Henry VIII was the king of England. Throughout the early part of Henry's reign, England was part of an undivided Western Christendom. There was one single Church, and the Pope stood at its head. However, in the early sixteenth century, things changed rapidly. A number of people became dissatisfied with the Church and its teachings and wanted to reform it. They became known as Protestants, and the Protestants began a very important period of history called the Reformation.
Henry did not have much time for the Reformation, at least not initially. He was always quite conservative when it came to religious beliefs. However, he was a king, and he jealously guarded his throne against any kind of threat, whether it was from an English aristocrat, a foreign prince, or a Pope.
Henry wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. The Church would not permit divorce, however, no matter how hard Henry tried to bend the rules. As a result, Henry angrily broke off all relations with Rome and declared himself Supreme Governor of the Church of England. With other changes happening in Europe, the Reformation was now in full swing. Where once there had been one church, now there were several. The European continent was bitterly divided between Protestants and Catholics.
As well as being free to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Henry was now able to get his hands on the Catholic Church's extensive land and property holdings throughout his kingdom. These were very valuable, and Henry gladly seized them, selling them off to his supporters for huge sums.
Creating a separate church and making himself its head was mainly a political act on Henry's part. It gave him greater freedom to do what he wanted and greatly increased his wealth and power.