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What were the causes of the English Reformation? Show more Show less
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The English Reformation in the 16th century began when Henry VIII was not able to divorce his wife. The English Reformation was part of a larger European movement, fuelled by the printing press and a number of charismatic theologians.

Notable figures close to Henry VIII pushed for a break with Rome Show more Show less

Many important people around Henry VIII including two of his wives were highly influential. Thomas Cromwell and his appointment Archbishop Cranmer were committed to Protestantism and reform. The top-down school of thought sees the Reformation as a political project coming from educated elites in Henry's court.
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Anne Boleyn pressured Henry VIII to start the reformation

Boleyn and her family were known critics of the catholic church. Anne did a great deal to help people with protestant views. She persuaded Henry VIII to break with the church when he asked her to be his mistress.

The Argument

A mix of ambition and religious conviction pushed Anne to promote the reformation and lean on Henry VIII to break with Rome. Anne appears to have had strong protestant religious convictions and links with important reformers. She even intervened to help a famous promoter of Tyndale’s English Bible, and several men accused of heresy. She was praised by John Foxe in his book of protestant martyrs and received the odium of the Spanish ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, who called her Lutheran. Her brother George Boleyn had even more openly protestant views.[1] When Henry doggedly pursued Anne, she insisted she would be a mistress, instead, she said that Henry must obtain a divorce. Whether she knew where this would lead or not, she became a catalyst for reformation. Anne pointed to a passage in one of Tyndale’s books for Henry to read. The passage said that King’s rights had been undermined by the Church. Anne was trying to push Henry to break with the church.[2] Anne had several reasons to promote the Reformation. She both wanted the King to marry her and was a passionate Protestant reformer. Anne Boleyn’s influence over Henry VIII started the Reformation.

Counter arguments

Claims that Anne Boleyn was a committed Protestant are unreliable and possibly exaggerated. She may even have been a reforming catholic. Any commitment she showed to Protestantism was probably pragmatic. The evidence she had reforming zeal rests on John Foxe’s testimony after she died. She was painted as a protector of Protestantism as part of a broad programme of Elizabethan propaganda. Contemporary evidence seems to suggest the opposite, that she still held some catholic beliefs.[3] She was only 19 when she met the King, and probably was not able to influence him at all intellectually. She was more of a victim of outside forces than the orchestrator of anything. Henry VIII doggedly pursued her even when she was not interested. Anne Boleyn’s family pushed her into marriage with Henry VIII.[4] Anne’s role in the Reformation remains unclear. She may not have been interested in the Protestant faith at all. Her influence over Henry VIII is exaggerated, she was a young girl controlled by her family.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] Anne Boleyn wanted to marry Henry VIII [P2] Anne Boleyn was a committed protestant [C] Anne Boleyn influenced Henry VIII to start the Reformation

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] It is not clear that Anne really wanted the marriage, or if Henry and her family wanted it [Rejecting P2] Whether Anne was a passionate Protestant or not is contested

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2640208?seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents
  2. https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/william-tyndales-obedience-christian-man-got-henry-viiis-hands/
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2639513
  4. https://www.newswise.com/articles/anne-boleyn-victim-or-vixen#:~:text=Some%20historians%20see%20Boleyn%20as,says%20a%20lot%20about%20ourselves.
This page was last edited on Sunday, 8 Nov 2020 at 18:59 UTC

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