• Matt Berrigan

Royal Women and the English Reformation

Much is said of some of the men of the Reformation period who brought about changes to the way that people worship in the 16th Century. Whether it be John Calvin preaching predestination to the people of Geneva or Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenburg in Germany, but very little is said of the women in England who helped bring about the Protestant movement in that country.

First, when the irascible rake Henry VIII wanted to put aside his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, the wheels of revolution were set in motion. The King had fallen into romantic love with the beautiful but impetuous Anne Boleyn, to whom he would often write love sonnets and with whom he was completely infatuated. When the Pope and Catholic Church would not grant Henry an annulment, he annexed the monasteries and broke with the Church in Rome, thus beginning the Church of England, or Anglican faith. Alas, all did not end well for our star-crossed lovers Anne and Henry. After a mere three years of marriage, the woman who had precipitated the wholesale change of 2 religion in England was accused of adultery and executed. Henry, now head of the Church of England, would go on to have four more wives (of the six, the rhyme for memorization goes: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded survived), but his short liaison with Anne would continue to have lasting significance through their daughter Elizabeth.

After her ascension to the throne, Elizabeth I would reestablish the Church of England after it had been pushed aside by her sister Mary (nicknamed Bloody Mary for her persecution of protestants) and engrain a rational variation of the faith. In 1588, Elizabeth’s forces would defeat the Spanish Armada whose goal was to overthrow the Church of England. The Elizabethan era would last 44 years and is known as a golden age of English culture and identity, and created the atmosphere where Drake, Shakespeare, and Marlowe would flourish in their own crafts of exploration and literature.

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