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Explain why a series of Acts changing the position of the clergy was passed in the years 1529 – 1534

During the years 1529 till 1534 in 16th Century England, there was a period of considerable change in the law, they were designed to do three things; to mass the laity solidly behind the king, to overawe the clergy into acquiescence in his demands, and to frighten the pope into yielding to them. Henry VIII put forward many different acts, all focussing on different things, and each with different meanings. It is not certain why the series of acts were passed, however we are able to suggest different reasons and how they link together.One of the key ideas, and background reasons for some of the acts to be passed, is to be granted an annulment between himself and Catherine of Aragon. Henry wanted the divorce for a number of reasons, including the lack of male heir and the thought that marrying Catherine in the first place may have been a sin against god. Henry wished for Wolsey to secure him a papal annulment of the marriage, however as Wolsey failed to do as the king had wished, Henry looked into other ways, to allow the annulment he wanted.One of the acts passed was ‘The Annulment’. Passed on the 23rd May of the year 1533, this act stated that due to the marriage between Arthur Tudor and Catherine of Aragon being consummated, the pope should never have allowed it in the first place. Backing up this act was Thomas Cranmer, the appointed new chief minister after Wolsey’s failure in the ‘Great Matter’, he stated that the marriage between Henry and Anne was valid, as said in the act, the pope should have never granted an already consummated marriage, this resulted in the declaration that the marriage to Catherine was both null and void. It is clear that the reason for this act being passed is to grant Henry VIII the annulment he desired, however it additionally links with religion, as it was against gods will to marry someone, after having already consummated with someone else, however this is unlikely to be the reason Henry wanted to pass the act.A second act passed, supporting the annulment between Henry and Catherine was the ‘Death of Warham & the appointment of Cranmer.’ This was passed in the year 1532, on the 23rd of August. William Warham was the archbishop of Canterbury, during the years 1450 and 1532, when he passed away Henry appointed Thomas Cranmer as he knows that he will support his views and fulfil what he wants to be done. He wants to get Cranmer to annul the marriage which Wolsey was unable to sort out.The passing of this act strongly increases Henry VIII’s power, and needs as he is getting exactly what he wants on the matter, and also fully trusts Cranmer with the responsibility of arranging an annulment, he knows that Cranmer follows what he asks. This act is however a major flaw for the level of power the Pope can contain, as the King is gaining more control, by appointing churchmen himself, which means he can get around the rules of the church which act as obstacles in the path of what he wants to achieve. This act also strongly supports the suggestion for an annulment of the marriage between Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII; it also links with power and the increase of it, which the King is gaining by appointing churchmen himself. Resulting in the power of the Pope hugely decreasing, as even the monarch, is not following the rules of god in his eyes.A third act which also supports and encourages an annulment to be granted between Catherine and Henry is the ‘Treason Act’. Passed in December 1534, a law was placed that stated, anyone maliciously denying the validity of the marriage between Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, would be sentenced with treason, anyone denying simply with words could be punished with either imprisonment or the loss of property. The nation was made to take an oath to observe the ‘Treason Act’, to test and make sure the people were accepting royal supremacy. This act was necessary in the eyes of Henry VIII, as if people were talking against the marriage between him and Anne Boleyn, then people may turn against the monarch. This act, simply backs up the want for divorce, it is seen as a worried precaution Henry took, to ensure that he would be getting what he wanted.Another suggested reason for more acts to be passed in the 16th Century, was to achieve and increase certain levels of power. This was usually linked with either the gain of power of the monarch, and the loss of power towards the Pope. After the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Henry felt the need to reduce the power of the church in England, he went by this is a multitude of different ways.Usually classed as the main act in the 16th Century, the ‘Act of Supremacy’, passed in the year 1534. Henry took allowing the annulment he wanted into his own hands, the act declares Henry VIII as head of the Church of England, this had not been granted this permission by parliament, and it was simply taken as a fact. It firmly established the English monarch as the head as the official head of the Church of England, aiming to increase the power of the king, and decreasing the power and influence of the Catholic pope in Rome. Henry described himself as being; ‘the only supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England’A second act which focuses on gaining power is the ‘1529 Acts’, this is split into 3 seperate laws, the first set probate and mortuary fees at a fixed rate, this means that the church cannot obtain or recieve more money than necessary, as this was becoming a common claim which was being put on the church’s shoulders. The other two laws forbade clerical pluralism and non-residence, this meant that priests were not allowed to own more than one parish, and they also had to be present to attend to their parish, so that the people would always have a priestm, to make sure they would be albe to learn everything about the church and also be promised a path to heaven for when they die. The dispensations for pluralism and non-residence could only be obtained from the king and his people. This meant that the king had increasing amounts of power as churchmen had to go to the king before being allowed certain things. This overall limited the papacy power as he no longer has the ability to grant papal dispensation and non-residence, which before hand would have been granted on their own will, without the need of the monarchy.Additionally, in 1534 the ‘Supplication of the ordinaries and the submission of the Clergy’ act was passed. This introduced the fine of imprisonment at the king’s pleasure against those which opposed, by either speaking or acting against the position of the monarchy. This increased Henry’s power as overall it meant that the church was more controlled by the monarchy, it was also in control of the assembly of people within the church, this additionally prevented minor appeal to Rome. Of course, due to the monarch gaining so much power, the popes was limited, by being deprived of legislate authority in England.The ‘Charge of Praemunire’ was also a major law passed in the 16th century, as it affected many people and changed the views of others. It was first used in 1529, then 1530 then continued in 1531. This act made it treasonable to support foreign authority, the pope, or foreign laws above the Church Of England. If anyone was caught talking or acting against the Church of England, then they could be sentenced to death. This act massively changed the position of the clergy in the church, as Henry had the ability to get rid of any member he desired to, this was not legally possible beforehand. The pope suffered in numerous ways, including the fact that clergy men could be lost due to Henry VIII’s decisions, also if people did in fact decide to follow the pope not the king, then the people would be punished. This led to a reduction in papal supporters over the Church of England’s increasing numbers.The ‘Act in restraint of Appeals’ in 1533, forbade the payments of annates of first fruits to Rome, this prepared the way for further Praemunire charges against leading Catholic clergy and nobles who disagreed with the King’s wish to divorce. It also had two additional objectives, to allow Cranmer to give a ruling on Henrys marriage to Catherine of Aragon which could not be appealed, and to generally intimidate the pope. The major gains of power on Henry’s accord were that everything had to be passed by him before an initial decision was finally made; also England was now completely independent from foreign interference. Due to these new introductions, the Pope was still classed as the head of the church, but in a more minimal way, as so much power had be lost, and gained towards Henry VIII. Furthermore, the people were no longer allowed to able to appeal to the pope about matrimonial cases.A final reason behind many of the acts being passed is Money. At this point Henry had his eye on the wealth of the church, particularly the property of the monasteries. His lifestyle, and his desire for military glory had left Henry in a precarious financial position; he needed money, the church had lots of it, so the solution was obvious – take control of the church and its assets. His father, King Henry VII, had always been careful with his money and left his son a huge fortune, estimated at between One and a Quarter and One and Three Quarter Million Pounds. By today’s standards, that would be approximately, Four Hundred Million Pounds. A lot of this money went on maintaining his lavish lifestyle, such as construction works on his royal palaces, the upkeep of all of these palaces, maintaining his court, but most of all war. However overall it was mostly his military ambitions which exhausted the wealth he had inherited. Due to war, the income he received from the Crown Estates decreased. It is an idea that the reason for some acts to be passed in the 16th Century, was to provide Henry VIII with the money he wanted, and to make sure that the income of the church was fair.In 1532, the ‘Act of Annates’ was passed; this stopped small payments to Rome, which were described as being ‘great in sentimental sums of money’. The church taxes which were collected in England and sent to Rome, only 5% of what was normally remitted was allowed after the act was passed. During this year even more effort was put on Pope Clement to agree to the divorce from Catherine of Aragon he desired, English parliament threatened that if Henry didn’t get the annulment within a year that all payments to Rome as a whole would be stopped. As a result the Pope agreed to consecrate Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury. This act increased King Henry VIII’s power as he stood in the way of bills passing, so he could pass them when he wanted, whereas before he wouldn’t have known about them all, and he certainly wouldn’t have had them mentioned to himself. An overall outcome of this is that Pope Clement was blackmailed, to give Henry the divorce he wanted so badly. The pope lost the ability to select monarchs, so he has no opinion on the matters.On the 23rd, March, 1534, the ‘Act in Absolute restraint of Annates ; Dispensations Act’ was passed. This also stopped all payments to Rome, and passed the right to deal with all requests to depart from church law to the Archbishop of Canterbury, also the English crown was now able to take all revenue charged for the appointment of bishops. This was greatly beneficial to Henry VIII, as he would now have the ability to influence the Archbishop of Canterbury, more than the pope had power to. As less money was being paid to the church, as a result of this law passing, the church was seen to have less power; additionally the Archbishop was to deal with certain requests, not the Pope, which meant that Henry could easily achieve what he wanted.Additionally, the ‘Act of First Fruits and Tenths’ in 1540 transferred the taxes on ecclesiastical income from the Pope to the Crown. Also all clergy with a benefice were to pay a tenth of their net incomes to the king annually. This majorly affected the position of the clergy in the church, as they would have less money, which meant less power. Originally the money was paid to the Papacy, but Henry VIII’s 1534 status diverted the money to the English crown as part of his overall campaign to pressure the pope into him granting the annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon.Overall, the three main reasons changing the positions of the clergy in the church were Divorce, Power and Money. Religion is also a reason however it links with each of the acts, as it always a background, yet main feature. The reason acts supporting an annulment between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, were granted was because Henry was extremely eager to marry Anne Boleyn, have a male heir to the throne, and rid himself of guilt, of phrases in the bible saying that he shouldn’t have married Catherine in the first place. The acts resulting in the gain or loss of power, for Henry and the papacy, were passed all in the favour of Henry VIII, making things which were once obstacles easy to achieve without problems occurring, he changed it around so that he, himself was now the obstacle, on again meaning that he could get what he wanted, as everything had to pass by him.Those acts passed, based on the gain of money, link with those providing power, are mostly so that Henry can gain back the money he needs. However, despite all three of the important reasons for separate acts being passed, I believe that Divorce is the main reason a series of Acts changing the position of the clergy was passed in the years 1529 – 1534. I believe this as, all of those which are focussing on the gain of either power or money, lead back to making certain situations easier for Henry, resulting in the annulment being granted for him as he wished. I believe that the majority of the acts, result in pathways being cleared,

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