Some time ago I asked Mr. Al to provide me with a guest blog- something having to do with marriage in history, his choice. He came up with a wonderful bit about Henry the VIII which he promptly posted over in FanLit Forever! Harumph. This is his sequiel to it.
Some persons have made it known that they enjoyed my previous post on the Tudor follies. I was and am tickled pink that so many, all six or seven of you, found the reading worthwhile. As a result, I have decided to continue on the subject. I would have posted something earlier had I not fallen into a very old, yet still effective, procrastination trap. I had to do more research.
Let me say at the outset that I take a back seat to no one in my admiration for research. Not only is it entertaining in it’s own right, it is also necessary. But…(There’s always a “but”) it can often become a seductive trap. It works, as all good seductions do, because the writer wants to be seduced. Nothing like a little “research” to justify staying away from the keyboard. And you are learning sooooo much!
Enough. Back to the subject. Henry had a number of problems that cropped up as a result of his solution to his marital difficulties. One was that Catherine was not going to be put aside without a fight. She had powerful friends, both in England and on the continent. She intended to use them. Henry’s biblical fig leaf justifying his actions, that the Bible forbade a man marrying his brothers widow suffered a setback when Catherine made it known that that particular injunction didn’t apply to her since Arthur, Henry’s brother, never consummated the marriage. It would seem that Arthur wasn’t…er…into girls. Alas, for Catherine, that wasn’t the only card Henry had to play.
That line was rendered moot when he decided he didn’t need the Pope’s permission after all! Not if he broke with the Catholic Church and had himself declared the supreme head of a brand spank’n new Church of England! Since he would be the sole authority on church doctrine. Royal divorces would be A-Okay! It was a win/win situation for Henry.
But there was a hitch.
Many of the men who backed Henry in his plan to break with Rome did so because they were Protestants. It was still very illegal to be Protestant in England. While Henry may have had his differences with Rome, he was NOT ready to embrace the reformation. In his heart of hearts, Henry was Catholic. These men had to proceed carefully. They envisioned a full-blown reformation in England…eventually. For the time being they had to hide their Protestant beliefs and play up the other benefits of the deal, English autonomy in matters of faith, money, Henry as pontiff, money, all that Catholic property that would belong to the king, money, Henry getting to marry Anne, money, ecclesiastic courts brought under the jurisdiction of the crown, money, So on and so forth. The fact that Henry and his councilors had VERY different ideas as to what the final product of Henry’s ambition would look like meant serious trouble for the English people after Henrys death.
What made any of this possible was that England was ready for a reformation. While most Englishmen were Catholic, the Church had been abusing its authority in England as badly as it had been on the continent. People were getting fed up with the corruption that was not only sending their money to Rome, but more importantly, was endangering their souls! How could illiterate priests offer salvation when they could not even read the Bible to their largely illiterate congregations on Sunday? Badly trained priests who muddled through the sacraments, who couldn’t even perform last rites properly were worse than useless. They were dangerous!
The fact that progressive Catholics in England and elsewhere were trying, desperately, to reform the Church from within was not cutting any ice with the men and women who had discovered a new way to be Christian. The idea behind the reformation was very simple. Direct communion with God through the reading of scripture. Each man and woman is responsible for his/ her OWN salvation. Salvation would come through accepting Christ into one’s life and through living a Christian life as directed by Gods revealed word. No priests, no cardinals, no masses or images of saints. Indeed, so virulent was the iconoclasm that an enormous amount of ecclesiastic art was lost forever to the bonfires of the “reformers”
It wasn’t only the Catholic Church that had a problem with this. Henry wasn’t real thrilled with it either. If the king was to be head of a new Church of England he couldn’t have his subjects running around thinking they didn’t need any church at all! Where’s the percentage in that? Henry wanted the members of HIS church to tow the line! But that would come later. What he wanted most at the moment, he got. Catherine was no longer his wife. And not a moment too soon because Henry was in no mood to wait around for the ink to dry on the divorce decree. Anne was very pregnant before the lovebirds were officially married at the end of January 1533.
If Henry’s actions were giving Pope Clement ulcers, and he had a full dance card as it was, they were giving Emperor Charles reason to think an invasion of England might be pleasing unto the Lord. But not right away. France was still a problem for Charles, which made gallivanting off to England problematic. Besides, Catherine had not been deprived of her property. Mary was still head of the line of succession, for the time being. As long as Mary’s position was unchanged, Charles felt a bit of saber rattling and strongly worded letters to Henry regarding his aunts, and Mary’s, well being would suffice. He was also keeping a very close watch on the situation through his ambassadors/spies in Henrys court. Any guy who would break with Rome and set up his OWN church was capable of ANYTHING! Who knew what he might do next?
I hope to have the next installment done before we have to leave for Belize. Thanks again for being loyal readers and you can drop change into the coffee can next to the door on your way out.
Thank you Mr. Al.