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The Reformation: A New Church

Henry’s only other chance was to go outside the boundaries of the orthodoxy. Until this point, Henry had never questioned the Pope’s authority or the validity of the Bible passage which banned the marriage of a brother- and sister-in-law. It was as early as the end of 1529 that Henry first considered a complete dissociation from the Roman church.

Henry forced Wolsey to retire, as his entire foreign policy had collapsed and he was now of no help to the King. In July of 1531, Henry sent Catherine to Ampthill, never to see her again. He took back her royal jewels and gave them to Anne. When Parliament reconvened in January, 1532, Henry ordered that no further funds would be transferred to Rome, but hinted to the Pope that the money would be restored if the annulment was passed.

Meanwhile, most of the bishops had been persuaded that they would not lose any power or income if the English Church were to split from Rome. In March, the Convocation formally announced their readiness to separate: “May it please your Highness to ordain in the present Parliament that the obedience of your Highness and of the people be withdrawn from the See of Rome.” On May 15, they printed a pledge to submit all its legislation to a new committee, formed of laymen and clergymen, called the “Reformation Parliament” and Convocation. This is where the Church of England was born.

On January 15, 1533, Henry and Anne, who was four months pregnant, wee married. However, the King still did not have his first marriage annulled. He submitted his request for annulment to the new Convocation, led by Thomas Cranmer. On May 23, Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine’s marriage to be unlawful and void. Five days later, he pronounced Henry and Anne legally wed. On May 31, 1533, Anne was coronated as Queen of England. Although the King and new Queen rejoiced, the silence from the crowd at the coronation spoke for much of England. Pope Clement excommunicated the King, stating that the new marriage was null, and that any children would be illegitimate. On September 7 Elizabeth was born.

Henry swiftly transformed the English Church by passing various Acts through Parliament. In March of 1534, The Act of Succession declared the marriage to Catherine invalid, and therefore Mary illegitimate. Elizabeth was named heir to the throne unless Anne produced a son. Royal commissioners rode through the countryside, stopping at every house, castle, monastery, and convent to exact oaths of loyalty to the King from every man and woman. Only a few refused; those that did were sent to the Tower of London to be put to death.

On November 11, 1534, the Statute of Supremacy was passed by Parliament. This reaffirmed the King’s sovereignty over the English Church and State and gave Henry power over all moral, organizational, heretical, and ecclesiastical reform which until this point had been left to the Church. The new church was christened Ecclesia Anglicana.

The Annullment The End of the Tudor Dynasty

History of England