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What were the causes of the English Reformation?
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Henry VIII badly needed a male heir

Unable to attain an annulment from the pope, Henry turned to extreme measures to get what he wanted. Consumed by fear that his reign would end in failure if he died without a male heir, he wished to prevent England from plunging once again into civil war.

The Argument

When Henry VIII came to the throne, his father had installed the new Tudor monarchy after years of bitter civil war. To prevent England from turning to civil war once again, Henry would have to guarantee that the line of succession was secure.[1] Henry VIII failed to produce a male heir with his wife Catherine of Aragon. When he met Anne Boleyn, he decided he needed a divorce. Although he asked the pope for an annulment, it was never granted. The Pope was briefly a prisoner of Charles V, Catherine’s nephew, and was not inclined to favor Henry. He refused to give Henry his divorce, even though typically the catholic church made excuses for kings who wanted one. [2] Henry VIII decided he would declare himself head of the Church of England to secure his divorce. A series of Acts were passed to limit Rome's power over England. Archbishop Cranmer granted an annulment for Henry in 1533.[3] The Act of Supremacy, passed in 1534, made the break with Rome official. His decision was grounded in pragmatism and his desire to protect the Tudor dynasty.[4] Henry VIII cut England off from the Catholic church for pragmatic reasons so that he could marry Anne Boleyn and produce a male heir.

Counter arguments

Henry’s role in the Reformation is overblown. Although he may have started the Protestant Reformation, it might have ended as soon as it began, because Henry did not really care for Protestant Reforms. Outside of ending papal authority, Henry did almost nothing to change religious practice. He passed the Act of Six Articles Protecting Catholic doctrine. It was the work of the Seymour family during the reign of his successor, Edward VI, and later Elizabeth that started the Reformation proper.[5] There were huge social pressures and a growing intellectual movement behind the Reformation. Other European leaders were increasingly challenging the papacy. People around Henry were passionate Protestants, who may well have persuaded him of the rightness of the Protestant cause. [6] The Reformation was about far more than Henry VIII’s divorce. The church was facing growing pressure to change from many prominent intellectuals in this period. Historians exaggerate henry's role; he did not reform the church much at all.



[P1] The ever-present threat of Civil War created a pressing need for a male heir in Henry VIII's mind. [P2] When he could not get an annulment from the pope he felt he had no choice but to break with the church. [C] The Reformation was started because Henry could not get a divorce.

Rejecting the premises


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