While other influences contributed to the break with Rome, succession to the throne was the primary constitutional factor in the transformation of the Church in England into the church of England.
For centuries the Church in England had been moving toward independence from Rome. by Luther’s time, most patriotic Englishmen had a sense of the distinctive character of the faith in their fatherland.
The schism in the church came over a royal problem — not over theological conflicts. Henry VIII, King of England, revolted against the pope because he passionately desired Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting of the court. Henry and Catherine of Aragon had borne no male children and Pope Clement VII would not issue them an annulment for fear of offending Catherine’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain Charles V. When Henry secretly married Anne, he had an English church court declare his marriage to Catherine null and void. He was subsequently excommunicated by the Pope. Henry countered by insisting that English clergy stop their dealings with the pope and followed this with the Act of Supremacy in 1534, declaring "The king’s majesty justly and rightly is and ought to be and shall be reputed the only supreme head on earth of the Church of England called Anglicana Ecclesia." Thus, the break with Rome was complete. England now had a national church with a king as its head, but since he was not a priest he could only appoint, but not consecrate bishops. Consequently he established the archbishop of Canterbury, the highest office in the Church of England, to serve the purposes of the priesthood.
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