This article takes issue with the influential recent interpretation of Henry VIII's religious position as consistently ‘Erasmian’. Bringing to the discussion not only a re-evaluation of much familiar evidence but also a considerable quantity of hitherto unknown or little-known material, it proposes instead that Henry's religious position, until the 1530s, sat squarely within the parameters of ‘traditional religion’ and that the subsequent changes in his attitudes to the cult of the saints, monasticism, and papal primacy were so significant as to be understood and described by Henry himself in terms of a veritable religious ‘conversion’. This conversion, which was very much sui generis, is not easily to be fitted within the confessional frameworks of other sixteenth-century religious movements (though it was by no means unaffected by them). It hinged upon Henry's new understanding of kingship as a supreme spiritual responsibility entrusted to kings by the Word of God, but long hidden from them by the machinations of the papacy. His own providential deliverance from blindness was, he believed, but the beginning of a more general spiritual enlightenment.
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