The English Reformation: 1534 – 1536

Cromwell

We wrapped up “the King’s Great Matter” several days ago now, but I do think it’s worth one more post that closes out the three years that followed. These are, of course, the years during which Anne Boleyn was queen of England, but even more, they are the years in which the Reformation built the Church of England and the maneuverings that Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer orchestrated in the final years of the divorce proceedings took effect. The end result was that the last decade or so of Henry VIII’s reign look markedly different from the first two and his consorts, who now usually take center stage, were often just a domestic sideshow to an increasingly powerful and unpredictable king and government.

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The King’s Great Matter: 1527

537px-Catherine_of_Aragon

Over the next couple of weeks and months we’re going to dig into Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon, moving through the laborious process year by year. We have covered in the past when it was that Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn, and we have also covered the six-month period between Anne’s private wedding with Henry at the end of 1532 and her presentation at court as queen in the spring of 1533. These posts will essentially cover the years in-between, taking a look at the legal, theological and diplomatic issues prompted by, well, Henry’s personal life.

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The [Secretive] Death of Henry VIII

Henry VIII_Death

Henry VIII died on January 28, 1547, some 37 years after he ascended the throne at just 17. It would be another three days before England was made aware. From within the halls of his court at Westminster, Henry’s death remained a closely guarded secret even as food was dutifully carried in to his private chambers at meal times with all expected fanfare.

Henry’s death ushered in the reign of his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, whose age necessitated a minority government the strength of which was premised on the loyalty of Tudor courtiers – the same men who had spent over a decade working for a king who increasingly resembled a tyrant.

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After Mary: Charles Brandon & Katherine Willoughby

800px-Catherine_Willoughby,_portrait_miniature_3

We’ve covered before how Henry VIII’s younger and favorite sister, Princess Mary, married his best friend, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, shortly after the death of her first husband, King Louis XII of France, without her brother’s permission. Henry was livid, but was eventually brought around after levying a hefty fine on the couple. The marriage was cut short by Mary’s premature death in 1533 at the age of 37, and just three months later, Charles married again, this time to his adolescent ward, Katherine Willoughby.

Katherine could very well have faded into oblivion – after all, Charles’s two wives prior to Mary certainly have. Instead, Katherine is a fascinating figure from the Tudor court. Like Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond, her name was put forth as a possible seventh wife for Henry, she had strong opinions on the reformation and her longevity positioned her as consistently relevant well into the reign of Elizabeth I.

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