KS3 > The Reformation > Parliaments

This section contains nine articles on Tudor parliaments. For a shorter version of these articles, see 'The Reformation: Short Overview'

Parliament was very different in Tudor times than it is today. For a start, not everyone had the right to vote or sit in Parliament – you needed to own property to do so. Parliaments did not sit all the time but were only called when the monarch wanted them, and the King or Queen could refuse to accept the laws they passed (and quite often did). However, the monarch still needed Parliament to make the laws.

Palace of Westminster in the reign of Henry VIII,  Henry William Brewer © Palace of Westminster WOA 82

For many years, people believed that the pre-Reformation church in England was unpopular and corrupt. Historians thought that there were many people in England who welcomed the religious changes. There may have been opposition at first, but this, other than for the very committed, soon disappeared.

Now, many historians believe that the Reformation happened very differently. They argue that the medieval church in England had some problems, but was actually very popular. There were some Protestants in England in the early sixteenth century, but most people supported the church. Therefore the religious changes, particularly in the early years, were imposed on ordinary people from above. To do this, the Kings, Queens and their Privy Councils needed Parliament.

The Parliaments largely passed the laws that the King or Queen wanted them to, although there are a few occasions when MPs tried to oppose the monarch.

(from Foxe's book of Martyrs)
Three Protestant women martyred, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs

Now, we can only imagine how bewildering these changes must have seemed to ordinary people. The church changed from Catholic to Protestant and back again several times. There were serious consequences to opposing the laws made by Parliament, including punishment and sometimes death. So often people simply accepted the outward changes. Of course, we cannot tell what people really believed! It took a long time, but by the later years of Elizabeth I’s reign, England and Wales had become a mostly Protestant country.

Here are articles on nine Tudor Parliaments. These Parliaments passed many of the major religious laws, including:

- Henry VIII’s decision to abolish the power of the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic church, in England and instead make himself Supreme Head of the English church (the Reformation Parliament)

- Edward VI’s laws that made the Protestant Book of Common Prayer the service book for all English churches (1547 Parliament)

- Mary I’s laws that made the English church Roman Catholic again and her laws on heresy (1554 Parliament)

- The Elizabethan religious settlement, which defined the Church of England. This was largely a compromise, the new church was moderately Protestant (1559 Parliament)




The History of Parliament runs annual competitions in the spring and summer for 11-14 and 16-18 year olds. For information this year’s competition, and how you can enter,
please click here.