When England's King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church of Rome it set in motion a chain of events that would lead to a period known as the Protestant Reformation. The consequences of the reformation were experienced both in England and abroad. The Reformation resulted in dramatic changes to the religious, economic and cultural structure of European society.
Henry VIII's Divorce
Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon, failed to give Henry the son he needed to secure his legacy before she reached the end of her childbearing years. Henry petitioned the Catholic church to grant him a divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn, and continue to attempt to produce a legitimate male heir. Royal divorces were not unheard of in Henry's time (his own sister had been granted one), but his request was ultimately denied largely because he had petitioned the Catholic church for permission to marry Catherine of Aragon at the beginning of his reign. One of the consequences of the Reformation was Henry's ability to end marriages freely, which ultimately led to the production of a legitimate royal male heir.
The End of Long-Brewing Dissatisfaction
Henry's desire for a divorce was not the only factor that motivated England's split from the Catholic church. Many of the people of England had been dissatisfied with the Catholic church. The citizens of England believed that the Catholic Church's officials were abusing their power for political gain. Plus, many members of Henry VIII's court saw a potential split from the Catholic church as politically advantageous. One of the major effects on England after Henry VIII broke from the Catholic church was the diffusing of the religious power in England that had previously been concentrated in Rome.
Increased English Autonomy
In 1532 Henry installed Thomas Cranmer as the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1534 Cranmer supported the Act of Supremacy, which made England's split from Rome official, and declared Henry England's supreme spiritual leader. No longer part of the Catholic empire, England and Henry now had total autonomy. The clergy were forced to choose sides between Rome and England, and many who chose Rome were executed.
Dissolution of the Monasteries
Another result of Henry VIII's split from the Catholic church was the dissolution of the monasteries. This was the feature of the split that Henry's court had seen as holding so much potential for profit. All monastic lands and possessions were seized by the state and sold. The profits were often used to fund the personal projects of members of Henry's court. The process of shutting down the monasteries and seizing their properties resulted in doubling state revenue for several years.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images