B ETWEEN 1530 and 1534 Henry broke with the papacy. In the next six years he made the breach final by crushing active opposition and by seizing the lands of the monasteries, which he gave, usually at a fair price, to the English gentry. A great revolution was accomplished in a very short time and with remarkably little dislocation of the national affairs. It was achieved, it has been said, by king and parliament working together, and though this is true, there lurk behind the statement two compelling questions. Why did the king and the parliament wish to break away from Rome? How were they able to do it? It may be said at once that the motive force was that of Henry himself, never yet cheated of his desires and blessed with that convenient conscience; that the English king, whose bluff heartiness concealed a commanding intellect as well as egoism alternating unconcernedly between meanness and magnificence, revealed an uncanny ability to use parliament for his own ends; that the king's personal desires harmonized with the aspirations of the most active part of his people. Yet when all this is said, the ease with which the great change was effected demands explanation.
The first explanation lies in the atmosphere of the period. Revolution was in the air. Everywhere the facts were in rebellion against the theories and the waves of criticism were beating on the rock which, for so many centuries, had been a sure foundation of European society. Examined from a realist point of view the church no longer appeared as a divinely appointed reproduction of the ordered beauty of heaven. It seemed to be a human institution whose servants did not practice the righteousness which they preached and whose services and sacraments did not bring spiritual security even to those who obeyed its teaching to the best of their power.
The church was not in a healthy way; its standard of morality was not sufficiently above that of the world of laymen to justify the great privileges which it held. Often benefices had come to be regarded as the apanages of noble and gentle families; unspiritual men were appointed, and irregular marriages were