The Causes Of The Henrician Reformation

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By 1527 Henry VIII had decided to divorce Catherine of Aragon, leading to the Reformation and the greatest crisis of his reign. Historians disagree on Henry’s fundamental desire for a divorce, the trigger for the reformation, and thus the multiple factors of the actual reformation are even more disputed. Due to the fraught political situation in Europe, which resulted in Charles V isolating and controlling the Pope, Henry was unable to gain the divorce through the Catholic Church and so was forced to consider other means by 1529. Attempting to pressurise the Pope through Parliament and by sentencing Cardinal Wolsey, his representative, to death, Henry was still unable to achieve the desired effect and thus began his attack on the Church. He reduced clerical privileges and, by charging the clergy with Praemunire, he undermined their power as representatives of the Pope in order to strengthen his own. Henry set about introducing the Bible in the vernacular and reducing the number of holy sacraments, having declared himself head of the Church, he began to make England a Protestant country. However, historians are divided over the extent of Henry’s influence and his motives. Some believe that the reformation was a ‘grassroots’ and progressive change caused either by anticlericalism and corruption in the church or by opposing movements like Lollardy and Lutherism. Even those who believe that the reformation came from above, like Haigh and Scarisbrick, disagree over Henry’s motives, whether he was persuaded by his desire for Anne or his pressure for an heir or by the influential factions in court or even by the financial or political advantages a break with Rome would offer. The reformation was caused by all of the factors which converged on Henry in the situation post 1527, of which desire for Anne was only one. By the 16th century the
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