KS3 > The Reformation > For Reference > Glossary

Act of Succession (1534) – An Act passed by the Reformation Parliament that made Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth next in line to the throne, instead of Henry’s older daughter (with Catherine of Aragon), Mary. Anyone who disagreed, such as Thomas More, could be accused of treason. Later, this act was repealed and Henry VIII named his successors (in order) as Edward, Mary and Elizabeth.

Act of Supremacy - The first Act of Supremacy in 1534 allowed Henry VIII to take control of the church by stating that the monarch had always been the ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church of England. This was later repealed by Mary I. In 1559, Elizabeth’s First Parliament passed another Act of Supremacy which made Elizabeth the ‘Supreme Governor’ rather than the ‘Supreme Head’ of the English church. The Pope, once again, had no say over the Church of England.

Act of Uniformity - The first Act of Uniformity was passed by Edward’s First Parliament in 1549, which meant that all churches had to use the Protestant Book of Common Prayer and hold services in English, not Latin. This was repealed by Mary I. Later, Elizabeth I passed a second Act of Uniformity, which again stated that all churches had to follow services contained in a new Book of Common Prayer, based largely on Edward VI’s version.

Anne of Cleves (1515-1557) – A German Princess and Henry VIII’s fourth wife. The marriage was arranged in 1540 by Thomas Cromwell in the hope of securing an alliance with the Protestant German states. Henry divorced Anne after just six months, because he did not find her as attractive as her portrait suggested she was. The affair led to Cromwell’s execution for treason. Anne continued to live in England in some comfort, but she was increasingly isolated.

Canterbury Cathedral
(via Melinda Kolk, pics4learning.com)

Archbishop of Canterbury – the most important Bishop in the Church of England.

Aske, Robert (1500-1537) – a younger son in a Yorkshire gentry family and lawyer. In 1536 he was captured by rebels. Converted to their cause, he led the Pilgrimage of Grace and was responsible for the largely religious nature of its demands. After Henry VIII agreed to a truce he was invited to spend Christmas with the King, but he was executed the next year for his part in the rebellion.

Babington Plot – a Catholic plot in 1586 to assassinate Elizabeth I and put Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. Mary was executed for her involvement.

Boleyn, Anne (1501-1536) – Henry VIII’s 2nd wife, mother of Elizabeth I. Henry declared himself Supreme Head of the English church in order to marry her in 1533. However, she failed to produce the male heir Henry wanted and was executed for treason in 1536. She was replaced as Queen by Jane Seymour, the mother of Edward VI.

Book of Common Prayer – The book containing the structure and words for religious services in the Church of England. Versions were issued in 1549, 1552 and 1559. The services were in English and it became law for all churches to use them. The Church of England still has a version today.

Catholics (sometimes referred to in the sixteenth and seventeeth century as Papists) – Christians who believed that the Pope was the true head of the church and only he could decide on religious matters. The Bible and services were in Latin and the church used images and stores to help people understand religion. For more, see Protestants and Catholics.

Catherine of Aragon – Henry VIII’s first wife. A Spanish Princess, she was first married to Henry’s brother, Arthur, before he died in 1502. Catherine was the mother of Mary I but none of her other children survived childhood. Henry’s wish to divorce her to marry Anne Boleyn led to him becoming the Supreme Head of the English church.

Clergy – Leaders of the church, such as priests, vicars or bishops. The clergy are allowed to perform certain church services and ceremonies, depending on their status.

Cranmer, Thomas (Archbishop of Canterbury) (1449-1586)Protestant churchman who was promoted to the leading position in the English church during Henry VIII’s reign. It was Cranmer who declared Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn legitimate. He wrote the Edwardian Prayer books. He was burnt at the stake for heresy during Mary’s reign.

Dissolution of the monasteries – term for the period between 1536 and 1540 when 800 of the Catholic religious houses (monasteries, convents, priories, friaries etc) were closed down. Henry VIII and his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, claimed this was because they were corrupt and loyal to the Catholic church. However, many believed that the King was more interested in their vast wealth. The monks and nuns living in them were removed (some received pensions) and the lands were given away or sold off. This was a very controversial process as the monasteries were often centres of learning and provided the only schools, hospitals and poor relief for ordinary people. Many of the MPs and gentry were either given or bought these lands, which made them nervous about a return to the Catholic church (and the possibility of having to give the lands back).

Hailes Abbey, 
Gloucestershire © Matt Northam


Elizabethan religious settlement – the collective term for the religious measures passed by the 1559 parliament. Elizabeth desired a compromise on religion, and tried to accommodate both Catholic and Protestant beliefs. She was made Supreme Governor of the church of England, rather than the Supreme Head. The church was moderately Protestant and re-introduced the Book of Common Prayer.

English Bible – Bibles in English were forbidden before the reign of Henry VIII. Protestants believed that Bibles should be printed in the language of ordinary people to give everyone the chance to read them. A version by William Tyndale was repressed by Henry VIII, however later in his reign an official version was issued to every parish church. Catholics and religious conservatives opposed the Bible in English. They were concerned that if everyone could read the Bible they would question the teachings of the church.

Excommunication – the exclusion of an offender from participation in the life of the Church and religious services. When used against Elizabeth, it encouraged her Catholic subjects to rebel against her.

Gentry – a term for the class of important local families and government officials. Members of the gentry were often rich and owned lands, but they were not as powerful as the aristocracy. Many were MPs.

Grey, Lady Jane (1536/37-1554) – The granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Mary, a devout Protestant and scholarly young woman. After Edward VI died in 1553 she became Queen for nine days (10-19 July). Edward and his Lord Protector, the Duke of Northumberland, wanted to prevent the Catholic Mary from inheriting the throne. She was married to Northumberland’s son, Guilford Dudley. She did not have popular support and Mary became Queen. It is believed that Jane had little knowledge of these plans beforehand and did not want to be Queen. Jane was imprisoned by Mary but not executed until after Wyatt’s rebellion in 1554, when she became too much of a threat.

Hanged, drawn and quartered – a gruesome punishment for men convicted of high treason. The traitor was hanged until they were nearly dead, then cut down and disembowelled whilst still alive. Finally, their limbs and head were cut off. It was first used in the 13th century and the punishment for many Tudor traitors.

Heresy, heretic, heretical –holding beliefs that are at odds with the established church. The punishment for heresy in the Tudor period was being burnt at the stake.

Lollards – the Lollards were a religious reform movement dating back to the 14th century. One of their key beliefs was that the Bible should be available in English. Before the Reformation they were considered heretical.

Lord Chancellor – the most important official in English government. The Lord Chancellor’s most important duty was the Keeper of the Great Seal, the seal used to approve all state documents.

Lord Protector – the ruler of the country in the name of an underage monarch. Edward VI had two Lord Protectors during his reign.

The burning of Thomas Cranmer, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Martyr – a person killed because of their beliefs. There were many religious martyrs, both Catholic and Protestant, during the Reformation.

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587) – the great grand-daughter of Henry VII (making her cousin to Elizabeth I). She inherited the Scottish throne at six days old, but spent her childhood in France before returning to Scotland in 1561. She had an unhappy time in Scotland, and was suspected of murdering her husband. Mary fled to England after she was forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her son, James (the future James I of England). As the next in line to the English throne and a Catholic, Mary was a threat to Elizabeth, and there were many plots to place her on the English throne. She spent over eighteen years under house arrest in England before she was executed for plotting to kill Elizabeth in 1587.

Oath of Supremacy – Any person taking public or church office in England and Wales had to swear allegiance to the monarch as the Supreme Head or Supreme Governor of the Church of England. This was extremely difficult for committed Catholics to do, but failure to do so was treason.

Parr, Catherine (1512-1548) – Henry VIII’s sixth wife. A moderate Protestant, she was charged with raising Elizabeth after Henry’s death. She re-married but died in childbirth in 1547.

Philip II of Spain (1527-1598) – the Catholic King of Spain between 1554 and 1559 and joint King of England when he was married to Mary I. Under his rule, Spain reached the height of its influence and power, with a large Empire across the world. Philip sent the Spanish Armada to invade England in 1588.

Pilgrimage – A journey people took for religious reasons. In the medieval period this was often to visit places associated with particular saints, or which held important relics.

Pilgrimage of Grace – the largest and most significant rebellion against Tudor rule. In response to Henry VIII’s religious changes and rumours of more changes to the church, in 1536 a rising in Lincolnshire spread throughout the North (see also Knaresborough, Yorkshire). It primarily aimed to stop the dissolution of the monasteries, although there were other religious, political and economic causes. After initially accepting the rebels’ demands, Henry later executed over 200 of them.

Memorial to the Prayer Book Uprising, Stampford Courtenay
© Aeropigitca

Prayer Book Rebellion or ‘Western rebellion’ – A 1549 rising in Devon and Cornwall against Edward VI’s changes to the church and the new Prayer book. Over 4000 rebels were killed at Stampford Courtenay as the government restored order (see Bodmin, Cornwall)

Privy Council – the Council that advised the King or Queen and was responsible for administrative government tasks.

Protestants – Christians who did not agree that the Pope was head of the church. There were many different Protestant groups, but in general most believed that the Catholic church had become corrupt and that people should be able to read and hear Bible stories in their own language. (For more, see Protestants and Catholics.)

Puritans – a term used to mock very devout Protestants who emerged during Elizabeth I’s reign. They were unhappy with Elizabeth’s religious settlement and wanted further Protestant reforms of the church. They were known to have strict morals and often condemned their neighbours for sins such as blasphemy, drunkenness and for taking part in non-religious activities on Sundays.

Relic – items linked to a saint, or to Jesus, including sometimes parts of a saint's body. In the medieval period relics were often believed to have magical properties or be able to cure illness. People often took pilgrimages to visit them.

Saints – a person recognized for having an exceptional degree of holiness. In the Catholic Church, saints have special feast days and in medieval times were often prayed to for help.

Spanish Armadathe invading fleet sent by Philip II of Spain in 1588 to overthrow Elizabeth after she executed Mary, Queen of Scots. The fleet was composed of 151 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, and was due to meet Philip’s army in France before invading England. The Armada was prevented from doing this due to the English navy and the weather. It was then forced to travel around the British Isles to return back to Spain. It did so at a time of awful gales, so only half the ships returned to Spain with less than 10,000 men on board.

Drawing of a battle with the Spanish Armada
(by UnknownFrans Hogenberg, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. RP-P-OB-80.073)

Submission of the Clergy – A document issued by the English churchmen in 1532. It gave up its power to make laws without the permission of the King.

Supreme Head of the Church of England – the title taken by Henry VIII and Edward VI. It stated that the monarch, not the Pope, was the ruler of the Church of England.

Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the title taken by Elizabeth I as ruler of the Church of England. Elizabeth chose to be ‘Supreme Governor’ rather than ‘Supreme Head’ as a compromise after criticism that only Jesus could be the head of the church. The current Queen is still the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Welsh BibleProtestants believed that people should have the chance to read the Bible in their own language. In Tudor Wales, most people spoke Welsh rather than English, and so the change from a Latin to an English Bible meant little to ordinary people! In 1567 the Denbighshire scholar William Salesbury published a translation of the New Testament into Welsh. It was not until 1588 when a complete translation of the Bible, by Bishop William Morgan, was available.

Wolsey, Cardinal Thomas (1473-1530) – Wolsey was Henry VIII’s chief minister from 1514 until the 1520s. He controlled most of Henry’s government as well as being the most important member of the Catholic church in England. His failure to gain Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon led to his political downfall.

Wyatt’s rebellion/Sir Thomas Wyatt (1521-1554) – the son of the poet and ambassador (who was also called Thomas Wyatt), Wyatt was responsible for leading a rebellion against Mary I in Kent in 1554. He stated the rebellion was against Mary I’s proposed marriage to Philip of Spain, but historians believe there were also economic, political and religious motives. Over 20,000 men joined him in Kent, but after marching to London most rebels dispersed and Wyatt admitted defeat. He was executed for high treason.
















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