Religion

The English medieval office of kingship was a religious one. Monarchs and their subjects believed that they received divine power through the religious act of coronation. It was a part of the job of the king of any European power to protect the Christian faith. England had been a papal fief since the time of King John.

He had good relations with the papacy. Despite the genealogical link between Elizabeth of York and himself they were granted dispensation to marry, on the grounds that this union would unite the land.

Henry was a pious man. He did not claim to be a religious scholar like his son, but he lived a pious life being not touched by scandal once, unlike his son.

Henry did a lot to improve the position of many of the religious houses in England. He was the first English king in seventy years to do this. He was especially fond of the Franciscan order of monks. He also endowed a hospital (The Savoy) and founded the building of a very elaborate chapel in Westminster Cathedral.

In attempts to bring unification and a sense of justice he rationalised some ecclesiastical laws. For instance, he repealed the law that gave immunity to clerks from the secular courts. It was an unfair law as it meant that if a man could read and write, or in some cases recite a verse or spell some words, then he would not be tried in secular courts. This meant that men could be serial killers, and yet never be tried for their life if they could learn to read while in jail. On the other hand, the number of prosecutions for heresy increased.

(Meaning hostility towards certain practises of the Church)

This probably existed in all levels of society. But we must not forget that the church had an important cultural, economic and social role to play in the community as well as a spiritual and moral one.

Lollard prospered in a limited way among the artisans, traders and the gentry classes. They based their beliefs around communal study of the Bible. They could be very anti-papal. A Lollard in 1489 declared "the Pope is an old whore, sitting upon many waters, having a cup of poison in his hand."

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