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Henry VIII and the Reformation

In 1529, Henry's foreign and domestic policy got a new turn — the struggle for the Reformation of the Church began. The common assumption is that the main cause of the Reformation was Henry's wish to get divorce with his wife, but the whole process was much deeper — Henry, advised by Cardinal Wolsey, wanted to make the Royal Power absolute, so he used the Reformation Parliament to accomplish this.

The Reformation Parliament (1529—1536) stayed in session for seven years until the separation from Rome was almost completed. The Act of Supremacy in 1534 recognised the Anglican Church as the official church in the country with Henry VIII as its head. Archbishop Cranner pronounced Henry's marriage with Cathrine invalid and Henry married Anne Boleyn. The Pope replied by excommunicating Henry, but Henry had already got great power in the state.

The Reformation Parliament also forbade any appeals to the Pope. Henry as Head of the Church could now appoint church leading officials and determine its doctrine. The English Church was no longer a part of international organisation, so its fortune and power now became a part of the state.

In 1536, the Crown began to attack the monasteries, a bigger part of which was dissolved. The squires, merchants and lawyers who had supported the King in the Parliament received most of the lands.

In the churches the service was to be in English instead of Latin, and every parish church was to have an English Bible. In 1539, the English translation of the Bible appeared, it encouraged a freedom of thought and eased the next stage of the Reformation.

In 1533, Princess Elizabeth was born. Henry, dissatisfied by not having a son, soon fell out of love with Anne and fell in love with a lady Jane Seymour. Anne Boleyne was accused of unfaithfulness to the King and executed. The King married Jane Seymour the very next day.

Jane gave birth to a son, who was christened Edward, soon after this she died. After Queen's death, Henry married Anne of Clevens, a Protestant Princess from Germany. Though this marriage was of political importance, very soon Anne of elevens was divorced.

After the divorce Henry married Catherine Howard, then Catherine Parr. Two of the six wives of Henry VIII were beheaded (Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard), the last of the wives, Catherine Parr, survived him.

Edward VI

Henry VIII died in 1547, after the stormy years of the Reformation, marriages, divorces and fighting with the Pope. He was succeeded by Edward, who was the only male heir for throne. As Edward was only ten years of age on his father's death, his uncle, the Earl of Hertford was appointed Protector under the title of the Duke of Somerset.

The activities of the Protector were aimed at the religious Reformation. In 1547, he ordered to print the Book of Common Prayers and placed it in all the churches. The Act of Uniformity was passed to compel adherence to the new religion.

The following decade saw a growing struggle between extreme Protestantism and Catholicism. Religious changes caused numerous rebellions; the most important of them was a Prayer Book Rebellion in Devon and Cornwall. The Duke of Somerset was discredited and replaced by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, who understood Protestantism as a source of huge profit.

Under the Duke of Northumberland's direction churches again were deprived of bigger portion of their lands, priests were allowed to marry, a second Prayer Book was introduced, non-attendance at church was made punishable by fine or imprisonment.

Edward VI as a fanatical protestant with the help of Protectors made a lot for the development of Protestantism in his country, but his bad health suggested quick death, so it was necessary to choose the heir.

Next in succession to the throne were Mary Queen of Scots and Mary Tudor, both Catholics. The Duke of Northumberland tried to prevent their coming, so he persuaded Edward VI to make a will in favour of Lady Jane Grey, the great-granddaughter of Henry VII. But when Edward died in 1553, the nation preferred Mary, daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon.

Bloody Mary

The death of Edward VI caused new troubles to already Protestant England. They were connected with the succession of Princess Mary, who had been brought up in Catholic faith. When Mary was crowned Queen, she was thirty-seven years of age and very unhealthy. Her great desire was to put down the Reformed religion and to put up the unreformed one. The prisons were filled with Protestants and many of them were executed.

Mary was determined to restore the positions of Catholics in the country and thus agreed to marry Philip II of Spain, who also was a firm Catholic. This marriage much influenced English foreign policy as Spain was at war with France and sought the assistance of England. The war was declared in 1557. Soon the French Duke of Guise took Calais, and the English sustained a complete defeat. That loss made a great blow on the Queen; she never recovered from that blow and in 1558 died.

In the history she got a name the Bloody for a series of persecutions of English Protestants. More that three hundred heretics perished in the flames. England was officially reconciled to Rome; all anti-papal legislation was repealed. But Mary could not restore the Church Lands, the executed sufferers evoked passionate sympathy of the English and strengthened the faithfulness of Protestants.

Mary was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth (1558—1603), daughter of Henry VIII by Anne Boleyn.

The Reign of Elizabeth I. England in the Middle of the 16lb Century

Elizabeth inherited poor and weak England. Though country came out of Feudal Age, new economy was only developing. It was developing in three main directions — the growth of the cloth industry, the geographical discoveries and agricultural revolution.

Cloth industry was developing in East Anglia, Cotswold, Kendal and other regions. England had already passed from being a producer of wool to being a manufacturer of cloth. The wool capitalists-clothiers began to form a new class of merchants, which ranked with the nobility in wealth and influence.

Geographical discoverieswere a result of European quest for gold and silver which was necessary for international and domestic trade. English sailors, who were looking for profitable areas and routes, helped to establish trade relations with Russia, Iceland and Baltic countries.

A great number of geographical discoveries in the 16th century opened vast new territories for European exploitation.

English agriculture, weakened by enclosures, was slowly turning back to arable farming necessary to produce bread, meat and dairy products for growing towns. It was a new type of arable farming — arable farming on a large scale, the beginning of capitalist farming.

Despite growing economy, there were many poor people. A number of laws in the second part of the 16th century established a system of Poor Rate. According to these laws each parish was responsible for its poor people and any person with low income could be sent back to his place of birth or to workhouse.

This difficult stage of development was much improved by Queen Elizabeth, who possessed all the necessary qualities for it — the Tudor courage, almost masculine intelligence and feminine intuition. She reigned for forty-five years to become the first of three long-reigning English queens.

Elizabeth completed the Reformation begun by her father through 1558—1603 the following way:

—The Articles of the Christian Faith were remodeled; their number was reduced from forty-two to thirty-nine.

—The Act of Supremacy was passed to declare the sovereign to be the supreme head of the Church.

—The Act of Uniformity ordered all worships to be conducted according to the established form.

—The ecclesiastical court was established to try people guilty of offences against the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity.

—The parish as the area served by one church became the unit of state administration.

People had to go to church on Sundays by law and they were fined if they didn't.

Thus Elizabeth succeeded to establish a national English Church, so she let many Protestants from the Continent return to England.

To promote the established religion in Ireland, the lands in the northern province of Ulster were taken from the Irish population and sold to English Protestants. In 1603, Elizabeth sent there 170,000 Protestant settlers, most of whom were from Scotland. The newcomers were known as "planters". They settled in 23 newly built towns, which were called "The Plantation of Ulster".

The policy of plantation split Irish Society into two camps — Protestant Planters and Irish Catholics. Finally this policy led to a centuries long struggle between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Task 3. Pick out from the text the facts connected with Reformation in England in the 16th century and complete the table.


Years Events King or Queen
  The Act of Supremacy  
  The Book of Common Prayers  

Cultural Focus: The Established Churches in Britain Today

Today in Europe there are only two cases of "established" churches that are by law the official religion of a country. They are the Church of Scotland and the Church of England. The official head of these Churches is the monarch and the religious leader of the Church of England is appointed by the government.

The Established Church of Scotland stems from the ideas of the French theologian Calvin, who founded Presbyterian Church. There is no compulsory form of worship and each congregation is governed by presbyters or elders who are in equal rank. Congregations are grouped in presbyteries, synods and general assembles. Presbyterian Church was made by the Established Church of Scotland in the 18th century.

Church of England was established in the 16th century and since that time it is the official religion of the country. Though the Anglican Church is Protestant, it preserved many features of the Catholic Church organisation. The highest position in the Anglican Church is an archbishop, he presides over a province. There are two provinces and two Archbishops — of Canterbury and of York. The provinces are divided into dioceses presided over by bishops. At the level of the diocese there are also high-ranking positions of»a dean, canon or archdeacon. The dioceses are divided into local units — parishes.

Parish is an area cared by one priest and which has its own church, in England parish is also the smallest unit of local government. People, who live in a parish, elect a parish council to make decisions for their parish.

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