Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

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

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

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 G. W. Bernard. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005, Pp. xii, 736 $40.00.)

G. W. Bernard's revisionist study of his monumental and, at times, monstrous royal subject is worth taking into account due to the radical role Bernard assigns to the king in remaking the English Church. With painstaking research in familiar primary sources, Bernard describes Henry VIII as the "dominant force" (595) in shaping religious policy during the English Reformation. The period covered is 1527-1540, from the beginning of the king's efforts to attain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon to the fall of Thomas Cromwell. The author challenges historians who he believes have previously underestimated Henry's decisive command of "religious" policy.

What Bernard asserts is Henry's direct role in forming the theological dimensions and shape of the English Church. The roles of those who have previously been detailed by recent Tudor historians as central and influential players are recast. This list includes Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Edward Howard (duke of Norfolk), Steven Gardiner, Reginald Pole, and, to a lesser extent, Thomas Cranmer. In repeated and direct challenges to Sir Geoffrey Elton, Thomas Cromwell's influence is significantly deflated. Bernard oddly underplays and at times dismisses the significance of factional politics, parties, and key players during Henry's reign. To achieve his revisionist ends, Bernard quotes his sources at length "so readers can assess for themselves how far my presentation of the sources rings true" (ix). Along the way Bernard is less than kind to his contemporary colleagues, at times tearing into their works with abandon and seeming irritation.

It is questionable whether in the long run Bernard's revised description of Henry's domineering and close to single-handed impact on religion will prevail in future scholarship. …

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