Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Was Henry VIII justified in divorcing Catherine and making himself head of the Church of England?

In the year 1509, King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, former Ambassador of the Spanish Court and Princess of Wales.  Catherine originally married Henry’s brother, Arthur; however, Henry’s brother died prematurely, leaving Catherin a widow. Henry VII wanted to keep his alliance with Spain, and set Henry VIII to marry Catherine as the resolution. By special dispensation, because marriage to a wife of one’s older brother is illegal by biblical and church law, Pope Julius II allowed for the two to marry. Shortly into the marriage, Henry came to believe that it was cursed by Catherine having only a daughter, many miscarriages, and no male heirs.  Henry VIII wanted a divorce from this union and quickly became captivated and infatuated with Catherine’s lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. Just as the marriage needed special indulgence, the annulment to a special papal marriage would be nearly impossible. Along with this, at the time, Pope Clement VII had been imprisoned by Catherine’s nephew Charles V. This emperor would not reassure the pope to annul a marriage against his own aunt.  Henry VIII ordered Cardinal Wolsey to secure the royal annulment. Even though the matter of the situation was insuperable, Wolsey’s failure to annul dismissed him from Henry’s right side. From this came Thomas Cromwell, with Lutheran sympathies, who became Henry’s adviser. It was Cromwell who realized that annulment of such a marriage was impossible, yet Henry declaring himself power over all spiritual matter away from Rome was feasible. These selfish acts brought about marriage to many wives, the Church of England, and the Protestant Reformation. Overall, in the act of divorcing Catherine to seek a male heir reproduction, Henry VIII was only senselessly corrupt, yet in response, from Henry to the Pope, the brash decision to completely break from the Catholic Church of England was completely unjust and had many side effects.
                The divorce from Catherine brought upon secret plots, advantageous uses of Henry’s power, and Henry VIII’s occupation to go about his way of opposing Catholic England. In a letter from Catherine to Henry soon before her death, the unreasonable force upon her death was exemplified as unfair. Catherine explained to Henry VIII that her love was undoubtedly for him, yet Henry only labeled her as a curse to his profession. In her later years, Catherine was forced to live in confinement as she began showing the mortal side effects of her disease. She still claimed her title as Queen of England; however, Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn, declared his marriage to Catherin illegitimate, and designated Catherine’s title back to what it had been with his brother Arthur. In the sixteenth century, political marriages to create rightful heirs were understandable, and Catherine was dying anyhow.  On the contrary, the faith of Catherine in Henry’s sensibility was overbearing, as she wished that “I commend unto thou our doughtere Mary, beseeching thou to be a good father unto her” (Turner). In reality, Mary was considered the bastard child after Henry declared his first marriage illegitimate. By the end, Henry was steadfast and happily married to Anne Boleyn, while Catherine was dying as she made the vow that “that mine eyes desire you above all things” ( If Henry had executed Catherine to marry Boleyn, then his acts would have been beyond immoral; however, it is understandable that political strategy would rule over sensible affairs when it comes to carrying on the Tudor name.
                In order for Henry to do what he chose in an era of strict adherence to Catholicism, The Church of England completely changed the King’s power and the realm of England. At this time, a torrent of legislations was put upon England so that full power and reign over religious affairs was given to the parliament. With this came ideas such that any amendment made by the monarch must be accepted by the parliament. The year 1533 brought the Convocation, which produced the English clergy and publically designated Henry as the head of the Church of England. These laws began to bring up objections by parliament members for the obsessive amendments that had been made (The Western Heritage). After Henry married Boleyn, he passed restriction that no payment could be given to Rome, but rather, Henry allotted authority over religious appointments. Significantly in this time of religious amending, The Law of Supremacy was passed in 1534, giving Henry upmost assumption to clerical powers. This made Henry the “…only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicans Ecclesia; and shall have and enjoy, annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm;” yet, this was being done “to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquility of this realm” ("The Act of Supremacy."). The increasing power of Henry was anticipated by his grievous stature, but the statement in the Act of Supremacy stating that Henry’s choices were to pleasure God seem farce in that it only granted him more power in the realm.
                The indication that little theological amendments were made to differentiate the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church solidifies that Henry went through the trouble only to please himself. His brashness and dominance in politics were in high contrast to Henry VIII’s conservative ideals on religion. With the Church of England, all art was destroyed, the church was left close to bare, the bible was printed in English, but otherwise all else remains quite similar to Catholicism. No clergy members could marry, despite Henry’s many marriages himself. Henry VIII was personally angry over his advisor’s excitement to reformat protestant views, and with that, Henry made his Six Articles declaring to maintain transubstantiation, to decline the Eucharistic cup, to force all clergy celibate, to keep private masses, and the to conserve the prolongation of oral confessions ("Select Documents of English ...").  The Protestants took this offensively in that they were shot down in liberally reshaping the Church of England. For Henry VIII’s aspirtiations for dominance, his formation of the church did little to regenerate religion and only affirmed that the reformation of religious views would not progress during his reign in the Church of England.
                 In the resolution of Henry’s troubles with Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII ended up restructuring his power and the face of religious England. The events that began as a way of retrieving simply a clean slate of family life, turned into a grievous hunt for power. Many executions came through Henry VIII’s reign, and many aristocrats were pushed aside and replaced by Henry. Even Anne Boleyn was executed for not producing a male heir, herself. Henry VIII had six wives and only one son, Edward VI. After Henry’s death, Edward came into power, and then both of Henry’s daughters followed, and only religious turmoil was to be created. Henry’s brash decisions were the roots for the religious warfare in England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It seems as if Henry’s hunt for his own power only dug a deeper whole for his now Protestant isolated country to climb out of. In due course, Henry’s divorce to Catherine was not outlandish or ghastly for the time period, yet his obsessive hunt for power above his reigning country came to corrupt religious England.  

Works Cited
"The Act of Supremacy." Then Again. . . Web. 29 Sept. 2010.                 <>.
"Medieval Sourcebook: The Suppression of Glastonbury Abbey." FORDHAM.EDU. Web. 29 Sept. 2010.                 <>.
"Primary Sources - Letter of Katharine of Aragon to Her Husband, King Henry VIII, 7 January        1536." Web. 29 Sept. 2010. <>. 
The Western Heritage/Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, Frank M. Turner. –9th ed. P. cm. New Jersey;        Pearson Education Inc., 2007
Sharon Turner, The History of England from the Earliest Period to the Death of Elizabeth (Longman, Rees,             Orme,                 Brown and Green,1828)
"Select Documents of English ..." Google Books. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. <

1 comment:

  1. In terms of support and style, you are spot on. I would however urge you in this case to simplify your thesis. For example, you say that Henry was 'senselessly corrupt', but you don't define what you mean by that. I get the feeling that in distinguishing the marriage between what it meant both to Catherine and the Pope, you are trying to distinguish between the 'private' marriage and the public.

    "Overall, in the act of divorcing Catherine to seek a male heir reproduction, Henry VIII was only senselessly corrupt, yet in response, from Henry to the Pope, the brash decision to completely break from the Catholic Church of England was completely unjust and had many side effects."

    However, that seems to miss the fact that his original marriage was indeed very political and public.

    I think your strongest argument here comes in the fourth paragraph where you distinguish between Henry's personal interest in the shift of power in the Church versus what he allows for anyone else. I'd suggest perhaps organizing this essay around the idea of personal vs public; seems to have a good ring to it. That would knock out your third paragraph as superfluous; but that's okay.

    It would be especially interesting to give the Pope's view as well highlighting both the 'personal' and 'public' within the Vatican of the time.