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Tradition And Dissent In English Christianity From The Sixteenth To Nineteenth Centuries

2025 words - 9 pages

Throughout history there have been examples of religion being regarded as traditional and of people dissenting from the traditional religion. This essay will trace the footsteps of tradition and dissent of Christianity in England between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries by looking at the statement “… a previous generation’s “dissent” itself becomes “tradition”, and a previously dominant tradition becomes dissent.” (Tradition and Dissent p72). With particular reference to the differences between Protestants and Catholics.
Before the Reformation, England was a Roman Catholic society that was led by the Pope in Rome. Religious life followed a very traditional and structured way of life and was very much ‘deeply embedded in the whole social and mental fabric of the country’ (Russell, 1996, p. 262). Roman Catholic’s were a very visual and ritual based religion and their churches were extremely lavish in design and contained highly decorated furnishings inside (Wolffe, 2008). The changes in religion in England over the centuries tended to follow the religion of each different King or Queen (The Crown and the Bible, 2011).
England’s dissent from the Catholic Church began with King Henry VIII (1491-1547). After Catherine of Aragon failed to produce a male heir, Henry demanded a divorce from her. The Pope denied Henrys request which led to Henry dissolving all ties with the Roman Catholic Church and changed the direction of religion in England. Henrys VIII motives for change were for personal gain rather than changing religious beliefs (Christianity in Britain, 2011). A law was passed in 1534 allowing Henry VIII to declare himself the head of the new Church of England, this move allowed Henry VIII to divorce Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn – the second of six wives (Steele & MacDonald, 2007).
Edward VI (1537-1553), Henry’s son, who was only 9 when made king, was raised as Protestant. Under Edwards VI reign (1547-1553) his uncle Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset who was a devout Protestant, was made guardian and ruled in Edwards place. Somerset together with Archbishop Cranmer began to turn England into a Protestant country (Lambert, 2014). After Edwards’s death in 1553 his half-sister Mary I (1516-58) became Queen. Mary who was a devout Catholic began to undo the changes that Edward and Henry had started and set the nation back to the Catholic faith. During her reign (1553-1558) hundreds of Protestants, who refused to turn Catholic, were burned at the stake, this led to Mary acquiring the nickname ‘Bloody Mary’ (Steele & MacDonald, 2007).
In 1559 Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was crowned Queen. Elizabeth sought to find a middle ground during her rein (1558-1603) in England, by allowing both Catholics and Protestants to worship without fear of any repercussions. However, Gilbert (1976) that ‘Elizabeth I and her successors had legislated to make Anglican worship compulsory’ (p. 4). By introducing the Act of Uniformity of 1559 it laid out...

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