The Tudor Society

Henry VIII – Defender of the Faith

henry-viii-and-pope-leo-xOn 11th October 1521, Pope Leo X conferred upon King Henry VIII the title of Fidei Defensor, "Defender of the Faith".

Letters and Papers contains a record of "Wolsey's speech on presenting the bull for the title of Defender of the Faith":

"When John Cl[erk], the King's ambassador at Rome, presented the King's book against Luther to the late pope, Leo X., in presence of the college of Cardinals, it was beautiful to hear with what exultation the Pope and Cardinals broke out into the praises of Henry, declaring that no one could have devised a better antidote to the poison of heresy, and that Henry had with great eloquence completely refuted Luther by reason, Scripture and the authority of the Fathers. He had thus devoted his learning to the support of religion, and shown an example to Christian princes. As an imperfect acknowledgment of this service, the Pope, with the unanimous assent of the Cardinals, a little before his death, ordained, by letters under the hands of himself and them, that Henry should henceforth be called "Defender of the Faith," and ordered a bull to be sent, which Wolsey now presents. Congratulates Henry on the honor, and himself on having induced him to undertake the work."

As Cardinal Wolsey explains, the title was a reward for Henry VIII from the Pope for writing his pamphlet Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum ("Declaration of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther"), defending the Catholic Church against the works of Martin Luther. Many believe that Sir Thomas More helped Henry VIII with the pamphlet's composition.

You can read Henry VIII's Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum online, in Latin and English, at

Also on this day in history, 11th October 1549, the arrest of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector - click here to read more.

Notes and Sources

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