The Reformation in the English Church was separate from the Lutheran Reformation and the Swiss Reformation, though more similar to these than to the Radical Reformation in Europe. Beginning under Henry VIII, the Reformation in England initially rejected the principles of the Magisterial Lutheran and Swiss Reformers. Eventually, however, it accepted a number of the Protestant principles of faith. No discussion of the Protestant Reformation would be complete without an understanding of the Reformation in England.
Table of Contents
I. Before Christ
In the first millennium before Christ, the Celts overran the British Isles, as they eventually did with much of Europe. Celtic society was dominated by their religion, which was led by their Druid priests. The Druids were the priestly class among the ancient Celtic nations of Gaul, Britain, and Germany. The Druids functioned as priests, magistrates, scholars, and physicians.
The Druids taught the existence of one god, named “Be’al,” which is believed to mean “the life of everything,” or “the source of all beings” and which appears to enjoy an affinity with the Phoenician Baal. The similarities are even more striking when we realize that both the Phoenicians and the Druids identified their supreme deity with the Sun. The Druids also worshiped numerous inferior gods, though they used no images to represent the object of their worship. Their places of worship were not enclosed temples or buildings, but rather a circle of stones (each stoned being vast is sized) which enclosed an area of twenty feet to thirty yards in diameter. The most widely known such structure now remaining in Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, England.
That the Druids offered sacrifices to their god there can be no doubt, though what they offered cannot be fully determined. It is certain, however, that human sacrifice was offered for success at war and for relief from dangerous diseases. Julius Caesar detailed the way in which these human sacrifices were offered: “They have images of immense size, the limbs of which ware framed with twisted twigs and filled with living persons. These being set on fire, those within are encompassed by the flames.”
The Druids and Celtic people observed two sacred festivals a year. The first took place at the beginning of the month of May and was called Beltane or “fire of god.” During this festival, a large fire was kindled on an elevated spot to honor the sun after the gloom of winter. The second festival was observed the first of November, called Hallow-eve. This occasion was used for the sake of adjudicating crimes against persons or property. Associated with these judicial acts was the practice of relighting fires, which had previously been scrupulously extinguished, from one central fire.
The Druid religious system was at its height at the time Julius Caesar invaded Britain. The Romans regarded the Druids as their chief enemies and directed their fury against them. Being harassed on the mainland, they retreated to Anglesey and Iona. They retained their predominance in Iona and surrounding islands until the arrival of St. Columba, who first led the inhabitants of the islands into the Christian faith. The Romans were genuinely horrified by the grisly and uncivilized practices of the Druids and believed them to be a threat to their hold on Britain.
A. Religion of Magic
One of the greatest challenges early Christians faced in the British Isles was the pagan religion of Druidism. Indeed, prior to Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, the Irish worshiped “nothing but idols and impure things.” The religion of the Irish was almost pure magic, and was led by Druid priests. The Drui or Druid priest was a combination of a philosopher and a wizard. For centuries the Druids were all-powerful, not only in Ireland, but also in England and Gaul. Several Druid practices continued among Christian nations. Among them were the winding of the Maypole, the use of holly at Christmas, the custom of kissing beneath the mistletoe, and knocking on wood to avert something is a survival of Druid teaching.
B. Druids Originate Halloween Practices
Many of your Halloween practices have come from the Druids. The Druids and Celtic people observed two sacred festivals a year. The first took place at the beginning of the month of May and was called Beltane or “fire of god.” During this festival, a large fire was kindled on an elevated spot to honor the sun after the gloom of winter. The second festival was observed the first of November, called Hallow-eve. This occasion was used for the sake of adjudicating crimes against persons or property. Associated with these judicial acts was the practice of relighting fires, which had previously been scrupulously extinguished, from one central fire.
C. Origin of “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo”
The children’s “counting-out rhyme,” “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo,” is a version of the Druid death chant, “Eena, mena, mona, my.” It was used by the Druids to select victims to be ferried across the Menai Strait and burned alive in wicker cages as human sacrifices in the Beltane spring festival on the sacred Isle of Mona (now Anglesey).
D. Infant Sacrifice
I stood against the sacrificing of infants to harvest gods. I understand that you now are being called to the task that once was mine. You now are being called upon to save the life of the unborn and redeem your culture from the paganism which daily gains more and more strength.
E. Treatment of Prisoners of War
The Irish were fierce warriors. I too vigorously opposed long established practices relating to prisoners of war. Prisoners were often sacrificed and their skulls used as ceremonial drinking bowls. Today in many of your colleges and universities, intelligent professors ridicule missionaries for having “Christianized” pagan cultures around the world. Judge for yourself. Would it have more civilized, more humane for Christians to have neglected ethical concerns? The conflict between Christianity and Druidism had begun many years before I arrived in Ireland as missionary, and it continued many centuries afterward.
F. Treatment of Women
In Ireland, it was common for Patrick to invite unmarried women to become the brides of Christ by joining what you regard as a “nunnery.” In this way, women could serve the Lord more effectively. Those women who became Christians and who were slaves of a pagan lord were in “constant threats and daily terror” because they, as Christians, resisted the advances of their owners. In this way, the status of women in Ireland was elevated. In fact, wherever the Gospel of Christ has been preached, the well-being of children and women has always been elevated.
II. Roman Rule (55 BC-410 AD)
The Roman Empire was advanced to the British Isle in 55 BC by Julius Caesar, who was at that time general of the Roman armies in Gaul. Julius may have aspired to attract the attention of his superiors, but his summer invasion would also strike a blow to the Celts. In their struggle against Julius and the Romans, the Celts of Gaul had been receiving support from close relations in southern England. In their struggle to ensure their hold on Gaul, it made sense to attack England where the Celts often regrouped.
Landing at present day Kent, he successfully engaged several tribes. Returning the following summer (54 B.C.), he easily defeated the first real historical English figure known, King Cassivellaunus. At this point in English history, there is no unified “England” and no unified Celtic army to meet the Roman advance. Following these two summers of fighting, Julius Caesar left England with a promise of tribute from the defeated tribes. Not for another century would Rome try to expand its influence in England, but in the mean time, relations between Celtic England and the Roman Empire grew to such an extent that Celtic princes appealed to Rome to help settle succession struggles.
Under Claudius I, Rome invaded Britain in force in 43 AD. The pretext for the invasion was the invasion of one Britain tribe into the territory of another. Caratacus, king of the Catavellauni tribe, invaded the territory of the Atrebates, whose king, Verica, fled to Rome and appealed to Claudius for assistance against Caratacus. But nearly two decades passed before the Romans captured Anglesey, headquarters of the feared Druids, and quelled the revolt of Boudicca, queen of Iceni. Following his victory at the Battle of Mons Graupius, somewhere in Scotland (AD 84), the Roman governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola found it difficult to subdue the northern tribes. To keep the unconquered Caledonians of Scotland from sweeping south, into territory held by Rome, Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) ordered the construction of a wall in northern Britain, being constructed between 121 and 126. Hadrian’s Wall stretched 74 miles from Solway Firth to the Tyne River. The wall linked a series of forts and watchtowers, with forts being located every mile and watchtowers every three tens of a mile along the wall. Throughout the 2000s and 300s, the Romans found it necessary to rebuild the wall several times. It was used as a fortification until about 400. Though several towns attained a degree of Roman urban civilization, most of Britain remained Celtic.
By the third and fourth century, Britain sensed the decline of the Roman Empire. After nearly four centuries of occupation, Rome abandoned Britain in 410. In its wake, Rome left behind a superb network of roads, sites and towns bearing names that end in the suffix -cester and -caster, and Christianity.
III. Anglo-Saxon England (5th-7th Centuries)
Without Roman administrators, some British warlords (nominally Christian) attempted to wield influence over small unstable kingdoms, continuing some traditions of Roman governance. These warlords revived the Roman policy of hiring German mercenaries to help defend them against peoples of the north, such as the Picts and Scots. The mercenaries (themselves Saxons and other barbaric peoples) revolted against their British overlords and began the process of invasion and settlement, resulting in the destruction of the British chiefs, and the eventual establishment of Germanic kingdoms throughout the island by the seventh century. The invaders were from various barbaric origins, including Angles, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and Franks. In spite of their differences in origin, they were culturally similar and eventually identified themselves indifferently as Angles or Saxons.
Modern England owes much of their traditions, language, and physical heritage to the Anglo-Saxons. These Germanic tribes poured into England pushing the Romanized Celts of the island back into the hills of Wales and Cornwall, which created pockets of Celtic culture.
Very little may be determined about the first several hundred years of the Anglo-Saxon, or “English”, era, in large part because they were an illiterate people. What is known is that they established separate kingdoms, the Saxons settling the south and west, the Angles the east and north, and the Jutes the Isle of Wight and the adjacent mainland. These various groups, though separate peoples, shared a common language and similar customs.
By the seventh century, ten Germanic kingdoms existed: Northumbria, Bernicia, Deira, Lindsay, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Sussex, and Ket. These Germanic peoples were polytheistic and had, for the most part, succeeded in pushing Christianity into Wales.
It was during the Germanic tribes’ invasion that the legendary “King Arthur” was born. King Arthur was not real in the sense in which he was portrayed by Thomas Malory in his medieval romances. In all likelihood, there was probably no Round Table, Sword in the Stone, or knights in shining armour. In fact, it is not certain that his name was even Arthur. What modern scholarship has determined is that he led Romanized British resistance to the onslaught of Germanic tribes. For a period of time, he was successful in halting the Saxon advance, perhaps for as long as forty years. The time in which he lived may not be accurately determined, but dates for his military exploits vary from 450 to 525.
IV. Reintroduction of Roman Christianity (596)
Throughout the next two centuries, Britain experienced the reintroduction of Christianity and the political unification of England. Christianity was reintroduced to Britain from two sources: Ireland and Rome. The Irish Celtic church which had been pushed back into Wales, Cornwall, and Ireland in particular, made advances among the Anglo-Saxons in the north from an early base on Lindisfarne Island. Under St. Augustine of Canterbury, the Roman Catholic Church advanced upon the Anglo-Saxons from the south.
In 596, Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) sent a delegation of missionaries to England under the leadership of Augustine (of Canterbury, not Hippo). Augustine and his fellow monks arrived at the court of Ethelbert, King of Kent (at Canterbury in Kent), a leading monarch among the other Anglo-Saxon monarchs, in 597. Ethelbert married Bertha, a Christian Frankish princess, and under the influence of Bertha and Augustine, Ethelbert received Christianity and was baptized in 603. Augustine was made archbishop by Pope Gregory and received a palace in Canterbury from King Ethelbert. For this reason, Canterbury became the center of the life of the English Church.
In Northumbria, Celtic Christianity met the Christianity of Rome. Celtic Christianity had been conveyed from Ireland to Scotland by Saint Columba and then to Northumbria by Saint Aidan. Over a period of time, Northumbria came to be viewed as the dominate kingdom among all the kingdoms of Britain. Rome was successful in its bid to dominate the religious life of Britain when Northumbria’s King Oswy officially accepted Roman Christianity as the official faith at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Four years later (668), Theodore of Tarsus became archbishop of Canterbury, created dioceses, and gave the English church its basic structure.
The meeting of Celtic and Roman Christianity in Northumbria produced a swell of scholarship unequaled in western Europe:
The Venerable Bede, a Northumbrian monk, was the most outstanding European scholar of his age. He is remembered for his Ecclesiastical History of the English People.
Alcuin of York, another Northumbrian, was chosen by Charlemagne to head is palace school.
As early as the time of King Ethelbert, one king from among all of the German monarchs ruling in Britain was known as the Bretwalda, or ruler of all Britain. Generally speaking the title of Bretwalda fell to the kings of Northumbria in the seventh century, to the kings of Mercia in the eighth century, and finally to those of Wessex in the ninth century. In 825, Egbert of Wessex defeated the Mercians at Ellendun. As a result of this decisive battle, King Egbert’s family ruled all England in the following century.
I. King Alfred the Great and the Danes
Egbert’s grandson, Alfred, ascended the throne of Wessex in one of England’s darkest hours. The Viking Danes, who had been content to raid English coasts in the late eighth century, had given up their desire of plunder and were now intent upon conquering England. Initially Alfred found it necessary to buy a respite, but after his victory at Edington in 878 was able to force Danish king Guthrum to accept baptism and the division of England into two parts: Wessex and what historians would later call the Danelaw (Essex, East Anglia, and Northumbria). By creating a navy, reorganizing the Anglo-Saxon militia (the fyrd), allowing his warriors to alternate between farming and fighting, and building strategic forts, Alfred was able to capture London and began to push the Danes out of England. Alfred reached an agreement with the Danes which divided England into two zones: the south and west were placed under Saxon law; the north and east were given to the Danish and was known as the Danelaw. The conquest of the Danelaw would be accomplished under his son, Edward the Elder and his grandson Athelstan.
Alfred should not only be remembered for his military exploits, but what he did to advance culture. He was responsible for the establishment of church schools and the dissemination of knowledge, personally translating several books from Latin into his nature Anglo-Saxon tongue. Folklore suggests that Alfred was the first to establish a university at Oxford. Under Alfred’s able leadership, England passed from the despair brought on by the Danes into a golden age of social stability and artistic achievement.
II. The United Kingdom
With the conquest of the Danelaw accomplished, a unified government was created. With the assistance of the witenagemot, the king ruled England. During this time, shires (counties) were created, courts were established, taxes were levied, and other systems of government established, making England the most advanced government in western Europe.
I. Athelstan (924-939; 15yrs, 102 days)
II. Edmund (939-946; 6yrs, 210 days)
III. Edred (946-955; 9yrs, 181 days)
IV. Edwy (955-959; 3yrs, 313 days)
V. Edgar (959-975; 15yrs, 280 days)
VI. Edward the Martyr (975-978; 2yrs, 253 days)
VII. Ethelred the Unready (978-1016; 38yrs, 36 days)
VIII. Edmund Ironside (1016; 222 days)
A new wave of Danish invasions occurred in the reign of Ethelred II. In 1014, he was driven from his throne by King Sweyn I of Denmark, but returned a few months later when Sweyn died. When Ethelred died in 1016, his son Edward II lost his throne to Canute II, son of Sweyn. Under Canute, England became part of an empire which included Denmark and Norway.
Norman-French influence would soon be asserted over the kingdom as Danish influence also waned. Following the short reign of Canute’s sons, Harold I and Hardecanute, Edward the Confessor, another son of Ethelred, was called from Normandy, where he was living in exile.
I. Sweyn Forkbeard (1013; a few weeks)
II. Canute (1016-1035; 18yrs, 347 days)
III. Harold I (1035-1040; 4 yrs, 125 days)
IV. Hardecanute (1040-1042; 2yrs, 83 days)
Through the efforts of Edward, the Westminster Abbey was erected and completed shortly before his death (January 1066).
Without an heir, Edward’s succession was in doubt. The witenagemot chose Harold, Earl of Wessex, but a brief struggle between aspirants resulted in Duke William (the Conqueror) of Normandy being crown monarch on Christmas Day, 1066 in Westminster Abbey.
I. St. Edward the Confessor (1042-1066; 23yrs, 294 days)
II. Harold II (1066; 283 days)
The term “Plantagenet” is derived from Henry II’s selection of the “sprig of broom” of the House of Anjou (his father being Geoffrey of Anjou) as his emblem. In the French of the day, it was known as the “plant of genet”, or Plantagenet.
I. William the Conqueror (1066-1377)
With the rise of William to the throne, England turned away from Scandinavia toward France—an orientation that would last for nearly 400 years. England was given a new French aristocracy and a new social and political structure under William. His Norman feudalism became the basis for redistributing the land to those who assisted him in his conquest.
II. William II—Rufus (1087-1100)
At his death in 1087, William gave Normandy to his oldest son, Robert, and England to his second son William II (Rufus).
III. Henry I (1100-1135)
William the Conqueror’s third son, Henry I, in due time received both England and Normandy. In 1100, Henry received England when William II (Rufus) died in a hunting accident, and Normandy by conquest in 1106.
IV. Stephen of Blois (1135-1154)
Henry I’s heir, also named Henry, died in the wreck of the “White Ship” while returning from France. Henry then settled his inheritance upon Matilda (Maud), his daughter, but this choice was not welcomed by many of the barons, who threw their support to Henry’s nephew, Stephen. For nineteen years, Stephen and Maud dueled with each other in a civil war which finally ended in an agreement which allowed Stephen the throne the rest of his life, then being given over to Maud’s son, Henry.
V. Henry II (1154-1189)
Henry II was the son of Queen Maud and Geoffrey of Anjou. When the See of Canterbury fell open in 1162, Henry convinced his very reluctant carousing chum and chief administrator, Thomas a Becket to become the new Archbishop. Henry assumed that Becket would sympathetic to the royal cause in the rising tension between church and state. Becket, however, after assuming the office experienced a drastic change in character, strictly observing canon law. Becket also wore a penitential hair shirt under his vestments and had himself flogged by his underlings. Most importantly he opposed his old friend over the issue of the supremacy of ecclesiastical courts over royal courts with regard to the trying of clerics. After defying Henry, Becket fled to France, but with the intervention of the pope, the two were reconciled. Becket returned to England but immediately excommunicated those bishops who had supported Henry during his exile. Learning of the excommunications, Henry flew into one of his rages and was observed by four knights. Seeking to please their King, the four knights rode from Westminster to Canterbury and killed Becket in front of the main altar of the Cathedral after he refused to relent.
Filled with remorse, Henry did the penance imposed by the pope, walking to Canterbury Cathedral in sack cloth and ashes. When he arrived, he was flogged by the monks there. For the moment, he yielded to the question of the supremacy of ecclesiastical courts. Among Henry’s most noted legal reforms was the replacement of the painful trial by ordeal with a trial by a jury of twelve men.
Henry’s family life was very unhappy. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, succeeded in turning their three sons, Richard, John, and Geoffrey, against their father. The two oldest sons followed their father to the throne, but Geoffrey preceded his father in death.
VI. Richard I (1189-1199)
Richard I, the Lionheart (third son of Henry II), was renown as a warrior. He brilliantly participated in the Third Crusade, but was captured on his way home by his personal enemy, Leopold of Austria. John successfully bid for his brother’s release, but Richard was killed soon after while fighting in France.
VII. John (1199-1216)
King John (fifth son of Henry II) turned out to be a very poor king. He was greedy and neither the administrator or warrior which his father and brother were. In 1215, the barons forced John to sign the Magna Carta, which bound the king to observe common law and tradition, particularly those which affected the rights and privileges of the nobility. It placed the king under the law, defying absolute monarchy which placed the law under the king.
VIII. Henry III (1216-72)
Politically, Henry (son of John) alienated himself from his subjects because of this unsuccessful military ventures. Ecclesiastically, he alienated himself from the English Church by having filled vacancies with absentee Italian appointees. Henry was forced to sign the Provisions of Oxford which established and invested a council of fifteen with the authority to veto the king’s decisions. In an attempt to renege on his pledge to submit to the Provisions of Oxford, Henry led the country into civil war in 1264.
Simon de Montfort (baron who briefly ruled) was the brother-in-law of Henry III and the leader of the opposing faction to Henry. Having captured Henry following the Battle of Lewes (1265), Simon summoned a “Parliament” (from the French term parler, “to talk”). A deeply religious man, Simon must have concerned conservatives with his democratic notions. This first summoning of townsmen in Parliamentary history brought together two knights from each shire and two burgesses from each borough.
IX. Edward I (1272-1307)
Edward I, son of Henry III, defeated Simon later in 1265 at the Battle of Evesham. Though he was not crowned until his father’s death in 1272, Edward became the de facto ruler. Edward was not only a good warrior, but he was also a good administrator. Learning from Simon, Edward frequently consulted with his knights and townsmen concerning his decisions.
Edward subdued Wales in 1282 following the rebellion of Llewelyn, a Welsh chief. His son, Edward, was born in Caernarfon in 1284 and was later created the first Prince of Wales, a title that has subsequently been given to every male heir to the English throne.
Edward’s relationship to Scotland was to affect the relation of the two countries for generations. In 1291, Edward was invited to arbitrate between the claims of three rivals for the vacant throne of Scotland. He chose John Baliol, but Edward’s high-handed attitude toward Scotland drove that country into an alliance with France with lasted over three hundred years. In 1296, Edward invaded Scotland, defeated Baliol, took the Stone of Scone, upon which Scottish kings had been traditionally crowned, and bought it back to Westminster where it may be seen today beneath the Coronation Throne in the Westminster Abbey.
X. Edward II (1307-1327)
Son of Edward I
XI. Edward III (1327-1377)
I. Richard II (1377-1399)
Those who followed Richard II (grandson of Edward III, son of Black Prince) were from Lancastrian and Yorkist descent.
II. Henry IV (1399-1413)
The Duke of Lancaster, Henry Bolingbroke, forced Richard II to abdicate his throne in 1399. Henry was the exiled son of John of Gaunt. Henry’s claim to the throne was very weak, but his usurpation was approved by Parliament and public opinion.
III. Henry V (1413-1422)
Henry V’s (son of Henry IV) meteoric reign was made more spectacular by his oppressive attacks upon the Lollards. He was successful in driving the movement underground but was unsuccessful in stopping this powerful movement which would prove such a vibrant force in the emergence of the Protestant Reformation. After his spectacular success at the Battle of Agincourt (1415), Henry strengthened his claim to the French throne by marrying Katherine, the daughter of the mad Charles VI of France.
IV. Henry VI (1422-1461; Lancastrian)
Henry VI (son of Henry V) was troubled by recurring bouts of mental distress. During such bouts, the country was ruled by regents. However, these regents were not any more successful at ruling the country than Henry VI. During this time, the long Hundred Years War with France sputtered to an end with England losing all of her territorial possessions in France except Calais. At home, England was in anarchy, with nobles mustering their own armies and warring for local supremacy.
The struggle to rule on behalf of unfit King Henry VI led to thirty years of warfare known as the War of the Roses. The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) was waged between two branches of the royal family, the Lancastrians (red rose as family symbol) and the Yorkists (white rose). The roses after which this war was named were not in use at the time of the conflict; not until the next century did the House of Lancaster adopt the red rose as its familial symbol. Henry abdicated the throne in 1461 and died in prison ten years later, possibly murdered.
V. Edward IV (1461-1483; Yorkist)
Deposed Henry VI. Edward was the grandson of Edmund of York, Edward III’s youngest son.
VI. Edward V (1483-?)
Edward V assumed the throne of his father, Edward IV, when he was only twelve. His uncle, Richard III, Duke of Gloucester, acted as regent. It is believed that Richard himself aspired for the throne and had Edward and his younger brother placed in the Tower of London, ostensibly for their own protection, had them declared illegitimate, and then had himself declared king. What happened to the “Princes in the Tower” at this point is uncertain, though it was rumored that they were murdered. In the seventeenth century, workmen repairing a stairwell at the tower discovered the skeletons of two individuals of about the right ages as the princes.
VII. Richard III (?-1485)
I. Henry VII (1485-1509)
Henry VII (grandson of Henry V, wife’s second husband) defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Finding the crown, which was found hanging on a bush, Henry placed it upon his own head. Thus, the Battle of Bosworth not only marked the end of the War of Roses, but also the end of the feudal period of English history. With Richard III’s dead, the monarchy passed from the Plantagenet line to the new House of Tudor. Henry’s claim to the throne was sought through the “legitimacy” of descent from John of Gaunt and his mistress.
Henry began the move toward absolute monarchy. He believed the divine right of kings did not obligate them to answer to nobles, the church, or Parliament. Under Henry, the secretive Court of Star Chamber, so called because the room where they convened was decorated with stars, was initiated. This court became synonymous with autocratic administration because the meetings closed and answerable to no one but the king.
Henry VII ended the thirty-year War of the Roses and established the Tudor line on the throne of England in 1485, reigning until 1603 when James Stuart I ascended the throne. There were three major intellectual and religious elements which affected the English Reformation:
II. Henry VIII (1509-47)
Unlike the Protestant Reformation on the continent, the Anglican Reformation began as a lay political movement under King Henry VIII, Henry VII’s second son. The Anglican church which emerged during the English Reformation is neither Roman, nor entirely the Protestantism of Luther or Calvin, though it bears resemblance to each. The church which began to emerge in the sixteenth century and culminated in the seventeenth century was a via media between Catholicism and continental Protestantism.
Henry VII’s eldest son was Arthur, Prince of Wales. Soon after Arthur married Catherine of Aragon, he died, leaving the throne to his younger brother, Henry. Having received a special dispensation from the Pope, Henry married his brother’s widow.
A. The Six Wives of Henry VIII
1. Catherine of Aragon (1509-1533)
Catherine of Aragon was the youngest surviving child of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. As was the custom of the day, Ferdinand and Isabella began to look for a political match for her. At the age of three, Catherine was betrothed to Arthur, the son of Henry VII; Arthur himself being only two at the time. Catherine and Arthur was married in November of 1501 when the bride was only sixteen. Within six months, Arthur was dead, a victim of may have been “sweating sickness”.
Reluctant to give up Catherine’s dowry, fourteen months later Henry VII betrothed his younger son, the future Henry VIII, to Catherine. By 1505 when Henry was old enough to marry, Henry VII was less interested in a Spanish alliance and Henry was forced to repudiate the betrothal. Henry VII passed away in 1509, and one of the first acts of his heir, Henry VIII, was to proceed with his marriage to Catherine. At a joint coronation ceremony on June 24, 1509, Catherine was crowned Queen of England.
Catherine’s and Henry’s first child was a stillborn daughter, who was followed by a baby boy who lived only fifty-two days. Catherine then experienced a miscarriage and gave birth to another short-lived son, but in 1516, she gave birth to Mary I. But Henry was unwilling to allow a female heir to succeed him on the throne. As a result Henry began an adulterous relationship with Anne Boleyn.
Henry petitioned the Pope for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, but Catherine also appealed to the Pope, believing that the Pope would be more receptive to her appeal against it, given the fact that her nephew, Charles V, was the Holy Roman Emperor. For six years the political and legal debate waged. Catherine sought not only to retain her position as queen, but also that of her daughter, Mary.
2. Anne Boleyn (1533-1536)
Henry pursued at least two mistresses in addition to Ann Boleyn: Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn, Ann being the sister of Mary. When Anne Boleyn became pregnant in 1533, Henry rejected the power of the Pope in England and secured an annulment from Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury. Catherine was required to renounce the title of Queen and assume the title of Princess Dowager of Wales, but she refused to abdicate her title to her dying day. Catherine and Mary were forced to leave court, living the rest of her days in dank and unhealthy castles and manors with only a few servants to care for her needs. Seldom did Catherine complain of her treatment and spent much time prayer during these years. She died on January 7, 1536 at Kimbolton Castle and was buried at Peterborough Abbey in a ceremony suited for her position as Princess Dowager.
Exactly when King Henry developed a passion for Anne Boleyn cannot be determined. Anne refused the King’s sexual advances until the latter part of 1532 when she was found to be pregnant. Anne and Henry were secretly married near St. Paul’s Day (January 25) 1533, although the King’s marriage to Catherine was not dissolved until May of the same year.
The first child born to Anne and Henry was Princess Elizabeth. Though Anne conceived on two other occasions, the child was either miscarried or stillborn. Anne sensed the need to produce a male heir, especially since the King’s fancy was beginning to turn toward one of her ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour.
Cromwell now began to bring the Queen down. In late April, Anne’s musician (Mark Smeaton), Sir Henry Norris, and George Boleyn were arrested in the conspiracy against the Queen. On May 2, the Queen herself was arrested on the charges of adultery, incest, and plotting to murder the King. On May 19, 1536, Anne was led before the executioner and beheaded.
3. Jane Seymour (1536-1537)
Within twenty-four hours of the execution of Anne Boleyn, King Henry was formally betrothed to Jane Seymour. In October of 1537, a long-awaited son was born to Henry; the baby was named Edward. Jane, however, did not live to raise her son, but died on October 24th, nearly two weeks after her son was born.
For more than two years, Henry VIII remained single following Jane Seymour’s death. It appears, however, that someone close to the king began to make inquiries into the possibility of a foreign bride soon after Jane’s death–possibly it was Thomas Cromwell. It may be that some realized that the split with Rome left England isolated and vulnerable, and for this reason Henry and his ministers regarded a foreign bride and the alliance the marriage would bring as a guarantee of greater security.
4. Anne of Cleves (1540)
Henry also sought a desirable wife, and for this reason, he had agents from foreign courts report to him on the appearance of various candidates and even went so far as to have paintings of them sent to him. One of the most famous of the Tudor court painters, Hans Holbein, was sent to the court of the Duke of Cleves, who had two available sisters–Amelia and Anne. Cleves was considered an important country should the pope and the Holy Roman Empire decide to strike against the countries which had thrown off papal control. After Holbein painted the sisters of the Duke of Cleves (1539), Henry decided to draft a contract for his marriage to Anne, and on January 6, 1540, the marriage took place. By the time the arranged date occurred, Henry was already looking for a way out of the marriage.
Henry was dissatisfied with the marriage and did not consider Anne to be the least bit attractive. To added to his concern, tension between the Duke of Cleves and the Holy Roman Empire were increasing, and Henry was not prepared to become involved in war, and to complicate matters worse, Henry, at some point, became attracted to young Kathryn Howard.
Anne did not protest Henry’s desire to annul the marriage. She testified that the marriage had not been consummated and that her previous engagement to the son of the Duke of Lorraine had not been properly broken. After the marriage had been dissolved, Anne was given the title of the “King’s Sister,” and given property which included the former home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle. Here Anne lived quietly until 1557 when she attended the coronation of Mary I. Following her death that same year, she was buried in an obscure tomb in the Westminster Abbey.
5. Kathryn Howard (1540-1542)
Kathryn Howard was the daughter of Lord Edmund Howard, who was the younger brother of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Kathryn was also first cousin of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. Being brought up in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, she spent much of her time at Lambeth and Horsham.
About the age of nineteen, Kathryn became a lady in waiting to Anne Cleves. Very likely Kathryn’s uncle, Duke of Norfolk, encouraged her to respond to Henry’s affection to gain influence upon the king and discredit his enemy Thomas Cromwell, who was executed soon after the marriage was nullified. Sixteen day after Henry was free of Anne, he took Kathryn Howard as his fifth wife (July 28, 1540); he was 49 and she was no older than 19.
Despite the renewed vigor for life which Kathryn brought to Henry, their relationship began to sour quite soon after their marriage. Henry lavished gifts upon his young wife and called her the “very jewel of womanhood.” However, less than a year into their marriage, rumors began to circulate concerning her infidelity. By November 1541, the evidence was sufficiently substantial to warrant Archbishop Cranmer informing the King of Kathryn’s misconduct. At first the King refused to believe the rumors, but upon further investigation, it was learned that Kathryn had been promiscuous before her wedding and after having become Henry’s wife continued in such relationships. With the evidence of the investigation, Kathryn was executed on the Tower Green on February 13, 1542 and buried near her cousin Anne Boleyn in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London.
6. Katherine Parr (1547-1548)
Katherine Parr was the daughter of Thomas Parr of Kendal, a modest country squire who had served both Henry VII and Henry VIII, but who had died in 1517. Katherine had first married Sir Edward Burough, but after a short marriage, was widowed in 1529. She married again, the second time to Sir John Nevill, Lord Latimer, a wealthy landowner in Yorkshire. Their marriage ended with his death in 1542, Katherine having no children. On July 12, 1543, Henry and Katherine were married, the details concerning their courtship being obscure.
As step-mother to Edward and Mary, Katherine arranged for the best of tutors. Katherine was an amiable influence in the royal family, and because of the king’s declining health, was more of a nurse than a wife.
Henry’s health had been declining such that his last wife must have been as much a nurse as anything else. Katherine managed to soothe the King’s temper and bring his family closer together. Although the Queen was scarcely older than the Princess Mary, she, along with Elizabeth and Edward, saw Katherine as a stabilizing mother figure. Katherine arranged for the best tutors for the children and encouraged them in their learning.
Her appreciation for Protestantism nearly became her undoing. Certain factions at court sought to destroy her by associating her with “heretical” elements of the Reformation. When confronted by the King, Katherine showed a submissive spirit–something which probably saved her life. Katherine was the only one of Henry’s six wives to out live him.
Prince Edward succeeded his father to the throne as Edward VI. His older uncle, Edward Seymour, Lord Somerset, was appointed Protector since Edward was only nine years old. The younger Seymour brother, Thomas, sought Katherine’s hand in marriage, which he had apparently done before Katherine’s marriage to Henry. But this time, she was at liberty to accept. Katherine soon became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter named Mary on August 30, 1548. Katherine, however, did not recover from complications related to childbirth and died on September 5 and was buried at St. Mary’s Church at Sudeley Castle.
B. Supremacy Over the Church (1531-1534)
1. 1531 Henry Declared Head of the Church
King Henry VIII believed that a male heir would be necessary to provide stability to the realm. Having married his brother’s widow, Henry and Catherine conceived several children, but only a daughter, Mary, lived through infancy. Catherine was incapable of giving Henry his much coveted son, and as a result, Henry sought an annulment of his marriage to Catherine.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey sought to accommodate the wishes of the King, having Catherine’s marriage to Henry declared invalid in his legatine court and thereby hoping to persuade the Pope to officially annul the marriage. But the Pope was incapable of complying with Henry’s request due to the fact that Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, was a greater threat to the Pope than the English monarch. In time, Catherine was tried at Blackfriars, London, in 1519, but in the process Wolsey made an enemy of Anne Boleyn who held him personally responsible for the long delay in settling her status as Henry’s next wife. The trial failed and Wolsey fell from royal favor. He was forced to surrender the Great Seal of England and cede his amassed possessions to Henry. However, he was permitted to retain his living as Archbishop of York. In late 1530, Henry charged Wolsey with treason. En route from York to stand trial, Wolsey died at Leicester Abbey, sparing Henry the distasteful ordeal of such a trial.
When it became apparent that the Pope would not grant a divorce, Henry secured the assistance of the English Parliament to declare that his first marriage was void and successfully pressured the clergy into granting it. Henry’s fears were not completely without foundation. The country had been ruled by only one woman, Matilda (1135-1154), which led to two decades of warfare.
Henry’s dominance over the English Church was to be achieved only gradually. Under constraint, the Convocation representing the archdiocese of Canterbury declared Henry to be “the singular protector, the only and supreme lord, and as far as is permitted by the law of Christ, even the supreme head” of the Church of England, in January of 1531 (Act for the Pardon of the Clergy).
An important theological statement was made in the promulgation of the act, that being that the laity was in control of the church. Lay control of the church was an important Reformation principle, and this act was the first clear demonstration of that theology in the Reformation era.
2. 1532 Convocation Submits to King
In 1532, Convocation was again compelled to submit to the wish of the King, promising in the Submission of the Clergy not to promulgate a papal bull in England without royal approval. The same year Parliament abolished all payments of papal annates.
3. 1533 Sovereignty of English Church Courts
In February 1533, Parliament passed an act which forbade appeals of church courts in England to papal courts in Rome (Act in Restraint of Appeals), refused to permit papal interference in the appointment of bishops, and disavowed papal dispensations in the interest of the English Church. The act was expedited to provide for the divorce of the King and provide legitimacy for his marriage to Anne Boleyn, who he had already married in January.
C. The Henrician Reformation (1534-1547)
1. 1534 Act of Supremacy Passed
The legislation which had been adopted between 1531 and 1533 was given a more solid legal foundation in 1534. Following a series of acts in 1534 designed to solidify lay supremacy over the Church in England by Henry, the Act of Supremacy which declared the king “the supreme head of the Church” was passed by Parliament (1534). This act constituted the final break with Rome. Though the king was now the head of the church in England, the theology of the church remained essentially unchanged. The title was dropped by Mary I (1553) and altered to “Supreme Governor” by Elizabeth I (1559), which remains in force to this day.
The claim to supreme headship included the right to teach doctrine and reform the Church, but not the right to preach, ordain or administer the sacraments and rites of the Church. This right was known as the potestas ordinis and was reserved to the clergy Henry VIII maintained that he was doing no more than assert the ancient rights of the secular power, which the Papacy had usurped in the course of the centuries. It was a view which was shared by the Lutheran princes in Germany and it could claim some support from the practice of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, where the Emperor (or Tsar) played a major part in Church affairs.
Opposition to Henry centered mainly on the claim to teach doctrine. In the Early Church, doctrine had been established by Ecumenical Councils which were called together by the Roman (later Byzantine) Emperor who presided over their deliberations and put their decisions into effect. But the decisions themselves were made by the assembled bishops, however much imperial pressure they may have been subjected to. Henry ignored this, possibly because he sensed that the majority of the bishops would not have supported him in his breach with Rome.
Another difficulty, which surfaced at the accession of Elizabeth, was the claim inherent in the title “Supreme Head”. Many Protestants felt that this title belonged only to Christ, whom St Paul called the Head of the Church. To accommodate this objection, Elizabeth altered the title to that of “Supreme Governor” – a change of form, but not of substance.
2. 1536 The Wittenberg Articles
Very soon after the break with Rome in 1534, Henry and Archbishop Cranmer started looking for allies among the Protestants on the Continent. As early as 1535, a delegation was sent to Germany to forge an agreement with the Lutherans. The English delegation offered a number of proposals to the Lutherans, to which the Duke of Saxony and Landgrave of Hess replied in the so-called “Christmas Articles” (1535). The Lutherans called upon Henry to fully accept the Augsburg Confession in England, and in return, Henry was nominated as the commander-in-chief of the Protestant cause in Europe. Henry accepted the proposal, but negotiations soon broke down over the question of Henry’s divorce. Later in the year, after Anne Boleyn was executed, negotiations broke off completely. Before the final break between the two parties, the theologians of Wittenberg managed to prepare a draft of a confession which the English delegates were to take home with them. Whether or not they did so is unknown. All evidence of the meeting vanished in England, and a German copy was not discovered until 1904. The main author of the text was Philip Melanchthon, but Luther himself took part in the negotiations. The English were represented by Edward Fox, Nicholas Heath and Richard Barnes.
3. 1536 Ten Articles Promulgated
Soon after the failed attempted at union with the Lutherans, another attempt was made by Henry to articulate his theology. The English Church’s break with Rome was entirely ecclesiastical. The theological development of Anglicanism began soon after England’s break with Rome. In 1536, Henry and his archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, promulgated the Ten Articles in which the church made a modest shift toward Protestantism. But the advances toward Protestantism were soon halted, to the disappointment of Cranmer.
The monasteries of England were among the strongest bastions of papal support. Two reports, in 1536 and 1537, resulted in the dissolutionment of the monasteries, providing the government with extra income and the elimination of centers of resistance.
4. 1539 Six Articles Passed
In 1539, Parliament, under the authority of Henry, passed the Six Articles, which were much closer to Catholic doctrine than the Ten Articles, for they clearly upheld transubstantiation, celibacy of the clergy, the observance of vows of chastity taken by both men and women, private masses, and auricular confession. During Henry’s latter years, Cranmer was successful in preparing forms of worship, including a litany, which met with royal approval.
III. Edward VI (1547-1553)
Movement toward Protestantism was far more marked under the reign of Henry’s son, Edward VI, who was borne by Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward was only nine when he came to the throne, and because of his frail body, ruled only six-and-a-half years (1547-1553). Since Edward was so young at the time of his coronation, a Council of Executors actually conducted the affairs of government. The Council was led by Edward’s uncle, the Earl of Hertford, who was given the title of Protector of the Realm. Shortly after assuming this office, Hertford had himself appointed Duke of Somerset, and by this name he is best known. During Edward’s short reign, most policies were determined by his Council of Executors, which was favorably disposed toward Protestant reforms.
A. 1547 Homilies Promulgated
Reforms under Edward were swift, and occasionally too drastic for the temperament of the age. The first Parliament (1547) of the new reign repealed the Six Articles, lifted all restrictions on the printing and distribution of the Scriptures, and repealed treason and heresy laws. Edward’s reign was only a few weeks old when images were ordered removed from churches, and in some cases violent iconoclasm ensued.
The primary reason that reforms were so swift in coming is because the foundation for reform was laid under Henry. The Six Articles of Henry were able to restrain reform under his reign. But in fact the measure which he took to revise the service books provided reformers the opportunity to develop a liturgy which bore the marks of the continental reformers. As early as 1542, a Committee of Convocation began to revise the service books. The Committee issued The Litany in English in 1544, which was the final work of the Committee to be published under Henry’s reign. Under Edward, the fruit of the Committee’s labors became evident in the reforms which ensued.
Shortly after Edward ascended the throne, the first book of Certain Sermons or Homilies, Appointed to be Read in Churches appeared (July, 1547). Archbishop Cranmer had begun efforts in 1539 to propagate a book of sermons throughout the realm which was designed to help ignorant parish priests discharge their duty of regular preaching and tune the pulpits to official policy. Under Henry’s 1542-43 Convocation, Cranmer was unsuccessful in his attempt to promulgate his book of sermons, but under Edward, Cranmer found no resistance in establishing a standard set of sermons to be preached from the pulpits of the realm. The twelve sermons of the first book of homilies was pressed into use by authorities in both the state and church who were intent upon controlling public opinion. These homilies treated a variety of subjects including the primacy of Scripture, the relationship of faith to works, Christian conduct, discouraging swearing, sexual promiscuity, and the fear of death and at the same time encouraged Christian love, obedience, and toleration.
B. 1548 Order of Communion Established
In 1548, an Order of Communion was developed for use in giving communion to the laity, and in 1549, the marriage of priests was legalized. Leading continental Reformers were welcomed in England and became instrumental in the shaping of Anglican thought.
C. 1549 First Prayer Book
To preserve order, Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity requiring the clergy to use the newly written Book of Common Prayer which had been developed under the direction of Cranmer. Cranmer’s committee which developed the Prayer Book had completed its work in 1548. It was then submitted to Convocation for their consideration, then to the King in Council, and finally to Parliament. In 1549, the Prayer Book was incorporated into the Act of Uniformity of that same year. It was Cranmer’s desire to more radically change the English Church, patterning it after Zwingli’s reforms; however, the conservatives of Parliament were able to restrain him at this point. For the conservatives, the first Prayer Book of Edward VI went too far in its appreciation for Protestant theology and worship, but many Protestants contended that too much of the despised Catholic tradition remained.
D. 1552 Second Prayer Book
A revised edition of the Prayer Book appeared in 1552, and its use was made compulsory by a second, more stringent Act of Uniformity. This edition is also known as the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI. It is significant in that it serves as the basis for the Prayer Book under Queen Elizabeth. The revised Prayer Book more closely reflected the Protestant thought of both Cranmer and the continental Reformers, and continued the Protestant trend away from the sacerdotal language of Rome. In the revised Prayer Book, the “alter” was called a “table,” the “priest” a “minister,” the old terms “the body” and “the bread” in the celebration of the eucharist were superseded by “take and eat” and “drink this,” and the minister’s vestments were limited to the surplice.
Two foreign sources were drawn upon in the compilation of the Prayer Book, both of which were from the continental Reformers. The first of the two sources was The Consultation of Hermann, Archbishop of Cologne, which was compiled by Melanchthon and Bucer, and based upon the service developed by Luther for use at Brandenburg and Nuremberg. The exhortation in the office of communion and a considerable portion in the office for the baptism of infants are partly taken from this source.
The second foreign source which the Prayer Book draws upon is Calvin’s Directory which was developed for use of the reformed church at Strasbourg. The reformers who fled to England from Strasbourg took the Directory with them and published it in Latin in 1551. The Prayer Book of 1552 derived the Introductory Sentences, and the Exhortation, Confession, and Absolution from this source.
E. 1553 Forty-two Articles of Religion
In 1553, Cranmer further solidified the doctrine of the Church of England by drawing up the Forty-two Articles of Religion. These Articles laid the foundation for the doctrinal standards of the English Church under the reign of Elizabeth. But the reforms introduced under the reign of Edward were quickly suppressed by his successor following his untimely death in 1553.
IV. Mary Tudor (1553-1558)
Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII to his first wife Catherine of Aragon, was intensely loyal to the Catholic faith of her mother. Mary only ruled from 1553 to 1558, a little more than five years. Henry’s will had declared Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth, to be illegitimate, but provided that if Edward died without an heir to the throne, they should succeed to the throne in order of their births.
Mary’s rise to the throne was, however, not peaceful. The political intrigue which surrounded Mary’s coming to the throne began in the reign of Edward. The Duke of Somerset, who first headed Edward’s Council of Executors, possessed a knack for alienating people. He alienated the church by imposing and Act of Uniformity which required subscription to the Book of Common Prayer, and he tactlessly alienated Parliament through his measures against land enclosure.
Parliament was led in its opposition by John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. Somerset was forced to resign as Protector and suffered the seizure of some of his property and was also held for a short time in the Tower of London. Dudley assumed Somerset’s office as head of Council of Executors. In 1552, Somerset was executed. Dudley, being motivated by greed and a desire for personal power and realizing that Edward did not have long to live, advanced the name of Lady Jane Grey, the devout sixteen-year-old granddaughter of Henry VIII’s youngest sister, Mary Rose, as Edward’s successor to the throne. To keep Mary from ascending the throne and to ensure his own hold on power after Edward’s death, Dudley married Jane to his own son Guildford Dudley, believing that Lady Jane would be pliable enough to conform to his own wishes once she was crowned queen. However, Dudley’s plans to put Jane forward as Edward’s successor were unknown to her.
Dudley had no trouble convincing Edward to set aside his father’s will which named Mary as Edward’s successor, given the fact the Edward was not willing that the crown should fall to a Catholic. Frances Grey, Jane’s mother, was named as Edward’s successor, but she duly relinquished the right in favor of her daughter, Jane. Only with great difficulty was Dudley able to persuade the Council of Executors to recognize Jane as queen.
On July 6, 1553, Edward died, and four days later Jane was crowned Queen of England. Jane, however, refused to allow her husband to be proclaimed king, a title which he had no right to possess, but proposed that he be created Duke of Clarence.
Dudley was outraged at Jane’s refusal to allow her husband to be crowned king. But this was only one of two challenges which faced Dudley. The second concerned Mary. In an attempt to keep support from forming around Mary, Dudley sent to have her arrested, but being warned, Mary narrowly escaped the men who were sent to imprison her. Dudley set out in pursuit of Mary to Framlingham Castle in Norfolk where she had taken refuge. Seeing their opportunity to act in the absence of Dudley, the other members of the Council acted quickly in support of Mary.
Mary was declared queen at Paul’s Cross, London after only nine days of reign for Jane Grey. Mary was inclined to be generous with Dudley, but she was advised by the other members of Council of his danger to her and was persuaded to put him to death. Mary was similarly inclined to be magnanimous toward Jane and her husband Guildford, but after the ill-fated revolt known as the Wyatt Rebellion, Mary realized that as long as Jane and Guildford were alive there would be no peace. On February 12, 1554, Jane and Guildford were beheaded on a scaffold erected on the Tower Green in London.
Though Mary’s reign was brief, the reforms which had been enacted under Edward were abolished, and religious practice was restored to what it had been at the death of her father. On this period, Daniel writes:
All the efforts of the English reformers seemed now to have been thrown away. The old errors were again taught, and the old superstitious practices were revived; but the good seed that had been sown silently germinated, and the bitter persecution that was carried on in this reign only served to increase the popular attachment to the reformed Church.
Many of the reformers who had been welcomed to the realm under Edward fled to the continent seeking refuge from the Queen. Mary’s reign witnessed a number of beheadings and burnings of Protestants. Among the most famous of the victims were Bishops Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, all of whom were burned at the stake at Oxford. The first two suffered the stake together. Latimer is reported to have encouraged his companion, saying, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out.”
A. 1553 (October) Reforms Abolished
By October 1553, Mary had succeeded in persuading Parliament to abolish all laws enacted under Edward which pertained to religion and proclaimed that all Prayer Books should be delivered to the ordinary and placed at his “will and disposition to be burnt.”
B. 1554 Catholic Restoration Refused
Though the English Church was absolved of it schism and disobedience by the pope in November of 1554, Parliament still refused to restore land which had been seized from the Roman church under Henry VIII.
England was as little prepared to tolerate the excesses of Protestantism as it had the excesses of Catholicism. The extreme swing toward Protestantism under the reign of Edward was countered by the excessive measures toward Catholicism under Mary. The extremes of both parties found moderation in Mary’s successor, Elizabeth.
V. Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
Queen Elizabeth I, daughter to Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, succeeded her half-sister in 1558. Under her nearly half a century of reign, the realm enjoyed one of the most glorious eras in English history. Elizabeth sought to avoid the extremes of both the Catholics and Protestants and attempted to order the English Church in a way which would satisfy the majority of her subjects. She not only was successful in providing an immediate settlement, but also provided for those features which would characterize the English Church, except for minor alterations, from her reign onward.
A. 1559 Second Edwardian Prayer Book
Elizabeth had no intention of allowing the English Church to return to the control of the Pope as Mary had desired. In April of 1559, Elizabeth called upon Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy, making her “the only supreme governor of this realm” in ecclesiastical and temporal matters, and thereby, nullified the authority of the Pope in England and forbade all payments and appeals to him.
Parliament also began to enact legislation which was intended to restore the reforms made under Edward. With the encouragement of Elizabeth, Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity which restored, with some alterations, the second Prayer Book of Edward VI. Elizabeth had appointed a committee, which included several of the returning reformers, to revise the Prayer Book. She favored the Prayer Book of 1549 as the basis of revision, but the committee, being influenced by the Protestant element, chose the Book of 1552.
B. 1562 Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
In 1562, the Thirty-nine Articles were developed, ratified by Parliament, and made binding upon all clergy in 1571. The Thirty-nine Articles were only slightly modified in 1571, and since that time, has been the creed of the Anglican church. For the most part, the Articles of Religion were a modification of the Forty-two Articles of Religion which appeared in 1553 under Edward. Since that time, the Thirty-nine Articles have remained the doctrinal standards of the Church of England.
C. 1563 Elizabethan Homilies
In addition to the modifications of the Prayer Book and Articles of Religion which occurred under Elizabeth, a new tome of homilies joined the first in 1563. This set of homilies dealt with some important topics which were neglected in the first book, such as images, matrimony, and the sacraments. And in 1570, the Homily Against Disobedience and Willful Rebellion joined the list. Under Elizabeth, Anglicanism was solidified into a via media between continental Protestantism on the one hand and Roman Catholicism on the other.
D. The Rise of Puritanism
Elizabeth was victorious in her struggle with the papacy, but at the same time a threat arose within the realm which proved to be equally menacing to the settlement which she had secured. Many of the Puritans, who were imbued with much of continental Protestantism’s distaste for Rome, remained within the English church while attempting to purge the church of the last vestiges of Catholicism. For many of the Puritans, the form of church government was the greatest concern. The Independent Puritans sought to retain the state church, but sought to transform it into a Congregational form of government, and still other Puritans pressed for a Presbyterian form of government.
But the form of government was not the only concern of the Puritans. Forms of worship were also major interests. Some Puritans attacked the vestments prescribed for the clergy, insisting that such attire was contrary to the biblical understanding of the priesthood of all believers and, thereby, perpetuated the notion that the clergy were given special powers apart from the laity. Still other Puritans focused their reforming efforts upon the eucharist, refusing to kneel to receive the bread and wine for fear the posture would be mistaken for the adoration of the bodily presence of Christ. From 1567 to 1660, the Puritans were a major force in the religious and political life of England.
Anglican or Low Church Puritans
Presbyterian Puritans (Cartwright)
Congregational or Independent Puritans (Jacob)
Branches of Puritanism
(No State church)
Greenwood and Barrow
Two scholars, in particular, arise in defense of the young church. John Jewel, pupil of Peter Martyr, wrote Apologia Ecclesia Anglicana (1562) in which he defended Anglicanism against the Roman Catholics. In his massive uncompleted work, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Richard Hooker fended off attacks from both Puritan Presbyterians and Roman Catholics.
I. James I (1603-1625)
The Puritans hoped that their reforms might be realized under Elizabeth’s successor. In 1603, the Tudor dynasty came to an end when James VI of Scotland, became James I of England (James VI of Scotland) and ascended the throne. Many Puritans hoped that this Calvinistic king would establish a Presbyterian government in the Anglican church. To this end, they presented him with the Millenary Petition, signed by nearly a thousand Puritan ministers, upon his arrival in England and asked that the church be purified in both liturgy and polity. But James had taken an aversion to Presbyterianism while yet in Scotland.
A. 1604 Hampton Conference Convened
In 1604, James called the Hampton Court Conference into session and made it clear to the Puritans that he would not entertain the notion of presbyterian polity in a state church, saying that Presbyterianism “agreeth as well with monarchy as God and the devil.” Though the Conference yielded a few alterations, there were none of great significance. The rites to be performed by Anglican priests remained essentially the same:
Thus the Puritans were left to groan (to use their own language) under that ‘common burden of human rites and ceremonies,’ of which they had so piteously complained. They were still obliged to use the ring in marriage, to submit their children to be signed with the sign of the cross in baptism, to kneel at Holy Communion, to behold the hated surplice worn by the clergy, and to endure other hardships of a similar character.
The Puritans’ aversion to forms of worship was extended to the homilies as well. Generally, they insisted that an extemporaneous sermon suited to the place and occasion was far more edifying than the formal sermons of the homilies. Against the Puritans at the Hampton Court Conference, King James insisted that a homily be read as prescribed; however, he refused Bishop Bancroft’s request that more homilies be made available for use. Permission was granted at this Conference to make a new English translation of the Bible which was completed in 1611 and widely distributed as the Authorized or King James Version.
The relationship which James’ successor, his son Charles I, would have with Parliament was established in James’ own attitude toward Parliament. Commenting in 1614, James expressed his surprise that his ancestors “should have permitted such an institution to come into existence….It is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power.” This adversarial relation between the king and Parliament was to be continued under Charles’ reign with grave consequences.
B. 1611 Kings James Bible
II. Charles I (1625-1649)
Charles I succeeded James to the throne in 1625 and ruled until his execution in 1649. Whereas James had been a Calvinist, Charles was an Arminian. Charles believed strongly in the divine right of monarch and episcopacy as his father had before him, but he was less successful in wielding his authority with Parliament than were some of the Tudors who had preceded him. As a result, tensions between the crown and Parliament increased. Parliament became increasingly alienated toward the crown and more favorably disposed toward Puritanism and its Presbyterian form of church government.
A. 1629 Parliament Dismissed
Charles reluctantly agreed to the Petition of Right, which safeguarded Englishmen from arbitrary taxes and gave Parliament a voice in the levying of taxes. Tension arose between Charles and the Parliament until the king finally dismissed Parliament and ruled eleven years without it, in defiance of the Petition of Right. Charles ruled without Parliament from 1629 to 1640.
B. 1633 Arminian William Laud Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury
Charles’ appointment of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury initiated a series of events which eventually led to Charles’ ruin. Laud made the mistake of forcing a new Prayer Book on the Church of Scotland in 1637 in an attempt to impose religious uniformity in the two countries. In response, the Scottish people invaded England in 1638 to defend their beloved Presbyterian liturgy and polity. Charles was able to buy off the first invasion, but found it necessary to call Parliament into session to raise funds when the Scots marched into England a second time. This session of Parliament is known as the Long Parliament because it was not replaced until 1660. Parliament flexed its might by imprisoning or executing Charles’ advisers and wrenching control of state finances from the King. Archbishop Laud himself was executed in 1645, during the Civil War which began in 1642.
C. 1642 Civil War Begun
But concerning religion, Parliament could not reach an agreement among its members. The King’s supporters, the Royalists, withdrew from Parliament in 1642 and was soon after engaged in the Civil War (1642-1646) with the Puritan Parliament. Parliament sought a Presbyterian or Congregational polity and doctrine against the Royalist who intended to retain the church state relationship and episcopacy. Soon after the war began, Parliament enlisted the support of the Scots.
D. 1643 Westminster Assembly Convened
The Long Parliament appointed a synod in 1643 to reform the English Church. This synod was known as the Westminster Assembly. It was comprised of 30 lay assessors and 121 churchmen from among the English Puritans. This number increased following the creation of the Solemn League and Covenant. The Assembly held 1,163 daily sessions between 1643 and 1649. Though most of the Assembly’s work was done during this period of time, it did not officially end until 1652.
Puritan forces of Parliament allied with the Scots in 1643 through the Solemn League and Covenant (of 1638) whose signatories had agreed to make the religious practices of England, Scotland, and Ireland as uniform as possible, “according to the Word of God and the examples of the best reformed churches.” Upon the creation of the Solemn League, the Westminster Assembly was increased by 5 clergymen and 3 lay Commissioners from Scotland.
1. 1645 Directory of Public Worship
The Westminster Assembly began its work by attempting to revise the Thirty-nine Articles, but with the advent of the Solemn League, it turned its attention to the formation of a new formula of faith, the Directory of Public Worship, the Westminster Confession of Faith, and two Westminster Catechisms. By February of 1644, the Book of Common Prayer was outlawed by Parliament, for both public and private use, and was replaced by The Directory for the Public Worship of God in the Three Kingdoms which enforced a Presbyterian form of worship. The Directory was completed in 1644 and accepted by both the Scottish and English Parliaments the following year. The Directory was not a Prayer Book, but a manual of instructions for public worship which excluded those practices to which the Puritans had taken exception in the Common Book of Prayer. The Presbyterian form of worship established in the Directory was followed by the establishment of a Presbyterian form of church government with classes and provincial and national assemblies.
2. 1646 Westminster Confession
The Confession was completed in 1646 and was approved by Parliament in 1648 and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1647, the Westminster Confession established itself as the definitive statement of Calvinistic doctrine in the English-speaking world. Thus, Parliament and the Westminster Assembly succeeded in establishing a Calvinistic Presbyterian church by 1648.
3. 1648 Two Westminster Catechisms
The final efforts of the Assembly resulted in the two Westminster Catechisms, which were approved by Parliament and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1648. The Larger Catechism is a popular presentation of the Westminster Confession itself, while the Shorter Catechism employs the well-known question and answer style: “What is the chief end of man?” “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
E. 1646 Royalist Forces Subdued
By 1646, Oliver Cromwell—military leader for Parliament—had subdued Royalist forces and captured the King and, after a brief second war in 1648, executed King Charles in 1649. Charles was beheaded January 30, 1649. The execution of Charles evoked deep sympathy from the English people for their king and the conscience of many were made uneasy. Moorman writes: “English people dislike the sight of blood; and the execution of a king sent a thrill of horror and detestation through the country which has never been forgotten. . . . From 1662 to 1859 the execution of King Charles was commemorated in the calendar of the Prayer Book and special services were held each year on January 30.”
F. 1648 Presbyterians Driven Out
Cromwell, a Congregationalist, ordered that Presbyterians be driven out of Parliament in 1648, leaving a “rump” of Congregationalists in charge, turning his back upon the agreement with the Scottish Presbyterians.
G. 1649-50 Irish and Scots Suppressed
Realizing they had been betrayed, the Irish and Scots recognized the slain king’s son, Charles II, as monarch. In 1649 and 1650, Cromwell brutally crushed the rebellion.
I. 1649-1660 Commonwealth Established
Following Charles’ execution, Cromwell established a short-lived Commonwealth (essentially a military dictatorship) which lasted only until 1660, two years after his death. Just when Puritanism and its continental form of worship appeared to have won the day with the execution of Charles, it in fact began its demise: “So Charles died; but with his death the fate of Puritanism was sealed and the Church’s future ensured.”
II. 1653 Cromwell as “Lord Protector”
Parliament posed some difficulties for Cromwell, until, in 1653, he dissolved it and established himself as “lord protector.” But Puritanism proved even more distasteful and repressive to the English people than Anglicanism. In 1650, the government of Cromwell issued an order requiring all citizens to attend some place of worship where religious exercises were held. The Puritans were willing to be tolerant in their doctrine, worship, and discipline, “provided this liberty be not extended to popery or prelacy.” With regard to religion, the country was in a state of confusion during Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Moorman writes:
The dark shadow of Calvinism lay over the land, affecting not only the worship of the people but their everyday lives, for the government did its utmost to enforce the legislation of the Pentateuch and destroyed many of the simple amusements of the poor.
I. Charles II (1660-1685)
A. 1660 Monarchy Restored
Archbishop William Laud had used his position to appoint Arminians to key positions in the church during the Charles I’s reign. A number of the Laudians accompanied the court into exile where they sought to prevent the heir apparent, Charles II, from embracing either Presbyterianism or Catholicism. In exile, the Laudians prepared Charles for an anticipated return to power. The Laudian party realized their hopes of the restoration of episcopacy and the re-establishment of the Church of England when the monarchy was restored under Charles in 1660.
B. 1661 “The Restoration” of Anglicanism
The “Cavalier Parliament” which was elected in 1661 was predisposed toward the monarchy and set the tone for the “Restoration.” The Clarendon Code passed by Parliament paved the way for the persecution of Puritans and their tenets of practice.
The Prayer Book was also restored to use in the church with the restoration of the monarchy and episcopacy. But the Puritans were determined to resist the reintroduction of the Book of Common Prayer, and appealed to Charles, asking him to remove those “obnoxious customs” which were most offensive to them. Charles provided an opportunity for representatives of the Puritans and the Church of England to resolve their differences at the Savoy Hospital on April 15, 1661 to discuss the matters which lay between them. But the Laudian bishops who had endured years of poverty and exile were in no mood for compromise with the Puritans.
C. 1662 Prayer Book Restored
The year 1662 is significant in the study of the history of Anglican liturgy. By no means was the political intrigue at an end in 1662. In fact, England again developed an appetite for Catholicism under the reign of Charles II and his brother who succeeded him, James II.
D. 1670 Catholic Restoration Promised
In the secret Treaty of Dover (1670), Charles promised his cousin Louis XIV of France to restore Catholicism to England in return for French subsidy.
E. 1673 Nonconformists Prohibited
Parliament so strongly reacted against Charles’ Declaration of Indulgence (issued in 1672), that would have allowed freedom of worship in private homes for Catholics and Nonconformist Protestants, that the king was forced to abandon his effort. To prohibit the official toleration of Puritanism or Catholicism, Parliament passed the Test Act in 1673 which required all officials to take communion in the Established church. The Test Act was not repealed until 1828. Charles remained within the Anglican communion until his death bed when he confessed Catholicism.
Charles repeatedly demonstrated sympathy for Catholicism throughout his reign. In 1672 he issued the Declaration of Indulgence which permitted the public worship of Catholics and Protestant dissenters; however, Parliament withdrew the Declaration the following year. The Treaty of Dover (1682) in which Charles had pledged to restore Catholicism to the realm greatly enhanced the fears of both conformists and nonconformists alike. In the last hours of life in February 1685, Charles was received into the Roman Catholic Church.
II. James II (1685-1688)
A. 1685 Catholicism Advanced
James more openly attempted to return England to the fold of the Catholic church. He appointed Catholics to important military commands and to positions in university. After ascending the throne, James proceeded to alienate every significant political and military segment of English society by attempting to Catholicize the army and government and attempted to fill parliament with his supporters. He evaded the Act of Uniformity and the Test Act by evoking the Dispensing Power, which granted the monarch the right to suspend certain statutes (declared illegal in 1689).
B. 1687 Nonconformists Laws Suspended
In 1687, James attempted to broaden nonconformist support by appealing to Protestant Dissenters, including them in his Declaration of Conscience. In 1687-88, James issued his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending legislation against the nonconformist and allowing them to worship in meeting houses and Catholics to worship in private.
C. 1688 The “Glorious Revolution”
In June of 1688, James had a son. This event intensified fears of the establishment of a Catholic dynasty in England–something which could not be tolerated by many. Both the Anglican (Tory) and Puritan (Whig) parties in Parliament feared that James’ son would succeed him to the throne. To ensure this would not happen, the Tories and Whigs united to force James from the throne (in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688). Parliament offered the crown to William III of Orange in Holland (grandson of Charles I) and his wife Mary (daughter of James II). In November 1688, William landed at Torbay with an army, promised to defend the liberty of England and the Protestant religion, and marched unopposed to London. James fled to France. Parliament then convened, denounced James, and offered joint sovereignty to William and Mary. To further restrict the monarch, Parliament enacted further legislation designed to prohibit England from again yielding to the lordship of the Pope.
Just two years after the Glorious Revolution, John Lock provided the justification for revolt against established government in his Two Treatises of Government (1690). He argued that the government or contract between a ruler and people may be abolished through revolution if the natural rights of the people of life, liberty, and property are violated. This same rationale was employed by the American colonists in the American Revolution. Many historians, however, fail to realize that such a rationale was first set forth by Calvin. It is for this reason that so many Calvinists in America were in support of the Revolution. British Methodist commentator, Adam Clarke, believed that James II’s removal from power was lawful.
III. William and Mary (1688-1702)
A. 1689 Toleration Act and Bill of Rights
Parliament passed the Toleration Act and Bill of Rights which provided for certain civil rights, the supremacy of Parliament over the monarch, and freedom of worship for all except Unitarians, Catholics, and Jews. The Toleration Act stipulated that only Anglicans could serve in the government and the army, though some exceptions were made to this part of the Act.
B. 1662 Prayer Book Remains
In 1689, plans were begun to alter the Prayer Book again under the reign of Mary and William. However, the desired alterations, which were intended to satisfy longstanding Puritan demands, were never achieved before William was succeeded by Anne in 1702. Thus, by 1662, the English Reformation had reached its zenith, its doctrine and practice being established in its Homilies (1547 and 1563, with a homily being added in 1570), Thirty-nine Articles (1562), and Prayer Book (1552; revise slightly under Elizabeth, 1559; re-established under Charles in 1662).
IV. Continuing Conflict with Catholics (1689-1745)
A. 1689 Scottish Jacobites Defeated
Centers of resistance emerged in Scotland and Ireland to the new monarchs. Those who supported a Stuart restoration, as opposed to the reign of William and Mary and their successors, were known as Jacobites. Scottish Jacobites led by Dundee rebelled against William and Mary in 1689 but were defeated at the Battle of Killiecrankie.
B. 1690 James II Defeated at Boyne
Having rallied his supporters in Ireland and Scotland, James attempted a return to the throne, but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Boyne in Ireland on July 1, 1690. The defeat of James’ Irish and French Jacobites brought England into War of the League of Augsburg (with France), which continued until 1697.
C. 1715 James the “Old Pretender” Defeated
The Jacobites supported the claim to the British throne of deposed James II and his son James, the “Old Pretender.” The chief centers of Jacobite resistance were in Scotland and Ireland, though a few Tories in England collaborated with them. These factions were also supported by the French, with whom the English, at the time, more or less were continually at war. From 1688 to 1745, there were real or imaginary plots attributed to the Jacobites, though there were only two serious revolts, in 1715 and 1745. The revolt of 1715 was the result of efforts by James the “Old Pretender” in Scotland and Northumberland to overthrow the recent succession to the throne of Hanoverian George I.
D. 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie” Defeated
The uprising of 1745 was much larger and was conducted by the Scottish Jacobite Highland chiefs under “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” Charles Edward Stuart (grandson of James II), who had won several victories in Scotland and proceeded to invade England. At the time, England was ruled by George II, who was successful in pushing the Jacobites back in the slaughter at the battle of Culloden, effectively ending the Jacobite cause forever.
I. George I (1714-1727)
Great-grandson of James I
II. George II (1727-1760)
Son of George I
III. George III (1760-1820)
Grandson of George II
IV. George IV (1820-1830)
Son of George III
V. William IV (1830-1837)
Brother of George IV
I. Victoria (1837-1901)
Niece of William IV
II. Edward VII (1901-1910)
Son of Victoria and Albert
III. George V (1910-1936)
Second son of Edward VII
IV. Edward VIII (1936)
Son of George V
V. George VI (1936-1952)
Second son of George V
VI. Elizabeth II (1952- )
Daughter of George VI
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“Caesar refers to such consecrated circles for national deliberation among the Gauls (Bell. Gall. 6), and Homer alludes to Grecian councils held within circles of stones (Il. 18, 585; comp. Od. 8, 5)” McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia, s.v. “Altar.”
Cairns, Through the Centuries, 330. The following year Henry announced himself “supreme head on earth of the English Church” and by royal proclamation the Pope’s name was removed from the service books. Latourette, History of Christianity, 2:802.
Cranmer is deeply admired by eighteenth-century Anglican priest John Fletcher for his attempts to reunite both grace and justice—something which the continental Reformers had failed to do. See Fletcher, Works, 2:274-77.
The Ten Articles mention three sacraments (baptism, the Eucharist, and penance), stressed the importance of teaching the people the Bible, Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, asserted justification by faith and by confession, absolution, and good works, that Christ is physically present in the Eucharist, and that the use of images, the invocation of the saints, and masses for the dead are desirable. Latourette, History of Christianity, 2:804.
Ibid., 2:804. Though Henry remained very conservative in his Catholic theology, advances were made in the translation and distribution of Scripture in the vernacular. The Great Bible, which was a revision of the work of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale, was issued in 1539 with Cranmer providing the preface. Ibid., 2:804-805; Cairns, Through the Centuries, 330.
Between 1536 and 1540, Henry and Parliament moved to take possession of the monasteries through dissolution. This act afforded Henry the opportunity of cementing relations with the middle class by selling a portion of the lands taken from the monasteries to members of the middle class who were supportive of the measures Henry was taking. The lay patronage of Madeley parish begins at this point when the manor was purchased by Robert Brooke from Henry in 1544. Baugh, History of Shropshire, 11:35.
Daniel notes the criticism of the continental Reformers: “Calvin complained to the protector of the backwardness of the English, and many of the Continental Reformers who had sought refuge in England gave expression to similar opinions.” Ibid., 36.
Daniel, Prayer Book, 41. In the latter part of his reign, James becomes increasingly opposed to Calvinism because of its assertion that the head of the state could not be head of the church. J. L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 1946), vol. 2, History of Protestant Theology, by O. W. Heick, 29.
Fletcher contends that through Archbishop Laud during the reigns of James I (1603-1625) and Charles I (1625-1649), “the Gospel scales” become imbalanced, weighted in favor of justice and tending toward Pelagianism. See Fletcher, Works, 2:274-77.
In his political tracts against the American Revolution, Fletcher points to the Commonwealth as an era of great political unrest which resulted in the development of religious sects. He sees this era as one of the most destructive periods of English history. See Works, 4:461-78, 536-44.
Convocation made nearly 600 alterations to the Prayer Book, though mainly in matters of detail. Of greatest importance to our study is the fact that the rubric concerning the eucharist replaced the phrase “no real or essential presence” with “no corporal presence” of Christ. The Test Act of 1673, aimed at the Catholics, further repudiated the doctrine of transubstantiation. Ibid., 249-51, 53.