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Rebellions and the English Reformation
It is clear to historians that the process of the English Reformation was primarily guided by the nobility and highest ranks of the English government. The decisions of Henry VIII were titular in both the political and theological worlds of the country. Therefore, the reforms accepted and implemented by the government did not originate from the ordinary residents of England in any way. The increased tension between the papal authority and the crown confused people who were not ready for various changes that Protestantism brought along with the onset of Royal Supremacy.1
The revolts, nonetheless, were not large or significant in their organization, although they often inspired many people to assemble. Arguably, one of the most impactful rebellions was the Pilgrimage of Grace which happened in 1536 and 1537, after the previous Lincolnshire Rising was disbanded.2
Similar to the majority of all uprisings that happened during the English Reformation, the Pilgrimage of Grace was started by people who were largely affected by the political and economic reforms. Major conflicts between the pope and the King of England started in 1527 when Henry VIII, unsatisfied with his current marriage, sought the Church’s support in a divorce.3 The focus on religious inconsistencies and the king’s personal desire to have offspring quickly affected other parts of the country’s life.
The enforcement of Protestantism brought changes to the process of worship, and Royal Supremacy started targeting local religious houses to make them repudiate the Catholic authority.4 This activity provoked violence from the commoners who, while not realizing a direct change in the system before, have understood that the nobility is actively discouraging their beliefs.
In October 1536, the Lincolnshire Rising included almost 40,000 people who wanted to put an end to the suppression of their monasteries and the heresy in the country.5 Most importantly, they also wished for the king to repeal the laws that limited their use of the land. This initial uprising, while considerably large, was ineffective in persuading the noble family. However, it inspired more people to join, and the Pilgrimage of Grace in Yorkshire was a direct product of the previous rebellion.6 This event also culminated thousands of people to revolt against the religious disruptions in the state.
In the end, this uprising did not lead to the outcomes how which its members have hoped. First of all, it did not result in the reunification of England with the Catholic Church, as both the king and the pope continued to denounce each other’s authority over the country. The rebellion also did not stop the Protestants from dissolving the monasteries.7
The nobility was interested in the lands that the church possessed, and the control over large pieces of land was a crucial source of revenue that Henry VIII could not negotiate. Most importantly, the rising did not stop Protestantism from spreading and becoming the official religion of the state. However, it can still be considered an impactful event in the history of the Reformation because it had shown that people denounced Protestantism and saw the actions of their king as heretical. Furthermore, the people convinced the Crown to change the Ten Articles and the Statute of Uses to address some of the religious and land ownership concerns, respectively.8
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon was the first wife of Henry VIII, the King of England, and the first ruler who was a part of the English Reformation. She married Henry VIII after her previous husband and Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died before ascending to the English throne.9 Thus, she became the Queen of England in 1509, becoming a significant figure in the country’s history. However, her marriage was burdened by the fact that her health did not allow her to produce future successors to the throne.
In fact, her only surviving child was a girl, Mary, which dissatisfied Henry VIII.10 At that time, women never acted as sole rulers in England, thus making Mary’s future uncertain and the relationship between Henry VIII and Catherine – strained. The king, becoming increasingly interested in another woman, Anne Boleyn, decided that the current marriage would not bring him any sons.11 Thus, he sought the annulment of the marriage, which could only be granted by the Church.
The following events played a substantial role in the formation of the England Reformation. The refusal of the pope to annul the union has led Henry VIII to announce that England was splitting from the Catholic Church and the influence of the latter was no longer official.12 However, other factors should also be analyzed because the interest in Protestantism did not appear out of this conflict alone. At the same time, the English territory was introduced to the wave of Bible translations – Protestant reformers wanted to spread the word about the New Testament.13
In 1525, William Tyndale presented an English version of the New Testament, which showed an unseen before interpretation of the Christian thought.14 The influence of this Bible was significant, and its translation denounced Catholicism and its primary aspects.15 It is probable that Protestants used the conflict between the papacy and the King to further their ideas. However, they could have succeeded without Catherine’s impact, as they also were supportive of Henry VIII’s royal supremacy ideas.16 Overall, Catherine’s health was one of the significant factors that impacted the Reformation movement, but the spread of Protestantism was also exacerbated by Henry VIII’s desire for power and independence from the Catholic Church.
Galli, Mark. “What the English Bible Cost One Man.” Christian History, 13, no. 3 (1994): 12-15.
Hoyle, Richard W. The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s. Oxford: Oxford, 2001.
Ng, Su Fang. “Translation, Interpretation, and And Heresy: The Wycliffite Bible, Tyndale’s Bible, and the Contested Origin.” Studies in Philology 98, no. 3 (2001): 315-338.
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Rockett, William. “Wolsey, More, and the Unity of Christendom.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 35, no. 1(2004): 133-153.
Walsham, Alexandra. “Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Vernacular Bible.” Journal of British Studies 42, no. 2 (2003): 141-166.
- Richard W. Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s (Oxford: Oxford, 2001), 40.
- Ibid., 5.
- Ibid., 56.
- Ibid., 4.
- Ibid., 293.
- Ibid., 32.
- Ibid., 51.
- Ibid., 83.
- William Rockett, “Wolsey, More, and the Unity of Christendom,” The Sixteenth Century Journal 35, no. 1(2004): 136.
- Alexandra Walsham, “Unclasping the Book? Post-Reformation English Catholicism and the Vernacular Bible,” Journal of British Studies 42, no. 2 (2003): 141.
- Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace, 56.
- Rockett, “Wolsey, More,” 134.
- Mark Galli, “What the English Bible Cost One Man,” Christian History, 13, no. 3 (1994): 13.
- Ibid., 12.
- Su Fang Ng, “Translation, Interpretation, and And Heresy: The Wycliffite Bible, Tyndale’s Bible, and the Contested Origin,” Studies in Philology 98, no. 3 (2001): 334.
- Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace, 65.