In summary, how did shifting beliefs within the Christian church affect seats of power in Europe during the Protestant Reformation? Give a few examples of how this affected the daily life of associated populations during the time. Think in terms of laws, rights, and trade. Consider and propose how these collective historical experiences might have informed the creation and establishment of early America during "the Enlightenment."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One does not need to look beyond England to see how shifting beliefs within the Christian Church affected seats of power in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. Henry the VIII and his heirs are prime examples. Henry VIII was honored in 1521 by Pope Leo X, who conferred the title Defender of Faith on him to reward him for his support of the Catholic Church. Just over a decade later, Henry was enmeshed in a highly politicized fight against the Catholic Church, and many other European leaders, because he sought a divorce or annulment, which the Church refused to grant. Henry had been married to Catherine of Aragon and they had one child together. For many reasons, including his need to sire a male heir to the throne, Henry wanted to end the marriage.


When he was not able to obtain a divorce, Henry VIII broke with the Catholic religion and declared himself head of the new Church of England in the Act of Supremacy in 1534. The backdrop of the Protestant Reformation that was occurring in many European countries made it easier for Henry, as other countries were making similar changes for theological reasons. However, the overnight change from a Catholic England to a Protestant one brought issues for the people. Many did not want to be Protestants; they were Catholics and had allegiance to the religion that they grew up with. Henry’s monarchy also seized many of the church properties to prop up Henry’s accounts when he enacted the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act in 1535.

Henry also dealt harshly with protesters who wanted to remain Catholic with the passage of the Act Abolishing Diversity in Opinions (the name subsequently was changed to Act of Six Articles), which led to many executions. After Henry died, his son Edward VI ruled briefly, and he was succeeded by his half-sister Mary, who returned the country (briefly) to Catholicism. She exerted such severe and violent punishments on her subjects who refused to embrace Catholicism again that it earned her the nickname Bloody Mary. She was succeeded by her sister Elizabeth and the country returned to Protestantism.

Retributions against people of different faiths were not severe under Elizabeth. She did, however, pass the Recusancy Acts, which made it mandatory to worship in the Anglican faith and attend Church of England services on Sundays.

In terms of how this many changes in a relatively brief period affected the daily life of people during the time, it abolished their way of prayer, made it mandatory to pray under a different system and attend church, and caused fear among the population lest they violate the new rules and be sent to their deaths.

The Puritans came to the New World seeking religious tolerance. Although they did not necessarily want tolerance for others, the formation of America did confer greater religion freedom and choice for people. However, the Puritans were also responsible for the Salem Witch trials of the 1690's. The chaos that these religious restrictions imposed on the people of England likely influenced the creation and establishment of early America during the Enlightenment.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial