Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Evolution of the English Reformation: Phase I (Henry VIII)and Phase 2 (Elizabeth I)

By Gary O. Garner


The English Reformation, unlike that of the Continent, was initially brought about not so much by religious fervour for change, but more a matter of political expediency. Commencing at the time of The Submission of the Clergy in 1532 - a document establishing the authority of King Henry VIII over the English clergy – the Reformation proceeded to cut off not only the money supply to Rome, but to effectively remove any authority held by the Pope over English Bishops (and the King).\ud \ud The rejection of the Roman headship culminated in 1534 when Henry VIII was declared Supreme Head of the Church of England, legislation which was quickly confirmed by the formal rejection of Papal supremacy by the church establishment. \ud \ud It is proposed that Henry VIII's actions in all of this were not religiously motivated. His unwanted marriage to Catherine of Argon, apparently the result of her inability to produce him a heir (son), and a desire to marry Anne Boleyn, lie at the root of the breach with Rome. The supreme headship on earth over the Church of England was a mechanism by which Henry VIII could work his way around the Pope’s refusal to grant him a divorce from Catherine. Thus, Reformation in England could solve a royal problem. It was not a theological matter. Of course, the other by-product, almost certainly not lost on the King, was a re-directing of the church's funds to the state, that would have otherwise have found its way to Rome.\ud \ud There were other far-reaching consequences of these events that affected the church even until the current day, representing the beginnings of Anglicanism . However, one of the more immediate consequences was the welding together of church and state – a phenomenon that would remain for a very long time to come .\ud \ud Despite a relatively short interruption to the flow of the Reformation, being the sovereignty of Edward VII (1547-53) and Mary I (1553-58), the general thrust established by Henry VIII continued with the reign of his daughter to Anne Boleyn; Elizabeth I (1558 – 1603). Thus begins the second phase.\ud \ud Elizabeth I re-instituted much of the reforming legislation and decrees established by Henry VIII, albeit much in a revised form. The interruption by her immediate predecessor ultimately represented only a temporary slowing down of the whole Reforming process. \ud \ud Despite the political overtones, theses events permitted the beginnings of religious reform. Even initially draconian measures such as legislation enforcing "spiritual procedure" and accompanying Book of Common Prayer instituted by Elizabeth I - and despite resistance by the church itself - had the ultimate benefit of allowing for the liturgical process to be practiced in English. Whilst for the time being there was an increasing concentration and consolidation of power vested in the state, the unstoppable establishment of Presbyterianism had begun

Topics: 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History), English Reformation, religion, Clergy, King Henry VIII, Reformation, Pope, Bishops, Roman, Church of England, Catherine of Argon, Anne Boleyn, Anglicanism, Edward VII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, Presbyterianism
Year: 2003
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.