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Religious settlement of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
Religious settlement of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I
The English Reformation was a series of events in 16th century England by which the Church of
England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. These events
were, in part, associated with the wider process of the European Protestant Reformation, a
religious and political movement that affected the practice of Christianity across most of
Europe during this period. Many factors contributed to the process. Religious settlement of
Henry VIII and Elizabeth I was a major part of English Reformation. For England, it was breach
2. 1. Religious settlement of Henry VIII:
Henry VIII was king of England from 1509 to 1547.England's King Henry VIII had reigned since
1509 at the age of eighteen. Loyal to Catholicism he suppressed Protestantism with his
standard brutality – while making his court a center of Renaissance erudition. Henry VIII had
been married for twenty years to Charles’s aunt, Catherine of Aragon. By the time he had
turned forty-two, he had come into conflict with Pope Clement of marriage. Henry VIII wanted
to divorce Catharine because she had failed to present him with a son and he also had doubts
about the validity of his marriage. He also wanted to marry Anne Boleyn. But, the pope would
not grant Henry’s divorce. So, at first Henry VIII used his parliament to attack the church and to
question the pope’s power in England.
2.2. Act of Supremacy:
In 1529, Henry VIII passed “Act of Supremacy” in his parliament which destroys the power of
pope in England. The Act of Supremacy of November 1534 was an Act of the Parliament of
England under King Henry VIII declaring that he was "the only supreme head on earth of the
Church of England" and that the English crown shall enjoy "all honors, dignities, preeminence,
jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity.
Henry VIII appointed himself as the supreme rulers of the English church. Henry VIII had been
declared "Defender of the Faith" in 1521 by Pope Leo X. The churches were also forced to agree
that Henry VIII was the protector and supreme head of the English church and clergy. This was
the beginning of the English Reformation.
2.3. Act of Appeals:
The Act of Restraint of Appeals had great significance in English history, far beyond offering
Henry, as head on an independent English Church, a way of ending the Roman logjam. It was a
declaration of political sovereignty, an Act of Parliament and not a royal proclamation. The Act
in Restraint of Appeals (1533) was the start of a political process that effectively transferred the
power of the Catholic Church to the king, Henry VIII and his advisors/government. “Act of
Appeals” meant that people could not make any appeal to the pope. In February 1533
Parliament made the King the Highest Court of Appeal for all English subjects. So, pope had no
right to interfere in its business. It is considered by many historians at the key legal foundation
of the English Reformation.
2.4. Church Taxes:
Before English Reformation Church taxes were paid directly to Rome, but Henry discarded the
Papal authority. So, Church taxes went to the king. These acts put an end of papal authority of
Rome in England and the English church became national. And parliament of England became
2.5. A survey by Thomas Cromwell:
Thomas Cromwell becomes Vicar-General in 1534. He was Henry’s chief instrument in carrying
out his anti-papal policy. England possessed many religious houses that owned large tracts of
land worked by tenants. So, Thomas Cromwell also nominated as a commissioner to visit
monasteries and report on them. Thomas Cromwell had found that the monasteries and monks
were full of corrupt and immoral practices. And the monasteries and monks were the main
supporter of the papal authority in England. The Church was a huge landowner, and the
monasteries were no longer important to economic and social growth. In fact they were
unpopular because many monks no longer led a good religious life but lived in wealth and
comfort. So, many monasteries and monks were closed by Henry VIII. Their property went to
the king. Henry did this to make money, but he also wanted to be popular with the rising
classes of landowners and merchants. He gave or sold much of the monasteries' lands to them.
Many smaller landowners made their fortunes.
2.6. The Act of the Six Articles:
The Act of Six Articles, passed in 1539, marks the beginning of the reactionary period that
continued until the close of Henry VIII's reign. It enumerated precisely and clearly six points of
mediaeval doctrine and practice which the Protestants had begun to assail, and imposed severe
penalties on all who would not accept them.
(1)The first article expressed the doctrine of transubstantiation. Those denying this were to be
burnt. If the other five articles were impeached the penalties were, for the first offence,
confiscation of property, for the second, execution as a felon.
(2) The second articles declared that communion in both kinds were unnecessary.
(3) The third articles declared that priests ought not to marry.
(4) The fourth articles declared that the vows of chastity ought to be observed in both sexes.
(5) The fifth articles declared that private masses were allowable.
(6) The sixth articles declared that auricular confession was necessary.
These Act, called by the Protestants, "the whip with six strings," continued in force for the rest
of Henry's reign.
2.7: Result of the Religious settlement of Henry VIII:
The results of the religious settlement of Henry VIII are given below.
01. It secured the ecclesiastical independence of England.
02. It destroyed the power of pope in England.
03. The church no longer “a state within the state” and was completely to the royal authority.
04. The power of king was enormously increased.
05. The king becomes the head of both state and church.
06. National pride established.
3.1: Edward and Bloody Mary:
After Henry VIII, Edward came to British throne. In according with Henry’s will a Council of
regency was to run the government and Duke of Somerset became the protector of the realm.
Under Duke of Somerset, England become more of a protestant country. Revolt broke.
After Edward’s death, people supported Mary’s (daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine) claim and
she came the throne with an aim to restore Catholicism in England. Because of her persecution
of Protestants she was known as “Bloody Mary”.
4.1. Religious settlement of Elizabeth I:
Elizabeth I was the only surviving child of King Henry VIII of England by his second wife, Anne
Boleyn, Marchioness of Pembroke. Her right to throne was secured by the Act of parliament
during Henry VIII. In 1558, she ascended the British throne. After coming to throne, she thought
of finding a midway to unite the religious divisions. Her father, Henry VIII, had removed the
English Church from papal authority during his rule. Edward VI, her brother, had taken that one
step further and created a Calvinist State church in England. Then, Mary I, who was Elizabeth
and Edward’s older sister, had returned the English church to Catholicism. These drastic
changes had left England in a state of religious instability, which Elizabeth needed to fix.
Fortunately for England Queen Elizabeth had no strong religious feelings. She was not a violent
Protestant like Edward, nor a strict Catholic like her sister Mary. Because of this she was able to
go some way to meet both sides. She wanted to create a religious settlement that Protestants
and Catholics would be happy. So, she came up with “Elizabethan religious settlement”. There
are many factors behind Elizabeth’s religious settlement. These factors include the internal
situation, the internal situation, Elizabethan’s own personal belief. Elizabeth declared that she
had “no desire to make windows into men’s souls” and she believed that “there is only one
Christ, Jesus, one faith, all else is a dispute over trifles”, and her religious settlement was her
attempt to show this. Both Calvinists and Catholics criticized her, but Elizabeth knew the
importance of stability and knew that this religious settlement would make it.
4.2. Act of Supremacy:
The Act of Supremacy helped give the reigns of complete control of the Church of England into
the hands of Queen Elizabeth. Under the reigns of her father Henry VIII and brother Edward VI,
the monarch was always the 'Head of the Church in England'. However, under the rule of
Elizabeth, she was given the title and place of the 'Supreme Governor of the Church in England'.
It was said this change was made to please the Catholics who thought the Church was under
the Pope's command and could not accept the monarch to head the church. It may also have
been due to the gender issues of that time. Women were considered inferior in matters of
religion and spirituality and therefore, Elizabeth being in charge would not have gone down
well in the male dominated society. The Act of Supremacy also included the oath of loyalty to
the queen. This means all the clergy had to take this oath or lose their office. This,
establishment of a High Commission, was undertaken that ensured each and every clergy took
4.3. Act of uniformity:
The Act of Uniformity was the most important part of the Elizabethan Settlement of Religion.
On the 8th May 1559, Queen Elizabeth I gave her approval to the Acts of Uniformity which was
the most important part of Elizabethan religious settlement. The Act of Uniformity made
Protestantism England’s official faith, and established the standard rule for worshipping. All
prayer books of Edward VI were integrated into one book which was the Book of Common
Prayer. This prayer book was to be used by every church. It was made compulsory for all to
attend the church every Sunday and on holy days. If one did not attend the Church, they were
fined 12 pence. The collected fine was to be donated to the poor and needy. The Holy
Communion was written in vague words, such that both the Catholics and protestant could be a
part of the religious meet. The Catholic mass was banned under the Act of Uniformity. The
ornaments and vestment of the church were retained.
4.4. Thirty-Nine Articles of religion:
The settlement was completed by the publication of Thirty-Nine Articles of religion in 1563
which define the doctrine of church. They were drawn up by the Church in convocation in 1563 on the
basis of the 42 Articles of 1553. Clergymen were ordered to subscribe to the 39 Articles by Act of
Parliament in 1571. The list of Thirty- nine articles is given below.
1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
2. Of Christ the Son of God.
3. Of his going down into Hell.
4. Of his Resurrection.
5. Of the Holy Ghost.
6. Of the Sufficiency of the Scripture.
7. Of the Old Testament.
8. Of the Three Creeds.
9. Of Original or Birth-sin.
10. Of Free-Will.
11. Of Justification.
12. Of Good Works.
13. Of Works before Justification.
14. Of Works of Supererogation.
15. Of Christ alone without Sin.
16. Of Sin after Baptism.
17. Of Predestination and Election.
18. Of obtaining Salvation by Christ.
19. Of the Church.
20. Of the Authority of the Church.
21. Of the Authority of General Councils.
22. Of Purgatory.
23. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
24. Of speaking in the Congregation.
25. Of the Sacraments.
26. Of the Unworthiness of Ministers.
27. Of Baptism.
28. Of the Lord's Supper.
29. Of the Wicked which eat not the Body of Christ.
30. Of both kinds.
31. Of Christ's one Oblation.
32. Of the Marriage of Priests.
33. Of Excommunicate Persons.
34. Of the Traditions of the Church.
35. Of the Homilies.
36. Of Consecrating of Ministers.
37. Of Civil Magistrates.
38. Of Christian men's Goods.
39. Of a Christian man's Oath.
4.5. Result of the Religious settlement of Elizabeth I:
The results of the religious settlement of Elizabeth are given below.
01. The Act of Supremacy gives her (Elizabeth I) complete control of the Church of England.
02. Established England’s official faith, and standard rule for worshiping.
03. The Catholic mass was banned.
4.6. Elizabethan Settlement Implemented:
After a lot of protest and problems, the Elizabethan Religious settlement was passed by the
parliament. The Elizabethan settlement implemented in the summer of 1559. Thus, the
Elizabethan Religious Settlement is also called as Elizabethan Settlement of 1559. The
Elizabethan Religious Settlement proved to be far more successful than the reforms imposed by
Mary I. This may be because Elizabeth I could reign over England for about 40 years and Mary I
had just 5 years to rule.
As a result of the separation, English Church became national, followed its own line of
development. It was no longer a state within a state. It was not a shock for the English people
because English mind was ready to accept it and it was in line with the development of English
policy. Nationalism in England was full grown, and would not accept the idea that, someone
from outside judge English question By Italian, French or Spanish Standard. So, it was proved,
“Religion divides English people but national pride unites them.”
01. Thorn, Lockyer, Smith. A History of England. Krishan Nagar, Delhi, A.I.T.B.S
Publishers & Distributors. 2000.
02. Trevelyan, G. M. A Shorted History of England .London, England. Penguin Group.
03. McDowall, David. An Illustrated History of Britain. Harlow, England. Person
Education Limited. 2010
04. Mukherjee, L. A Study of English History. Dhaka: Friends’ Book Corner, 2011.
Religious settlement of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I