Henry VIII's Reformation
In 1529 Henry VIII started to reform the Catholic Church in England,
however there are different opinions as to why he began these
controversial changes. The orthodox view concurs that there was a vast
anti-clerical feeling in 16th century England; the corrupt church was
unpopular with the masses. However the revisionist view claims that
the reformation was actually due to politics. Henry needed a male heir
and therefore needed a divorce. The needs and wants of the masses were
not taken into consideration. In this essay I am going to look at
England pre-reformation and reach my own opinion of whether or not
England was actually in need of a reformation in 1529.
There were lots of anti-catholic movements going on at the time such
as the Lutheran movement and also Lollardry. This suggests that people
were growing tired with the Catholic Church and therefore looking
towards other religions. The Lollards were an active group based in
England. Lollardy appealed to the lower and middle classes and its
idea's closely matched those of Luther. They denied the existence of
purgatory, rejected the pope and spoke out against war. It wished to
see a reduction in church wealth and the bible translated into
English. They encouraged new ideas and criticism of the church.
However it is difficult to interpret just how much Lollardry actually
influenced the reformation. It undoubtedly helped to weaken the church
and open peoples eyes to new ideas, yet it was also relatively small
scale and wouldn't have affected many people.
However there was generally an anti-clerical feeling amongst people.
The clergy of that time and before were constantly portrayed as
corrupt, gluttonous and unholy. From as far back as the 14th century,
Chaucer had been portraying his view of many of the clergy in his
Canterbury Tales. But were the clergy really that bad, and if they
were would people not have done anything about it? In the diocese of
Lincoln, which had 1,006 individual parishes, they only had 25
complaints of sexual misconduct for the whole year. This is a low
figure, which proves that the deficiencies of the clergy have either
been fiercely exaggerated or that people didn't have a problem with
the incidents and therefore didn't report them. The interesting fact
is that after the reformation, the number of complaints rose. Surely
this suggests that it was the reformation that caused the
anti-clericalism and not the other way round.
Many laypeople did see the clergy, as greedy and excessive, people
were growing discontented with hypocritical clergy such as Wolsey.
Wolsey was 10x richer than his nearest rival even though he was the
son of a butcher; many people found this deceitful, after all when
ordained he would have taken a pledge of poverty. He would also have