Henry the VIII was the second English Tudor king, after his father, Henry VII. He reigned over England from, 21st April 1509 until, 28th January 1547. During his childhood and his first marriage, Henry was a firm believer of the Catholic Church and of the Pope. However things changed and later in Henrys reign the English reformation came to England; the monasteries were closed and Henry separated himself from the Roman Catholic Church. Henry was definitely starting to look more and more like a protestant.
There are many points that we can use to decipher whether or not Henry VIII was really Catholic or Protestant and in this essay these points will be discussed to draw a conclusion. Henry VIII was brought up and taught as a Roman Catholic. In the first years as king, he was a firm believer and supporter of the Catholic Church. He showed this support and belief when a protestant named Martin Luther started to accuse the church of corruption and said that it needed to be reformed. Henrys answer to this was to right a book called, “Defence of the Seven Sacraments”.
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This book opposed the attacks that Martin Luther had made on the church and defended the seven sacraments of the church. This shows clear belief and support of the church and catholic beliefs, as well as the fact that he was actually willing to write a book to defend the beliefs of the church. Writing a book would take a considerable amount of knowledge and belief of the seven sacraments of the church showing that Henry was a firm believer of Catholicism. He later received the title, “Defender of the Faith” for doing this, which showed the popes devote trust in him as it is still used today.
Another point that shows Henrys commitment to the church is the fact that he is the founder of Christ Church College in Oxford. This shows time that he has spent to open a Cathedral church for Oxford as a catholic as a praise to God. In 1539, Henry passed the, “Act of six Articles”. This Act of Parliament reaffirms the catholic doctrine on key issues, such as transubstantiation and clerical celibacy. Henry allowed these articles to be passed which shows his effort as a king to teach his people on his faith.
A non- catholic would not spend time bothering with the six articles, as they were not his beliefs and he would feel the need to teach anyone about it. However Henry did not stay like this forever. After twenty four years of marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry decided she was getting too old to have children and seeing as she had produced no male air to the throne, this only infuriated Henry. Henry could see that he was only going to get a daughter with Catherine, (later known as ‘Bloody Mary’) and so decided that he must divorce her and marry someone named Anne Boleyn who he had fallen in love with.
However his supposed faith did not recognize or allow divorce. In the Catholic Church once a man was married he would stay married for the rest of his life. This shows clear disloyalty to the church and lack of concern for his previous beliefs. A true catholic would not divorce but live with his wife, even if he did not want to. Henry proved his lack of tolerance and church even more by first; asking the Arch-Bishop for a divorce, secondly, stopping all payments that went to the pope and finally, he split from the Roman Catholic Church and made the Church of England, calling an act of supremacy.
From this information we can easily see that Henry wasn’t a firm believing catholic anymore, but had now started to bring the ideas of the Protestants to his country. No, catholic at that time would dare to challenge or disobey the Catholic Church for fear of their own life. Henry not only denied his own faith, which he had received a title for defending, but also broke away from the church and started a new church. Henry however hadn’t scrapped all religious beliefs as he did still use Catholic teachings in his church, yet it still called itself a reformed church.
The Church of England still believed in the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith that came from the bible but did not share this similarity when it came to man made teachings or Catholic dogma, such as Mary was a virgin. We can see that Henry also went with protestant beliefs, which shows that maybe he wasn’t just making a new church to get what he wanted. However one peculiar thing is that the Church of England still had transubstantiation, a major Catholic belief and one that Protestants disagreed with.
This gives us the impression that Henry was torn between the two faiths. Henry’s actions show him up as a definite protestant, yet the hints that he was once Catholic definitely show. Some people may see Henry calling the act of supremacy as a bit power crazed and greedy. The Act of Supremacy was an act of parliament which allowed king Henry to declare that he was ‘the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England’ and that the English crown shall enjoy “all honours, dignities, preeminence’s, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities. This shows that there was always the threat of even Henry’s new church under the threat of corruption from himself. Henry would constantly be tempted with, money and power being the head of his church. Henry took a big step against the Catholic Church when he began the, “Dissolution of the Monasteries” in 1538. Henry had sent inspectors to watch the behavior of the monks and if the monasteries were being run as Henry wanted. Henry discovered that doing the complete opposite of what he wanted or were they? The monks were reported to be leading sinful lives.
They were described as, “hypocrites” and, “sorcerers”, who were living every kind of luxury and engaging in every king of sin. Monks had been found with numerous women, even though they had committed themselves to celibacy. They were getting money off working people and giving nothing back, draining England’s economy. Henry decided to start closing down the smaller monasteries, by confiscating their property. In 1539 a new law was passed allowing Henry to gain control the rest of the monasteries in England. This was certainly not a Catholic act.
Some who was devoted to Catholicism wouldn’t have even investigated the church for sin or if they witnesses a sin committed by the church would have ignored it, seeing it as an act of god. There are, however some reasons which may have led to Henry deliberately, finding weakness in the churches in England. It was thought that the reputation for misbehavior was likely overstated. In the process of the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry was very short on money. This was because of the wars that he had been fighting abroad. By closing the monasteries and taking their possessions and wealth, Henry would receive a huge amount of money.
Of course that Act of Supremacy was the only thing allowing Henry to do all this and that’s exactly what Henry had. This gives rise to suspicion that the law passed years ago, that claimed Henry as Head of the church in England was just another scheme to gain him even more power. People had been protesting against, Henry as head of the church instead of the pope. Henry obviously hadn’t gained control of all the religion in England and so had these people charged with treason and executed. After the closing of the monasteries, the protestant reformation of England was practically complete.
Henry had, “reformed” the church, creating the Church of England, he had cut off Rome, closed down all monasteries in England and got rid of all people who still opposed Protestantism in England. Henry now began to add the finishing touches to his protestant nation. In 1539 Henry published the bibles in English. This one of the things the Protestants said should be done. Henry had obviously, started to generally accept Protestant views as in 1536 just two years after henrys split from Rome he had persecuted the likes of William Tyndale for publishing the Bibles in English.
Another strange piece of information is that Henry didn’t leave his catholic daughter out of his will. Perhaps there was still a side to Henry that was Catholic. The next step would be of course to set England off in the direction of protestant with the next king. Strangely enough Henry had his son, Edward VI, tutored by two famous and leading Protestants. Surely Henry would have known that by doing this, Edward would keep England as Protestant, having being taught and brought up as protestant. This happened with Henry VIII.
He was brought up a firm believer in Catholicism and the church and he had kept England Catholic for many years after. Henry had undisputedly made England and himself into a protestant nation from what was once a firm country of Catholic believers. In conclusion, it is hard to decide whether Henry really was Catholic or Protestant. Henry was never fully a Catholic or Protestant as he constantly changed his mind, taking different bits from the two different faiths. For example he changed some beliefs of the church to protestant beliefs but kept a major part of the Catholic faith which was transubstantiation.
It seems that Henry did support Catholic beliefs and ways but always seemed to go with the Protestant views on things as it would get him what he wanted, like the money he got from closing down the monasteries. By using Protestantism he could gain many a thing such as money, power and any wife he wanted. It almost seems that Henry didn’t really care for faith but used it as he needed. He could be in favor with the people with Catholicism but would gain the power he wanted over England with Protestantism as he could change anything to how he liked.