Reformation or Top Down Revolt?

Today I came over this interesting essay on the English Reformation by Dominic Selwood. Selwood is an English historian, focusing on the military and religious orders of the medieval crusades.

Edit: Link above is dead. See here.

In the essay he points out that the English Reformation was a top down affair without any significant support in the people, reminiscent of King Philip IV of France’s attack on the Templars, in order to confiscate their wealth. King Henry VIII and his companions, especially Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, used the Reformation to fill their own pockets.

What is also interesting is that they, in their propaganda, spread certain myths about medieval England. The England of the Middle Ages (or ‘dark ages,’ as Selwood points out is perhaps the ‘standard’ designation in England) was, so the myth goes, a dark place where the churches were barren and without life. Selwood, however, points out that “in 1533, the year of Henry’s break from Rome, traditional Catholicism was the religion of the vast majority of the country. And in most places it was absolutely thriving.”

It seems that much the same can be said about the Reformation in Norway, which wasn’t merely the king demanding the conversion of his subjects, it was a wholesale invasion.

It is interesting, though, that the established churches of both England and Norway, as well as Sweden, has since become much more Catholic and High Church. Go ahead and read this essay.


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