Is Henry VIII actually spinning in his grave? No, I don’t think so!

Posted By on January 8, 2016

HenryVIII_418x500The Daily Mail’s (or Daily Fail as some call it) headline has got me on my soapbox and my high horse, and perhaps my high horse on top of my soapbox! I don’t like heights but this newspaper article has really got to me!

The Daily Mail’s headline is “Henry VIII will be spinning in his grave! Catholic service to be held at Hampton Court Palace for the first time in more than 450 years” and the story is that Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal is hosting a Catholic service on 9th February to celebrate 500 years of musical heritage.

Why would that have Henry VIII spinning in his grave?

Well, it wouldn’t, not in my opinion anyway.

The article goes on to say that Henry VIII’s secret marriage to Anne Boleyn in 1533 “led to the King replacing His Holyness [sic] as the head of the Church of England. From then on, only Protestant worship was permitted – ousting Roman Catholics.”



Please, Daily Mail, please get your reporters to research things properly before writing articles. Henry VIII may have broken with Rome but he was far from being a “Protestant” and the worship in Henry VIII’s royal chapels could certainly not be described as “Protestant” in the 1530s. Henry VIII would be more than happy with a Catholic service.

I could write a book on the Henrician Reformation but let me just state in brief where I’m coming from. It is Friday afternoon, so I don’t want to get all heavy…

Henry VIII was influenced by William Tyndale’s teachings regarding how “God has appointed the kings, princes, and other secular leaders as his representatives on earth” – which challenged the idea that the Pope had “temporal authority over king and emperor” but it is safe to say that Henry VIII died a Catholic. His Church of England was the Catholic Church with the King as its head, rather than the Pope, and Henry VIII saw new ideas and doctrines, which we now call “Protestant”, as heresy. It’s why people like Anne Askew were executed and his own wife, Catherine Parr, nearly fell from power because of her reformist leanings. Archbishop Cranmer and the evangelicals in Henry VIII’s council had to tread very carefully with the king. Henry did not tolerate those with what he saw as radical religious views.

There is a big difference between rejecting the Pope as head of the Church and being “Protestant”. Although there were religious reforms in his reign, Henry VIII was actually very conservative and the big changes came in the reign of his son, Edward VI. Historian John Guy says “Overall Henry wants Catholic doctrine BUT without a mediating clergy, and therefore although Catholic he is against cults of saints, intercessions to saints and therefore images and pilgrimages for the people at large” and he also says that the Henrician Reformation can be seen as “schizophrenic” with it sometimes being about “royal supremacy and essentially Catholic theology” and other times having “genuine Protestant elements”, but England never became Protestant in Henry VIII’s reign. Henry was a Catholic wanting reform and toying with some new ideas presented by those he trusted and respected, he was not a full-blown Protestant. The foundations of the English Reformation may have been laid (e.g. the introduction of the English Bible), but Henry’s faith was Catholic.

A Catholic service in the Chapel Royal would be far more recognisable to Henry VIII than a modern Protestant service and I think he’d be very happy with it.

Phew! Off my soapbox now!

What do you think?