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Source Exercise 5: The Henrician Reformation 6

Breaking the link with Rome and assuming the headship of the Church himself was fraught with risks for Henry VIII, and he needed to use strong arguments to bolster his position against objections at home and abroad. Central to the case for the royal supremacy of the Church was the argument that it could be defended by biblical and historical precedent. Cuthbert Tunstall and John Stokesley therefore wrote this letter attacking the supremacy of the Pope and upholding that of the king, arguing that the authority which the kings of ancient Israel (Jehosophat, etc) exercised over their priests in the times of the Old Testament should be a model for Christian kings in the times since the New Testament. They further claim the Christian Roman Emperors of the 4th and 5th centuries as precedents for the exercise of this biblical authority over clergymen by Christian rulers.

The invocation of biblical authority and ‘imperial’ precedents was central to the establishment and defence of the Henrician royal supremacy. Henry came to see himself increasingly in the light of an Old Testament king, most obviously in his personal copy of the Psalms, which included a series of handsome illustrations showing King David (then believed to be the author of most of the Psalms) with the facial features of Henry himself.


5. What might be deduced from the evidence here about the recipient of the letter?

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