The "divorce" (we call it a divorce but in 16th century terms it was an annulment) between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon  brought to England an unforeseen revolution in both government and religion. The two men who helped Henry engineer this divorce are the two men we now turn to in our story: Thomas Cranmer, the religious expert, and Thomas Cromwell, the political expert. These two men helped Henry get his divorce, but in the process they pushed Henry into two different kinds of revolutions, neither of which did Henry have any intention of starting. Thus both men were playing a dangerous game with Henry. He did not like being pushed into anything, as Anne Boleyn learned to her sorrow. Butt these four people, Henry and Anne and Cranmer and Cromwell changed England forever and brought their nation rushing toward modernity at a faster pace than all of the other European rivals.

The English Reformation is a totally different thing than the Reformation in Germany. The Lutheran movement was led by a radical Roman Catholic professor. The English Reformation was led by the King of England. The English Reformation is therefore highly political and entwined with royal policy and international politics. The hero of the Reformation in England is not the king, but rather the courageous and brilliant Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. You see his portrait at the right painted in 1546 by the artist Gerard Flicke and now in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The English Reformation.
The Reformation and the Divorce.
The Reformation and radical politics.
Thomas Cromwell (Don't mix him up with Oliver Cromwell of the 17th century.)



1. The finest history of the English Reformation ever written is still in print:

A. G. Dickens,

The English Reformation,

Penn State University Press; 2nd edition (July 1, 2005),

ISBN 0271028688

2. Also from A. G. Dickens is his excellent book on the role of Thomas Cromwell in the Reformation. Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation. This book is out of print but there are used copies available.

Institute Library Call Number: 942.052 Dic CROM

A. G. Dickens,

Thomas Cromwell and the English Reformation,

The English Universities Press; First Printing edition (1959),


3. In addition to the two fine books from A.G. Dickens, there is a spectacular giant of a book which provides us with a great biography of Thomas Cranmer.

Diarmaid MacCulloch,

Thomas Cranmer: A Life,

Yale University Press; Revised edition (February 28, 2017),

ISBN 0300226578