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King Henry VIII Establishes the Anglican Church


The Act of Supremacy

Introduction by Donna Morley: King Henry VIII of England (1491-1547) had defended the papacy against Luther in 1521. But, thirteen years later he was against the papacy and decided to abolish papal jurisdiction.

Henryís attitude towards the pope changed when he sought to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536). The Pope refused to annul his marriage, therefore Henry put forth the abolishment of papal jurisdiction. This Parliamentary Act (called The Act of Supremacy) gave Henry the legal sanction of clerical powers as Head of the Church of England.


Albeit the king's Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England, and so is recognized by the clergy of this realm in their convocations, yet nevertheless, for corroboration and confirmation thereof, and for increase of virtue in Christ's religion within this realm of England, and to repress and extirpate all errors, heresies, and other enormities and abuses heretofore used in the same, be it enacted, by authority of this present Parliament, that the king, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicans Ecclesia; and shall have and enjoy, annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm, as well the title and style thereof, as all honors, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity of the supreme head of the same Church belonging and appertaining; and that our said sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be, which by any manner of spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought or may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended, most to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquility of this realm; any usage, foreign land, foreign authority, prescription, or any other thing or things to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.



From: Milton Viorst, ed., The Great Documents of Western Civilization (New York; Barnes and Noble, 1965) pp. 97-98.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1956), Volume 11, 438-440. Introduction is Copyrighted © 2003 by Donna Morley