The Henry VIII break with Rome occurred for many reasons, partially for reasons of divorce in light of his many wives. Click here to learn more about them.

Read below to learn about all the events leading up to the Henry VIII break with Rome.

Date

Summary

Detailed Information

1509 Henry marries Catherine of Aragon Henry came to the throne following the death of his father, Henry VII. He married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon.
1517 Martin Luther 95 thesis Luther made a protest against the Catholic practice of Indulgences. Luther gained support for his ideas and Europe became split between Luther’s supporters (Protestants) and the Catholics.
Oct 1521 Fidei Defensor A book, ‘Septum Sacramentorum’, written by Henry VIII which spoke in defence of the Catholic religion  was presented to the Pope. The Pope gave Henry the title, Fidei Defensor [Defender of the Faith] which was hereditary and is still used by the monarchy today.
Nov 1522 Diet of Nuremburg This Diet was called to discuss the situation regarding Luther. The Pope wanted Luther be banned from the Holy Roman Empire but the diet would not agree for fear of civil war. They did agree to ban the publication of Lutheran books and sermons.
1524 Henry first doubts validity of marriage Henry stopped having sexual relations with Catherine.  He no longer found his wife desirable and was beginning to have serious doubts regarding the validity of his marriage. He believed that God was punishing him for marrying his brother’s wife by not giving him a son.
1524 Concern about succession Henry was very concerned about who should succeed him to the throne. The heir to the throne was his daughter, Mary. However, there had not been a Queen of England since Matilda in 1136 and there had been civil war as a result.
Early 1525 Anne Boleyn Henry became infatuated with Anne Boleyn.
Feb 1526 Anne Boleyn Henry VIII, aged 35 years, asked Anne Boleyn, aged 19 years, to become his mistress. He was amazed when she refused, saying that she would only surrender her virginity to the man she married.
Spring 1527 Henry contemplates divorce Henry was persuaded by a passage in Leviticus that the reason why he did not have a son was because he had married his brother’s wife. He decided that he had to divorce Catherine.
May 1527 Ecclesiastical Court An ecclesiastical court met several times to discuss the validity of Henry’s marriage. However, they were unable to reach any clear conclusion and referred the case to Rome.
22 June 1527 Separation Henry told Catherine that they must separate because they had been living in sin. He asked her to co-operate and to choose a house to retire to until the matter was resolved. Catherine was stunned and upset and made it quite plain that she would resist any divorce.
Jan 1528 Divorce Thomas Wolsey wrote to the Pope asking for the papal legate, Lorenzo Campeggio, be sent to England to pass judgement on the king’s marriage.
Aug 1528 Catherine Pressure was put on Catherine to retire to a convent. This would leave the King free to remarry.
29 Sept 1528 Campeggio arrives in England Cardinal Campeggio arrived at Dover. He had been told by the Pope to avoid making a decision for as long as possible.
22 Oct 1528 Henry and Campeggio Campeggio met Henry. He suggested that Henry attempt a reconciliation, but when Henry made it clear that he would settle for nothing less than an annulment, Campeggio agreed to try to persuade Catherine to enter a convent which would easily allow the marriage to be dissolved.
24 Oct 1528 Campeggio and Catherine Campeggio met Catherine. He advised her to enter a convent and retire gracefully. Catherine refused and made it plain that she intended to live and die a married woman. Catherine had the full support of the English people.
Nov 1528 Catherine Catherine was separated from Mary. She was told that while she would not obey the King’s wishes she would not be allowed to see her daughter.
Jan 1529 Catherine appeals to Rome Catherine lodged an appeal to Rome against the authority of the Legatine Court and the ability of Wolsey and Campeggio to try the case.
April 1529 Catherine chooses her representatives Catherine chose Archbishop Warham, Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Ely and St Asaph and her main supporter, John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester to represent her during the forthcoming trial.
31 May – 16 July 1529 Legatine Court Wolsey and Campeggio opened court at Blackfriars. Henry and Catherine appeared before the court on 18th June. Catherine challenged that authority of the Court and the qualification of the two legates to hear the cast. She stated her wish for the case to be heard in Rome, but this was denied. On 21st June Henry told the court of his fears that his lack of a male heir was due to his marrying his brother’s wife. Catherine, in reply made a very moving speech asserting the validity of her present marriage. she stated that she did not recognise the authority of their court and wanted the case referred to Rome. When permission was refused she left the court. Catherine did not attend the court hearing again. On 16th July the Pope decided that the divorce case should not be heard in England but should be heard in Rome.
Aug 1529 Henry summoned to Rome Henry received a summons from Rome to appear before the papal curia. He was furious. His anger with Rome was growing as was the awareness that the Pope may never grant him a divorce. He realised that he needed to find another solution.
Autumn 1529 Thomas Cranmer Thomas Cranmer was summoned to appear before the King. He told Henry that it was his opinion that the marriage should be tried by the Doctors of Divinity in the Universities for it was them that studied the Bible and were therefore better qualified to discuss its meaning. If the marriage were found to be invalid then all that would be necessary would be for the Archbishop of Canterbury to pronounce the King a free man. Henry was impressed and ordered Cranmer to set aside all other work and devote all his time to the divorce. Henry was also impressed with the idea that he, not the Pope, should be Head of the Church in England.
Nov 1529 Church Reform Acts were passed by Parliament to remedy abuses by the church. The fees to be charged for probate and mortuary were limited. the procedures for dealing with murderers and felons who sought sanctuary were made more severe. Lands leased by spiritual men were to be regulated. The number of offices to be held by any one man was reduced to four. the measures were not well received by the clergy.
1530 Thomas Cromwell Thomas Cromwell entered the King’s service. He decided that he would try to use a papal bull obtained by Wolsey in 1518 that allowed some reform of the monasteries. It was Cromwell’s aim to close the smaller monasteries and redirect their wealth to the Crown. There were in excess of 800 religious houses in England with 10,000 monks, nuns and friars.
Feb – April 1530 Universities decide on King’s marriage The King’s advisors began consulting the universities as to their opinions on the King’s marriage. At Cambridge University there was quite strong opposition to the divorce so they had to be careful which Doctors were picked to make the decision. The University declared that it was against divine law for a man to marry his brother’s widow.
At Oxford university opposition to the divorce was stronger and more care was needed in the selection of Doctors to make the decision. It was decided by 27 votes to 22 in Henry’s favour.
June 1530 Divorce A massive campaign was launched to declare that the relevant passage in Leviticus was subject to Canon law and libraries across Europe were searched for information that would help prove the King’s case. All those scholars deciding that Henry had a good case were sent a sum of money.
Nov 1530 Thomas Wolsey Wolsey was arrested. He was to be sent to the tower of London. However, he died on the journey to London.
 Dec 1530 Henry ordered to Rome Henry received a citation ordering him to appear in Rome to state his case. His anger with Rome was increasing.
5 Jan 1531 Pope orders Henry to separate The Pope, Clement VII, issued a brief that ordered Henry to separate from Anne. He also informed Henry that he was not free to re-marry and that if he did so without the permission of Rome then any children of the liaison would be considered illegitimate.
11 Feb 1531 Henry Head of Church Henry stood up in parliament and demanded that all members of the Church in England recognise him as Supreme Head and Sole Protector of the Church in England. Although there was much resistance, an Act was passed confirming the King’s status as Supreme Head of the Church of England. The King’s new title was proclaimed to the people.
late Oct 1531 Henry and Anne Boleyn Henry was living openly with Anne Boleyn at Greenwich.
Jan 1532 Divorce The Pope postponed any hearing of the king of England’s divorce for a further year.
21 March 1532 Act in Conditional Restraint of Annates This Bill limited payments to Rome to 5% of the net revenue of any church. Henry also went into the House of Commons, an unprecedented move, and asked that all those who supported the bill sit on one side of the House and those who opposed it sit on the other.
15 May 1532 Submission of the Clergy This took the form of a short document that was to be signed by all Bishops. The document made three concessions.
1. The clergy would make no new laws without the consent of the monarch.
2. The clergy would allow all existing laws to be reviewed by a commission of clergy and laymen appointed by the King.
3. Convocation would not meet without first obtaining royal permission.
16 May 1532 Thomas More – resignation The signing of the Submission of the clergy led to Thomas More, who was deeply opposed to the break with Rome, resigning his position as Chancellor on the grounds of ill health.
early Jan 1533 Anne Boleyn – Pregnant Anne Boleyn told Henry that she was pregnant. Henry now knew he had to marry Anne as soon as possible to ensure the child’s legitimacy. He decided that the marriage should take place as soon as possible, but should be kept secret until an act could be passed abolishing all appeals to Rome.
25 Jan 1533 Henry/Anne Boleyn – marriage Shortly before dawn, in the presence of four or five witnesses, sworn to secrecy, Henry and Anne were married in the King’s private chapel at Whitehall.
7 April 1533 Act in Restraint of Appeals The passing of this act forbade all appeals to foreign tribunals in all spiritual, revenue and testamentary cases. Spiritual and secular jurisdiction was to be the ultimate responsibility of the King and the Pope’s right of intervention was abolished.
12 April 1533 Thomas Cranmer – divorce Thomas Cranmer was formally authorised to pass judgement on the King’s marriage to Catherine. I
May 1533 Act in Restraint of Annates This Act, first introduced in 1532, was now brought into force.
13 May 1533 Thomas Cranmer – divorce Thomas Cranmer declared Henry’s marriage null and void on the grounds that it was contrary to divine law.
28 May 1533 Thomas Cranmer – Henry/Anne In a hearing at Lambeth Palace, Cranmer proclaimed that Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was legal.
1 June 1533 Coronation – Queen Consort Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey.
7 Sept 1533 Birth of Elizabeth I A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Henry was obviously disappointed that the baby was not a boy and blamed both God and Anne for denying him the heir he so desired.
mid Sept 1533 Mary Tudor Mary was told that she would no longer be referred to as Princess. Her household was to be disbanded and her servants were told to remove her badge from their liveries.
Dec 1533 England/Papacy An order was issued that stated that the Pope had no more authority in England than any other bishop. From now on he would be referred to as the Bishop of Rome. The break with Rome had happened so gradually that there was very little opposition to the move.
Dec 1533 Anne Boleyn Anne announced that she was pregnant for the second time.
early 1534 The Act in Absolute Restraint of Appeals This act put into effect the terms of the Act of 1532 and transferred all payments from the pope to the King. Henry was declared to be, next to Christ, the only Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England. It also laid down that all future abbots and bishops were to be chosen for election by the King.
early 1534 Act Against Peter’s Pence An Act was passed that forbade the payment of Peter’s Pence. The act also prohibited the selling of Papal dispensations in England. A clause was inconspicuously added giving the King the right to visit and reform all religious houses.
23 March 1534 Act of Succession This Act was introduced to exclude Mary from the succession and settle it instead on the children born from his marriage to Anne.
after 23 March 1534 Oath of Succession The King’s councillors were to take the oath first, after which they would supervise their inferior officers. the sheriffs would ensure that the Justices of the Peace took the oath and they in turn would ensure that all house-holders took the oath. Refusal to take the oath would be tantamount to treason.
Spring 1534 Act concerning Archbishop of Canterbury An Act was passed that put the Archbishop of Canterbury’s power of dispensation under the control of the King. The Archbishop was also to pay 2/3 of any profits made to the King. The Act also gave the King the power to visit the monasteries.
Spring 1534 Act of Parliament – Church An Act was passed that granted 1/10 of all clerical income to the Crown.
Spring/ Summer 1534 Church Henry wanted to be sure that his subjects knew that Papal supremacy had been replaced by royal supremacy. He ordered all parish priests to erase all references to the Pope from the prayer books. All preachers were told that their parishioners must be left in no doubt that the King, and only the King, was Head of the Church.
13 April 1534 Act of Succession John Fisher,  Thomas More John Fisher and Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Succession.
1 May 1534 Act of Succession The terms of the Act of Succession were proclaimed across the land. The people were warned that if they said or wrote anything against the King’s present marriage or his lawful heirs, they would be guilty of treason, punishable by death
June/July 1534 Anne Boleyn – Stillbirth Anne was delivered of a stillborn child. Henry who did not want to lose face a second time ordered the details to be kept secret.
Nov 1534 Act of Supremacy This act effectively declared England as a sovereign state with the King as Head of both the country and the Church. The act stated that the king was to become Supreme Head of the Church of England and would have the power to visit, redress, reform, correct or amend all errors, heresies and enormities which would previously have been dealt with by another spiritual authority. The King could define the faith in parliament. The King also had the power to appoint men of his choosing to the most important ecclesiastical posts. The passing of this act gave Henry more power than ever for within his own realm he was superior to the Pope and all taxes formerly paid to Rome would now be paid to the King.
Nov 1534 Treason Act This Act made it a treasonable offence to deny any of the King’s titles. It stated that malicious wish, will or desire to deprive the King or Queen of title or name of their royal estates was to be deemed treason. Slanderous publication of writing or words uttered describing the King as heretic, schismatic, tyrant, infidel or usurper would also be deemed treason. The main reason for this act was to make it a treasonable offence to deny that the King was Supreme Head of the Church. It also enabled Parliament to enforce the Act of Succession under penalty of death.
Jan 1535 Monasteries It was again suggested that since England had broken with the Pope and all the monasteries owed allegiance to the Pope, that they could be closed and their wealth seized by the Crown.
mid March 1535 Anne Boleyn – pregnant Anne Boleyn discovered that she was pregnant.
22 June 1535 John fisher John Fisher, aged 76 years, was beheaded on Tower hill at 10 am.
late June 1535 Anne Boleyn – Stillbirth Anne Boleyn was prematurely delivered of a stillborn child.
Nov 1535 Jane Seymour Jane Seymour had succeeded in attracting Henry and was being openly courted by him.
late Nov 1535 Anne Boleyn – pregnant Anne Boleyn was restored to favour when she found she was again pregnant. However, she knew that everything depended on the outcome of this pregnancy.
1536 Act Against the Pope’s Authority This Act removed the last traces of Papal power in England, including the Pope’s right to decide disputed points of Scripture. the passing of this Act, together with the Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533) and the Act of Supremacy (1534) made it unacceptable for monastic communities, who owed allegiance to parent institutions outside England, to remain.
7 Jan 1536 Catherine of Aragon – Death Catherine of Aragon died at 2 p.m. at Kimbolton Castle, Huntingdonshire, probably of cancer.
29 Jan 1536 Anne Boleyn – Stillbirth Anne Boleyn, four months into her pregnancy, was delivered of a stillborn son at Greenwich Palace. She blamed the miscarriage on her worry about Henry’s affair with Jane Seymour. Anne was worried that Henry would now divorce her.
11 March 1536 Monasteries A bill was presented to Parliament which would, when passed, authorise the closure of all monasteries with a revenue of less than 200 pounds per year. About 376 monasteries fell into this category.
24 April 1536 Anne Boleyn Henry signed a commission that authorised commissioners to enquire into any kind of treason committed by his wife.
2 May 1536 Anne Boleyn Anne received a summons to appear before the Privy Council. She was told that two men, Norris and Smeaton had admitted adultery with her and that she was now charged with that offence. She was taken down river to the Tower where she arrived by Traitor’s Gate.
10 May 1536 Anne Boleyn – charged Anne Boleyn was charged with having committed adultery with some half dozen men including  her brother George. She was charged with plotting her husband’s murder and with promising to marry one of her lovers when the King was dead.
15 May 1536 Anne Boleyn – trial Anne Boleyn was tried on a charge of committing adultery with a number of men. Although Anne protested her innocence brilliantly, she was found guilty of high treason and sentenced to die either by beheading or burning, whichever was the King’s choice. Anne received the sentence calmly and said that she was prepared to die but was sorry that innocent men had to die with her. Anne was escorted back to the Tower.
17 May 1536 Anne Boleyn was taken to watch the executions of her brother, George Boleyn,  and the other men accused of committing adultery with her.
19 may 1536 Anne Boleyn – execution At 9 am Anne Boleyn emerged from the Tower to Tower Green. Her head was severed with one stroke of the sword. As her head fell guns were fired to signal her end. She was buried in the Royal Chapel of St Peter Vincula within the Tower of London.
30 May 1536 Henry/Jane Seymour Henry married Jane Seymour at Whitehall Palace, London.
8 June 1536 Act of Suppression Cromwell persuaded Parliament to pass this Act which provided for the closure of all monasteries worth less than 200 pounds per annum and for their properties to be placed at the King’s disposal.
July 1536 Act of Succession This Act cancelled the two previous acts of Succession. It registered the invalidity of Henry’s first two marriages and gave Elizabeth the same status as Mary. Neither daughter was to be called princess but the King’s daughter, lady Mary and the King’s daughter, Lady Elizabeth. This act gave rights of succession to children of Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour.
July 1536 Church – The Ten Articles These were a series of injunctions introduced by Cromwell to improve the conduct of the clergy and the worship of the people. Sermons were to be preached at stated periods against the Rome. Relics were not to be exhibited for gain. A good home life was deemed preferable to pilgrimage. Children were to learn the Lord’s Prayer, The Holy Creed and The Ten Commandments in English among other things.
1537 Bishop’s Book/Institution of Christian man The Bishop’s book appeared. Often referred to as ‘The Institution of a Christian Man’, it laid down a stand on Christian Orthodoxy. The book makes note that the fifth commandment, Honour thy mother and thy father, meant that a subject must love the King as the father of his subjects and that all Christians must love the King more than they loved their natural father.
April 1539 Great Bible Introduced The Great Bible was the first English Bible to be authorised by the King to be used in Churches in England. Cromwell directed all churches to provide a copy of this Bible in a place where it could be read by all.
June 1539 The Six Articles This doctrine instituted by Henry set the out the faith of the new Anglican church. The church retained most practices and principles of the Catholic church. The only real difference was that the King not the Pope was now head of the Church.

 

The Henry VIII break with Rome was among the most significant event in the Tudor dynasty. Click here to learn more about the Tudors.