Guest Post and Giveaway!

I am delighted to welcome Sandra Byrd back to On the Tudor Trail. Sandra has written two fantastic books set in Tudor England – To Die For: A novel of Anne Boleyn and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr. The third book in the Ladies in Waiting series, Roses Have Thorns: A novel of Elizabeth I, is currently available for pre-order here and will be released in April, 2013.

Read my reviews of both of Sandra’s books here.

Kateryn Parr Giveaway

Sandra has written a fascinating and informative guest post about the royal road to the Church of England and she has also very generously donated a Kateryn Parr inspired pearl cross necklace and pearl fluted earrings to giveaway to one lucky commenter!

Conditions of Entry

For your chance to win this exquisite set of necklace and matching earrings you must be subscribed to On the Tudor Trail’s newsletter (if you are not already, sign up on our homepage).

Then simply leave a comment after Sandra’s guest post between now and November 11, 2012.

Don’t forget to leave your name and a contact email.

Good luck!

Royal Road to the Church of England

Sandra Byrd

A History of the Church of England by Moorman

“It’s notoriously difficult to pour a gallon of water into a pint pot,” writes JRH Moorman in the preface to his excellent book, A History of the Church of England.  For me, the task was to take what Moorman’s poured into the pint pot and then spill that into a teaspoon.  It’s a challenge worth picking up, though one must overlook the summarization of hundreds of years and many complex issues.  To understand Tudor England one must understand the religious and rulership issues which shaped and informed Henry VIII’s decision and authority to break with the Catholic Church and establish the Church of England and his nation’s autonomy.

Origen writes of Britain as a place where Christians can be found as early as 240AD and St. Patrick was famous for missionizing England from Ireland, but pick up the story in 1066 as the Normans invade England. There was only one Christian church during this era, seated in Rome, and headed by the Pope.

English coin of William the Conqueror

Moorman tells us that once he was king, William the Conqueror “…would not allow the pope to interfere with what he regarded as the king’s lawful business…He (William) consequently made it clear from the start that he regarded himself as the head of the Church in England.  He nominated the bishops and abbots and invested them with ring and staff.  He summoned Church Councils.  He expected his churchmen, just as much as his laymen, to pay respect to his wishes, and he refused to allow any foreign interference with his sovereignty.”  This is an important trail to follow one hundred years or so later to King Henry II.

The country had just undergone a punishing civil war whereby Henry’s mother, Matilda had tried to claim the throne of her father, Henry I, but Stephen of Blois, her cousin and also a grandchild of William I, had claimed it instead. Many noblemen, having come from France where the Agnetic Succession laws forbid a woman from inheriting a throne, believed that a woman should not reign and blamed the unrest partially on a female claimant. The nation was grateful for relative peace and calm and eager for stability after Stephen’s death. Moorman reminds us that Henry II was “a wise and strong ruler who was determined to restore law and order.”  However, there was a glitch.

Henry believed that there must be one standard of law for all, rich or poor, lowborn or high, churchman or not and sought to set aside what was known as “Benefit of Clergy.” This benefit allowed any member of the clergy to be punished by church courts, where he might possibly receive no punishment at all for crimes including murder and rape.  Sometimes the only test of clergy was to have one’s hair shaved into a tonsure, which Moorman says many nonclergy members did to escape civil justice.

Henry wanted justice to be fully invested in the civil law of the land, not of the church: all Englishmen, regardless of station or position, should be ruled by English law.  The church, including Henry’s very good friend Archbishop Thomas Becket, disagreed, and stood in the way of this reform.  Some years later Henry II moaned something along the (apocryphal) lines of, “Can no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” Four men took him seriously and murdered Becket in the Cathedral at Canterbury.  The world was shocked and Henry II never regained his moral authority.  There was some merit to his concerns, though.  Is the King truly the ruler over all England and Englishmen? Moorman tells us, ” For over three hundred years, the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury stood as a witness to the triumph of Church over State. It was no wonder, therefore, that in 1538 Henry VIII took steps to have it destroyed and the martyr’s bones scattered.”

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger c. 1536

Although there was some movement toward church reform via Wycliffe and his followers, the Lollards, for the most part the ruling classes of England stayed true to the Catholic Church right up till Henry VIII in the sixteenth century. Henry, a handsome, jovial, and learned king was used to getting his own way. He was also used to having lots of money – his father had been a notorious pinchpenny and the kingdom he inherited was flush. Henry was a staunch supporter of Catholicism in the face of calls for church reform from people such as Martin Luther. In fact, the Pope awarded Henry the title, “Defender of the Faith,” a title which the crowned head of England still claims, through Anglicanism. However much Henry got of what he wanted, he did not have the one thing he most wanted: a legitimate son.

The question has long been posed: Would Henry have set aside Katherine of Aragon and broken with the Catholic Church if he had a lawful son? The simple fact is, he didn’t have one.  He felt he needed one – remember the civil war that had rent England during the turmoil between Matilda and Stephen? The Wars of the Roses had just been “solved” and Henry meant to keep the peace … and the Tudor line … going.  When the Pope refused to allow him to dissolve his marriage to Queen Katherine, Henry’s advisors came up with a number of assists.  They reminded him of the passage in Leviticus which claimed a man should not lie with his brother’s wife (Henry had married his brother’s widow).  They also helped him reconsider who was final authority in England: Pope or King?

Parliament eventually passed several acts separating England from Rome, including the Act in Restraint of Appeals, which asserts that, “this realm of England is an empire and the king is supreme head of both Church and State.”  Doing so provided Henry the legal and religious right to govern his own people without their ability to seek recourse from a foreign entity (the Church in Rome), dissolve his marriage to Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn, and have sovereignty over the properties in England, including the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  He got the money (from the church properties he’d claimed), the girl, and was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.  One thing he didn’t get. A son – at least not right away.  Instead, an “s” was hastily added to the announcement of the arrival of a Princess, not a Prince.

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I c. 1600-1602

However, those parliamentary acts allowed Queen Elizabeth I, the longest reigning and most important of Henry’s children, to have unshakeable civil legitimacy, if not in the eyes of the Catholic Church.  It would be Elizabeth who would firmly establish the Church of England, an excellent queen to be sure, and perhaps the world’s first female head of a Church.  A Tudor.

Visit Sandra’s official website here.

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  1. Am subscriber

    Sandra`s books are so nteresting, you can`t put them down. Enjoyed the review, would love to read more!! Thx 4 the chance. Keep the stories coming Sandra.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I had no idea that William the Conqueror was the trailblazer for defiance of Rome by the English Kings. Thank you, because of your article I have learnt something new today and will be reading up on this subject further.

  3. Wonderful article! I came over after seeing this on a friend’s FB post and I’ve subscribed not just because of the contest but because things like this will be a joy to greet me in my inbox! Now to rush and pop this url to my dad!

  4. Thank you On the Tudor Trail for hosting Sandra Byrd.
    Sandra, I continue to learn from you.
    Outstanding history lesson, something to share!
    No WONDER your books are full of fabulous tidbits.

  5. Fantastic prize! Fascinating read!

  6. I’m subscribed, really enjoyed the review! Thank you for the chance to win x

  7. Christina says:

    It is interesting that England has had a history of defiance against the Catholic Church since William the Conqueror. I always thought that maybe it was a distance thing. That perhaps England was too far and not connected to the mainland for the Church to have a good grip on it.

  8. Thank you, everyone! Elizabeth and Christina, I would definitely recommend Moorman’s book from which I drew heavily for this piece. Really readable and yet very scholarly, too.

  9. What a very interesting and educating post. And a very generous prize. Good luck everyone

  10. Wonderful and informative article. Good luck to all of us who entered the contest. I can’t wait to start getting my newsletter.

  11. Patricia Clarke says:

    Very interesting, I’m an Australian who really loves English history. Good Luck everyone.

  12. Wonderful article! Definitely a very beautiful set.

  13. I just love reading the On the Tudor Trail news & posts……the giveaway is absolutely beautiful. Thank you!

  14. Pamela Kapustka says:

    I just love all these juicy “Tudor tidbits” ! I have always been fascinated with this era of history and am also learning an awful lot along the way. I just want to thank you for all the great information and for making it fun!

  15. Sandra Byrd’s books are on my list of books to read! This last one really sounds interesting and I may not wait to have it as a gift for Christmas!

  16. Altaira Webb says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed ‘To Die For’ and was sad when it ended, so I’m really looking forward to this next book. So wonderful to have another great historical fiction novelist to add to my favourites list!

  17. Linda Flynn says:

    I’m really interested in anything to do with the Tudor family. Especially the life of Anne Boleyn is very interesting. I read any book I can find on the subject and that is going on ever since I was a teenager. I have started a search for a genealogical reason for this interest but haven’t found anything yet. Your website is beautiful, the best of luck from Ireland.

  18. elaine kiamie says:


  19. Victoria Reid says:

    So interesting! I’m a Tudor junkie and absolutely love to get any information, already subscribed, and thank you!

  20. Atlanta Gal says:

    I am looking forward to more from this newsletter. I was able to see the Tower of London a few years ago and loved hearing some of the stories. I like hearing the historical perspective of events and people. Thanks!

  21. I love Sandra Byrd’s books. They are impossible to put down and I look forward to reading her newest one!

  22. What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

  23. Pam Shakespeare says:

    Hi I have read to die for and loved it, looking forward to adding the secret keeper to my collection. Thank you for writing the above review, I enjoyed reading it.

  24. Deborah Serrano says:

    The William the Conqueror angle is new to me too, though I have been aware that the church developed along an individual path in England for a long time before Henry VIII. Certainly the geographic separation from the European continent played a part in that. I love this site and all I can learn here.

  25. Elizabeth pegg says:

    Interesting piece ,funny how the fear of a woman monarch bought about so much destruction in both periods. I imagine it wold have been the Queens spouse that would have caused the greatest problem for any reign. The wife having to be subservient to her husband, in private if not in public. I think Elizabeth I reign was all the more successful because of her lack of one. Her ability to reign without the popes interference must have been a blessing also.
    Good to read the progression of attitudes from William I onwards. What goes before affects what happens later on . Excellent read

  26. I am a new subscriber to this blog and a new fan of Sandra Byrd.

    A very interesting post, thanks.

  27. These books sounds pretty amazing looking forward to reading them. I have recently become a new subscriber to your blog an following you on twitter. You blog amazing. Thanks. x

  28. Nora Platt says:

    Any book that helps people understand that Henry wasn’t the only King to think splitting with Rome could be a good idea, has got to be good!
    Catherine Parr is one of my Tudor obsessions so the freebie is very desirable for me, something I would wear with pride.

  29. Shoshana Wolf says:

    Wonderful article; found it very interesting. Will definately put Sandra’s books on my list of “What to Read”!

  30. wen de Turville says:

    Im glad to have found this page my ancestors where one of the oldest family in England who was given the Leistershire we founded farming and the villages around this area and fort in most of the wars over the decades 1000s of years of the Turville family until Queen Mary came to rule while my ancestors was away fight the wars for the Crown of their days Queen Maryy broght about taxs on my family because we are roman cathlics and siezed it all back leaving my family with only Bosworth Hall at Husbands Bosworth and Astonflamble My heros who wher knights for a lot of Englands Kings and Queens rest at thurlaston Church falling into disrepare after decades of punishment to the building due to time over the ages I was blessed to visit it on the 6th of October this year for the very first time in my life in England france and Denmark as all my ancestors come from all these areas I felt compelled to go pay tribute to their honour Bernard the Dane is my ancestor rollo and torf1 and 11 William the Conquier funny I was abandond and didnt know anything about my family until I put my family name in the computer and history told a fairtail of my Ancestors how God landed me right where i should of been in my life now I know who I am and where im from that means the world to me never loose faith in God he works miricals in your life now I can read all about it through your books and web pages

  31. Thank you so much to all who have read, enjoyed, or plan to read my books!

    I do think that distance played some role in the separation from Rome; but it’s worth noting that most of Spain and all of Portugual, as well as Ireland, remain further from Rome than London and most of England.

    I also think the time was ripe for the potential for change. The reformation was spreading world wide. My forthcoming book, Roses Have Thorns, tells the story of a Swedish lady in waiting and great friend to Queen Elizabeth. As an aside (not in the book itself) during the early 16C, Sweden, too, broke away from Rome, mainly due to reasons of autonomy; King Gustav wanted to remove an Archbishop he felt was in deep with Sweden’s enemy, Denmark, but the Pope said no. Back and forth it went till Sweden left the Catholic Chuch. So I believe it was a common concern for some countries, though not all, of course.

  32. Excellent article. Nice to read a guest posting!

  33. Amanda Tully says:

    Wonderful post Sandra! A great read and I enjoyed it very much! 🙂

  34. Moni Leigh says:

    Wonderful guest post!

  35. Maia Boring says:

    I loved your novel ‘To Die For’ and your 2nd novel is on my short list of reads!!!

  36. Galina Marinova says:

    Exquisitely crafted and styled!

  37. Great article – very interesting!

  38. Lora Cooper says:

    I have always been fascinated by the time period, and I believe that it was always too simple to assume that Henry VIII just fell in love with Anne Boleyn and threw everything away. There is evidence that he was really concerned about the potential Levitical issue with Katherine, and needing a legitimate male heir seems to have consumed him; I had never really considered it in light of the conflict between Stephen and Maud, though.

    Great read, and looking forward to more!

  39. I just adore Sandra Byrd’s work…She brings her characters to life. I just adored her novel To Die For and look forward to reading both The Secert Keeper and Roses have Thorns. Sandra is a truly exquisite writer…My favourite aspect to her Novel on Anne Boleyn was how she told the story through her dear friend Margaret Wyatt (Meg); a woman we don’t know much about historically. Through her, we walk with Anne, experiencing every twist and turn of fate while also being thrown into this loyal and dedicated woman’s life. You walk away really feeling like you know Meg and how much she truly loved her dearest of friends…Anne. No spoilers but the end was…To Die For. Absolutely brilliant!

    Thank you for the many opportunities to share thoughts and the giveaways chances are a wonderful touch. Take Care…I will be writing 🙂

  40. It makes me wonder how we would be living now if Henry hadn’t cut his ties from the pope, we would all be more religious? Would we have had all the wars we have had? after all wars are about Religion most of the times.

  41. Elspeth Meresberie says:

    The Tudor/Elizabethan period in England is my favorite period of time. I cannot get enough of it. Thank you for such a wonderful site with great articles and photos that really help bring the past that much closer and imaginable.

  42. Chele Kispert says:

    Just bought “To Die For” and “The Secret Keeper” today. Cant wait to read them!!

  43. my love and intrest in all things tudor has been almost born into me . any new information especialy in an interesting book will definatley go on my christmas list , thankyou for this wonderful artical sandra , look forward to reading it .

  44. I share Tudormania with you all – so it’s such a pleasure to research and write the articles and books. Thanks so much, everyone, for buying and enjoying my novels. I treasure every reader, I really do!

  45. Thank you everyone for your comments! The competition is now closed and a winner will be selected shortly. Good luck! Natalie 🙂

  46. Patricia Clarke, you have been selected as the winner – congratulations! Could you please email me your postal address so that I can pass on to Sandra? Thank you 🙂

  47. Wow, thanks so much for the competition Natalie and Sandra, have emailed you my address, very happy!!

  48. Congrats to Patricia!

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