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The Characteristics of the Henrician Reformation Paper

The Characteristics of the Henrician Reformation In 1534, when Henry VIII decided to separate England from Rome, he did so for both political and personal reasons. We can identify Henry’s political reasoning because he wanted to consolidate his power as King. His personal reasoning is simply that he wanted to secure an heir to the throne. I am focusing on the political reasoning for this paper. At that time, Henry was deciding to separate England from Rome, public opinion viewed the Church’s representation as worldly, corrupt and immoral.

The Pope’s power was used for personal advantage and benefit not for the spiritual development of the people or country but for the benefit of the higher clergy. Lower clergy was leading a life of misery and poverty, while the higher clergymen lived a life of wealth and pleasure. With all of these discontentment and resentment, it was an optimum time for Henry to make his change. Using the people’s resentment and cry for change, Henry VIII boldly took major steps to put an end to growing power of the church and consolidate his power.

He took necessary steps to limit the power of the clergy in the English church by destroying monasteries and enacting laws that were to be followed by the church authorities. The substance of these laws mandated that a priest could be associated with a single church only and that the Pope was to be elected by the clergy who were nominated by the King. In the end, the English church was separated from the Roman church and the communities of Christians were split into two camps: the Roman Catholics and the Protestants.

The Henrician Reformation is characterized by the monarchy and the Church of England being fundamentally reshaped. I believe that this reshaping was distinguished by two categories: (1) Act of Supremacy; and (2) The dissolution of the monasteries. I. Act of Supremacy Henry VIII’s plan for Reformation was made clear through the Act of Supremacy. Henry saw himself as a godly reformer, a king who answered directly to God. This notion became deeply rooted in Henry’s kingship, where it became a part of his identity and reinforced by the imagery surrounding him.

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He sees himself as the king who had banished corruption from the Church and restored the truth of the Bible. [1] Henry set about reforming the Church that had come under his jurisdiction. The Act of Supremacy is one of the crucial key in Henrician Reformation as well as his plans for monastic dissolution. After all, he was the King of England and as King, he was the head of the church. As the head of the Church, he has all authority to make all decisions regarding the Church and religious matters. 2] In Henry’s view, how could someone governs a part of your realm that is not higher than you or God? In 1530, Henry instructed his representative in Rome to advise the pope that the royal person was “not only prince and king, but set on such a pinnacle of dignity that we know no superior on earth. ”[3] “For Henry, the Royal Supremacy was as much about the King as it was about God and questions of doctrine and church tradition were inseparable from an understanding of his divinely-ordained kingship. [4] Henry intertwined his views of Royal Supremacy with his religious belief by attending Mass on a daily basis, celebrating holy days and participating in other parts of his religion. If Henry was to be the head of the church as king, he had to be a godly king because his success was dependent on his divineness as the head of the English church. So to maintain his divineness, Henry had to dissolve the monasteries. This was crucial since the religious houses were loyal to the papal authority and this loyalty had to be crushed in order to drown out all foreign influence.

Further, dissolving the monasteries was an act that clearly exercised the kind of authority Henry VIII bestowed upon himself through the Act of Supremacy. The type of control Henry desired was made to manifest through the dissolution of the monasteries, and any attempt to defy him was crushed mercilessly. Since Henry’s basis for his Supremacy was based upon the Bible, it was necessary that every parish church have an English Bible. In 1537, the English Bible was published under sanction of the government and allowed to be freely distributed.

Although, Henry VIII had no real interest in the English people studying the Bible, it was another way for Henry to promote English nationalism and ensure that English church would no longer be relying on the Roman Latin Bible. II. The Dissolution of the Monasteries One of the key features in the Henrician Reformation was the attack on the monasteries known as the “the dissolution of the monasteries”. To Henry, the monasteries were seen as another evidence of Papal authority in England and Henry VIII was not going to tolerate it. Henry knew that monasteries were likely to bear allegiance to Rome, so he abolished them.

Another factor that played in the abolishment of the monasteries was greed. [5] Since Henry VIII naturally assumed that these monasteries would remain loyal to the Pope, he cleverly used several key pieces of enactments that were introduced to end any evidence of the Pope’s authority. Legislations such as Act of First Fruits and Tenths of 1534, Valor Ecclesiaticus of 1535 and Dr. Thomas Layton and Mr. Richard Leigh, the crown’s investigative dynamic duo, whose letters concerning the monastic houses, known as the Compendium Compertorum, gave Henry his sovereignty ability to act.

Starting very small, Henry VIII took steps against the power of the Church in 1538. To avoid too much outcry, Henry started on the less powerful houses and confiscated their property making their buildings unsuitable to use. He then he focused on the monasteries that were rich. Some were sold to wealthy gentry as country estates and others became building materials for local inhabitants. The key point to this was that not only did it serve Henry VIII’s self-interest but a lot of the wealth involved found its way back to the royal treasury. How did it affect the clergy?

Not much because most of the clerics themselves believed it was time for a change. The only realy difference is that they thought that the wealth ascertained by the closing of these monasteries should have gone to charity or educational program. Greed always played a factor when dealing with politics or religion. Henry wanted money, Parliament wanted the money, gentry saw a way to increase their holdings and the merchant middle class saw a chance to become landed gentry themselves. So who profited the most with all of the dissolution of the monasteries?

The new class of gentry who bought the lands benefitted the most. [6] The control and dismantling of the monasteries was so severe that there was no other economic base to compete with the new class of gentry. The real sadness is that numerous priceless manuscripts were destroyed in the process. CONCLUSION Within the Henrician Reformation, there were many events that contributed its formulation but the Act of Supremacy and dissolution of Monasteries were the key events that allowed Henry VIII to consolidate his power and establish himself as the head of the English Church.

As we look back and evaluate his attitudes and policies as he pursued his self-interest by dismantling the control of the Roman Catholic’s influence on the English church, while not abandoning his religious beliefs, it clearly show that Henry was looking for a middle ground between Protestant and Catholic. What he really wanted was a church with a medieval model as respects constitution and doctrine, but an English sovereign for its supreme head in place of the Pope. Basically, what he wanted was a Catholic church without the pope.

Still, as Henry VIII acquired more power by eliminating monasticism, he took over a lot of ecclesiastical property. He gave properties to the lesser nobility to appease them and win their support. Without such complete sovereignty, dissolving the religious houses would not have been possible. No matter what his political motives were, it is very clear, that Henry changed the established religion in England.

WORK CITED Ban, Joseph D. “English Reformation: Product of King or Minister? ” Church History, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun. , 1972), pp. 186-197. Ryrie, Alec. The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stewart Realms 1485-1603. Harlow: Pearson, 2009. Wooding, Lucy. “Henry VIII and Religion”. History Review, Dec 2008, Issue 62, p42-47. ———————– [1] Wooding, Lucy. Henry VIII and Religion. History Review, Dec 2008, Issue 62, p 45. [2] Alec Ryrie, The Age of Reformation: The Tudor and Stewart Realms 1485-1603. Harlow: Pearson, 2009, p. 128. [3] Ban, Joseph D. , English Reformation: Product of King or Minister? Church History, Vol. 41, No. 2 (Jun. , 1972), pp. 186-197 [4] Wooding, at 47. [5] Ryrie, pp. 134-135. [6] Ryrie, p. 131.

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