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You change one thing, then you change another thing. Furthermore, the more reforms were made and the longer this all went on, the harder it was going to be to go back to Rome. Lets say what would have happened if Henry the 8th had patched up his quarrel with the Pope?

Because people were hoping that this would happen.

Particularly the other rulers of Europe, people like Charles the 5th and the King of France and so on, I mean they just imagined that after 5 or 10 years that things would be patched up again. There would be a new pope, and Henry would have a new wife and it would all be legitimate, and things would go back to the way they were before. The trouble was, once you start on a program of reform when you are in schism, if they went back to Rome at a later stage, would the pope cancel all the reforms.

People did not want that. The biggest thing that happened and the thing that eventually clinched the reformation in England was the, well at least the break with Rome I should say, was the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry decided that the monasteries had served their purpose and that they needed to be disbanded.

Now, this has received a lot of adverse publicity in recent times from people who say things like; when the monasteries were destroyed a lot of wonderful architecture was destroyed, which is true. They then go on to say that monks and nuns were badly treated, which is not true. The younger ones were given a pension and told to get married, the older ones were just pensioned off and given a little cottage in their village until they died. They were actually quite well treated when you think about it, so that is not true. There are people who say that the monastic libraries which had been built up over centuries were destroyed and a lot of learning got lost.

That again is not true. Because what happened on the whole was that the books from the monasteries were taken by the colleges in Oxford and Cambridge mainly but also to some extent in London and other places, and formed the basis of the manuscript collections there. So, in fact, very little was lost.

I mean some things, undoubtedly were. But actually, things that had been hidden away for centuries now became available to scholars for the first time. So the idea that a lot of learning was thrown out the window is not accurate either. The monasteries at this time were an economic burden. Over the centuries they had accumulated a great deal of land. But since the Black Death around , the numbers of monks in them had declined. This was fine.

It went on for quite a long time. But after the Black Death, all hands were needed on the farm. This was not any longer possible in the same way. So the number of people available to go into the monasteries declined dramatically. And in the early 16th century, most monasteries were seriously under populated.

I mean, you had monasteries which could accommodate men, and they had 7 or 10, or something like this. It was a very serious problem. Now this was not universal of course. Someone monasteries did better than others. But on the whole, there was a lot of slack to be made up. What this meant in practice of course was that the monastic lands were not being properly farmed, because there was nobody to do it.

There were just not the hands available. So, a lot of land which could have been productive was lying fallow at this time. There was nothing anybody could do about it, because the land belonged to the monasteries, to the church. Now Henry could not solve this problem just like that. Dissolving the monasteries just by itself would not have changed very much. But he needed to find in the country a solid base of support for himself, people who he could rely on, particularly once he had broken with the pope.

Now, you can discount the vast majority of the population.

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You can discount all women. You can discount all peasants. These would be the church; the clergy would belong to the political nation, but also the nobility, the aristocracy. Now, ever since the Norman Conquest, since William the Conqueror, the aristocracy had worked hand-in-hand with the king to rule the country.

They regarded themselves as partners of the king in this enterprise. And at different times when it was felt that the king was getting too powerful or whatever, the nobles had gathered together and extracted concessions like Magna Carta for instance in , or the beginning of a parliament later on in the 13th century. These things were concessions which the nobility had extracted from the king in order to give them some say in the government. No noble would be able to compete. For this reason there were revolts among the nobility in , So Henry realized that somehow or other he had to find people who would support him almost against the nobility, that the nobility were not reliable.

These people are what we call today the rising middle class, the traders, people like that in London, the lawyers, people who earned their living in some way other than agriculture, and who were not nobles. London is where most of them lived, obviously. These were the people who had the money, they had the time, they had the interest, and they had the access to foreign books through the ships that would come and so on. And so it made sense for these people to be the center of this movement. However, in the traditional society of England, these people did not fit.

They were not nobles and they were not peasants. So therefore they had no place. And Henry offered them an opportunity, when he dissolved the monasteries, to get a footing on the social scale, because, he allowed them to buy monastic land. The land which was seized was sold off to these people. And in 16th England you were nobody if you were not a land owner. The reason for this is that in a basic agricultural society, land is wealth.

Having cash in hand, easy come, easy go basically. It was that kind of society, a rural society. So, land was security, land was wealth, land was prestige.

And Henry opened the door to land owning to this class of person, creating the people that came to be known as the gentry. There was no gentry class in England before the reformation.

Lecture English Reformation - Henry VIII to Edward VI | Free Online Biblical Library

But after the dissolution of the monasteries these people appeared all over the place. Landowners who were not nobility is basically what the gentry was and is. From the idea of gentle, having a history, having a family tree basically, people who could trace their ancestry, because once they got land, tracing their ancestry became important. So they would get coats of arms and things like that, and run around pretending to be sort of semi-nobility. Not titles.

It is the gentry class that you meet in the colonies. People like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, all those people; they are colonial gentry, because they were not nobility. But on the other hand, they were certainly not peasants either. Taxation has kind of made dents in their ranks but they are still around.

In England, they are the kind of people who send their children to public school. Like private boarding schools, and they run around and shop in herds and generally sort of bore everyone else to death. So they are there. So this was created by this. Whether they were Protestants themselves or not is another matter. Whatever else was going to happen, that was not going to happen.

So, Henry created in this way, a whole class of people that he could rely on. And, as subsequent events were to show, he was very wise in doing this, because, the main support for the protestant position over the next two or three generations was going to come precisely from these people.

As a class, these were the people who were going to give the greatest support. These also were the people who were interested in education. They were the people who ensured that when the monasteries were dissolved that their books were placed in colleges and schools. Quite a lot of the monastic resources were diverted towards founding schools, colleges, and universities. If you go for example to Oxford, I mean Christchurch Oxford, which is a great college there, was founded out of monastic money, out of dissolved monasteries.

Trinity College Cambridge which is very famous is also founded out of dissolved monasteries. And a lot of old schools in England that you come across today were founded in a similar way. And it was this new gentry class which wanted an education for their children, which needed an education for their children, because you have to be educated if you were going to run the family business. They supported all of this. The intellectual class was moving very much in that direction.

So, in this sphere you have a strong tendency towards this way of thinking, a willingness to consider new ideas in particular. And by the time Henry died, there were enough people of this kind, enough younger clergy who had been trained up in the Universities, who had imbibed protestant thinking one way or another, enough trader, gentry type people around to support them, even among the nobility there were people who at this time had been won over in one way or another, and so they provided the nucleus of what was to come once the king died.

Now when he died, he was succeeded by his nine year old son, Edward the 6th. Males take precedence over female. He would not attain his majority until he was At that time, civil majority was 21, but for the king it was He died at the age of 16, so he never attained his majority. The result is that Edward the 6th never ruled England.

Everything was done in his name. However we possess his diary. He kept a diary, and this has survived. And it shows that he was aware of what was going on, and approved of it. He was 12, 13, 14, but he was highly intelligent, and he knew what was happening, and on several occasions he indicates that he is in favor of it. So probably, if he had grown up he would have pursued the same line as what was happening in his youth. However, what happened all of a sudden was that the government was taken over by a regency council of which Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was a leading protestant sympathizer, was a major figure.

Because now for the first time the archbishop could rule the church more or less in the way that he wished. And within a very short time, Cranmer introduced a whole series of reform measures. And these reform measures mark the beginning of reformation in the doctrinal sense. That is to say, it was not just a political thing, but now a change in doctrine, and an introduction of protestant ideas. Can anyone tell me what the first thing that he did was? It was a change in the sacraments, but what was it? The doctrine of transubstantiation was abolished, that is true, but in terms of practical difference, what practical difference was introduced?

Yes, that is right. The first thing that he did was to make the cup available to people.

The Kings of England: 1509 to 1820

So you no longer communicated in just one kind, there were two kinds. But it was a change in practice, which was highly significant because it was Hus, you will recall, who was burnt at the stake for advocating this. And so, the papacy had committed itself for over years to the doctrine of communion in one kind. This was going to be typical of this early stage of the reformation.

The Bible Translator Who Shook Henry VIII

The next thing that Cranmer decided to do was translate the service into English. It still was in Latin in They were taught to say them.

Over a period of eight years, her agonising labours produced two sons and four daughters, but all except Mary were stillborn or died as infants. With increasing tunnel vision, he proceeded to scythe through wives and advisers in an orgy of beheadings. Had his monomania for a male heir not led him to co-opt Protestantism as a utilitarian tool to secure a divorce, he would no doubt have continued his strong public support of Catholic teachings, which he always maintained in private.

How might England be different today? There were few Protestants this side of the Channel, and nothing suggests they would have grown in any significant numbers. So, like most of continental Europe, England would have remained Catholic. There would be no Bonfire Night or Guy to burn on November 5 each year. And Nelson would not have fought the Spanish at Trafalgar, so the centre of London might now commemorate some other victory: as Geneva Square, perhaps, marking a long-forgotten dust-up with Alpine Calvinists.

Geopolitically, the most significant consequence would be that the great colonisation of the New World — by England, Spain, Portugal and France — would have resulted in uniformly Catholic settlements in North America. It is an odd image, seeing as the Anglo-Saxons were firmly Catholic. The Tudors were young, with a fragile and complex claim to the English throne.

She outgunned Henry by a country mile, and was even directly descended from a fistful of Plantagenet kings of England. Although David Starkey and others are championing a movement for historians to assert that England has a minimal shared cultural history with Europe, this view is light on history and heavy on Europolitics. Before the Reformation, England was an integral, interconnected and longstanding pillar of European Christendom. Another difference would lie in the words of Shakespeare, whose influence continues to shape our language and identity.

Like all Elizabethan writers, Shakespeare chose his words with caution. Speculation about whether he was a secret Catholic rumbles on; the evidence may suggest his father was. If the environment were different, who knows what works he may have left us. There was nothing dark about them. Neither was the medieval world intellectually penumbral. Monastery, cathedral and university libraries were piled high with the weight of Christian and classical learning.

If the Reformation had not reached England, our precious and irreplaceable heritage would have been spared the hammers, pickaxes and bonfires. Moreover, the austere grey puritanical gloom we now associate with medieval churches might today be the riots of colour and vibrancy they were always intended to be. The Church would not, of course, have stood still. Humanists such as the Catholic priest Erasmus and the layman Thomas More were spearheading an intellectual renewal, broadening the medieval scholastic vision to include history, poetry and increased priestly education.

If the violence of the Reformation had not intervened, perhaps they would have quietly opened up new avenues. For instance, key biblical books had long been available in the vernacular: like the fourth-century Bible in Gothic, the Wessex Gospels of or the 12th-century Ormulum. Luther and Tyndale were doing nothing new in the act of translating Scripture. English Catholics in exile published the official Douay-Rheims New Testament in English in , a full 29 years before the Church of England brought out its literary masterpiece, the King James Version of Despite the obvious pointlessness of the fighting, the appearance of success was popular.

Moreover, in Thomas Wolsey , who organized his first campaign in France, Henry discovered his first outstanding minister. The cardinal had some occasional ambition for the papal tiara, and this Henry supported; Wolsey at Rome would have been a powerful card in English hands. That event altered the European situation.

In Charles, the crowns of Spain, Burgundy with the Netherlands , and Austria were united in an overwhelming complex of power that reduced all the dynasties of Europe, with the exception of France, to an inferior position. Henry VIII. Article Media. Info Print Print. Table Of Contents. Submit Feedback.