Once the Protestant Reformation began it was an instant hit among the masses. The recent invention of the printing press had allowed for the rapid dissemination of the thoughts and ideas of Martin Luther and others. Eventually the ideas of the reformation would reach England but they faced some of the same problems that many other Europeans faced in that the governments were still pro-Catholic. None more so in England whose King was Henry the VIII. Henry originally opposed the views of Martin Luther and was even awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X in 1521 for his book attacking Luther’s views on the Sacraments. England’s road to reformation under Henry was a long shot indeed because he was so opposed to the ideas of the reformers.
But there was about to be a major problem with Henry’s loyalty to the Catholic Church. He had reluctantly married his brother’s widow Catharine of Aragon as a young man and after several years it became obvious to Henry that she was not going to bear him a son to be the heir to his throne. Henry sought to find fault with his marriage in order for the Pope to have it annulled. Now such things were usually worked around for powerful men like Henry, but there were unique challenges in this instance and the Pope refused. Henry then appealed to an old legend in England that said that the first church was established by Joseph of Arimathea with Jesus himself in Glastonbury. He used this legend to say that the Church in England was not under the authority of Rome and the Pope but under the authority of the King of England.
Henry then began to have a series of laws passed that made the Church in England independent of Rome and dependent on the King. He was eventually declared the Supreme Head of the Church in England by act of Parliament in 1534 thus severing all ties with Rome. However, this did not immediately lead to Reformation. Henry still considered himself Catholic in doctrine and Luther himself had opposed his new marriage. But this was the foot in the door for change that would come later.