To what extent was the Break with Rome in 1532-4 the result of personal and political rather than religious factors?

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To what extent was the Break with Rome in 1532-4 the result of personal and political rather than religious factors?

The Break with Rome took several steps to achieve between the years 1529 and 1534, but it was in those years Henry established himself as ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church in England. The meaning of the break was Henry’s decision to declare himself independent of the Roman Catholic Church and is known as the beginning of the English Reformation. The reasons why Henry had to break with Rome, however, were due to a variety of factors; personal, political and religious matters. This essay will discuss the merits of each factor, on Henry’s part and how it helped him to achieve the break.

        The steps in the break with Rome helped Henry get what he wanted the most; it began in 1529, with the calling of the ‘Reformation’ Parliament and Acts were passed to limit the abuses in the Church. In 1530, the whole clergy were charged with praemunire, showing that the King did not like anyone above him or with more power. However it shows that there were financial reasons for the break, as later on the charges were dropped for a fine of £119,000 from the Church. In 1531, Henry became known as ‘the Supreme Head of the Church in England and Wales’, but this was limited when the words ‘so far as the law of Christ allows’ were added, meaning that Henry could not compete against the Bible. The Supplication of the Ordinaries in 1532 meant that the Church had no right to enforce its own laws, and that only Henrys laws counted, forcing the clergy to accept him as their lawmaker. Many other Acts were passed and it was because of these, that Henry gained power and wealth. Above all, he got what he really wanted; a divorce, a key reason to why he broke with Rome.

        Many argue that Henry broke with Rome for religious factors. The Catholic Church in England wasn’t in good form before the Reformation actually began. Historians such as Haigh said that not all the clergy were corrupt by any means, but there were definitely abuses and that this is why critics would challenge the authority of the Church. All bishops and archbishops had to live humbly, but this turned out to be the opposite. Many would live extremely wealthy lives, with rich clothing and good food. Cardinal Wolsey was a perfect example as he built his own palace in Hampton Court at his own cost. A small number of monks, nuns and friars, failed to keep their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and also lived in their wealth. Many had illegitimate children, as did Wolsey, and would leave their posts for better ones. Since the Pope was far away from England, perhaps the only way Henry could reform the Church was to make himself Head and make the changes himself.

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        However, it seems to be that religion was not a major factor in breaking with Rome, as many people were happy with the Catholic Church. Schama says that Catholicism was colourful, vibrant and very alive. Many bishops or priests were very hardworking and determined to do their best. Many accounts show that between 1515 and 1527, only 10% of the clergy were accused of immorality whilst in Winchester, only eleven cases of misconduct were found in 230 parishes. This clearly shows that the Church was accepted as an institution by many people and that the dissatisfied were a minority. Henry’s ...

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