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Why did Henry break with Rome?

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Introduction

10th Sept 03 Why did Henry break with Rome? In 1534 Henry was declared 'Supreme head of the Church of England' and the Submission of the Clergy was enshrined in law; the break from Rome was finally complete. This was a result of events that had started in 1515 when Henry first expressed a desire to have no 'superior but God alone', and split from Rome. However the final schism was the consequence of many different factors, for instance Henry's desire for a divorce from his catholic wife (Catherine of Aragon), the State of the Church in England, and the Protestant leanings of Henry's mistress Anne Boleyn. Although it is a common misconception that Henry's want of a divorce from Catherine was the only reason for the split with Rome it was certainly an important factor. Henry wanted a divorce because after 18 years of marriage Catherine had failed to produce a male heir. They stopped living together as early as 1524 and in 1527 he initiated an inquiry into the validity of his marriage to her. At this point he also became infatuated by Anne Boleyn. ...read more.

Middle

Not only did this act greatly increase the amount of money in the treasury but it also meant that Henry could economically blackmail the Pope. The fact that this act was not just related to the divorce issue is proof that Henry had begun to realise just how much he could benefit from breaking with Rome. In 1533 the 'Act in Restraint of Appeals' was also passed by Parliament preventing appeals to Rome on certain cases including matrimonial ones. Henry, who had declared his marriage to Catherine to be void in December 1532, quickly married Anne in a ceremony conducted by Cramner. Evidently then the Acts passed by Parliament did not just allow Henry to marry Anne Boleyn but also increased his and Parliaments control over the clergy. There was a tradition of literate anti-clericalism (evident in tracts such as Simon Fish's 'Supplication for the beggars') that existed amongst London's middle classes and Parliamentarians. Henry was fortunate that a certain amount of anti-clericalism existed in both the Lords and the Commons at that time, and therefore had little difficulty in persuading them to support him. ...read more.

Conclusion

However it was a work entitled 'Collectanea satis copiosa' compiled by Edward Foxe and Thomas Cramner during 1530 which finally gave Henry the legal and historical principles needed to prove the righteousness of his case. They had found a solution to the divorce issue and their anti-papalism ensured that it did not involve the Pope. The document redefined the boundaries between royal and ecclesiastical power and paved the way for the divorce. In 1534 the 'Act of Supremacy' was passed declaring Henry supreme head of the English Church. Many factors had contributed to the schism with Rome. It was evident from as early as 1515 that Henry disliked being subordinate to the Church and it was therefore likely that at some point they would come into conflict. This finally happened over the divorce issue. Although Henry tried to compromise for several years, when it became obvious that he may not get his own way he changed his tactics. Anne's pregnancy meant that he would stop at nothing to gain a divorce. Achieving this was made easier by the anti-clerical feeling in Parliament who therefore supported Henry. The final idea of actually breaking with Rome was due to the reformist ideas of Anne Boleyn, Cramner and Cromwell. But the driving force behind the split was Henry and his desire for more power. ...read more.

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