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Ref-Tud-Eng-art - 2/2/98


"The Effects of the Reformation on Tudor England" by Robin Anderson of Ross.


NOTE: See also the files: religion-msg, indulgences-msg, monks-msg, nuns-msg, relics-msg, heretics-msg, Islam-msg, p-bibles-msg.





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of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.


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While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

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                               Thank you,

                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                         stefan at florilegium.org



The Effects of the Reformation on Tudor England

by Robin Anderson of Ross


        The English Reformation was arguably the most important change that took place in sixteenth-century England.  The break from Rome in 1534 and the subsequent changes in doctrine and worship not only changed the character of English religion but also had an impact on the constitutional, political, diplomatic, social and cultural history of the country.


        The major changes in the character of religion had to do with the battle between Catholicism and Protestantism.  This battle changed the way people prayed and their fundamental beliefs, as well as the way they build their churches and other religious art.  It affected their social communities and who they associated with.  It changed the way they perceived government policies and their own civil rights.


        With the Pope no longer in control, the Doctrine of non-resistance was put forth by the church.  Treason was now a sin.  This was because the king was considered god's image on earth.  The Pope was no longer the highest judge, the king was. A person who was a rebel was more sinful than a king who was a tyrant.  Priests became subject to the crown, and proclamations by the king were equivalent to common law.  


        The nuclear family became more insulated and private than before.  The new Tudor state eroded family alliances.  Loyalty to king was more important than loyalty to one's extended family.  More emphasis was placed on the sanctity of marriage, purity of the married state and conjugal affection was more important than celibacy.  The supremacy of the husband/father was accentuated, much like the supremacy of the king.  Women were inferior, they had no legal independence and all their possessions would belong to their husbands.  If a woman killed her husband it was considered petty treason and she would be executed.  They were not allowed economic independence, and were excluded from trades such as brewing, innkeeping and printing.  Most families practiced severe discipline of children.


        Cromwell acting as Henry III's Vicar-General wanted to endow the crown with more income. He did this by bureaucratizing many financial departments of the king's household, and by selling monastery lands and destroying the monasteries themselves. At that time in England there was a lot of criticism of the monasteries.  This kind of traditional anti-clericalism was expressed in calls for church reform (Simon Fish).  


        Humanists also condemned traditional Catholic monasteries.  The Humanist religious outlook suggested the rejection of contemplative life and placed more emphasis on religion based on love and charity, not ceremony, yet they wanted the lands preserved, not just sold. The destruction of these monasteries caused the loss of much artistic and literary treasure as well as the tradition of didactic religious art which was considered idolatry by many Protestants.  This Protestant influence also changed church architecture; fan vaulting and other decorative styles were considered Popish and were not built into new churches.


        With the sale of monastic lands the nobility came to own a lot of church lands.  Of course they don't want to return them and so are obligated to support the king. Suddenly the Pope has become a threat to their lands. This sale of land also increased the English land market, which allowed for increased social mobility in the gentry class.  The educational revolution also allowed for more social mobility.  Education became necessary for success.  Protestants felt that all people should be able to read the Bible, and were looking for educated clergymen to replace Catholics.  Puritan universities were opened to educate these people.  The now educated gentry could hold positions in state and church jobs.  In order to retain their court positions the nobility must also become more educated and change from warrior class to courtesan class.  Social reform became a popular outcry, encouraging Thomas More to write his book Utopia.


        Mary Tudor tried to restore Catholicism in her reign by reviving the heresy laws. Over 300 Protestants were subsequently tried and burned.  The Protestant author John Foxe wrote The Book of Martyrs, describing the gruesome deaths of those who were convicted of heresy.  Later this book was found in many Protestant churches as evidence of the sins of the Catholic church.  


        In 1549 the young  King Edward commissioned a book of common prayer yet despite his Protestant beliefs it still contained many Catholic ceremonies. Later in 1552  another prayer book denies such Catholic leanings such as the belief that Christ is physically present in communion.  Yet the Catholic portion of the population could not accept this new prayer book.  


        Queen Elizabeth wanted define the beliefs of the Church of England, but this put a lot of pressure on her from both religions.  Finally both sides agreed in the Elizabethan settlement of 1559.  The new Book of Common Prayer had both beliefs integrated together, but the radicals still wanted to leave out the parts that they didn't like because it was still not reformed enough for the Puritans (radical Protestants, mostly Marian exiles).  


        Elizabeth had problems with Protestant factions in the house of commons.  The Puritans demanded full church reform, as well as a learned ministry.  The Puritans tried to pass bills through the house in order to get their way, But Elizabeth says that the houses but obtain her permission in order to discuss an issue or a bill.  The Puritans feel that they should have free speech.  Archbishop Whitgift tried to control the Puritans for Elizabeth by forcing all priests to sign 3 articles.  One of the articles claimed that the Book of Common Prayer contained nothing contrary to the word of God.  Many radicals could not sign this and were suspended.  He also led the High Commission which tried to get radical Protestants to admit that they had not attended church because of their difference in opinion over the Book of Common Prayer.


        During Elizabeth's reign, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded because she was supposedly plotting to overthrow Elizabeth, so that she could be the new Catholic Queen. Elizabeth did not want to have her killed, but Mary's supporters had tried to hold a few revolts and Elizabeth could no longer ignore the threat.  


        After the Pope issued a bull against Elizabeth, which excommunicated her, people began to fear the possibility of war with Spain and other Catholic nations. European Catholics tried to send missionaries into England to reinstall Catholicism.  Parliament reacted strongly and passed anti-Catholic laws which made it treason to convert yourself or anyone else to Catholicism or to shelter a Catholic priest.  Catholics were not even able to leave the area around their homes.


        Confraternities had been a large social gathering for many Catholics before the reformation. They provided insurance and security along with blessings from a particular saint.  After the reformation this kind of protection was no longer available. The Cult of the Virgin was considered superstitious, as was the veneration of any other saint.  Fear of the devil without any kind of magical, church-oriented protection led to a widespread fear of witchcraft.  Yet this kind of fear did not reach the proportions it did on the continent.  In England at this time the witches could not be killed for heresy.  They were instead prosecuted for ill intent, or maleficium (meaning harmful magic) and not for devil worship or diabolism.


        The impact of the Protestant Reformation on the history of England was all pervasive.  It affected many areas of English life.  The switch from Catholicism to Protestantism changed what people believed to be the right way to live and work.  It became acceptable for people to be literate and to try and better themselves.  It altered the family environment.  It changed the way the people saw their monarch, and how they felt the government should be run. It also made the threat of invasions from other countries much more personal than it had before, for now they had to defend their basic beliefs, not just their country.


        In conclusion The English Reformation was a very important time in English History altering not only English religion but also the constitutional, political, diplomatic, social and cultural history of the country.  Religion is a very deeply rooted subject for most people, and many countries have based their political views and government structures on it.  Alter these basic beliefs and you change the way people think and feel about that government, as well as their lifestyle within it.  It changes fashion (do you keep your head covered in church or not?), socially acceptable norms (do women work?), informal gatherings (is it OK for young people to dance with the opposite sex?), and family structure (does the mother raise the children or the father?).  All of these are important to the way people live, work and associate with one another no matter what their social status or economic level is.  Those basic beliefs lend structure to morality and personal self-image within any society.



Copyright 1998 by Robin E. Craig, 1914-A Gracy Farms, Austin, Texas  78758.  Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in

the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also

appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being

reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org