The Tudor Society

October 11 – Henry VIII becomes Defender of the Faith

A portrait of Henry VIII by an unknown artist, c. 1520.

On this day in Tudor history, 11th October 1521, Pope Leo X conferred on King Henry VIII the title of Fidei Defensor, "Defender of the Faith".

This was a reward for Henry VIII writing his pamphlet Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum, "Defence of the Seven Sacraments Against Martin Luther", which was dedicated to the Pope. The pamphlet defended the Catholic Church against Reformer Martin Luther's work, "De captivitate Babylonica", "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church", which had been published in 1520. In it, Luther likened Rome to Babylon, claiming that the pope and Catholic Church were keeping the Church in captivity, just as the Israelites had been held captive in Babylon.

Historian Eric Ives points out that Henry VIII probably did not write his Assertio by himself, and is more likely to have had a team helping him, and that the pamphlet's "affirmation of papal supremacy and condemnation of schism is quite conventional".

Henry VIII, of course, went from defending the Catholic Church in the 1520s to breaking with Rome in the 1530s!

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Image: A portrait of Henry VIII by an unknown artist, c. 1520.

Notes and Sources

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