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What were the causes of the English Reformation?

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.

Henry VIII's divorce caused the English Reformation

The English Reformation happened primarily because Henry VIII could not get a divorce. Prior to his fallout with the catholic church over his marriage, Henry was declared defender of the faith. His decision was not based on conscience but on pragmatism. Henry was autocratic by nature and did not want the pope to control him.

Henry VIII badly needed a male heir

Unable to attain an annulment from the pope, Henry turned to extreme measures to get what he wanted. Consumed by fear that his reign would end in failure if he died without a male heir, he wished to prevent England from plunging once again into civil war.

Widespread discontent with the catholic church caused the English Reformation

With the invention of the printing press, many new ideas about the catholic church spread amongst the general populace. The English Bible, translated by William Tyndale was particularly revolutionary. The church was seen as corrupt, hypocritical, and not in alignment with scripture. The bottom-up school of thought sees the Reformation as a widespread ground-swell of anti-Catholic ideas.

The invention of the printing press spread criticism of Catholicism

The dual forces of reforming protestant writers and humanist critics pushed many away from Catholicism. The invention of the printing press meant people could more easily read pamphlets which addressed the major problems with the Catholic church.

The translation of the Bible into English provoked reform

Two major translations of the bible into English led to widespread discontent with the church. The early Lollard movement led by John Wycliffe created the groundwork for Protestantism. Later, William Tyndale's translation of the bible into English was widely circulated in the reign of Henry VIII.

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

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.

Thomas Cromwell orchestrated the reformation with Archbishop Cranmer

Thomas Cromwell along with the protestant Archbishop Thomas Cranmer led a series of widespread reforms and built ties with other protestant movements. Between them, they changed the religious culture of the country.

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.

Later Tudor monarchs consolidated Henry's Reformation in England

During King Henry VIII's reign, the Reformation was unpopular among large sections of the population in England. Later Protestant monarchs, such as Edward VI, and Elizabeth I, continued Henry's reforms more successfully. Advocates of the 'slow Reformation', believe Henry and his courtiers had little impact on belief and that it took a long time for England to accept a genuine Protestant Reformation.

Elizabeth I's rule consolidated the Reformation

Elizabeth I’s religious settlement solidified England’s fate as a Protestant nation. Queen Elizabeth was much more popular than her sister Mary had been and she ruled for a long time, securing a peaceful protestant England.

Edward VI introduced serious Protestant reforms

Henry VIII had broken with Rome but had not instituted many reforms. Edward VI was a sincere Protestant who introduced many important ideas that would shape England forever.
This page was last edited on Thursday, 5 Nov 2020 at 21:19 UTC