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King Henry Viii

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King Henry VIII initiated the reformation in England due mostly to his quest for a male heir to the throne. If Henry's first wife had given birth to a male child, the entire restructuring of the church and dissolution of the monasteries would have been avoided.

Henry VIII King of England was never supposed to be king but as chance would have it he became king when his elder brother Arthur had died at the very young age of sixteen. Before his brother Arthur died and opened the way to his enthronement, their father had envisaged Henry as a future Archbishop of Canterbury. Luck would be on Henry's side as his father Henry VII was still alive and able to set up his enthronement. Henry VII had secured the Tudor succession when he brought the War of the Roses to an end with his triumph at Bosworth Field. With Henry VIII king the future of England, the church, and the people had been sealed.

At the age of fourteen Henry married seventeen year old Catherine of Aragon who had been married to Henry's brother Arthur before his death. Because the marriage of a woman to her dead husband's brother transgressed canon law, a special dispensation had to be sought from the Vatican and this took several months to arrange. Things started out good for the young new couple but rumors soon started circulating about separation. The two stayed together long enough for Catherine to give birth to the couple's first child Princess Mary, who was born in 1516 and would later become Queen.

Subsequent attempts at Catherine producing a male heir ended in failure as she had three miscarriages and two deaths a few weeks into infancy. Catherine had utterly failed to fulfill her first obligation as the king's wife: to provide him with a son who would ensure the Tudor succession. In the early 1520s Henry began to get very worried about the succession to the throne and with his only heir a little girl he had cause to be. Dissatisfied as Henry may have been with his marriage, it is most improbable that he would have embarked on the problems of a divorce at all if he had not had a successor to Catherine in mind.

From 1525 onwards he became ever more infatuated with Anne Boleyn, the sister of an earlier mistress and daughter of the courtier Sir Thomas Boleyn who had already earned promotion by his elder daughter Mary's involvement with the king. The main problem with Henry wanting to divorce Catherine was that Henry VIII was a Roman Catholic and the Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce. Henry was a man with great knowledge of the bible and knew every verse and passage by memory and he used this knowledge of the bible to escape his marriage to Catherine. When Henry had married Catherine, the wife of his deceased brother, special dispensation had to be granted so that the marriage would be considered valid. When Catherine of Aragon failed to secure the succession with a male heir, Henry searched his conscience for the source of such obvious divine malediction and discovered the cause in Leviticus: "And if a man shall take his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother's nakedness; they shall be childless" Henry now declared that the Levitical law could not be broken by any human authority and that his marriage to Catherine was invalid and he was free to remarry as he seen fit.

Henry sent Lord Chancellor Wolsey to the Vatican with a petition that was drawn up that had within it all that Henry had said and done. The petition was heavily laden with the eighty-five seals and signature of two archbishops, four bishops, twenty-five abbots, two dukes, forty other peers and a dozen courtiers below the rank of the nobility. It respectfully begged Pope Clement to "declare by your authority, what so many learned men proclaim as you not only can, but out of fatherly devotion, ought to do". Also included in the petition were hints that if Henry did not get his divorce there would be unspecified measures taken against the Pope and Rome. As this dredged on for two years Henry started to become tired of Wolsey and his inability to get Henry's divorce granted so he had him dismissed.

Henry then had Sir Thomas More appointed as the new Lord Chancellor. Henry spent the next three years applying his own methods to get the Vatican to grant him his divorce. He summoned parliament, which hadn't met since 1523, and forced the lower House of Commons into passing acts to forbid abuses in the Church. He gathered support for Oxford, Cambridge, the French and the northern Italian seats of learning. He attacked the English clergy as a whole for putting money in Wolsey's purse which, he claimed, rightly belonged to him and their convocations bought a royal pardon in return for one hundred and eighteen thousand pounds, which was never paid in full. Henry also demanded that the clergy should recognize him as the supreme head of the Church of England, at which Ð'- somewhat demoralized by now - they did not oppose.

Thomas Cromwell stepped forward out of obscurity and took the king's matter to the Vatican and within sixteen months, had Henry's union with Catherine declared void and now Henry was free to marry Anne Boleyn. Cromwell was now giving advice and Henry rewarded him for it. He gave Henry advice on passing bills that criticized the church's independent legislation and attacked the practices of the ecclesiastical courts. Henry then put his terms before the two convocations of Canterbury and York, and they were incisive. No further church legislation was to be passed without Henry's consent, existing canon law was to be examined and revised by a commission appointed b the king, with half its members laymen, and nothing they proposed could be enacted without his approval. Henry also announced his dawning realization that the English clergy Ð''be but half our subjects, yea and scarce our subjects', the other half of their allegiance being to the Pope, and he ordered the papal oath which English bishops made on their consecration to be read out in parliament. This did not impress the Commons and this pressure Henry put on the clergy had finally worked and they accepted Henry's demands without reservation.

Henry VIII had become the supreme legislator of the Church of England. With this new authority Henry went on the offensive against Rome by creating a bill that would stop all payments made to the Pope by the bishops after their appointment and channel directly to the Crown. This bill did contain a clause that would give Pope Clement a last chance to comply with Henry's petition before he severed all ties with the papacy. Clement would still not budge on his position and to make matters for Henry worse Anne Boleyn was pregnant



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