The two major religions in Tudor England were the Catholic and Protestant religions. In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" on the church door at Wittenberg against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The convictions and beliefs in the Catholic and Protestant religions were so strong that they led to the executions of many adherents to both of these Tudor religions. Tudor religions changed constantly during the Tudor Dynasty and was dictated by the views of the reigning monarch.
Religions of the Tudor Kings and Queens
The religion of Tudor England careered from the Catholic to Protestant religions according to wishes of the reigning King or Queen. The religions of the Tudor Kings and Queens were as follows:
- King Henry VII (r 1485 - 1509): Adhered to the Catholic faith
- King Henry VIII (r 1509 - 1547): Was raised as a devout Catholic and his daughter Mary was brought up in this faith. In 1521 he received the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X for his opposition to Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation. He then fell in love with Anne Boleyn and in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon he broke his ties with the Catholic Church and the Church of England was established and King Henry VIII became head of the Church of England.
- King Edward VI (r 1547 - 1553): The son of King Henry VIII was raised as a Protestant and in 1549 introduced a uniform Protestant service in England based on his Book of Common Prayer. Edward VI died young leaving the throne to 'the Lady Jane Grey and her heirs male' in order for the continuance of the Protestant religion in England
- Lady Jane Grey - Queen for nine days: A staunch Protestant but was soon replaced by Queen Mary I, the eldest daughter of King Henry VIII
- Queen Mary I aka Bloody Mary (r.1553-1558) Mary believed passionately in the Catholic religion and persecuted Protestants who were burned alive for their beliefs ( hence her nickname Bloody Mary )
- Queen Elizabeth I (r.1558-1603) adhered to the Protestant religion and restored Protestantism as the official religion. Queen Elizabeth firmly believe that people should be allowed to practice the Catholic religion without fear of recrimination so long as it presented no threat to peace in the realm and her rule over England
Failure to adhere to the 'favored' religion could often lead to great danger which might involve imprisonment, torture and even execution! Adhering to the 'wrong' religion brought risks to personal wealth, freedom and life. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I brought a degree of religious freedom in England. But there were many Catholic plots against her. Many Catholics wanted to replace Elizabeth with her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots. These plots eventually led to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in 1587.
The Changes in the Tudor Religions - Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation
Before the early 1500's the people of England all practised the Roman Catholic religion. The practises of the Catholic religion were questioned during the Reformation and the beliefs of men such as the German Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) who protested at some of the actions of the Catholic church and prompted a new religion called Protestantism. In 1517 the Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" on the church door at Wittenberg against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The term 'Protestant' was adopted when supporters of Martin Luther formally protested against efforts to limit the spread of Luther's new religious ideas.
The Differences between the Tudor Religions
What were the differences between the Catholic and Protestant religions in Tudor England? The main differences in Tudor religions centred around:
- Church services and the Bible
- The Priests
- The Churches
Tudor Religions - Catholic or Protestant?
The following points illustrate the differences between Catholic and Protestant religions in Tudor England:
- Catholics believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in Latin whereas Protestants believed that Church Services and the Bible should be in the language of the people so that everyone could understand them
- Tudor Catholics firmly believed that Priests were the link between God and the people and that the Pope was ordained by God. Catholic Priests were viewed as special and expected to devote their lives to God and remain unmarried and wear elaborate robes. Tudor Protestants believed that people could find God without a priest or a Pope and that Ministers were ordinary people who should lead normal lives and wear ordinary clothes
- Tudor Catholics believed that Priests and the Pope were able to forgive sins - at a price. Gifts, or indulgences, were given to the Catholic church to absolve people of their sins whereas Protestants believed that only God could forgive sins
- Catholics believed that Churches should be designed to celebrate God and elaborately decorated and adorned their churches with statues and shrines. Tudor Protestants believed that Churches should be plain allowing the people to concentrate on the sermons
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