henry wanted to advance the Royal Supremacy and wanted to encourage Church of England ideals and member of Parliament Thomas Cromwell recognized the way in which Parliament could be used to do this. Cromwell was appointed Henry’s “Vicegerent in Spirituals” giving him the absolute power when dealing with religious cases. Cromwell supervised the dissolution of the monastries and announced that he would be doing so under Henry’s orders in 1535 and by 1536 this had begun.
Because Thomas Cromwell was a member or Parliament and also a direct follower of Reformist ideals he played a key part in influencing Henry’s involvement. As a consequence of this it is clear that by re-enforcing Royal Supremacy through closing the monastries Cromwell’s lust for change and personal political and religious outlooks led him to being a key benefactor to the instigation of change. Growing anti-clericalism and resentment of the clergy stemming from an increase in both education and literacy emphasize the way in which politics played a part in explaining the Henrician Reform.
Inadequate and incomplete literacy skills were very common and the concern of this was shown by attempts to provide better skills by the Reformers so that people would be better equipped to understand the changes happening. Monastries began to be needed less as there was a more educated laity meaning that there was a growing resentment for the clergy. With a heightened level of education a petition emerged to the King against secular offices being run by the clergy.
In March 1532 parliamentary anti-clericalism was made evident in another petition called “Supplication Against Ordinaries” which went against the legal functions of the church that worked independently from common law. Aware of the vulnerable position of the church, the clergy did not show resistance to this and Henry’s royal authority was fully accepted in May 1532 after the “Submission of the Clergy. ” It was then universally accepted that all standard law would be subject to inspection by a Royal Commission and all religious legislation would have to have the approval of Henry before being accepted.
Taxes paid to Rome by archbishops were reduced to 5% in the “Act of Conditional Restraint of Annates,” and royal authority was also recognized as being adequate for blessing the bishops. This clearly depicts how wide spread anti- clericalism became as it not only occurred among the educated but also of Parliament showing how the role of politics plays an important role when explaining the Henrician Reformation. Overall, all three areas of lust, religion and politics could all be useful in explaining different aspects of the Henrician Reform.
However, lust appears to be a prominent feature throughout each of the reasons for Reform as his lust for Anne Boleyn, a male heir, control, power and wealth inevitable drove him to make the changes involving religion and politics. Without lust, it may have been unlikely that Henry would have chosen to completely broken with Rome which was a key point in the Henrician Reform. Although all factors did contribute to the build up of the Reformation lust is what gave it the final push to go through and led to the eventual growth of the Church of England.