Henry VIII and the English Reformation

King Henry VIII ruled England for 36 years, he made big changes to the country that led England into the protestant reformation. Henry VIII was always looking to form new alliances and he married six wives’ in the search for political alliances. His desire to marry his first wife without the approval of a pope, led to the creation of a separate Church of England.

Henry was born as the second son of Henry VII and his brother Arthur was heir to the throne. While Arthur was being prepared for the throne, Henry was steered towards a career in the church, with education in theology, music, language, poetry and sports. Arthur had been promised to Catherine of Aragon since he was two years old, Catherine was the daughter of the Spanish ruler. Catherine and Arthur were married in 1501, but only months later Arthur died from a sudden illness. This made Henry heir to the throne and in 1503 he was promised to his brother’s widow. Henry took the throne at age 17 and married Catherine six weeks later.

In the 1520s Henry met a woman named Anne Boleyn, Henry felled in love, but Henry’s love for Anne were looked upon as foolish. Henry also worried at this time that his marriage to Catherine had been cursed by god, because of the old testaments ban on marrying the widow of one’s brother. Henry decided to seek a pope that could annul his marriage to Catherine and allow him to remarry, but due to pressure from Catherine’s nephew the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Henry didn’t get his annulment.

With the backing of the English parliament and clergy, Henry decided that he didn’t need the pope’s permission to rule on issues affecting the Church of England. In 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn, and they had a daughter named Elizabeth, Mary Henry’s only surviving child from his marriage with Catherine was declared illegitimate, and Henry named Elizabeth heir to the throne. England’s monasteries were closed and mostly sold off to add to Henry’s wealth.

These events led the Church of England to break away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic church, these events were associated with wider process of the European Protestant Reformation, that affected the practice of Christianity across western and central Europe.

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