In the 16th century, there was a big change in the way some Christians worshipped God. Up until the 16th century most people were Roman Catholic and the Pope in Rome was the head of all the Christian Church.
In 1517, a German monk called Martin Luther led a breakaway from the Roman Catholic church. The new Christians called themselves ‘Protestants’ because they were protesting against the Roman 'Catholic' (meaning 'universal') Church, its teachings and its customs.
The word Protestant is made from two Latin words:
pro = "publicly" and testari = "to bear witness" (protest).
Their demand for reform led to this period of history being called the Reformation.
People in Tudor times were very religious and were prepared to die for their beliefs. It must have been very hard for them during the 118 years the Tudor kings and Queens ruled because they were often forced to change their religion depending on the religion of the reigning monarch.
There were major changes in the church during the reign of the Tudor king and queens. England started as a Catholic country and ended up being a Protestant one under the Tudors.
Religion in England changed depending on the views of the monarch and people often felt confused. They were told to change what they believed, how they worshipped God and how they decorated churches.
Many laws were passed about religion. These were passed by Kings and queens who wanted to make people follow the same religion that they did.
When the first Tudor Kings came to the throne, England was a Roman Catholic country and the head of the church was the Pope in Rome, Clement VII.
England is a Catholic country
England was a Catholic nation under the rule of Henry VII (1485-1509) and during much of Henry VIII's (1509-1547) reign.
Church services were held in Latin.
When Henry VIII came to the throne, he was a devout Catholic and defended the Church against Protestants. Henry VIII did not agree with their views.
In 1521, Pope Leo X honoured Henry VIII with the title "Defender of Faith', because of his support for the Roman Church.
The English Church is split from Rome
When the Pope refused to grant Henry VIII a divorce* from Catherine of Aragon, Henry split off the English Church from the Roman church. Rather than the pope, the king would be the spiritual head of the English church. (Reformation)
*The Roman Catholic faith believed in marriage for life. It did not recognise, let alone support, divorce.
King Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of a new Church of England. (The Act of Supremacy and reformation) This marked the start of centuries or religious conflict in Britain.
Despite being cut off from Rome, England, retained much of the doctrine and the practices of Catholicism.
Why did Henry VIII break with Rome?
Henry VIII broke with Rome because the pope in Rome would not grant him a divorce with his wife, Catherine of Aragon, because divorce was against church policy.
The year 1535 saw Henry order the closing down of Roman Catholic Abbeys, monasteries and convents across England, Wales and Ireland. This act became known as the 'Dissolution of the Monasteries'. Click here to find out more
Until Henry's death in 1547, although split off from Rome, the English Church remained Catholic country. It wasn't until Henry's son, Edward VI, and his advisors, that England became a Protestant country.
England becomes a Protestant Country
Henry's son Edward was given Protestant teachers and brought up as a strict protestant.
Under King Edward VI (1547-1553), England became a Protestant nation. King Edward VI was a devout Protestant and introduced a new prayer book.
All church services were held in English.
Catholics were treated very badly and catholic bishops were locked up.
England returns to being a Catholic country
Under Queen Mary I (1553-1558), England was again a Catholic nation. Mary was a devout Catholic. The pope became the head of the church again.
Church services changed back to Latin.
During the last three years of her reign, 300 leading Protestants who would not accepted Catholic beliefs were burned to death at the stake.
Third earned her the nickname of 'Bloody Mary'.
Elizabeth was raised as a Protestant.
Under Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), England was again a Protestant nation. It was under Elizabeth that the Anglican church (Church of England) became firmly established and dominant. However, Elizabeth did her best to sort out the problem of religion.
Elizabeth wanted England to have peace and not be divided over religion. She tried to find ways which both the Catholic and Protestant sides would accept and be happy. She did not call herself the Head of the Church of England, instead she was know as the 'Supreme Governor of the English Church'.
Although Elizabeth insisted on protestant beliefs, she still allowed many things from the Catholic religion such as bishops, ordained priests, church decorations and priests' vestments.
She also produced a prayer book in English, but allowed a Latin edition to be printed.
Elizabeth disliked and punished extreme Protestants and extreme Catholics who tried to convert people to their faiths.
Church services were changed back to English.
Dissolution of the Monasteries
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