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Henry VIII’s desire for a baby boy began a series of events that altered religion in England forever. In one move, divorced his wife and made himself more powerful. The Pope in Rome no longer had control over the English church. From 1538, Henry ordered that in every church the bible was to be read in English not Latin. At last the ordinary people could understand what their religion was teaching them.

In the twenty-four years following Henry VIII's break with Rome in 1534, the Church in England was like a religious pendulum. Under Henry it remained more or less 'Catholic without the Pope'. During the reign of the boy-king Edward VI, Henry's son by Jane Seymour, the Church veered strongly towards Continental Protestantism. Then under Mary, Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon, it was reunited with Rome. Finally under Elizabeth, Henry's daughter by Anne Boleyn, the Anglican compromise between Roman Catholicism and Continental Protestantism was evolved.

Not surprisingly, these were confusing times for the English people. Those with strongly held views had to learn when it was safe to express them.


Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine, completely reversed the religious changes of Edward. She had been brought up as a strict Roman Catholic and was horrified by her half-brother’s changes.

The Catholic Mass was restored and Holy Communion was banned. All priests had to be Catholic; the basic furniture in the Protestant churches was replaced with the colourful furniture and paintings of the Catholic Church. Services were held in Latin and Cranmer’s English prayer book was banned. The Pope was made head of the church again.

English people, at this time, feared the power of Spain. To bring the two countries closer together, Mary accepted a marriage proposal from the king of Spain - Philip II. He was also a very strong Catholic. Mary’s advisors and friends warned her not to marry Philip but she went against their advice and married him in 1554. The people of England greatly feared that Philip would control England and this lead to Mary becoming very unpopular with her people. Also Mary, suspicious of others, believed that Protestants were plotting against her. After Mary’s death, Queen Elizabeth succeeded Mary. She adhered to the Protestant religion but was tolerant to Catholics


Edward was only 9 years old when he became king. Because of his youth, he had two advisors. The first was his uncle, the Duke of Somerset, who became Lord Protector, and for the first two and a half years of Edward’s reign, Somerset advised and guided the young king. Somerset was replaced by the Duke of Northumberland. Both men wanted major changes made to England’s religion. As a result of their advice and Edward’s beliefs, Edward’s reign is mainly remembered for the changes made to religion while he was king. Though his father, Henry VIII, had removed the pope as head of the church in England, he had not changed a great deal. During Edward’s reign, major changes did occur. Laws were passed to make churches more plain. Catholic churches were rich in decorations and colour. Now under Edward, stained glass windows and pictures were removed from churches; the furniture within churches became very basic and plain.  Priests did not have to dress in the bright clothing associated with the Catholic Church and under Edward, they were allowed to marry. The king remained as head of the church.

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