Last I posted I mentioned that Henry VIII was keen to annul his marriage with his first wife, well his reasons for doing so weren’t… only about getting a son.
Henry’s interests had been set on another woman as well, Anne Boleyn. Anne was a smart girl who, it is thought, put a copy of a little tract by Tyndale in Henry’s hands which argued that in any realm there ought be only one King (i.e. the Pope wasn’t the boss). Henry loved it. With the help of two of his underlings, Cromwell and Cranmer and with an Act of Parliament the English church was born. This enabled Henry to annul his marriage to Catherine (ta Cranmer) and bastardise Mary.
Cromwell and Cranmer were an interesting pair – the politician and the parson. Cromwell managed to suppress a great deal of Catholic resistance (and there was heaps of it) and Cranmer, who was heavily influenced by the Reformers, set about making significant changes to the way church was done in England (starting with ending the mass and writing several prayer books in English.
Unfortunately for Anne, she too did not produce a son, and after producing a daughter (Elizabeth) and a miscarriage that would have been a boy, Henry turned on his young bride. Cromwell, opportunist that he was, moved against Anne and within a few months her head was on the block in the tower of London. Elizabeth was also bastardised (woot! Bastardised used twice in the same blog!)
Henry went on to have two other children, one illegitimate and the other in marriage (and this time a boy!) Edward (being the first male heir) went on to become king.
Henry is a bit of a disappointment as the reforming king. Not only were his sexual exploits not exactly honourable but he seemed to want a very catholic looking church, just with him as the English Pope. When he died he payed for two priests to say the mass for him forever. But not a single mass was ever said. Edward saw to that.
Edward was a deeply protestant young man (well, as much as you can be at age 9). He had no time for the superstitious nonsense his Father had organised so he scrapped it. But he was also very ill and died at 15. It was such a pity, as he had shown incredible promise, even competently attending parliament at 14. You’ve got to wonder what England would be like if he hadn’t died so young.
Being 15 and all Edward had neglected to have any children and so Mary (who, with Elizabeth, had been… un-bastardised… just before Henry VIII’s death) became the first queen of England since Matilda.
Things at this stage went really bad for the protestants, as Mary remained a devout catholic. Mary rounded up not only protestant leaders for the execution by fire but also ordinary people (such as a blind woman who saved up, bought a bible and paid people to read it to her). Fortunately for the reformation cause, she had two false pregnancies, with the second being a tumour of the bowel. She died childless and with her Catholic England failed.
Next post on her successor – Elizabeth 1