Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I


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The Kings of England: 1509 to 1820

In addition, James approved the building of Catholic chapels and schools. He allowed the printing of Catholic Bibles and other religious publications. He welcomed Catholic missionaries from France and other European countries. While all this was going on, James attempted to persuade Parliament to repeal the criminal laws and Test Acts that discriminated against both Catholics and Protestant Dissenters.

King Henry VIII: The Church and The Reformation

Parliament refused and called for the rigorous enforcement of these laws. James then dissolved Parliament and ruled without it. In , James forged a political alliance with dissenting Protestants such as the Quakers led by William Penn. James promised them religious freedom in exchange for supporting his effort to secure the same for his fellow Catholics.

Acting on his own, James suspended enforcement of the criminal laws banning public worship by Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. He also dispensed with the enforcement of the Test Acts when he appointed Catholics and Dissenters to government and military posts. His actions enraged Parliament. James replaced judges with those friendly to his policies.


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He won a court decision, taking his side of the controversy. Next, James set out to pack a new Parliament with Protestant Dissenters and other allies. He sent spies to report on the political views of local officials who usually ran for seats in the House of Commons. If they opposed his policies, he replaced them.

He also cracked down on speech, press, and other civil liberties to smother criticism of him and his government. He angered Protestants by ordering them to disarm. James set up a Commission for Ecclesiastical religious Causes to punish Anglican clergy who defied his orders not to preach against Catholicism. He also forced colleges at Oxford to accept Catholic students. In , seven Church of England bishops sent a petition to James, protesting his order to read one of his declarations on toleration from their pulpits. A jury, however, acquitted the bishops to the cheers of those in the courtroom and throughout the kingdom.

Hearing reports of local disobedience among his subjects and a possible Dutch invasion, James backtracked. Hoping to gain Tory support, he withdrew some of his bitterly opposed acts and summoned a new Parliament. In June , his wife gave birth to a son. This inflamed fears in England of a continuing succession of Catholic kings. The following excerpt from the English Bill of Rights includes the comprehensive political settlement of the Glorious Revolution.

That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority. That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious [destructive];. That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments [imprisonment] and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;. That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with the consent of Parliament, is against law;.

That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;. That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;.

Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I

That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;. That jurors ought to be duly impaneled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders [property owners];. That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;. And that for redress of grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.

The nobles asked William to intervene against James, apparently hoping to force him to stop his pro-Catholic and dictatorial rule. William was putting together a coalition of Protestant and even Catholic countries against Louis XIV, who wanted to dominate all of Europe.


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William quickly saw the advantage of adding England to his coalition. On November 5, , William landed in England with more than 20, soldiers carried by a fleet larger than the Spanish Armada that had threatened England years before. James was shocked to learn that his English subjects cheered when William landed. Many waved swords and sticks with oranges stuck on them to show they were with him. Violent uprisings against James and his government took place throughout England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and even colonial America.

Fearing the fate of his beheaded father, Charles I, James ordered his army disbanded, cancelled his call for a new Parliament, and escaped to France as William neared London. The disorder continued for several months. James made one last stand. In the spring of , he landed in Ireland with a fleet of ships and soldiers supplied by Louis XIV to join an army of Irish Catholics. They had besieged Protestant colonists and soldiers in Northern Ireland. William led an army against James and defeated his Catholic force in the summer of James then returned to France.

When William landed in England he said he was not interested in the throne.

Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I - Felicity Heal, Rosemary O'Day - Google Books

But in early , he issued an ultimatum: Either Parliament proclaim him king or he would take his army back to Holland and leave England undefended and in chaos. The Whigs and Tories finally settled on a compromise. William and Mary would technically rule as co-monarchs, but William would take charge of the government. In February , Parliament offered William and Mary the crown. And take the shame with joy. Your partner, as I hear, must die tomorrow,. And I am going with instruction to him.

Grace go with you. Marriage also plays an important role in the play in that it becomes the subject of much of the controversy. The fact that the Duke, a civil authority, provides a resolution that represents a Catholic interpretation of marriage customs in the 16 th and 17 th centuries provides further evidence that Shakespeare intentionally juxtaposes Catholicism and the monarchy. Finally, it has been suggested that Shakespeare may have been Catholic himself, or held Catholic sympathies, since there is evidence that his father and daughter were fined recusancy fees for not attending the Anglican Church service.

Beauregard, David N.

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New York,. London: W. Ellis-Fermor, Una. The Jacobean Drama. London: Methuan, Hassel, R. Chris Jr.

The English Sweat

Renaissance Drama and the English Church Year. Lingard has called it, "a political experiment to try the resolution of the Pontiff". The experiment failed, and in the next year the royal assent was given to the Act by letters patent. In this year also was passed the Statute, 24 Hen.

The next year witnessed the passing of the Act 25 Hen. It was immediately followed by an Act forbidding, under the same penalties, the king's subjects to sue to the pope , or the Roman See , for "licenses, dispensations, compensations, faculties, grants, rescripts, delegacies or other instruments or writings", to go abroad for any visitations, congregations, or assembly for religion, or to maintain, allow, admit, or obey any process from Rome. The net effect of these enactments was to take away from the pope the headship of the Church of England.

That headship the Act of Supremacy conferred on the king. This sudden falling away of a whole nation from Catholic unity, is an event so strange and so terrible as to require some further explanation than Macaulay's, who refers it to the "brutal passion" and "selfish policy" of Henry VIII ; In fact the struggle between that monarch and the pope was the last phase of a contest between the papal and the regal power which had been waged, with longer or briefer truces, from the days of the Norman Conquest. The Second Henry was no less desirous than the Eighth to emancipate himself from the jurisdiction of the supreme pontiff , and the destruction and pillage of the shrine of St.

Von Ranke has pointed out that the state of the world in the sixteenth century was "directly hostile to the Papal domination.


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In England the monarch was virtually a tyrant. The Wars of the Roses had destroyed the old nobility, formerly an effective check upon regal despotism.

Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I
Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I Church and Society in England: Henry VIII to James I

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