On This Day: King excommunicated
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
December 17th, 1538: Henry VIII is excommunicated by Pope Paul III.
Henry brought religious upheaval to England. When he became king, most people followed the teachings of the Catholic Church headed by the Pope in Rome. Like all kings at the time, Henry wanted a male heir, but his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, had not borne a surviving son. After 24 years of marriage Henry was determined to divorce her and take a new wife. The Roman Catholic Church frustrated Henry’s desire and refused to grant the divorce.
On November 3rd, 1534 Parliament passed the First Act of Supremacy confirming Henry as the head of the Church of England. This one act forced a break with the Catholic Church, allowed Henry to divorce Catherine, and led to the formation of the Protestant Church of England.
The Protestant movement was known as the Reformation. The land and riches of the Catholic Church, particularly the monasteries, became Henry's property and he sold off most of this land to dukes, barons and other noblemen. The Dissolution of the Monasteries broke the centuries long control of their powerful religious landowners.