Henry’s reign was summarised by the historian
Alison Weir, “Today, historians recognise that his reign contributed an extraordinary legacy – modern Britain.
Henry began his reign in a medieval kingdom, he ended it in what was effectively a modern state. We are still living in the England of Henry VIII.
She was correct in saying that England changed dramatically during Henry’s reign.
Over thirty-six years, Henry VIII managed to marry six times, radically improve parliamentary powers, expand the Royal Navy to three times the inherited size
and, probably most significantly, he completely reformed the English Church.
Henry was brought up in the rigid beliefs of Roman Catholicism.
He was not the original heir to the throne and therefore did not spend his childhood learning how to rule a country and helping to continue the Tudor Dynasty,.
Unlike his brother, Arthur, Henry’s childhood was one of religion and education.
Theologians and scholars were enlisted to prepare him for a career in the Church and pass on to him their knowledge and ideologies. Henry’s intellect and religious beliefs are highlighted in the book that he wrote entitled ‘Defence of the Seven Sacraments’.
He was the first monarch to write and publish his own book, which caught the attention of the Pope, who rewarded Henry with ‘Fidei Defensor’, a title meaning ‘Defender of the Faith’, and one which would later
be the cause of extreme controversy In 1532, when the Pope refused to grant an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry announced England’s separation from the Catholic Church.
This was the most controversial event in Henry’s reign and ultimately gave him his infamous reputation.
His reasons for the separation with Rome were plentiful, the main reason being that he had fallen in love with his wife’s maid of honour, Anne Boleyn.
Catherine’s failure to provide Henry with a male heir only cemented his ever-growing desire to marry Boleyn.
This eventually resulted in Henry breaking from Rome and reforming the church. Subsequently, the Pope excommunicated him.
Henry, introduced several statutes between 1532 and 1537, which severed the already broken relationship between England and the Pope.
Some of these new laws made supporting the Pope an act of treason, punishable by death.
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