Act of Supremacy (Chronology of European History)
Article abstract: The Act of Supremacy declares Henry VIII the head of the Church in England, immediately legitimizing his divorce from Catherine, his clandestine marriage to Anne Boleyn, and his subsequent claims to church revenues.
Summary of Event
The break between Rome and the Church in England was brought about by the matrimonial problems of Henry VIII. In 1509, Pope Julius II had granted a dispensation in order to make it legally possible for Henry to marry Catherine of Aragon, his brother Arthur’s widow. Catherine failed to produce a male heir, and Henry feared that succession of their daughter Mary might cause a disputed monarchy and a return to civil war, like the Wars of the Roses that his father, Henry VII, had only concluded a generation earlier in 1485. Moreover, he was in love with Anne Boleyn, who was not content to be merely the king’s mistress.
The ecclesiastical courts could not grant a divorce, only an annulment, and Julius II had made sure that the marriage was valid in the first place. Henry appealed to Rome through his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, but the new pope, Clement VII, was virtually a prisoner in Rome of Catherine’s nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Vacillating between desires to avoid offending both Henry and Charles, Clement appointed Wolsey and an Italian cardinal to hear proceedings in London, but the case was later recalled to Rome.
(The entire section is 1668 words.)
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