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   The Protestant Reformation in England

Henry VIII (born 1491, king from 1509 until his death in 1547), the most prominent early member of the House of Tudor, known popularly for his six wives, two of whom he had executed, introduced the Reformation into England and established the English monarch as head of the Church of England (the Anglican Church).

Left: Henry VIII, aged 18 at the beginning of his reign

The dissolution of the monasteries in 1538 greatly increased Henry’s power as king.

Jervaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire, one of the largest monasteries destroyed under Henry VIII’s reign

In 1563, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, made a Protestantism the official religion, i.e. it confirmed the Church of England as state religion.

Elizabeth I (1558-1603), daughter of Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII’s second wife) was a resolute defender of Protestantism as the state religion of England.


Elizabeth I portrayed after the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English in 1588

Protestantism and the ‘Four Nations’

Of the four nations of the British Isles, England became Protestant with the Anglican Church as the state religion. Both Scotland and Wales also followed. But in these regions, so-called non-conformist varieties of Protestantism prevailed: (i) Prebyterianism in Scotland (still under the administration of the Kirk of Scotland) and (ii) Methodism (and later Quakerism) in Wales. Ireland remained Catholic. This held for the native population and the first settlers from England, the Anglo-Normans. In the north of Ireland (Ulster) Scottish Presbyterians settled in the early 17th century, adding religious tension to the island of Ireland.