Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer? (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer

Q1: Read the introduction and study source 1. Explain why Henry VIII liked William Tyndale's Obedience of a Christian Man but was totally opposed to his English translation of the Bible. It will help you to read source 5.

A1: In the Obedience of a Christian Man William Tyndale argued that kings had authority over the church. As Anne Boleyn knew he would be pleased with this message she passed it to Henry VIII with "certain passages marked by her fingernail for his attention". Henry was impressed and commented that "by the help of the virtuous lady... his eyes were opened the see the truth" and pronounced it a book "for me and all kings to read".

The publication of the Tyndale Bible was considered by Henry VIII as a threat to his authority. As Jasper Ridley points out in source 5: "If the common people could understand the Bible and read it for themselves, or have it read aloud to them by those of their friends who could read, they would interpret the Bible for themselves, and appeal to the Word of God, as they interpreted it, against the orders of the Pope and the King."

Q2: What evidence is there that Anne Boleyn developed an interest in religious reform while in the French royal court?

A2: Eric William Ives (source 3) claims that while living in France "she had encountered early evangelical reform at the French royal court... Anne embraced this reformist spirit for herself". This view is supported by her chaplain, William Latymer (source 2), who says she was "very expert in the French tongue" and this allowed her to read the "French Bible and other French books of like effect".

Q3: Why did devout Catholics dislike Anne Boleyn?

A3: Alison Weir in source 6 says that "Anne Boleyn attracted the enmity of Catholics because she openly espoused the cause of church reform". This convinced the Catholics that Anne was a Protestant. They were especially upset when she replaced the devout Catholic, Catherine of Aragon, as Queen.

Q4: Give as many reasons as you can why Anne Boleyn gave her support to religious reformers.

A4: Retha M. Warnicke (source 4) points out that Anne Boleyn appears to be a supporter of religious reformers as she attempted "to aid individuals who were arrested for owning heretical works".

Eric William Ives (source 7) claims that she showed her support for religious reformers by promoting "Tyndale's illegal translation of the New Testament" and by helping religious reformers such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Shaxton and Matthew Parker.

David Loades agrees that her "patronage of reforming preachers and writers can easily be substantiated" by the sources available. However, he argues that this was only partly because of religious conviction. He suspects that Anne Boleyn used these reformers to help her to persuade Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry her.