Henry VIII’s Desire for a Divorce as the Sole Cause of the English Reformation
The English reformation is widely discussed amongst historians; it was
a process that saw the removal of the longstanding Papal influence and
the beginnings of a new English Church. Although Henry’s divorce with
Catherine of Aragon played a significant part in provoking a
reformation there were other factors that lead to the creation of the
English Church. Henry’s desire for a nation free of foreign religious
intervention and total sovereign independence combined with a yearning
of church wealth contributed significantly to the break with Rome.
After many years of marriage Henry’s wife, Catherine of Aragon had
failed to produce a male heir to the Tudor dynasty. Henry believed
that God was punishing him as he was living in sin. Henry was a pious
monarch as well as being an accomplished biblical scholar; he
personally believed he was going against the teachings of the bible.
‘If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an impurity: he hath
uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.’
(Leviticus chapter 20 verse 16) This sparked the beginning of Henry’s
struggle to persuade the pope to withdraw the previous dispensation
that allowed Henry and Catherine to marry in the first place. This
would therefore annul the marriage and Henry would be free to marry
Anne Boleyn, the woman of which Henry had fallen in love. Moreover he
could eventually bear an heir to the Tudor lineage.
Henry believed that obtaining a divorce would be simple yet he was met
with many difficulties. The Pope employed stalling tactics that
resulted in augmented tension between the two parties and eventually
resulted in an open public confrontation. The Pope failed to believe
Henry’s biblical interpretation and the situation became more heated.
It was during the years of 1529 to 1532 that Henry had no chief
minister. Woolsey had failed and the King still yearned for a divorce.
During this time Henry applied pressure on the Pope to grant a
divorce. He appealed to major universities for backing in order to
prove that his biblical interpretation of Leviticus was correct, this
process however, was costly and time consuming. Little was achieved
and Henry was no closer to marrying Anne Boleyn.
It wasn’t until 1529 that real progress was made. Henry’s new chief
minister, Thomas Cromwell had devised a strategy that would eventually
get Henry the long awaited divorce that he yearned. Cromwell and Henry
began to attack the church with real weapons. By using statutory laws
against the Church Henry was able to obtain a divorce. Parliament was
called and, according to Elton, the parliament was specifically chosen
and given more free will than normally permitted. Therefore they
focussed on two main issues. Firstly Henry’s divorce and...