A summary of the Reformation

Attempts to reform (change and improve) the Catholic Church and the development of Protestant Churches in Western Europe are known as the Reformation.

The Reformation began in 1517 when a German monk called Martin Luther protested about the Catholic Church. His followers became known as Protestants.

Many people and governments adopted the new Protestant ideas, while others remained faithful to the Catholic Church. This led to a split in the Church.

It will help you to understand the issue here if you also look at the guide about Henry VIII.

The Reformation in England

Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, Cromwell, Charles II, James II, William III.

In England, people must have become quite confused about what religion they were supposed to be following:

WhoReligionActions
Henry VIIICatholicSplit the English Church away from the Pope, but this was an argument about the heir to the throne and power and not a move towards Protestantism. Henry remained a Catholic to the end of his life.
Edward VIProtestantHe extended some of the changes Henry VIII had begun.
Mary ICatholicTried to restore the Catholic Church to what it had been like at the beginning of Henry VIII's reign.
Elizabeth IProtestantShe first tried to promote a 'middle way' in religion. She wanted to create an inclusive Protestant church that allowed her to be in authority whilst enabling former Catholics to feel that they could follow Protestant forms of worship. She later began to persecute Catholics and by the end of her reign England was a fully Protestant country.
James IProtestantHe was a Protestant but was tolerant towards the Catholics. However he introduced strict anti-Catholic laws after the Gunpowder Plot.
Charles IProtestantTried to introduce Arminian changes. Arminianism is a form of Protestantism that has a lot in common with Catholicism. Charles ended up fighting a civil war against Oliver Cromwell – who was a Puritan (a very strict Protestant who wanted to get rid of ritual in church services and lead a plain and simple life).
Charles II and James IICatholicThey were both Catholics and tried to relax the laws against Catholics.
William IIIProtestantHe was a Calvinist Protestant (a follower of the teachings of John Calvin, who believed that Christians should live life according to a strict moral code as found in the Bible) from Holland. He took England to war to stop the Catholic French King Louis XIV from increasing his power.