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King Henry And His Role In The

English Reformation Essay, Research Paper “Cold-blooded, deliberate cruelty mark not only his advancing years but his whole reign,” wrote Sir Charles Oman. This quote exemplifies the thoughts and opinions held by many towards King Henry VIII and the way in which he reigned from 1509 to 1547 . However many thought otherwise.

English Reformation Essay, Research Paper

“Cold-blooded, deliberate cruelty mark not only his advancing years but his whole reign,” wrote Sir Charles Oman. This quote exemplifies the thoughts and opinions held by many towards King Henry VIII and the way in which he reigned from 1509 to 1547 . However many thought otherwise. His Lord Chancellor proclaimed that, “Henry was a most gentle gentleman, his nature so benign and pleasant that I think till this day no man hath heard many angry words pass his mouth.” Henry indeed has shown to be somewhat cold-blooded and ruthless, but these actions are shown to be of good intention. As written by a common of that time, “If in any point he seemed more severe than just towards his high subjects, let us unfeignedly hold him excused, yielding him thanks even in his sepulchre, for by it we possess public tranquillity to this day.” Because the whole reformation was peeking, with such strong leaders as John Calvin, Martin Luther, Erazmus and Zwingli, Henry who had portrayed such a good strong belief in the Catholic Religion had developed a certain mentality. It was a mentality of protection and devotion towards the Christian faith. So despite Henry’s unmoral acts, which defied many sections of the cannon law, he defended and strengthened the Christian belief in which the other reformists were trying to weaken.

By the 1540’s, England as well as the rest of Europe had begun to adopt many other religious teachings from men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin and others. These newly formed Christian religions spread throughout Europe taking in many followers that were outside of the place of origin . Many of these followers proved to be of English or British decent. King Henry however, rejected all teachings that had as its primary motive to change the Christian Religion. Henry throughout the later part of his reign wrote and had others write from him many articles and laws that were to be passed in order to keep the Christian Religion strong and unified throughout his governed country. Strong and unified in the sense that all interruptions outside of the actual faith were to be abolished so that a strong faith can be maintained.

“In this preface the King declares that latterly there had entered into some of our people’s hearts an inclination to sinister understanding of Scripture, presumption, arrogancy, carnal liberty, and contention. It is therefore necessary to set forth such declaration of the true knowledge of God and his word… as whereby all men may uniformly be led and taught the true understanding of that which is necessary for every Christian man to know.”

It seemed that Henry wanted a faith free of money and other Church gimmicks that were run by the Pope. This explains why he separated from the Pope and the Catholic Church but still remained a firm believer in Christianity and the Bible’s teachings. One of the acts that Henry passed was titled, “Act in conditional restraint of Annates and concerning the consecration of Bishops.” Henry saw this as being good because it was taking the whole concept of money out of worshiping God. Henry passed all of these acts because he felt that the Pope did not have good control over the rest of Europe resulting in chaos and heresy. Henry tied to steer his country England away from this to make it strong and in order to do that he saw it to himself to reform the Catholic Church and make it “better.” Better in the sense that, it fits what is best for the country and people, as well as the Christian Faith. Several acts created by Henry consolidated his position. Such an example would be,

“The Act of Supremacy, 1534, which accepted the King’s supremacy as a fact

But gave him more positive powers to define doctrine and to discipline the

“Spirituality” in any way he personally deemed necessary. It will be noted that

it includes no legal sanctions.”

This act gave Henry the power to govern and lead the people of his country in all ways including religious. In this way he seems to feel that things will be better because things were being run his way.

Henry saved the faith of many by passing other acts pertaining strictly to Doctrine and Discipline. The Ten Articles passed in 1536 strengthened and unified the new Protestant faith. It kept the people away from the other newly formed religions of which many were falling into.

“The King stresses his duty to ensure unity and concord in opinion.

Unfortunately diversity in opinions has lately grown, therefore the

Following articles have been devised after long and mature deliberation

and are issued in order to eschew not only the dangers of souls, but also

the outward unquietness which by occasion of the said diversity in opinions

(if remedy were not provided) might perchance have ensured.”

These articles dealt with the way in which the people were to live their faith. Article nine proves to be of great importance, because it knocks out a few of the Puritans ideas. It states that, “the sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day etc., these

are not to be contemned and cast away, but to be used and continued as things good and laudable.” Another article of these Ten Articles passed in 1536 that pertains to the rejection of any reformist’s ideas i.e. Martin Luther, is article 3. This article explains the importance of the sacrament of penance. This sacrament was challenged by Luther and done away with in his religion. Henry felt it was very important for salvation The article states that, “By penance and… good works of charity… we shall not only obtain everlasting life, but also we shall deserve remission or mitigation of these present pains and afflictions in this world.” Martin Luther taught as well as believed that some sort of penance or charity was necessary but the whole act of confession was not. Henry stood by his Catholic faith and constituted this law that, “The order necessarily to be followed is then set out: Contrition, Auricular confession and absolution, and thirdly the penance itself.” Another Sacrament of the Catholic Church that Luther was trying to do away with was that of Eucharist. Henry disagreed with Luther’s notion and rebutted with this article, article 4 stating,

“Our people must constantly believe that under the form and figure of bread

and wine, which we there presently do see and perceive by outward senses,

is verily, substantially and really contained and comprehended the very

Selfsame body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.”

The Acts of Six Articles written in 1539 is the last of his articles. It acts as a conformation or closer, to abolish any other kind of religion and keep the Protestant one strong.

“The House of Commons was appointed to decide on the best means of abolishing diversity in religion, but before it had been given adequate time to make proposals, the Duke of Norfolk announced that the King desired the House to consider six articles of doctrine.”

These articles emphasized the consequences of straying away from this Christian Religion or reforming it. The six articles dealt with the keeping of confession, the keeping holy and true of Transubstantiation, and the orders in which the clergy were to follow. All of these articles pretty much are completely against Martin Luther’s main arguments, thus keeping the Church of England true and separate from the outside reformists. To secure these articles Henry instituted laws that if broken had as its consequence death and punishment. I.e. “Any who by word, writing or printing, declare anything contrary to the first article, or who despise the said blessed sacraments shall, together with their supporters, be guilty of heresy and burned.”

King Henry ruled in a time of punishment and cruelty and thus his actions prove to be just for that time period. This can constitute for his ruthless and cruel behavior, which as shown was all done in good intention. King Henry VIII through these just actions did not cause chaos and mayhem but rather strengthened the Church and kept it one and holy as well as free from outside intervention.

“The King stresses his duty to ensure unity and concord in opinion.

Unfortunately diversity in opinions has lately grown, therefore the

Following articles have been devised after long and mature deliberation

and are issued in order to eschew not only the dangers of souls, but also

the outward unquietness which by occasion of the said diversity in opinions

(if remedy were not provided) might perchance have ensured.”

WORKS CONSULTED

Dickens, A.G, Carr, Dorthy. The Reformation in England. London: Edward Arnold Ltd., 1967

Ridley, Jasper. Henry VIII. NewYork: Viking Penguin Inc., 1985

Smith, Lacey. Henry VIII. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1971

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