Monday 26 September 2022

The Queen's Great Matter?

The cause of the canonisation of Henry VI would appear to have remained open. And Elizabeth II will be added to the liturgical calendar of the Church of England in short order, the only Supreme Governor other than Charles I to have attained that distinction.

Thus will be canonised everything that had received Royal Assent between 1952 and 2022. Well, of course. Simply being the law of England, on anything, makes something the doctrine of the Church of England at the given time, "the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law", which in turns makes it, in terms of the Coronation Oath, "the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel."

The theological repugnance of this has always been the standard Protestant position. Martin Luther and William Tyndale supported Catherine of Aragon. Again, of course they did. The hardcore Protestant supporters of Lady Jane Grey wanted to write Elizabeth as well as Mary out of the Succession, since while Mary was a Catholic, it was Elizabeth who was a bastard.

From the 1660s at the latest, there have always been at least as many English Protestants outside the Church of England as in it. Successive Protestant consorts maintained private chapels, staffed from back home, rather than join the Church of England. Protestant state churches abroad have always been a bit wary of it. And so on. Whatever else may be said of it, it springs from a tainted source.

As everyone has always known. However badly Peter Hitchens may want the Ladybird Guides of his childhood to have been the last word, they simply are not. Nor were they then, when the facts of Henry VIII's first divorce were universally taught and known, as they always have been. The conduct of the Church of England in relation to the present King's present marriage and in relation to his second son's only marriage makes it perfectly clear that it knows exactly what it is and what it is for. Everyone always has.

For the benefit of a member of the Royal Family, there will be a same-sex Royal Wedding conducted by an Archbishop of Canterbury within 10 years, and no one will bat an eyelid. As the law of England, same-sex marriage is already the doctrine of the Church of England at the given time, "the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law", which in turns makes it, in terms of the Coronation Oath, "the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel."

As with, for example, the Abortion Act 1967, or the Divorce Reform Act 1969, or the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, or the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, any doubt about that will be dispelled definitively when the name of Elizabeth II was added to the Church of England's liturgical calendar.


  1. Henry VIII never had a divorce, nor did he ever support or sanction divorce. I stopped reading this post after that embarrassing error.

    What do they teach in comprehensive schools these days? I presume it was a Catholic school (although Henry also remained a convinced Catholic to his dying day).

    1. He obviously did not. By the way, before you try that one, that an annulment has been granted to anyone does entitle anyone else to an annulment. Never has, and never will.

      Although some of the facts in the third and fourth paragraphs might not have been mentioned for reasons of time, what I set out would always have been taught in any school. It is what Peter Hitchens would have been taught in school. He would have been taught the mnemonic, and everything. It is all that there is to teach. Name another school where your theories would ever have been taught. Any. Ever. Perhaps you should set one up?

  2. It is a fact that Henry VIII never had a divorce and nor did he seek one. The idea Henry was ever "divorced" is a common falsehood advanced by historically illiterate TV period dramas and Catholic propagandists. And Henry did indeed die a Catholic-that is also a historical fact. His beliefs never changed and he never renounced his Catholic faith.

    As you well know, annulments are an exception which mean the marriage technically did not take place, and the Church frequently granted them to Royals from King Lothair II of Lotharingia to Louis XII in 1498.

    Drop the propaganda, it doesn't work with people who know the history.

    1. If the Church granted those annulments, which She did, then She granted them. She did not grant one to him, so that is that.

      Luther and Tyndale agreed with the Pope that there were no grounds. The whole of the wider Protestant world, including never fewer than half of the Protestants in England, has always recognised that what was sought and pronounced here was a divorce, and that because some King had wanted to marry his pregnant whore. That is why even the other state churches of Northern Europe, including their members who have married British monarchs, have only ever been polite towards the Church of England, and never more than that, at least until they themselves went ultra-liberal in the last 50 or 60 years, if even then.

      You cannot be a Catholic except in full communion with the Pope. That is the meaning of the word. Henry VIII was out of that communion when he died. Case closed.

  3. I realise you are thoroughly discombobulated to learn Henry never divorced and died a Catholic but both are recognised facts, known by all historians and taught in any history undergrad degree.

    As Tudor historian Professor Susan Doran notes: "Although he tried to find a path between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism by following what he saw as a policy of balance, the king took up a conservative Catholic position on virtually all of the controversial points. On the Mass, The Act of Six Articles affirmed transubstantiation, elucidating that ‘after the consecration, there remaineth no substance of bread or wine, nor any other substance, but the substance of Christ, God and man’. Other clauses denied that communion in both kinds was necessary, upheld clerical celibacy, permitted private Masses (those celebrated by a priest alone) and deemed auricular confession necessary.

    When the king died in January 1547 England was therefore doctrinally Catholic despite the rejection of papal supremacy. As for Henry’s personal convictions, he remained a conventionally pious Catholic and continued his private devotions in Latin"

    There you have it. As for 'divorce', he never supported nor obtained a divorce but an annulment, in keeping with his Catholic faith.

    1. Submission to what you call "Papal supremacy", including as to whether or not to annul your marriage if you asked for it, is the precise meaning of "doctrinally Catholic". With a name like that, this Doran sounds like an embittered lapsed Catholic. This field is full of them.

      But in any case, belief in, for example, transubstantiation, does not make one a Catholic. Communion with the Pope, which does of course properly entail that and numerous other beliefs but which can in principle abide even without them, makes one a Catholic. Nothing else does. Henry VIII broke that communion, and he never returned to it. So that's that.

  4. Henry VIII's 1543 ‘Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man’, known as the ‘King’s Book’ (another formulary of faith) unambiguously rejected justification by faith alone and reaffirmed transubstantiation, two positions which contradicted Luther's teachings. When the king died in January 1547 England was therefore doctrinally Catholic despite the rejection of papal supremacy.

    As for Henry’s personal convictions, he remained conventionally pious. He continued his private devotions in Latin; in fact one of the last books he commissioned was a beautiful Latin psalter, written and illuminated by the French émigré Jean Mallard.

    1. It is absolutely impossible to be "doctrinally Catholic despite the rejection of Papal supremacy". It is a simple contradiction in terms.

      "Personal convictions" are not the point, and just as there is a long Catholic tradition of praying in the vernacular, including publicly such as Litanies and the Rosary, so there is a long Protestant tradition of praying in Latin, including publicly such as the translations of the Book of Common Prayer that are occasionally used at Oxbridge and certain public schools.

  5. She's a leading Tudor historian, not a lapsed anything. And she's merely reciting the well-known historical fact that Henry never renounced his Catholic faith or embraced the Protestantism of his advisers and died still believing in all the conventional Catholic doctrines on transubstantiation and everything else (and never even sought, much less obtained a divorce). He and thus England therefore remained Catholic.

    If believing in the Pope is the sole definition of a Catholic, there are an awful lot of Catholics around the world who didn't get the memo when it comes to the present one...

    The schism with the Pope was, as you know, political. Henry needed a male heir (as there was no precedent for a female on the throne at the time) and fearing Catherine was too old to provide one, he went to Rome to seek an annulment. Catherine's nephew Charles V's armies reigned supreme in Europe at the time and the Pope had no choice but to listen to his views and refuse. Henry's break with Rome was therefore more about refusing Spanish supremacy than Papal supremacy...

    1. I bet she is a lapsed Catholic, the world is run by them.

      Holding those doctrines does not, in itself, make one a Catholic. Being in full communion with the Pope does, and the judge of that is the Pope. Of course, one ought therefore to hold those doctrines. Or, having arrived at them, to submit to Papal Primacy, as one does entirely or not at all.

      Your final paragraph only makes my point; the Pope's reasons are his own, although your own argument is that he was acting, as he had to, for the good of the Church as a whole. As for that last sentence, it raises the question of whether you are entirely in earnest.