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Elton (1962) argues there was a major Tudor revolution in government. While crediting Henry with intelligence and shrewdness, Elton finds that much of the positive action, especially the break with Rome, was the work of Thomas Cromwell and not the king. Elton sees Henry as competent, but too lazy to take direct control of affairs for any extended period; that is, the king was an opportunist whorelied on others for most of his ideas and to do most of the work. Henry's marital adventures are part of Elton's chain of evidence; a man who marries six wives, Elton notes, is not someone who fully controls his own fate. Elton shows that Thomas Cromwell had conceived of a commonwealth of England that included popular participation through Parliament and that this was generally expressed in thepreambles to legislation. Parliamentary consent did not mean that the king had yielded any of his authority; Henry VIII was a paternalistic ruler who did not hesitate to use his power. Popular "consent" was a means to augment rather than limit royal power.[15]
Reformation
Main article: English Reformation
Henry never formally repudiated the doctrines of the Catholic Church, but he declaredhimself supreme head of the church in England in 1534. This, combined with subsequent actions, eventually resulted in a separated church, the Church of England. Henry and his advisors felt the pope was acting in the role of an Italian prince involved in secular affairs, which obscured his religious role. They said Rome treated England as a minor stepchild, allowing it one cardinal out of fifty, andno possibility of that cardinal becoming pope. For reasons of state it was increasingly intolerable to Henry that major decisions in England were settled by Italians. The divorce issue exemplified the problem but was not itself the cause of the problem.[16]
Henry's reformation of the English church involved more complex motives and methods than his desire for a new wife and an heir. Henryasserted that his first marriage had never been valid, but the divorce issue was only one factor in Henry's desire to reform the church. In 1532–37, he instituted a number of statutes — the act of appeal (Statute in Restraint of Appeals, 1533), the various Acts of Succession (1533, 1534, and 1536), the first Act of Supremacy (1534), and others — that dealt with the relationship between the king and thepope and the structure of the Church of England. During these years, Henry suppressed monasteries and pilgrimage shrines in his attempt to reform the church. The king was always the dominant force in the making of religious policy; his policy, which he pursued skillfully and consistently, is best characterised as a search for the middle way.[17]
Questions over what was the true faith wereresolved with the adoption of the orthodox "Act of Six Articles" (1539) and a careful holding of the balance between extreme factions after 1540. Even so, the era saw movement away from religious orthodoxy, the more so as the pillars of the old beliefs, especially Thomas More and John Fisher, had been unable to accept the change and had been executed in 1535 for refusing to renounce papal authority.Critical for the Henrician reformation was the new political theology of obedience to the prince that was enthusiastically adopted by the Church of England in the 1530s. It reflected Martin Luther's new interpretation of the fourth commandment ("Honor thy father and mother") and was mediated to an English audience by William Tyndale. The founding of royal authority on the Ten Commandments, andthus on the word of God, was a particularly attractive feature of this doctrine, which became a defining feature of Henrician religion. Rival tendencies within the Church of England sought to exploit it in the pursuit of their particular agendas. Reformers strove to preserve its connections with the broader framework of Lutheran theology, with the emphasis on faith alone and the word of God, while...
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