The Protestant Reformation: Henry VIII and Successors

The Reformation was a movement initiated by Martin Luther in 1517 when he published his Ninety-Five Theses. This was a document opposing the sale of indulgences in the Catholic Church. As result, the preeminence of the Pope and the papacy was significantly diminished. As the Catholic Church weakened, Protestant Churches were being established in many locations around Europe rapidly. It was only a matter of time before it would reach England in 1534, the year the Church of England was founded.

Henry VIII was born the second son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in 1491. Since he was the second male, he wouldn't be the direct heir to his father's throne. At 11, his brother Arthur had died. As result, he became the immediate successor and was named Prince of Wales in 1503. This was the same year that his mother and grandmother passed away. Henry was placed under direct influence of his father, who was a stern and a man of avarice. Henry VII left a stable treasury and crown for his son to inherit.

Henry VIII inherited the throne in 1509 after the death of his father. Unlike the precedent of his father, Henry VII set out to expand England's control into mainland Europe. As result, he married Catherine of Aragon and allied himself with King Ferdinand of Spain. Henry and his allies were eager for conflict which his father avoided because of the financial costs. His costly wars depleted the treasury. Henry in turn raised taxes which caused riots among his subjects. A few years after the beginning of his reign, he appointed Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. His function was to free the king of his most burdening work. His power was directly linked to his ability to complete the king's tasks. Cardinal Wolsey lost that power when he was unable to procure the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine.

Henry had a problem producing a male heir. He held Catherine responsible for this. They did succeed in producing a single child, Prince

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