Social Change and 16th Century England

 
 
 
 
In the early sixteenth century, Europe was the stage for many grand social and political changes, all of which altered the way in which man viewed himself and the world around him. No event, however, was more influential in the life of the individual than the Protestant Reformation, as it caused men to radically rethink their relationship with God and the Church. In England, the reformation was highly politicized, as religion and politics became intertwined due to King Henry VIII's struggle with papal authority. Indeed, Henry's personal life, namely his marriages and the births of his children, drove him to break away from the Pope and the Catholic Church at a time when other factions within Europe were turning away from Rome for religious reasons. The collapse of papal authority signified a crucial turning point in European history, as new religious philosophies emerged, which encouraged a more personal relationship with God. For England, Henry VIII's departure from the Catholic Church ultimately brought not only new spiritual beliefs, but a newly defined concept of the authority of the crown as well.

Henry VIII's reign began on April 21, 1509, when his father Henry VII died due to complications from a series of serious illnesses. Henry VIII had become heir to the throne when his older brother Arthur died in 1502, and the empire that he inherited was enjoying both stability and financial success. Though he was barely eighteen years old, Henry's ascension to po

     
 
 
 
    

 

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