What is meant by Henry VIII's 'reformation'  

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samson98 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 16th-century English King Henry VIII started the "English Reformation" by separating the English Christian Church from Roman Catholicism and the authority of the Pope. The Reformation had begun in continental Europe in 1519 when Martin Luther, a German monk, had broken with the Catholic Church over the nature of salvation.

The Reformation quickly spread throughout the continent, but England remained Catholic.. Henry had once been a staunch defender of the Catholic Church--his attacks on Protestant doctrine had earned him the title "Defender of the Faith"--but the king grew angry at Pope Clement VII when he refused to annul his marriage.

Henry was upset that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, had not borne him an heir, so he wanted to marry a new wife. Catholics were not allowed to divorce, so Henry had to request special permission from the Pope. After Clement refused to grant him this permission, Henry made the decision to steer the Church of England toward Protestantism.

Parliament supported him by passing the Act of Supremacy; this bill declared Henry and all future English monarchs--not the Pope--the leader of the Church of England. Thus England became Protestant.