Technical problems with Google indexing have made it desirable to re-post all of our material. I hope you will find interest in reflecting with me, on the history of the Church over the centuries and during the life of the Blog which began on 14th December 2009. This post first appeared on 6th July 2010.


He was the most dazzling King of his time. Noted since his youth for his handsome good looks, athleticism and intellectual achievements, his court was the destination for the great achievers of his time. But, of late, things had begun to sour a little. Foreign adventures and his heavy gambling had left him cash-strapped. His wife had failed to produce a male heir, and his Chancellor, the Pope's Legate a Latere, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey had failed to secure from the Pope an Annulment of the King's marriage. This was particularly irritating because he did want a male heir, and his roving eye had fixed its attention on a very likely lass among his Queen's Ladies in Waiting: Ann Boleyn, He was, of course, King Henry VIII of England.
Cardinal Wolsey Archbishop of York
Several possibilities, which would address his problems seemed to fall into alignment. Their realisation, one after another, could be achieved if only Henry acted boldly enough. Firstly Wolsey must go as Chancellor, an Annulment of his marriage must be achieved and he must then marry Ann Boleyn. Then the question of money must be resolved.......

Wolsey was dismissed. He was to be imprisoned, but in transit he became ill and died, uttering on his deathbed: "Would that I had served my God as well as I served my King!" This impertinence had to be borne since Wolsey had gone to render his final account. A new Chancellor was needed - someone King Henry could absolutely trust. There was only one man to fit the post, the best-educated man in England - the Judge Sir Thomas More. He had been Henry's mentor in the King's youth. Henry knew him as a man of outstanding integrity. But this very integrity proved to be a stumbling block on the road to his appointment. Henry first questioned Thomas More as to his view on the matter of the validity of his marriage. More responded with great care that he could not support the King's position in the matter. After some to-ing and froing, Thomas More stood firm. Henry agreed to proceed with his appointment as long as he did not publicly oppose the King. This was agreed, and in October 1529 Sir Thomas More was sworn in as Lord Chancellor.

Saint Thomas More (the portrait by Holbein)

The annulment was still pursued, but when it finally became clear that it could not be obtained from the Pope, Henry cast about for an alternative course of action. He began a systematic bullying of the Bishops and clergy using the Law of Praemunire  - the Emperor's Ambassador Chapuys reported to his master that Praemunire was a Law that no-one in England understood because the King interpreted it in his own head and applied it to any case he chose! 

So fearful of him were the Bishops in Convocation, that on 11th February 1531 he was able to bully them into according him the title "Supreme Head" of the Church in England "in so far as the law of Christ allows". ON and on went Henry's demands and he repeatedly went into Parliament - against all rights and usages -and harangued and bullied the Members, who did not easily give in, until at last so many blows had been dealt to the Church - financial and administrative, that the Bishops caved in. On 15th May 1532, the Submission of the Bishops to the King was given. The short document made three undertakings - The Bishops gave up the right to initiate legislation in the Parliament unless the King permitted it; They agreed never to meet in Convocation without the King's prior consent;and lastly they agreed to a review of all Church laws by a Commission of 16 Laymen and 16 Clergy ALL appointed by the King. That same day, Sir Thomas More met the King at York Place near Westminster Hall and resigning, delivered up the Great Seal.

The Bishops having been so craven before the onslaught of the Royal Monster, it is little surprising that on 23rd May 1533, Archbishop Cranmer - himself a heretic - "granted" the King a purported annulment of his marriage. Ann Boleyn had already been carrying Henry's child since 1532 and he had secretly "married" her four months earlier on 25th January 1533. In July 1533 Pope Clement VII Excommunicated King Henry and the puppet Cranmer and declared the mock marriage to Boleyn null and void.

In 1534 Henry VIII forced the Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy which made him in English Law the Head of the Church in England. Thus he severed the Church in England from its communion with the Catholic Church established by Christ. The stage was set for the solution to his financial problems, but events were pre-occupying.

Saint John Fisher Bishop of Rochester
 In 1535, Sir Thomas More and the saintly Bishop John Fisher - who had held out against the King to his face , even when the Archbishop of Canterbury forged his signature to a document of consent in an effort to save him, were beheaded for Treason for refusing to acknowledge Henry's claimed Headship of the Church. Many others suffered the same fate. On 7th January 1536 Henry's true wife and Queen, Katherine of Aragon, died. In May the same year, his bigamous "wife" Ann Boleyn was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. The following 17 days saw her charged with Treason, adultery and incest, executed and buried in an unmarked grave. Within 24 hours Henry VIII was betrothed to Jane Seymour, and 10 days later they were married.


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