In 1529, Henry VIII called what is known as the Reformation Parliament. Henry wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Much of this desire was driven by his dynastic ambition to have a son, which Catherine had been unable to provide...
In 1529, Henry VIII called what is known as the Reformation Parliament. Henry wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Much of this desire was driven by his dynastic ambition to have a son, which Catherine had been unable to provide for him (she did have a daughter). Henry, however, decided that God was punishing him by withholding a male heir because he had married his brother's wife (Catherine was briefly married to Henry's older brother, Arthur, who died young.) Because of the European political situation, the pope, who badly needed the goodwill of Catherine's nephew, Charles V, repeatedly refused to annul the marriage because Charles would not approve of it.
Henry therefore took matters into his own hands and had the English parliament declare him head of the Church of England. In one blow, Henry brought England into the Reformation, breaking with Rome and denying the pope or the Roman Catholic Church any authority over religious matters in England. This was ironic, as the pope had earlier named Henry Defender of the Faith for his vehement repudiation of Protestantism.
After Henry died, his son Edward VI, the child of Jane Seymour, his third wife, became king and continued the English Protestant reformation. After he died, however, Catherine of Aragon's daughter Mary became queen and reestablished Catholicism as the state religion. Her fierce persecution of Protestants earned her the title Bloody Mary. Following her death, Elizabeth I became queen. The daughter of Anne Boleyn, and born while Catherine of Aragon was still alive, Elizabeth had no choice but to support Protestantism in England. If she had supported Catholicism, she would have invalidated her claim to the throne because in the eyes of Catholic Church, she was illegitimate and therefore could not become queen.
Under Elizabeth I's long reign, the country became solidly and unequivocally Protestant. It would never again make Catholicism the official state religion.
When James I became king, he took a "higher" view of Protestantism than did Elizabeth, emphasizing pomp and ritual in the Church of England. He also attempted to exercise strict control over England's bishops. This led to the beginnings of the unrest that would culminate in the English Civil War, for many English Protestants feared James I, and later his son Charles I, were closet Catholics who would impose that faith on them.