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1.6 Henry VIII (1509 - 1547)
Henry VIII became the King of England after the death of his father Henry VII. He was just 18 years of the age at that time. He was a man of great qualities. He had learned administration from his father. Apart from being a good administrator he was also a man of letters and interested in music and art. His father handed over a strong kingdom to him. Henry VIII was one of the greatest statesmen that England had. He offered great services to the nation. He established law and order when it was much required. He also boldly separated the Pope from his administration.
Thus, he also brought about the reformation in England. As peace prevailed, Trade, Commerce and Industry flourished and the economic status of English people improved greatly. Henry also worked for the development of the naval authority of England. He encouraged the building of modern ships for navigation.
The relations of Henry VIII with his parliament were unique. He took great interest in the progress of the parliament. Even though he kept the parliament under his full control, he called repeated sessions of the parliament to take major decisions. He himself never acted against the will of the Parliament.
1.6a Major Domestic Policy of Henry VIII
Although Henry VIII was a despotic king his people supported him greatly. His decisions were mostly according to the desire of the people. His strong army protected the people from frequent civil wars in England. Like his father he also made many forced loans. Due to this he could acquire a lot of money for his treasury, which he used for the implementation of his policies.
The Navy was the real strength of England. Foreigners were always cautious of this English strength. The credit for it goes to Henry VIII who made special efforts towards the building of ships.
1.6b Foreign Policy of Henry VIII
The aims of Henry VIII’s foreign policy were:
- To maintain the balance of power in Europe.
- To resist the power of the enemies of England.
- To dominate European politics.
Henry joined the Holy League with the intention of driving France out of Italy. He made peace with France through the marriage alliance of his sister Mary with Louis XII of France. But after the terms of his alliance with Spain expired, Henry declared war with France. By doing this he also checked the increase in the power of Charles V of Spain.
When the Scots refused to accept the marriage proposal of Henry’s son for their daughter, he invaded and burned Edinburgh. He also crushed an Irish revolt against the supremacy of England and acquired the title ‘King of Ireland.’ He also divided the country into many provinces and included Wales with England.
England began to be looked upon as the most important political nation of Europe in the then politics when Henry VIII broke his relations with the Pope and paved a way for the reformation movement. As a result, the English church was separated from the Roman Church. He reduced the importance of Spain and France and due to his shrewdness, England gained in political importance.
1.6c Reformation during the Reign of Henry VIII
The reformation in England was the religious revolution that had lasting effects on the life of the people. The condition of the Church had deteriorated and its representatives had become worldly, corrupt and immoral. The most religious and Orthodox Church people also desired a reformation. The power of the Papacy was used for personal advantage and benefit. Besides, the higher clergy had a wealthy and pleasurable life whereas the lower clergy led a life of misery and poverty. This amounted to a feeling of resentment against the church.
Henry VIII took bold and major steps during his reign to put an end to growing power of the church. He took measures to curtail the power of the clergy in the English church by destroying monasteries and passing laws that were to be followed by the church authorities. The gist of these laws stated that a priest could be associated with a single church only. Another act stated that Pope was to be elected by the clergy who were nominated by the King. Due to the reformation, the English church was separated from the Roman church. The community of Christians was split into two camps: the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. Many wars occurred due to religion. The Counter Reformation was the most important effect of reformation though it had started much earlier.