If the Reformation was, in the words of Professor Dickens, ‘a process of Protestantisation’,1 then how far was there really an English Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII? For by the king’s death, the process of Protestantisation had barely begun, and it still lacked the official support which alone could effectively advance it. Henry himself had no intention of initiating such a process. The religious changes he introduced were often decked out in the rhetoric of ‘Reformation’, but they were undertaken chiefly with a view to increasing his power, swelling his coffers, and exacting stricter obedience from his subjects. Nevertheless, despite the intentions of the king, these changes contributed to the rise of English Protestantism. At almost every stage of its development, the fortunes of English Protestantism were dependent on the attitudes of the king and his close advisers. The alliance between crown and Reformers forged during the divorce controversy was decisive for the survival of the evangelical movement. Without royal protection in the early 1530s, Latimer might well have gone the way of Bilney. And with Bilney and Frith dead, and Barnes and Tyndale in exile, Latimer was the towering figure among the early Reformers, exercising a preaching ministry whose contribution to the English Reformation is incalculable.
KeywordsGeneral Council Privy CounciL Henry VIII Religious Change Catholic Clergy
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