Thomas Cromwell was the successor to More after More failed to back Henry’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and was executed. Whilst Henry had remained Catholic, but no longer Papist, Cromwell was protestant. At this time it was still dangerous in England to be Protestant, and so Cromwell had to introduce legislation to the effect of legalising his own beliefs. To do this he would need to be very subtle to avoid tipping the balance towards active rebellion. He went a little too far in suggesting the Ten Articles, which illegalised Catholic beliefs and began the Pilgrimage of Grace, which for it’s time, was the largest Protest Rally ever seen. (With the possible exception of the Poll Tax protests in the thirteenth century).
Cromwell needed to convince Henry that the Catholic Church needed changing. The best way to do this was to “investigate” the monastic orders and “discover” that they are corrupt. This would allow the process of dissolution to start, thus removing much of Cromwell’s opposition. There would of course also be financial gains that would serve to compensate Henry for the possible political hits he might take.
Cromwell insisted to the King, and the King insisted to his people that the dissolution of the monasteries was simply removing some of the less palatable organisations within the Church. To back this up they only dissolved the smaller monasteries initially, sending the monks to the larger institutions. They then claimed that the monks had corrupted the larger institutions and dissolved them. This lead to the King gaining enough money to be able to fight off his adversaries. There were repercussions however, the monasteries were essentially the welfare state and educational system. Some money had to go on setting up more grammar schools and medical centres.
Cromwell decided to ask the King to enact an act which would illegalise many Catholic ideas, such as mandatory belief in transubstantiation. This was a little cocky and Cromwell paid for it. The Pilgrimage of Grace took place, and was only quashed by bowing to the rebel’s wishes. Of course the King and Cromwell went back on their promises and executed the leaders, but there was significant damage done.
Cromwell made one last grab for Protestantism by trying to marry Henry to Anne of Cleves. Cleves was a small principality on the French/Germanic border and was in fact a Protestant state. Unfortunately Henry was only interested in Marrying for love and children and did not find Anne attractive, so much so that he could not perform in bed. Henry was furious at Cromwell when it almost transpired that he could not divorce Anne and when the Marriage finally fell apart, Cromwell was in an unrecoverable position. In true Henrican style he was executed, on charges of treason and heresy.
Cromwell instigated the most protestant period of Henry’s reign, but ultimately displeased the ambiguous Henry and was brought down. His clever manipulation of the people was impressive until he decided to be blatant about his motives. As is so often the case in politics, the leaders and people are willing to turn a blind eye, until you shout in their ear as well.
After the fall of Cromwell Henry reverted several of Cromwell’s acts. Henry at heart was a Catholic, just not a papist. This meant that in the absence of Cromwell’s manipulations he could run the country as he wanted to rather than how his advisor wanted it. He did, however continue to educate his successor and son, Edward in Protestantism, which lead the country into true reform for the six years of Edward’s reign.
Cromwell had written the ten articles, these were very unpopular and also protestant. It was worthwhile Henry revoking them. Henry wrote the Six Articles, which basically revoked almost all of the acts, put forward by the former Protestant advisor. Henry had decided that public opinion would be with him whatever he did, and this was mostly so, at this time Henry was not an unpopular Monarch and so him taking a stand be eliminating much of the work of the disgraced Cromwell.
Henry married two more women, both Catholic, although his last wife very nearly confessed to having Protestant sympathies. However she (Katherine Parr), declared that her views were simply because she was a weak woman, and so were as “flawed as her sex.” This was good enough for Henry and he did not continue with the inquisition he almost formed against her. This shows that he could be dangerously anti-Protestant, and also seems to conclude that it was simply Cromwell’s influence that caused him to move against Catholic principles. Had Henry not educated his son and second daughter in Protestant ways, England would have remained a Catholic nation but removed from the jurisdiction of the Pope.