The King’s Reformation

Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

G.W. Bernard

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November 10, 2005
672 pages, 7 1/2 x 9 1/4
12 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300109085
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Henry VIII’s reformation remains among the most crucial yet misunderstood events in English history. In this substantial new account G. W. Bernard presents the king as neither confused nor a pawn in the hands of manipulative factions. Henry, a monarch who ruled as well as reigned, is revealed instead as the determining mover of religious policy throughout this momentous period.

In Henry’s campaign to secure a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, which led him to break with Rome, his strategy, as Bernard shows, was more consistent and more radical than historians have allowed. Henry refused to introduce Lutheranism, but rather harnessed the rhetoric of the continental reformation in support of his royal supremacy. Convinced that the church needed urgent reform, in particular the purging of superstition and idolatry, Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries and the dismantling of the shrines were much more than a venal attempt to raise money. The king sought a middle way between Rome and Zurich, between Catholicism and its associated superstitions on one hand and the subversive radicalism of the reformers on the other. With a ruthlessness that verged on tyranny, Henry VIII determined the pace of change in the most important twenty years of England’s religious development.

G.W. Bernard is professor of early modern history at the University of Southampton. His books include Power and Politics in Tudor England.

“Big, erudite, trenchant and readable, this is a masterpiece drawing on decades of research and reflection, and a work of international scholarly importance.”—Ralph Houlbrooke, University of Reading

"[A] bold and strikingly original book."---Andrew Pettegree, History Today

"... the book is a superb achievement. It advances an extraordinarily skilled understanding of the intricate relationship of religious belief, religious life, political necessity and political opposition. It will infuriate a great many people, but inspire a great many more."---Lucy Wooding, Literary Review

"Professor Bernard writes in elegant trenchant English.  He orders a mass of material with lucidity... This massive history, the fruit of a lifetime of research and reflection, is a work of exceptional interest and importance."---The Spectator

"Professor Bernard's readable and interesting book, a monument to technical scholarship and sheer erudition is in many ways a first-class production, full of new wisdom and original slants on old chestnuts."---The Sunday Herald

"This is a brave book, tilting at many windmills, challenging many received ideas. It will certainly stimulate discussion... Everyone interested in the Tudor Reformation will therefore want to read this book."---Eamon Duffy, The Tablet

"The King's Reformation is unquestionably a work of substance...Bernard is to be congratulated on his achievement, and it is to be hoped that The King's Reformation will be a stimulus to further work on this most engrossing of subjects." - Colin Armstrong, BBC History Magazine

“[A] model of meticulous research…” - Alastair Hamilton, Times Literary Supplement

“If Bernard fails to turn consensus around…it will not bother him too much. Throughout this massively learned book, as in much of his other writing, he is the only one in step. … Bernard strikes out on his own, and sees Henry as the guiding light through all this encircling gloom.” - Patrick Collinson, London Review of Books

“…long and erudite…Bernard overturns much established orthodoxy in the story of the Henrician religion, and challenges many current arguments. . . . He provides an intriguing and often original insight into Henry VIII’s thought processes, and effectively demonstrates the extent to which he kept his contemporaries guessing. . . . This book will surely become a must-read for anyone with an interest in the English Reformation.”—Emma Watson, Church Times

"The King's Reformation should prove to be the most bold and controversial book about the history of Tudor England to appear in many years."—Ronald H. Fritze, History

"Dr Bernard fears no foe and has few favourites. In his own way, he beheads academics with as much determination as Henry beheded his courties...There is no doubt that Dr Bernard's book will stir up a hornet's nest of controversy in the scholarly world, which is quite an achievement in an area as well-trodden as this one...His conclusions...may well set the agenda for years to come. Henry VIII has not been laid to rest yet."---Gerald Bray, The Churchman

"a blockbuster of a book...meticulous scholarship drawing on a wide range of original sources, and focusing on the role of Henry VIII himself as the main progenitor of the English Reformation."---New Directions

"[A] well-told and persuasively revisionist history."—First Things

"A rich and rewarding book. . . . Meticulously researched, massively detailed, and hugely learned. It is much more than a scholarly treatise, and it can be read with enjoyment."—Christopher Haigh, English Historical Review

"Essential reading for anyone interested in the English Reformation and Tudor politics."—Norman Jones, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"A book immensely full of detail: detail that, properly excavated, should markedly ease the work of subsequent students of the subject."—Richard W. Pfaff, The Sixteenth Century Journal

"Awesomely learned and immensely detailed, an analytical narrative built on a massive foundation of primary sources. . . . Unflaggingly interesting and thought-provoking."—Richard Rex, Journal of Modern History
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