As king, Henry inherited from his father a budget surplus and a ...

By Dean Stewart,2014-11-21 22:56
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As king, Henry inherited from his father a budget surplus and a ...

As king, Henry inherited from his father a budget surplus and a precedent

     for autocratic rule. In 1511, Henry joined Pope Julius II, King Ferdinand II of

     Arag√≥n, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and the Venetians in their Holy

     League against France. The campaign, organized by Henry's talented

     minister Thomas (later cardinal) Wolsey, had little success. A more popular

     conflict, which occurred during Henry's absence, was the victory (1513) of

     Thomas Howard, 2d duke of Norfolk, at Flodden over the invading Scottish

     forces under James IV.

     Rapid changes in the diplomatic situation following the death of Ferdinand

     (1516) enabled Wolsey, now chancellor, to conclude a new alliance with

     France, soon expanded to include all the major European powers in a pledge

     of universal peace (1518). However, with the election of Ferdinand's

     grandson, already king of Spain, as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519,

     England's status as a secondary power was soon revealed. Henry joined

     Charles in war against France in 1522, but when Charles won a decisive

     victory over Francis at Pavia (1525), England was denied any of the spoils.

     Henry and Wolsey tried to curb the alarming rise of imperial power by an

     unpopular alliance (1527) with France, which led to diplomatic and economic

     reprisals against England. Domestically, Henry had become less popular due

     to a series of new taxes aimed at providing revenue to bolster the depleted

     treasury. Despite the early advice of Sir Thomas More, one of Henry's

     councillors, Wolsey had remained the country's top minister, and by 1527

     Wolsey had been forced to accept much of the blame for England's failures.

     Divorce and the Reformation

     Henry, determined to provide a male heir to the throne, decided to divorce

     Katharine and marry Anne Boleyn. English diplomacy became a series of

     maneuvers to win the approval of Pope Clement VII, who was in the power

     of emperor Charles V, Katharine's nephew. The king wished to invalidate the

     marriage on the grounds that the papal dispensation under which he and

     Katharine had been permitted to marry was illegal.

     The pope reluctantly authorized a commission consisting of cardinals Wolsey

     and Campeggio to decide the issue in England. Katharine denied the

     jurisdiction of the court, and before a decision could be reached, Clement

     had the hearing adjourned (1529) to Rome. The failure of the commission,

     followed by a reconciliation between Charles and Francis I, led to the fall of

     Wolsey and to the initiation by Henry of an anti-ecclesiastical policy

     intended to force the pope's assent to the divorce.

     Under the guidance of the king's new minister, Thomas Cromwell, the

     anticlerical Parliament drew up (1532) the Supplication Against the

     Ordinaries, a long list of grievances against the church. In a document

     known as the Submission of the Clergy, the convocation of the English

     church accepted Henry's claim that all ecclesiastical legislation was subject

     to royal approval. Acts stopping the payment of annates to Rome and

     forbidding appeals to the pope followed. The pope still refused to give way

     on the divorce issue, but he did agree to the appointment (1533) of the

     king's nominee, Thomas Cranmer, as archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer

     immediately pronounced Henry's marriage with Katharine invalid and crowned

     Anne (already secretly married to Henry) queen, and the pope

     excommunicated Henry.

     In 1534 the breach with Rome was completed by the Act of Supremacy,

     which made the king head of the Church of England (see England, Church

     of). Any effective opposition was suppressed by the Act of Succession

     entailing the crown on Henry's heirs by Anne, by an extensive and severe

     Act of Treason, and by the strict administration of the oath of supremacy.

     A number of prominent churchmen and laymen, including former chancellor

     Sir Thomas More, were executed, thus changing Henry's legacy from one of

     enlightenment to one of bloody suppression. Under Cromwell's supervision, a

     visitation of the monasteries in 1535 led to an act of Parliament in 1536 by

     which smaller monasteries reverted to the crown, and the others were

     confiscated within the next few years. By distributing some of this property

     among the landed gentry, Henry acquired the loyalty of a large and

     influential group.

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