The English Reformation – English Literature Essay (100 Level Course)
All this led some people to look to Martin Luther as an innovator. Rome’s interference seemed intolerable, among other things, because of the new nationalistic spirit that was developing in Tudor times. Henry VIII, who had at first defended the Pope against Luther, was finally induced to separate the Church of England from Rome for both political and personal reasons.
After his brother Arthur’s death, with a special dispensation of the Pope, he had in fact married his brother’s widow, Catherine, who had borne him a daughter, Mary. But he wanted a male heir.
He had more over fallen in love with Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting of the queen. And so, on the pretext that his marriage was illegal according to Canon Law, as Catherine was his sister-in-law, he asked the Pope to declare it void. Pope Clement VIT, who was practically subservient to Charles V of Spain, Catherine’s nephew and the real master of Europe, refused.
The king did not accept the Pope’s authority and decided to solve the question through the English clergy and the English Parliament. He replaced his chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, by Thomas More, and made Thomas Cranmer, a churchman favorable to the king’s divorce, Archbishop of Canterbury. Parliament declared that the king’s first marriage was void.
In 1533 Henry married Anne Boleyn; England was declared an “Empire”, that is a “national State”, in which both civil and ecclesiastical causes were to he decided without the interference of any foreign jurisdiction. Another Act of Parliament in 1534 (Act of Supremacy) declared the king “Only Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England”. Sir Thomas More did not accept the repudiation of the Pope’s authority in religious matters, and died on the scaffold in 1535. In 1536 papal authority in England was declared extinct.