The Impact of Religion on the City (and Country)
Understanding these facts help to explain many of the religious churches, the beheading of Henry VIII’s wives and the imprisonment and execution in the Tower of London and other public London places. Statues and plaques point out the perils of being a Catholic or a Protestant.
In the 1st Century AD, Britain had its own set of religious icons: Pagan gods of the earth and Roman gods of the sky. By the 4th century, Christianity was still a minor faith. It was the Viking invasion of 871 AD that destroyed monasteries and killed priests. Alfred, the Christian King of Wessex won the battle over the Vikings and build more religious centres. In 1066, William the Conqueror extended the Roman Catholic religion by building churches and monasteries. In the Medieval times that followed, Christianity was embedded in the minds and souls of ordinary people. Pilgrimages to shrines in England and Europe became a way of devotion.
The Reformation began in Europe (early 1500s) and made its way to England. Martin Luther and others attacked the Roman Catholic Church for some of its abuses.
A Civil War, Henry VIII and the Matter of His Divorce
Henry VIII was the son of Henry VII who united England after a bloody civil war. It was important for VIII to have a son and have a stable throne.
His first wife, Catherine of Aragon, gave him a daughter and no sons were forthcoming. Catherine’s uncle was the Pope during Henry’s reign. He did not take kindly to having his niece divorced. He refused. Kings/Queens and royalty usually had no problem granting divorces. Henry VIII’s own sister was divorced from a Scottish king.
Severing Ties with the Roman Church
Henry VIII divorced Catherine, married Anne Boleyn and made himself the Head of the newly formed Church of England.
The present Queen Elizabeth II, like every monarch since Henry VIII is head of the Church of England.
The Tower: Catholics and Protestants Imprisoned.
It should be understood that being a Catholic or a Protestant did not result in imprisonment or execution.
It was treason and death for Catholics or Protestants who rebelled or tried to overthrow the monarchs.
When Henry VIII died, his daughter Mary, (Catherine of Aragon’s child) tried to convert England back to Roman Catholicism. Many Protestants were imprisoned, killed or martyred for their faith.
Elizabeth 1 –
When Queen Mary died, Queen Elizabeth I, (a Protestant) ascended the throne. She had witnessed the religious upheaval and stated that she did not want to “make a window into people’s souls.” However, she put to death for treason, those Catholics who plotted against her throne. She did not spare her kin and her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded.
Today in 2017, visitors to London can see great architectural churches: Westminster Abbey (where monarchs are crowned),
In St. Paul’s Cathedral, many Princes/Princesses and royalty are married. The Roman Catholic major church is Westminster Cathedral, where the Cardinal is the head prelate resides. Along with these are religious places of worship for the majority of world religions.
While most of the royal family are Protestants, the Duke of Norfolk is a Roman Catholic member of the royal family. This is a tradition that Dukes and Duchess of Norfolk are Roman Catholic.