Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

Article excerpt

The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church. By George W. Bernard. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 2005. Pp. xii, 736. $40.00.)

The King's Reformation charts the religious twists and turn of Henry VIII's reign, beginning with Henry VIII's questioning of the validity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In the period 1527-1533 Henry consistently threatened the Pope with unilateral action in England to secure the divorce if the Pope did not comply: the Royal Supremacy, we are told, was a possibility from the beginning as the essential ideological framework was present.The visitation of the monasteries in 1535, and the subsequent dissolution of the less economically viable houses in 1536, stemmed from a genuine reforming impulse, not financial motivations. Henry's attitude toward monasticism in general only deteriorated as a result of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Although the King's reformation led to changes in doctrine and worship, it did not introduce continental evangelical reform, but was rather initially inspired by Erasmian humanism. The changes, however, were so substantial that the nature of religion afterwards cannot simply be characterized as an interpretation or rethinking of pre1530's Catholicism, but should instead be recognized as partially radical and unique to Henry's kingdoms. In light of the opposition Henry VIII faced from conservative quarters, Bernard argues against the notion that English subjects complied with religious change because they negotiated the reformation for their own profit. Rather, it was Henry's tyrannical suppression of outspoken critics that silenced men across the religious spectrum. In contrast to historians who depict religious policy in the 1530's and 1540's as contingent upon the influence of competing factions on the King, Bernard instead describes a monarch in control of his church and episcopate, who assiduously pursued a considered via media. …

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