Why the monasteries were dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII

The monasteries were dissolved in 1536, during the reign of Henry VIII, solely for financial reasons, however, it could be argued that there are many religious and personal reasons behind why it happened. Many historians argue that is it wasn’t for Henry’s financial problems circa 1536 he would never have considered it.

Henry was facing problems with defence; there was a rebellion in Ireland and a need to improve coastal defences at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. By this point, Henry had already spent the money left to him by Henry VII and, therefore, could not afford to defend his country. He needed to find a way to raise money without raising taxes and one obvious way to do this was to invoke a new law by which he could legally take people’s money. Closure of the monasteries was financially beneficial to Henry because he would be able to take their wealth and goods.

However, Henry had to find good reason to take money from people. The Church was rich in land and wealth, so he sent Cromwell and his clergymen to look into the riches of the Church in a corrupt survey called Valor Ecclesiasticus in which they already knew what they were going to find. Cromwell gave Henry a corrupt report displaying corruption (gambling, sexual deviancy, etc.) in the monasteries allowing Henry to dissolve the, and claim their wealth legally and without inciting rebellion.

Another religious reason why Henry may have dissolved the monasteries is that they were a reminder of the Catholic Church in a time of reformation. Henry had recently broken from Rome and monks and nuns who lived in the monasteries may have portrayed a detrimental link to the Papacy that Henry wanted rid of. However, it is more likely that Henry was out to gain financially by selling the Church’s land and taking monastic wealth.

On the other hand, monasteries at the time were often corrupt; they sold fake artifacts, sold Indulgences, and were generally fraudulent. This negative reminder of Henry’s faith may have been a contributing factor in why Henry dissolved the monasteries.

In conclusion, there is no one reason why Henry dissolved the monasteries. However, it is foremost that he wanted to gain financially to fund the government and defences without having to tax people.

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