Henrician Anglicanism

henry-viiiGiven some postings elsewhere on the blogosphere, I might have given the impression that I was advocating that the state of affairs in the ACC does or should resemble the Church of England under the reign of Henry VIII. One blogger has even compared the schismatic not-yet-Protestant Church of 1531-1549 with the Patriotic Association in China, a puppet State Church! In that case, I can understand his thanks but no thanks.

I haven’t the resources or the time to do a complete study of the Tudor dynasty or the English Church from 1531 to 1549. I find Diarmaid MacCulloch’s two articles (graciously sent to me by Dr William Tighe) on the English Reformation interesting, with a certain realistic touch that demythologises much of what is told about the English Reformation in defence of a Catholic continuity and thus a foundational myth in Anglicanism.

Summarising a few notions in MacCulloch’s Putting the English Reformation on the Map, a fairly stark picture emerges. The English Church under Henry VIII was perhaps more a kind of Lutheranism without the solas, justification by faith alone, than a form of non-Roman Catholicism. Much of the old Catholicism remained: like the Use of Sarum, made standard to replace the other diocesan uses, clerical celibacy and cathedrals. On the other hand, he pillaged the abbeys and ruined the foundations of popular piety like the shrines and chantry foundations.

We have to remember that this was the absolute Monarchy, and anyone who looked skew-eyed at the king was liable to come to a sticky end, usually the short sharp shock with a cheap and chippy chopper… It is unfortunate that Henry VIII turned against the Lutherans by burning Robert Barnes, and Protestants in England began to turn more towards the Swiss Reformers, which would pave the way for the future beyond the King’s death. Perhaps links with Lutheranism would have been better than the Calvinist backlash that occurred under Edward VI. Very little remained of the Henrician legacy other than the break with Rome, royal supremacy and the cathedrals.

As a foundational myth, Henry VIII leaves a lot to be desired. I have already mentioned the idea of “English Gallicanism”. The idea of royal supremacy over national churches was something widespread in Europe at the time, and France was no exception. There was a Pragmatic Sanction by Charles VII in 1438 that limited the power of Rome in matters of nominating bishops and abbots, and ecclesiastical discipline in general. We should not forget that Boniface VIII claimed absolute authority also in temporal matters, and all kings and princes were subject to him, a “universal king” if you like. Louis XI granted Pius II the abrogation of this legislation in 1461, but the Parliament of Paris refused. Louis XI agreed a concordat with Sixtus IV in 1472, but Parliament still refused. The Pragmatic Sanction remained in force until the Concordat of Bologne signed in 1516 par François 1er and Leo X, and it continued to influence religious politics in France through the time of the Revolution and Napoleon’s Empire. Jacques Bénigne Bossuet (1627 – 1704) is the name most associated with Gallicanism in the seventeenth century under Louis XIV. It is no coincidence that the time-line corresponds with the rise of the Arminians. In 1681, Louis XIV united the French bishops to ask them for a solemn declaration of the Libertés de l’Eglise Gallicane. Bossuet was the one chosen to write the text. It consists of four articles:

  • Princes are not subject to the authority of the Church in temporal matters.
  • The authority of the Pope is limited by general Councils.
  • The authority of the Pope is limited by the laws and customs of the King and the Church of France.
  • The Pope is not infallible, unless his teaching is confirmed by the Church (the General Council).

The French bishops all approved the Declaration on 19th March 1682. Things twisted and turned in France through the Revolution and the Empire, and eventually the early Liberals like Montalembert and De Lamennais ignited the beginnings of the Ultramontanist movement leading to Vatican I in 1870. That marked the end of Gallicanism, to which may be owed the reaction against Paul VI’s reforms of the 1960’s by a French archbishop and numerous clergy.

One would hardly call Henrician Anglicanism “English Gallicanism” in the strict sense, for the French Church stayed in communion with Rome all in keeping the Pope at arm’s length. Henry VIII wanted to “do his own thing” and broke away from Rome, and replaced it with himself! That being said, the parallels are there. The basic notion is one of conciliar Catholicism in which the Pope’s authority is limited by the Episcopate as a collegial body. In the case of England, the extreme prevailed, with the king taking the place of the Pope and having control over the Bishops.

Canon law following the ancient Corpus Juris Canonici is incredibly complicated, something like English common and statute law. You need incredibly good lawyers. Rome did well to codify everything in 1917 and 1983, but jurisprudence is still a source of law. Unlike Gallicanism that kept the Pope at arm’s length by means of political cut-and-thrust, Anglicanism simply rejected the Papal office. A more humble and realistic Henry VIII might have done in England what Louis XIV did in 1682 – assert the privileges of the national Church, and thus keep everything Catholic.

I don’t think anyone has advocated doing an exact copy of Henry VIII and his Church. I certainly wouldn’t, not even if I gained the support of Queen Elizabeth II in the endeavour and some tough guys to enforce it all! There are positive and negative points: the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church was left alone apart from imposing Sarum everywhere as the best-organised set of books. The churches and cathedrals weren’t smashed up. On the other hand, the abbeys and shrines were looted and the proceeds went – guess where!

All the same, a model involving the Henrician state of affairs was better than the Christmas game of 1549 or the division of churches into preaching barns and pokey holes behind the old choir screen for the Lord’s Supper on a wooden table in 1552. The evidence is there. Very little was forgotten by the altar-smashers and puritan iconoclasts. On the other hand, many churches were “forgotten” by the Victorian restorers.

St Mary's Church, Whitby

St Mary’s Church, Whitby

For some, picking and choosing is a heinous crime in terms of a foundational myth. I am not so against it as I once wrote in my article on Retro-futurism. What would things be like if… We could speculate forever, but I don’t believe everything has to be determined by strict historical continuity and precedent. Perhaps we can consider our Anglican Catholic Church as a kind of what if Henry VIII done things like Louis XIV and if the later kings and political powers had been more friendly with France.

If MacCulloch’s research has brought up a history of the Reformation that meant complete discontinuity with the pre-Reformation Church and all it represented (more or less identical with the rest of the Catholic Church in communion with Rome at the time), then it is difficult to justify Anglicanism as a “reformed Catholicism” in a hermeneutic of continuity. We would then be talking about two entities in the Church of England, the Protestant status quo and an independent Catholic church brought about ex nihilo by Anglican clergy, a “church within a church”. The Anglican Catholic Church and other similar continuing bodies would be the inheritors of that “church within a church” freed from the constraints imposed by Protestant bishops.

There are those who take the logic further and affirm that Anglican Catholicism is a spent and discredited force, and that the only way out is the Ordinariate, or simple conversion to Roman Catholicism before the Ordinariate was invented by Pope Benedict XVI. There have been streams of converts since the 1830’s and a few prior to that era. Some have done well in that process, and I am glad for them. Long may that particular sun shine before the next sou’-westerly!

How do we justify Anglican Catholicism? I would begin by the fact that it exists and is serving people who would not otherwise find a spiritual home. It brings people to God. Many analogies can be used, but I think of certain species of trees. If you cut their branches and plant them in the soil, they will sprout roots and grow. With other species, the branches will die because they are no longer attached to the trunk. I think of the Church like the first type of tree. But, the analogy has its limits. In the end of the day, the best apologia of a Church is not whether it is in union with Rome, whether it has proven historical and doctrinal continuity – but the pastoral argument. Does it do what Churches do and always have done, preaching the Gospel and giving the Christ-Sacrament-Mystery to the world?

Talking of kings who lived and died centuries ago, and who were not always good and humane men, is only an analogy in itself, hence the limits. I think a better descriptive expression can be found, and will be found in time. It doesn’t hurt to use words and ideas, even if they’re not yet on target.

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23 Responses to Henrician Anglicanism

  1. Stephen K says:

    Question: what sort of extrinsic continuity do people feel they need, for legitimacy, for authenticity, for integrity, etc? Is not the real, meaningful continuity that in one’s own mind and heart? In other words, does one embrace the Christian Gospel, the notion of sacraments etc etc (fill in some blanks, here) here, today? or not? If the answer is yes, what other continuity does one need? Isn’t this anxiety about ecclesial foundations or connections bad for us? All these people – Arius, Augustine, Henry, Calvin, Torquemada, Newman, Bugnini, Temple, Carey, Wojtyla, Ratzinger, etc. have done their bit and best, and the baton is now with each and everyone else. Let us take up our breviary, or our prayer-bead, or our (fill in the blanks, here) and get on with it in our own mind and heart: let us greet the people we meet with a smile or the benefit of the doubt; let us go over how we might have done things better (I know I could have in spades), and read the history books for interest and perspective – but not for divisive anxiety. We cannot interpret our own times or history reliably. If there is only one church in Christ, then all these territorial or spiritual boundaries and disputes must be thought of as anxieties that on the whole are destructive of a spiritual life. I do not say we should like or adopt every other practice or view, but rather cease worry over whether whatever we are is continuous, or catholic etc. Just some late night thoughts; we need peace in our hearts and minds, especially at night.

    Psalm 4: “I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

    • Thank you, Stephen. My sentiments exactly. The only justification of any church is pastoral. Does it reach out to its own faithful? If people leave the Church because they have lost faith, that is one thing, but when they leave the Church because they have nothing to “connect to” and no one is interested, that is another.

  2. ed pacht says:

    I’ve long felt that it is not our job to get everything right. We are totally inadequate for that, and one thing that is certain is that we shall mess up terribly at some point. No, our job is to do the best we can, trusting the God who set us on this path. If I trust (i.e. have faith) in Him, I will believe that He will be good to His promise and will make up my deficiencies while He teaches me to do better. It isn’t my job to judge others, individuals or communities, or even (as St. Paul said) to judge myself, but rather to lay my own insufficiencies before Him for correction, completion, and redirection. I believe this is descriptive of what every individual Christian should be and do, and of what every community of Christians bold enough to call itself a church should be and do. Historicity and continuity certainly are important and cannot be discounted, but they are not the be-all and end-all. If that were the case, would not God have seen to it that there were unassailable records to prove the exact line of succession of bishops? They don’t exist. In the early days there are few records of who consecrated whom, but merely records of who was recognized as occupying what see.. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church.” That has certainly proven over the centuries to fall short of a guarantee that the Church will always be what it is called to be. Manifestly God’s church, being made up of sinners, has often failed its mission. Hell sometimes appears to have taken over — but God always calls His Church back from her errors, just as He has faithfully called me, a foolish sinner, back from my errors.

    I believe (on good historical ground) that the Medieval Church made some grievous errors and perpetrated some unrighteous acts, that the Henrican church and the Elizabethan church, in an attempt to correct some of those errors made other and contrasting errors, that the Counter-reformation RC church made yet other errors, and that the 21st century churches are in the process of doing the very same thing in yet more ways. It isn’t the continuity we manage to maintain that matters, not really, but the continuity of God’s call to His people. If we listen to Him more than we listen to the cacaphony of human voices, and do our best to follow Him together, we shall be one. If each of us is more concerned with out own vision and opinion as to what He said, that simply won’t happen.

    • Square pegs and round holes. I do agree we have to keep up the dialogue.

      There are exaggerations all round, and I don’t believe the medieval Church was really that bad – more or less like the present day RC traditionalists with priests who hadn’t done seminary studies and some had real businesses going. Or perhaps like Orthodoxy on the Greek islands. I don’t think the corruption was everywhere or generalised. Eamon Duffy might not be the bee’s knees, but he has done as much research as anyone else.

      It’s possible that Arminianism is just as must of an artificial construct as neo-Sarum or neo-Tridentine Anglo-Catholicism.

      We can all shake fists at heaven and complain that we’re not following God’s ways. Until someone comes up with some practical ways to make the lion lie down with the calf and the fire-breathing Calvinist with the Orthodox Old Calendarist, we are just going to have to come to terms with saying goodbye to Christianity or doing whatever floats our boats.

  3. Michael Frost says:

    Fr. Anthony: If I were to describe the following as somewhat like an historical hypothesis to be tested–“The English Church under Henry VIII was perhaps more a kind of Lutheranism without the solas, justification by faith alone, than a form of non-Roman Catholicism. Much of the old Catholicism remained: like the Use of Sarum, made standard to replace the other diocesan uses, clerical celibacy and cathedrals. On the other hand, he pillaged the abbeys and ruined the foundations of popular piety like the shrines and chantry foundations.”–one place to look closely at is the contemporaneous Church of Sweden. Here you find political and religious upheaval in the 1520s that culminates in a High Church Lutheranism by the 1590s. The struggle of King vs Church/Parliament vis-a-vis both the Continental Reformation (esp. the Reformed Church) and RCC’s reaction is most interesting and relevant to your thoughts. The parallels are fascinating, esp. when comparing the time lines happening simultaneously in both realms.

    See the short Decree of Upsala (1593), as translated in Jacobs Book of Concord, Vol. 2: Historical Introduction, Notes, Appendixes, and Indexes, (ULPH, 1883) . The then Archbishop of Upsala’s (Yngve Brilioth) fascinating work, Eucharistic Faith and Practice: Evangelical and Catholic, (translated by Herbert, 1930) covers the Reformation, the Swedish Church’s reformation, and the Church of Sweden’s liturgical history. And Conrad Bergendoff’s wonderful little book, Olavus Petri and the Ecclesiastical Transformation in Sweden, 1522-1552 (Fortress Press, 1965).

  4. Fr. David Marriott says:

    Perhaps we are at risk of viewing things from our – in this case religious – viewpoint. This is especially evident when reviewing the political situation facing Henry, and as that relates to the changes in the church imposed under Henry’s rule.

    Henry was at risk of being financially impeded due to the immense concentration of wealth and lands which had been accumulated by the great abbeys. Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, founded in the 12th century, had grown tremendously: ‘By the mid-twelfth century the community had interests nearby, for example, in Rainborough, New Hall and Trout Dale, but had also made inroads further afield, for instance, at Cowton, some twenty miles away in the North York Moors. Pope Eugenius’ confirmation also shows that Fountains had by this time firmly established the grange system of farming, and had created six of these agricultural centres from which the community could directly exploit the land. These were at Sutton, Warsill, Cayton, Dacre, Aldburgh and Cowton. All but Cowton lay within ten miles of the abbey.(7) By the end of the twelfth century Fountains had established a staggering thirty-two granges, and by the early thirteenth century had created another seven; twenty-eight of these remained in the abbey’s hands until the Dissolution.’ (http://cistercians.shef.ac.uk/)

    This landowning was effectively, or was felt, to be under the control of Rome and the Pope, thereby being a threat to Henry’s ambition, and a diluent of his authority in his land. And it was clear that such threats had to be eliminated: but Henry used that process to achieve several goals beneficial to his rule. He broke the perceived financial threat from the Pope, he solved his own financial situation, he was able to reward loyal followers with the lands confiscated from the abbeys, and finally, he was able to wrest control of a powerful and educated group of men from the influence of a foreign entity, being the authority of Rome. And so the Church Catholic remained, weakened and bereft of its former authority figure the Pope, replaced by the King and Parliament: with which problem the Church has been saddled ever since!

  5. Andrew Jordan says:

    Dear Fr. Chadwick,

    Perhaps it is my sheltered upbringing, but no person I ever spoke with who called themselves an Anglo-Catholic (as opposed to say, a high church Episcopalian ), ever had good things to say about Henry VIII.

    To find that his church during the reformation is held up as an example for a contemporary continuing body calling itself the ‘Anglican Catholic church’ comes as something of a puzzle if not shock.

    My view of the Anglo-Catholic opinion of Henry is well summerized by these verses of the Walsingham hymn we would sing in a minor key during pilgrimage:

    But at last came a King who had greed in his eyes
    And he lusted for treasure with fraud and with lies.

    The order went forth; and with horror ’twas learned
    That the Shrine was destroyed and the Image was burned.

    And here where God’s Mother had once been enthroned
    The souls that stayed faithful ‘neath tyranny groaned.

    And this realm which had once been Our Lady’s own Dower
    Had its Church now enslaved by the secular power.

    And so dark night fell on this glorious place
    Where of all former glories there hardly was trace.

    Yet a thin stream of pilgrims still walked the old way
    And hearts longed to see this night turned into day.

    Till at last, when full measure of penance was poured,
    In her Shrine see the honour of Mary restored:

    Again ‘neath her Image the tapers shine fair,
    In her children’s endeavours past wrongs to repair.

    • I think I have explained the reasoning behind the idea of “English Gallicanism”.

      I think Henry VIII was a prime example of the reasons why many countries wanted to become republics in later centuries! You will certainly notice that I have not cited him as an example of a good Christian king – he was to the English Monarchy what Alexander VI was to the See of Rome!

  6. Dale says:

    Although it is hard to accept all the things that King Henry did, we do also owe him much as well, mostly political, had he not produced, at least for England, a legitimate heir in Elizabeth it is possible that upon the death of Queen Mary, England might have become a Spanish province under her husband Philip, King of Spain. We may indeed say whatever we wish to about King Henry and his religious policies, but personally, I would far more prefer his religious policies and those of his daughter Queen Elizabeth to either the Marian burnings, or what might have happened in England had Philip become King of England upon Mary’s death had there been no legitimate successor, or had he been successful with the Spanish Armada. The future history of not only England, but the whole of the English-speaking world owes him much; even if we are not always so willing to admit it.

    • William Tighe says:

      , “had he not produced, at least for England, a legitimate heir in Elizabeth

      A curious choice of word, “legitimate,” since even in English law (cf. I Mary I, ch. 1) Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was declared to be undoubted, true and lawful; and therefore his marriage to Anne Boleyn null and void, and its issue illegitimate at law. This act was never repealed under Elizabeth I; I Eliz. I, ch.1 merely declaring her to be the lawful queen, which under Henry VIII’s will (which was given statutory force in advance) she was; but she was illegitimate at law until her dying day, so that she may be appropriately termed, like her illustrious Norman ancestor William, “Bess the Bastard.”

      The curious Act of Parliament in 1563 declaring Q. Eliz. to be the heir to the estate of her great-uncle Sir James Boleyn (d. 1561), who died without offspring, is a tacit recognition of her illegitimate status as, had she been legally of legitimate status no such act would have been necessary for her to inherit his estate.

      • Stephen K says:

        But of course, William, we now realise, in an enlightened or more considered state, that the term “Bastard” used in relation to any child, being usually meant as a pejorative and hostile insult, does nothing whatever to impugn the child or deprive him or her of his or her innocence of the delict of the parents, but merely and mostly reveals the hostility towards the child of the user.

      • ed pacht says:

        But Stephen, the use of “bastard” as a personal insult is a comparatively recent thing. The term was very simply an indicator of legal status under the inheritance laws. Illegitimate offspring were (at least among the nobility – and, yes, among not-so-celibate churchmen) often in an honored position because of that status. Thus my own descent from the Royal Stuarts “on the wrong side of the blanket” would have put my illegitimate ancestor and his heirs in a higher place than the ordinary folk, not in a place of disfavor..

        I am sure Dr. Tighe intended nothing of what you seem to have read into his remark.

      • Stephen K says:

        ed, that the term ‘bastard” as an insult of “mean”, “nasty” person is a recent usage may be true for all I know and you assert, but I note that in Act I, Scene II, King Lear, Edmund says:
        “Why “bastard”? Wherefore “base”?
        When my dimensions are as well compact,
        My mind as generous, and my shape as true
        As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
        With “base,” with “baseness,” “bastardy,” “base,” “base”—

        It suggests to me that, back then, “bastard” was no compliment either, any more than it is today.

      • Unless you’re into metalwork. The bastard file is one of a particular grade of cut. 😉 I have several in my workshop.

      • William Tighe says:

        I did not mean the use of the word “bastard” to be insulting; in fact, I rather admire and respect William the Bastard (or “the Conqueror”). As to Elizabeth, I respect her ability and her “suppleness,” but I do not admire her (cf. her swearing a solemn oath just before receiving the Eucharist in 1556 that she was a loyal subject of Queen Mary and a “good Catholic,” even though she no doubt intended by “Catholic” something other than what those who recorded her oath understood by it). She was, in fact, what Calvin and other Reformed Protestants termed a Nicodemite (not a term of praise), and if one reads carefully the letters that John Jewel wrote to his Zurich buddies in the early 1560s, one can get a glimpse of his “private opinion” of the Queen, which differed significantly from the effusive praise he lavished upon her in his public writings.

      • Dale says:

        And she was indeed a loyal subject to her sister Queen Mary until Mary’s death…it was with Philip she had a problem; as would any loyal Englishman or women.

        Of course when one considers that Philip was planning on one hand to have her murdered, and on the other to marry her, one does tend to wonder what “Catholic” must have meant to him.

      • William Tighe says:

        Such a pack of errors and misconceptions.

        Dale wrote:

        “it was with Philip she had a problem; as would any loyal Englishman or women”

        Then why did so many English nobles approach Philip in 1556 offering to proclaim him king if Mary died without offspring, and why did he politely decline their offer?

        “Of course when one considers that Philip was planning on one hand to have her murdered, and on the other to marry her”

        Chronology, dear chap, chronology. One of the few occasions on which Philip jibbed at carrying out his father’s orders was when the latter told him that one of the most important things he should do when safely in England, and married, would be to see Elizabeth executed as quickly as possible. He refused, imagining that, if worst came to worst, England would be less of a threat, or problem, to Spain, under a dubiously Catholic ruler, than united with France in the persons of Francis and Mary. This seems to have been one of those cases in which “Il Padre ha sempre ragione.” By the 1580s, though, he was wise enough to see that his father had been correct.

        Fr. David Marriott wrote:

        “Henry was at risk of being financially impeded due to the immense concentration of wealth and lands which had been accumulated by the great abbeys.”

        This is wildly untrue, and could have been written only by one who has not read anything written in the past half century on Tudor finances, taxation, and the patronage of monastic appointments and the lease of church lands (cf. the work of the late Roger Schofield of Clare College, Cambridge, from the 1960s onwards).

        First, and relevant to the case of Fountains Abbey, and all other great abbeys as well, there is the fact that it was the King, and not the Church (and certainly not the Pope) who had the primary “say” on who became Abbot of such monasteries. The King might choose to accept some favoured courtier’s or minister’s suggestions in such matters, or he might delegate most of the “leg work” in such matters to some official or courtier, but he had to “sign off” on the appointment, which was almost never contested by English bishops or by the pope. (Cf. the way that Wolsey got his first ever stinging rebuke from the King in 1527 when he tried to “derail” Anne Boleyn’s nomination of a lax cousin as abbess of a wealthy nunnery, whose selection has met with the King’s approval, by insisting that she would be useless at “reforming” the house.) What this meant was that such Abbots would normally lease out monastery lands on very favourable terms to the King himself or, more normally, to nobles, courtiers or local gentlemen who could procure letters from the King to the Abbot commending their desire to lease land to the Abbot. This meant that no Tudor King, and certainly not Henry VIII (or Henry VII) ran the slightest risk of “impeded” by “the immense concentration of wealth and lands which had been accumulated by the great abbeys,” such much of this land was, indirectly, at the king’s disposal, and in the hands of lessees who, if it came to a conflict between King and Church, would certainly side with the King (as almost all such lessees did in the event).

        Secondly, of course, such a statement ignores the invention of “the Subsidy” in 1519 (largely by Wolsey and his subordinates) which proved to be for about 40 years one of the most fantastically successful money-raising devices in pre-18th Century English history. Before the 15teens, the principal sources of English government revenues were custom duties and the 14th-Century tax known as the “Tenth and Fifteenth.” By the 15th Century, the latter had long sense become ossified in its assessment, with any modifications always in a downwards direction, and any attempts on the part of the Crown to revise upwards the former were met by opposition from the mercantile community which, by threatening to refuse to lend the Crown money (necessary to cover shortfalls and emergencies) usually brought the Crown to back down. This is why the Hundred Years War, so log as it brought French booty into England (to benefit Crown and nobility alike) proved so popular; and why, once it began to go badly, Parliament proved reluctant to vote taxes to continue it. It is also why the Yorkist regime was so keen on confiscating the estates of opponents or, if willing to return them, in part, only upon payment of large sums of money. It is also why Henry VII was so assiduous in practicing and refining “gangster tactics” to raise money and keep himself afloat. All this changed in 1519 with “the Subsidy,” a tax in which the assessment of lands (or, in the case of merchants, goods) was carefully supervised by Crown officials and, when voted through by Parliament, brought in the amazing sum of 125, 000 sterling. Parliament was initially reluctant, understandably, to approve them frequently, but in the 1530s and 40s (despite the great wealth flowing into the Crown’s hands from the dissolution of the monasteries, then the chantries, as well as forcing bishops to exchange wealthy landed estates, for less “improvable” forms of wealth, such as advowsons and the like; and the ready cash that the Crown got from selling off such lands soon after confiscating them) voted them with increasing frequency. The same was the case under Edward VI and Mary (who generally requested fewer tax grants from Parliament than her father or siblings). Under Elizabeth, the yield of the average subsidy fell to 85, 000 sterling by the end of the reign (55, 000 by 1625), and this was because the queen essentially allowed the assessors to assess themselves, and accepted the self-assessments of the nobility and gentry landowners (unless they were recusants) without question. (Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley from 1573, assessed himself as worth 150 sterling per year at the beginning of the reign, when his income from his lands was probably around 1, 000 pa; in the 1580s he increased it to 300 pa, when he was probably worth around 20, 000 pa, and his example was not an untypical one.). Elizabeth’s actions (or inactions) in these financial matters probably contributed not a little to the myth of “Good Queen Bess,” and the fact that she had no children to endow with lands and titles, but it left an almost impossible financial legacy to James I and Charles I.

        But my point here is simply to assert that the claim that the Church’s landed wealth was “an impediment” to the Crown is simply a myth without substance, and one which, offhand, I cannot think is embraced by any historian of Tudor England.

      • Dale says:

        Well I guess that the Spanish Armada never happened either. Since that wonderful, kind-hearted Philip would never had tried to invade nasty Protestant England since he did not, according to Dr Tighe, even want to be King of England.

      • William Tighe says:

        The Spanish Armada was sent against England in 1588; the English intervened to support the (Calvinist, Catholicism-suppressing) revolting Dutch against their Spanish rightful ruler in 1585, so it was certainly a legitimate Spanish response to English aggression. That it did not succeed I regret, just as I regret that the Spanish did not stick to their orginal plan to send it to Ireland, where its arrival would most likely have proviked a general revolt against English (and Protestant) rule.

      • Dale says:

        Dr Tighe, your obvious ethnic driven hatred of the English is showing, trying to mask it under academic pretenses is unbecoming.

        I will apologise in advance…

      • Michael Frost says:

        If you like to replay history, I’d suggest board gaming. There are board games to simulate pretty much every era, including the Medieval Ages, Reformation, and Counter Reformation. And there is also the oft interesting alternate history fiction genre, including what might’ve happened if there had been no successful Reformation, which I think we’ve discussed before here. 😉

  7. Stephen K says:

    I think there is an equal danger that we can conflate the worst aspects of Henry VIII with the Church in England under his rule, and that we can simply convert him into a monster and that nothing he did was ever good or reasonable. I remember reading several works at university on him as well as on Anne Boleyn and I came away with the conclusion that it was wrong to dismiss his conscience as a mere device. To be sure, the nuances of his own religious faith would have been of small comfort had one been in the Tower awaiting execution, but that he took religion seriously cannot be doubted, I don’t think. I think the same goes for Elizabeth. And Mary. And (for all his youth), Edward. The question is, would the religion that Henry’s various Acts and ordinances progressively shaped, been one that would have appealed to readers’ sensibilities here? Imagine the sorts of changes to the liturgy and prayers he variously made: it does not seem, from my own sense of the readings, that too much objection would have been made by those he executed over the other issue of the divorce and headship. By the same token, even from works like Sacrisbrook’s “The Reformation and the English people” or Duffy’s “The Stripping of the Altars”, I did not get the sense that the English were not able to distinguish between the Pope as part of theology and the Pope as foreign potentate.

    There may be parallel universes, but we here are in only one of them…that we know. I am always wary now of wishing for a ‘what if?’ because what we wish for might have been much worse. Apart from the fact that we are all currently complicit – even if unconsciously – in the making of a past future generations may rue and speculate away.

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