In Henry VIII’s reign there were a fairly large number of threats to stability, and it was partially due to this quite unpredictable atmosphere that the reformation took place. Most threats were simply dangerous to the general order and piece of the realm, but the ones that I will deal with in the following essay were specifically dangerous to relious order or religious threats to the crown.
The first initial threat was from Europe, in Europe the reformation was already taking place, and, inspired by such figures as Martin Luther, rebellion was becoming rife. In France, for example, the King was having to deal with threats from a great many protestants who believed passionately in the new religion and openly denounced their “Most Catholic King.” The fear was that this rebellious fever might spread to England and possibly ignite a rebellion which would overthrow this, “defender of the faith.”
This sowed the first seeds of reformation in England, since, if the King could be seen to be moving, surely, though slowly, towards more Protestant views he would never be in any danger of being ousted. There was, of course, a fine political balance to tread which could lead to instability. Henry had to try to show devout Catholics that he was defending their faith, whilst subtly trying to show that he was indeed trying to phase in Protestantism. The idea was that the Catholics and the Protestants would believe that he was acting for them. Unfortunately unrest was caused by the fact that both groups could also believe that the King was acting against them.
Another threat came from the Church itself. Due to the law of “first fruits and tenths,” the church had right to the first crops and one tenth of the remainder, from any landowner. Due to several bad harvests this was causing unrest amongst the people, many wanted to see a protestant law in which the Church had no right to the money at all, and had tithes strictly reduced. This however did cause instability because the Church, and staunch Catholics would, naturally, be against it, since at this time the church controlled much of the politics of the kingdom, as well as the education and welfare state Henry did not want to upset them, otherwise he would find that his own advisers would turn against him, the Church would begin anti-Henry education and the health of the Kingdom would deteriorate.
At this time England was fairly poor, certainly not rich enough to fight fully-fledged wars. This meant that it was essential to keep good relations with the European superpower, and very Catholic, Spain. Since Spain was incredibly Catholic, it was wise to look as if you were also Catholic, and only risk a change over when you can afford a war (Henry dissolved the Monasteries in order to do this). Unfortunately, although the rest of Europe was very fractionated, with almost no independent states as we know them today, it was becoming Protestant, this meant that Henry had to be seen to be complying with them to avoid fighting against many other countries. This two-front peacekeeping (English doing the peacekeeping… sounds familiar), placed a great deal of strain on policy, since Henry had to pretend to the Spanish to be truly Catholic, and pretend to the rest of Europe that he was moving slowly but surely towards Protestantism.
There was one final destabilising factor. English protestants were deeply distrustful of the fact that Henry’s chief advisor was a cardinal, which was essentially an ambassador to the Catholic Head, the pope. Thomas Moore was of course, popular with the staunchly Catholic majority, but unfortunately there was a considerable minority who would be capable of forming a rebellion if Henry seemed to be taking too much advice from the Papal Ambassador.