The English Reformation

analytical Essay
3490 words
3490 words

The English Reformation

During the reign of King Richard II "England was experiencing her first serious outbreak of heresy for nearly a millennium." This widespread heresy, known as Lollardy, held the reformation of the Catholic Church as its main motivation, and was based upon the ideas of John Wyclif, an Oxford scholar. "All kinds of men, not only in London but in widely-separated regions of the country, seized the opportunity to voice criticisms both constructive and destructive of the present state of the Church." While commoners protested and pressed for reform, going so far as to present their manifesto, the "Twelve Conclusions," to Parliament, members of the royal household were protecting John Wyclif and his ideas, John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III, and Joan of Kent, the widowed Princess of Wales, "by whose influence he was protected from ultimate disgrace (such as excommunication)," were Wyclif's supporters and protectors.

Like Wyclif's Lollard heresy, the English Protestant Reformation, over one hundred years later, would draw support from both the common people and the royal establishment. Among the many causes of the Reformation, one stands out as the most important because it alone brought about a specifically English reformation. The religious drive of the common people to create a more open system of worship was a grassroots movement of reform, similar to the reformations taking place across Europe. The political ambitions of those at the highest levels of government to consolidate power in the person of the monarch, however, is what made a reformation of the Church in England into a specifically English Reformation.

John Wyclif and the people who followed him reflected how royal authority could be b...

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... act for the dissolution of monasteries, 1539"

Given-Wilson, Chris. "Late Medieval England, 1215-1485." In The Oxford Illustrated

History of Medieval England, edited by Nigel Saul. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2000.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII vol. II, sec. i, pg. 259, no. 967.

London, 1920. Quoted in John A. F. Thomson, The Early Tudor Church

and Society, 1485-1529, (London: Longman Group UK Limited, 1993),

pg. 37.

Russell, Conrad. "The Reformation and the Creation of the Church of England, 1500-

1640." In The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor & Stuart Britain, edited

by John Morrill. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Sheils, W. J. The English Reformation. Harlow: Longman Group UK Limited, 1989.

Thomson, John A. F. The Early Tudor Church and Society, 1485-1529. London:

Longman Group UK Limited, 1993.

In this essay, the author

  • Describes lollardy, a widespread heresy based on the ideas of john wyclif, an oxford scholar.
  • Explains that the english protestant reformation, like wyclif's lollard heresy, would draw support from both the common people and the royal establishment.
  • Describes how john wyclif and the people who followed him reflected how royal authority could be blurred into religious and spiritual reform.
  • Explains that wyclif's and the lollards' views included the supreme importance of the scriptures as guide to living a christian life.
  • Explains that the act de heretico comburendo allowed the government to kill heretics during henry iv's second year as king. the changing attitudes of the royal household towards the church speaks more of issues of power than it does of religion.
  • Explains that anti-clericalism had not died with the government-sponsored prosecution and execution of heretics. henry viii harnessed the people's discontent for his own purposes.
  • Explains that henry viii, like his predecessors, sought recognition from the church to legitimize his claim to the throne.
  • Explains that henry's rejection of luther was based not on whether they were true or false, but on their loyalty. henry needed a special papal decree to invalidate the marriage of catherine of aragon.
  • Explains how henry used the supplication against the ordinaries to sidestep the convocation and get the archbishop of canterbury to agree to the divorce.
  • Analyzes how henry reminded the newly appointed archbishop of canterbury that cranmer's decision should be independent from both the crown and the pope.
  • States that they recognize no superior in earth, but only g-d, and not being subject to the laws of any other earthly creature.
  • Analyzes how henry concludes the letter by reminding cranmer how much is riding on the divorce. he lists g-d's own happiness as the first dependent of divorce, and mentions his own honor and wealth, his successor, posterity, the security of the kingdom.
  • Analyzes how archbishop cranmer issued his ruling on the matter on 23 may 1533. he implied that the original grant of marriage for henry and catherine was wrong and against g-d's laws.
  • Explains how henry pushed for more de jure powers over an increasingly non-papal english church. the convocation's subordinate position to the king is stated at the beginning of the document.
  • Explains that henry's most striking move against rome and the papacy was the 1534 act that officially broke with the pope and made henry "the supreme head of the church of england."
  • Explains that the right of authority and profits took on a longer and more solid form in the years following the 1534 act.
  • Explains that the 1536 act of parliament closed smaller monasteries for consolidation purposes and confiscated all monastic property within henry's realm.
  • Explains that land, riches, and saints' body parts were direct possessions of the crown. the dissolution of monasteries brought to the crown an additional net annual income of over £136,000.
  • Explains that the act of six articles was neither protestant nor protestant, resulting in fear from luther's english followers.
  • Explains how henry viii's actions created an independent church of england, but dogmatic beliefs in catholic traditions, like transubstantiation, celibate priesthood, and the need for confession, remained.
  • Explains that the english reformation was a movement by people and its government, not one where individuals alone made the choice to leave the catholic church.
  • Analyzes henry viii's letters and papers, foreign and domestic, vol. ii, sec. i, pg. 259, no.
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