Why Did Henry VIII Start the Church of England?


Quick Answer

England's King Henry VIII founded the Church of England because he wanted a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. The Catholic Church had refused the king's request for a divorce, so the English monarch took matters into his own hands to get what he wanted.

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Why Did Henry VIII Start the Church of England?
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Full Answer

King Henry VIII of England is perhaps best known for his marital exploits, which led to the creation of the Church of England. Henry VIII was married six times, beginning with his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Before marrying Henry, Catherine was married to Henry's brother Arthur, whose death made Henry the heir to their father's throne. Catherine was an important factor in England's alliance with Spain, and her stint as queen was political. The marriage resulted in the birth of one girl, Mary, and the king was disappointed that his first child was not a suitable male heir.

Catherine was older than him, and beautiful young women, including future second wife Anne Boleyn, were frequently in Henry's company. Henry sought a divorce from Catherine on the grounds that God was punishing him for marrying his brother's wife by refusing him a male heir. The Catholic Church, which had already issued a special order to grant King Henry the right to marry his deceased brother's wife, refused to grant the king his divorce, causing him to take matters into his own powerful hands, ordering Parliament to name him the head of the newly formed Church of England.

This move was a watershed moment in the history of the Protestant Reformation. Henry's subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn also resulted in the birth of a girl, Elizabeth, and that marriage ended not in divorce but with Anne's public beheading. However, King Henry VIII would use his self-generated divorce powers again to end his marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.

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