It is very interesting to me the history this country holds especially as a Catholic. The Reformation had lasting effects (somethings still hang over to today).

In case you don't know, you could be forgiven thinking that Church of England (CofE) and Catholicism are the same but Henry VIII broke away from Rome and created his own Christian faith. There are slight differences but a service in a CofE church is very close to a Catholic service than the other kind of Christian services seen in the States. I have written a blog about the differences.

So here is the buildup, the changes and the everlasting affects of the break between England and Rome.

100 years before, the Great Schism was going on where three people claim that they were pope. There was also a power struggle between the bishops and pope.

During this time, England had its own Martin Luther (nearly a century before), John Wyclif created the first bible and an uprising happened but was quickly dissipated.

The European Reformation started to gain momentum and Martin Luther, a German Catholic priest, nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of his church. This discussed the ninety-five things he found wrong within the Catholic faith. At the time he was called a heretic and one person who did so was Henry VIII, who was given the title of Fidei Defensor - Defender of the Faith - in 1521. This is why in Germany they primarily follow the Lutheran faith.

Martin Luther's ideas were spreading fast and were being talked about by academics. One group in Cambridge known as White Horse Group who were named after a pub were part of the people talking about these ideas.

For those that don't know, Henry VIII (king since 1509) married his brother's wife, Catherine of Aragon, after his brother died and it was presumed that they never consummated their marriage in order to keep ties with Spain. He fathered six children with Catherine but only one, Mary, survived. He was convinced that God was keeping him from having a son because he married Catherine after she was already married to his brother.

Henry VIII became infatuated with Anne Boleyn, who was a sister of a mistress he had, Mary Boleyn. Anne told him that he could have her but she would have to be his queen or nothing but he was married so he applied for a divorce from the Pope. His argument was that he shouldn't have been able to marry his brother's wife. Unfortunately for Henry VIII, the Pope had the influence from Catherine's nephew and would not granted a divorce.

Thomas Cranmer, who was a member of the White Horse group suggested that the Pope denying his divorce was illegal because the King enjoyed the same sort of imperial power that the early Christian emperors and the Pope had no jurisdiction over the King. The King applied to the Archbishop of Canterbury for a divorce but he denied that as well. The Archbishop of Canterbury was imprisoned and eventually died so Henry put someone in the archbishop position who would approve the divorce. Anne was pregnant and they had to get married in order to make it legitimate.

The next period is often referred to as the dissolution of monasteries. The Act of Supremacy (1534) was enforced and this confirmed the break from Rome and that the King was the head of CofE. They took all the property that the Catholics owned and sold it off. This way the people that owned this land they would convert to the new religion.

Henry VIII was never a Protestant but his son, Edward with Jane Seymour (wife number three) was educated by Protestants.

When Edward became king in 1547, the Protestants gained momentum and took down altars and shrines. They also smashed the stained glass windows. They permitted priests to marry and confiscated more land.

Mary, a devout Catholic and Edward's sister, came into power and tried to undo the changes that had been made over the past 20 years. Mary died childless and her sister, Elizabeth, Anne Bolyen's daughter, became queen. She was a moderate Protestant in a country were the Catholics were still in charge. She made compromises such as allowing clerical vestments, altars and the Catholic Eucharist. Priests could marry but had to get permission. Elizabeth replaced Mary's Bishops with ones she handpicked and also replaced resigning priests with ones she preferred.

Her reign lasted 45 years before she died after being infected by smallpox. Issues with Ireland began and so on, its a long story of what went on from here.

Some of the lasting things are the Head of the Church of England cannot marry a Catholic, they are allowed marry anyone from any other faith. When you married a Catholic you have to say you will raise any children you have in the Catholic faith. Ireland still has troubles between Protestants and Catholics. It has had long lasting effects. This also why you will not see as many Catholic churches and only near the end of the 19th century did they start allowing them to worship in public.

This article goes more in depth and is very interesting to read.

All the Best!

American to Britain