The Tudors

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The Tudors

by Mandy Barrow

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500 BC
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The Dissolution of the Monasteries


Tudor BritainIntroduction

In the reign of Henry VIII the Pope was the head of all the Christian Church.

When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, he set up the Church of England. (The Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce.)

What is the Reformation?

The Reformation is the process by which the English Church is split off from the Roman church. Rather than the pope, the king would be the spiritual head of the English church.

The word reformation is made from two Latin words:

re = "again" and formare = "to form or make"

It means that the people who left the Roman Church again formed or made the Church.

The English Reformation started in the reign of Henry VIII when he wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  However, the idea of reformation was started earlier by Martin Luther (1483-1546), a german monk.

Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, which lead to the birth of the Protestant faith.

Martin Luther was a Catholic monk who didn't believe that you could just buy your way into heaven. In 1517 he protested against the Catholic practice of granting indulgences. An indulgence was a pardon instead of punishment for a sin. To gain an indulgence, a person had to perform a good deed. This was often giving money to the church, so it looked like the Church was selling pardons. Luther protested that this was wrong. He believed that a man could only be saved by the grace of God.

1534 Act of Supremacy

The Act of Supremacy (1534) confirmed the break from Rome, declaring Henry to be the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries

The conflict between Henry VIII and the Roman Catholic Church eventually led to the seizure of Church properties by the state. Over 800 monasteries were dissolved, demolished for building materials, sold off or reclaimed as Anglican Churches.


After his divorce (on 23 May, 1533), Henry VIII needed to reduce the power of the Church's power in England, as well as find money to fund his fruitless and expensive wars against France and Scotland.


The year 1536 saw Henry order the closing down of the wealthy Roman Catholic Abbeys, monasteries and convents across England, Wales and Ireland. This act became known as the 'Dissolution of the Monasteries'.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries lasted four years to 1540. The last monastery to be dissolved was Waltham Abbey in March 1540.

What happened?

Henry put Thomas Cromwell in charge of getting rid of the monasteries. Cromwell started by sending royal commissioners to all the monasteries in 1535 - 1536 to find out what they own, how much money they have coming in, and to report on what is happening inside the monasteries. The royal commissioners report stated that the monks and nuns are seriously breaking the rules they should be living by.

Titchfield Abbey
Titchfield Abbey was given to Thomas Wriothesley,
one of Henry's closest friends in 1537.

The Act of Suppression (1536)
Small monasteries, those with an income of less than £200 a year, are closed.

Henry Vlll took ownership of all the buildings, land, money and everything else. Some of the small monasteries stay open because they paid some money to the king.

The Act of Suppression (1539)
Another Act of Suppression sanctioned the transfer of further monastic possessions to the state.

Dissolution of the monasteries timeline

1509 Henry VIII becomes king.

September 1527
Henry VIII asks the Pope if he can divorce Catherine of Aragon. The Pope will not let him.

25th January 1533
Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn while he is still married to Catherine of Aragon.

July 1533
The Pope says Henry cannot carry on being a Catholic and excommunicates him.

November 1534 Act of Supremacy
Henry VIII puts himself charge of all the churches and monasteries in England.

February 1536
Thomas Cromwell starts the Dissolution of most of the small monasteries in England.

October 1536
The Pilgrimage of Grace - a rebellion against the dissolution of the monasteries led by lawyer Robert Aske.

November 1537
Thomas Cromwell starts the Dissolution of all the monasteries left in England.

March 1540
The end of the Dissolution. All the monasteries in England have been closed.

28th July 1540
Only a few months after the last monastery had been closed down, Thomas Cromwell was beheaded without trial for high treason. He arranged the unsuccessful marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves.

28th January 1547
Henry VIII dies. Edward VI becomes king.

More about religion during the Tudor reign



Religion during the Tudor timesThe changes of religion during Tudor Britain

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