REL 330 - History of Christianity

Course Notes

Week 9

The religious views of Kings and Queens were important for the development of religion within their kingdoms.
For example, if you were writing an essay on Elizabeth I of England some of the questions you should consider would be :
How did her views and upbringing show itself in her treatment of Protestants, Roman Catholics, Puritans?
In what direction did she steer the Church of England? Why?

For the Reformation in England it is important to know that the period preceding this was a time of war which lasted for about 100 years - wars between England and France, followed by about thirty years of the "Wars of the Roses" (between the Houses of York and Lancaster), which had arisen because of disputes as to who was the legal heir to the throne.
Henry VII was the Lancastrian/Tudor heir who won one of the last battles, and then married a Yorkist princess to consolidate his claim to the throne.
Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII (his older brother Arthur died before becoming king), and Henry VIII desperately wanted a legitimate male heir to the throne. He knew that otherwise the kingdom might well suffer civil war again. That was the background to why Henry VIII wanted to divorce his aging wife Katherine of Aragon. The Pope could not grant a divorce, because the Pope was a prisoner of Katherine's uncle.
So Henry VIII eventually cut loose from papal authority - and to do that he had to cut loose from the Roman Church. That led to Henry VIII encouraging the reformers to a limited extent. although he intended to keep all power for himself.
Henry's young son Edward was brought up in the Reformation tradition, and took the Church further to the Protestant side. Edward died as a teenager.
There was an abortive attempt to make a Protestant girl relation Queen (Lady Jane Grey), and then Edward's older sister Mary I became Queen.
Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, and was a staunch Roman Catholic, so she forced England to go back to being Roman Catholic. Protestants were persecuted, some were burned to death as heretics, and Mary became known as "Bloody Mary". Although Mary married Philip of Spain she had no children, and her younger sister Elizabeth (daughter of Henry VIII and the Protestant Anne Boleyn) became Queen.
Elizabeth I re-organized the Church as the Church of England, so the Pope excommunicated her. After that the Protestant Reformation was able to progress.
On Elizabeth's death her cousin James VI of Scotland became the constitutional monarch of both Scotland and England (as James I of England and VI of Scotland).
Although James' mother was Roman Catholic (Mary Queen of Scots), James had been taken from her when he was a baby, and had been brought up as a Presbyterian under the influence of John Knox, so England and Scotland continued to have a State Church which was independent of Rome, and which was run on Protestant lines. However, James tried to steer a middle course between Catholicism and Protestantism - he arranged a marriage between his daughter Elizabeth with a German Protestant prince, Frederick of the Palatinate, and encouraged his son Charles to take a Roman Catholic wife, princess Henrietta Maria of France.
James I's son Charles I claimed the "Divine Right of Kings" to rule and to enforce his religious views on the country. This antagonized the extreme Protestant, Calvinistic and Puritan parties, and led to civil war. Charles I was defeated, and executed by his enemies.
The leader of the Puritans was Oliver Cromwell, who took the title of "Lord Protector of the Commonwealth". Under Cromwell's leadership the state Church in England and Scotland was initially Presbyterian, until the Army enforced an Independent polity. After Cromwell's death in 1658 there was a period of uncertainty. Cromwell's son did not want to lead the country, so eventually Charles I's eldest son was invited to come back (he had been living in Belgium) as a constitutional monarch, Charles II.
On the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Church of England was re-constituted and a new edition of the English Book of Common Prayer was brought into use by Parliament. There were tensions throughout Charles II's reign, because he favored the Roman Catholic Church (his wife was a Roman Catholic). Charles II had no legitimate children, and when he died his brother James became King James II.
James II continued to favor the Roman Catholics, and became one himself, so the country came to the brink of another civil war.
As a young man James had fallen in love with and married Anne Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon; they had had two daughters, Mary and Anne, who were both brought up as Protestants. Mary married her cousin William, Prince of Orange (Holland), and Anne married Prince George of Denmark.
James' second wife, Mary of Modena, was a Roman Catholic, and for some years there were no children of the marriage. Most of the country was hoping that one of the girls would inherit the throne.
What brought matters to a head was the birth of a baby boy by James' elderly wife. There were immediate rumors that the baby was not the Queen's. It was claimed that he had been smuggled into her bedchamber in a warming-pan - hence the child was known as the Warming-Pan Baby.
Parliament invited William and Mary to come to Britain and take over from James II. James tried to rally support for himself, but eventually fled to Holland, taking his family with him, and throwing the Great Seal of Enlgand into the sea. The baby boy, James Edward, grew up to be known as "The Old Pretender" (to the throne), and his son was "The Young Pretender" both tried several times to invade England and get the throne. Many of the Scots supported the two Pretenders, because they were Stewarts. The Scottish uprisings were put down brutally by the English.
As a point of interest, portraits of the two Pretenders show them with facial features very similar to Charles II and James II.
Queen Anne came to believe that James Edward was in fact her half-brother, but by that time Parliament had passed a law that a Roman Catholic could not become King or Queen of England.

Some writers say that Henry VIII of England "founded the Church of England". This is not really correct. Henry took advantage of the increasing movement towards Reformation which was already taking hold of England, and turned it to his advantage, first to legalize his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and secondarily to grab money and lands from the Church.

Go here for a Time-Line to give you an idea of who lived when, and to appreciate the pressures acting on Henry VIII to produce a son who was legitimate and accepted as heir to the throne by the whole country.

Charts of the Kings of England, William I - Henry VII and Kings of England, Henry VII - George I are given to help you see the complexities of the line of succession, and the instability of the English monarchy at various periods

Copyright © 2005 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

Station 19, ENMU
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated : February 14, 2017

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