Timeline of the English Reformation


Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.
Anonymous portrait of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York c.1501.

1501 – Katherine of Aragon marries Prince Arthur of England.

1502 – Prince Arthur dies.

1504 – Pope Julius II annuls marriage of Katherine and Arthur.

1509 – Henry VIII succeeds to the throne and marries Katherine of Aragon:-

Katherine testified that her marriage to Arthur was never consummated, and so a dispensation was granted to allow her to marry Henry. The matter of consummation was later a central issue in the divorce.

1516 – Princess Mary (later Mary I) born.

1517 – Luther posts his 95 theses on a church door in Wittenburg in Germany, formally beginning the Protestant Reformation in Europe:-

The disputation protests against clerical abuses like pluralism, absenteeism, baptism and the sale of indulgences (the idea that people could buy a place in heaven for their souls, and to forgive their sins).

1521 – Pope Leo X awards Henry with the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ for his attack on Luther.

1524 – William Tyndale is expelled from England.

1525 – Thomas Cromwell helps to suppress 29 monasteries.

1527 – Henry makes clear his intentions to divorce Katherine, she appeals to Rome; Henry falls in love with Anne Boleyn.

Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte
Katherine of Aragon by Lucas Hornebolte

1529 – Court opens in England to hear divorce case; Peace of Cambrai; Wolsey removed as Chancellor, accused of praemunire, replaced by Thomas More; reformation parliament opened:-

This was a court sanctioned by the Pope for the divorce case to be heard in England by Cardinals Campeggio and Wolsey. There is a lot of debate over how far the Pope really intended to allow a judgement to be reached. Wolsey had not got the king what he wanted, and this is often given as a reason for his fall.

1530 – Cromwell becomes member of council; praemunire charge against clergy; Wolsey dies on the way to his trial for conspiring with Katherine, the Emperor and the Pope

1531 – Henry protects clergymen denying papal supremacy

1532 – Supplication Against the Ordinaries; Statute in Restraint of Appeals; Submission of the Clergy; Thomas More resigns as Chancellor; Anne Boleyn falls pregnant:-

The Supplication Against the Ordinaries was the result of grievances against the clergy and prelates and it requested that the king deal with the spread of clerical abuses (fees, holy days, pluralism, excommunication). The Statute in Restraint of Appeals was an act now generally considered to be the legal foundation of the English reformation and it forbade appeals to the Pope. The Submission of the Clergy meant that the English church couldn’t make laws without referring to the king.

1533 – Henry marries Anne Boleyn; Thomas Cranmer instated as Archbishop of Canterbury; Cranmer declares marriage between Henry and Katherine null and void, Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) born; John Frith was burned at the stake.

1534 – Act Concerning Ecclesiastical Appointments and Absolute Restraint of Annates; Act Concerning Peter’s Pence and Dispensations; Act of Succession; Elizabeth Barton (Nun of Kent) executed; Clement VII declares marriage between Katherine and Henry as valid; Act of Supremacy; Treason Act; Act of First Fruits and Tenths:-

The Act of Succession declared that it would be the children of Henry and Anne Boleyn who would inherit the crown, and not any others (meaning Princess Mary was bastardised and couldn’t inherit). The people were asked to swear an oath to that effect, as well as in support of the supremacy. The Act of Supremacy said that Henry was the Head of the Church in England, and that England was severed from the authority of Rome and the Pope.

1535 – Henry declares himself Head of the Church of England; Cromwell appoints new bishops, Nicholas Shaxton, Hugh Latimer, Edward Foxe; John Fisher and Thomas More executed.

Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.
Anne Boleyn National Portrait Gallery.

1536 – First Act of Dissolution; Anne Boleyn executed; Henry marries Jane Seymour; reformation parliament dissolved; Pilgrimage of Grace:-

The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular uprising in Yorkshire against the dissolution of the monasteries and the protestant reformation. It is said that at one point there were 40,000 people who rose against the king, led by Robert Aske, Robert Constable and Thomas Darcy, Baron Darcy.

1537 – Bigod’s Rebellion (part of the Pilgrimage of Grace); Bishops’ Book; Prince Edward (later Edward VI) born; Jane Seymour dies.

1539 – Second Act of Dissolution.

1540 – Henry marries Anne of Cleves, but the marriage is annulled; Thomas Cromwell is executed; Thomas Abel and Robert Barnes are burned at the stake.

1543 – Cranmer is arrested on the grounds of heresy.

1547 – Henry VIII dies and Edward VI is crowned; First Book of Homilies is introduced by Cranmer.

1549 – The First Book of Common Prayer is introduced by Cranmer.

1552 – The Second Book of Common Prayer is introduced by Cranmer.

1553 – Edward VI dies; Jane Grey becomes Queen for 9 days; Mary I is declared Queen:-

1553 is probably the pinnacle of the mid-Tudor crisis as it encompasses the reigns of three different monarchs, who all ruled in very different ways. From 1547 (the death of Henry VIII) and 1558 (the accession of Elizabeth I) England was in the grip of rebellion, confusing religious policies and a difficult economic climate. Edward VI was Protestant, as was Jane Grey, and Mary I was Catholic, but Elizabeth I wasn’t really either – more like her father.

Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.
Streatham Portrait of Jane Grey, copy of a lost original.

1554 – Jane Grey is executed along with Guildford Dudley and the Duke of Suffolk; restoration of Roman Catholicism and papal obedience; Wyatt’s rebellion against the proposed marriage of Mary to Philip II of Spain.

1556 – Thomas Cranmer is executed.

1558 – Mary I dies and Elizabeth I is declared Queen.

1559 – Elizabeth I’s religious settlement is passed:-

The 1559 Act of Supermacy re-established the monarch’s control over the church and Elizabeth was named Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The 1559 Act of Uniformity set out how the English Church would be constructed and run, including the re-establishment of the Book of Common Prayer. The settlement allowed for belief or not in transubstantiation (the turning of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ) and included concessions to both sides.

1571 – The Second Book of Homilies is introduced

1587 – Mary Queen of Scots is executed

1588 – The Spanish Armada is defeated

1603 – Elizabeth I dies; James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England

1605 – The gunpowder plot fails; Guy Fawkes is executed (1606)

James VI & I by Daniel Mytens 1621.
James VI & I by Daniel Mytens 1621.

1611 – King James Bible first published and used in the English-speaking world

The King James Bible was the third English translation of the Bible. It was conceived in response to the problems seen in earlier translations. It was designed to reflect the values and beliefs of the Church of England, rather than the Roman Catholic Church.

1625 – James I dies; Charles I declared king

1642 – English Civil War breaks out

The English Civil War was a series of conflicts between Parliamentarians and Royalists in the mid-seventeenth century. It led to the trial and execution of Charles I, the exile of Charles II and the setting up of a protectorate under Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell was a puritan after a religious conversion, and damned the religious beliefs of his monarchical predecessors.

1649 – Execution of Charles I with the triumph of the Puritans

1660 – Restoration of Charles II

1688 – The Glorious Revolution

This was the revolution of 1688 which led to the overthrow of James II and replacing him with William III and Mary II. Partly what led to the overthrow was James II’s policy of religious tolerance which met with increasing opposition in parliament.

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