Supreme Head of the Church of England

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Henry VIII with the future Edward VI.

Supreme Head of the Church of England was a title created in 1531[1] for King Henry VIII of England when he first began to separate the Church of England from the authority of the Holy See and allegiance to the Pope. The Act of Supremacy of 1534 confirmed the King's status as having supremacy over the church and required the nobility to swear an oath recognising Henry's supremacy.[1] By 1536, Henry had broken with Rome, seized the Catholic Church's assets in England and declared the Church of England as the established church with himself as its head. Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry in 1538 over his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.

Henry's daughter, Queen Mary I, a staunch Catholic, attempted to restore the English church's allegiance to the Pope and repealed the Act of Supremacy in 1555.[2] Her half-sister, Elizabeth I, took the throne in 1558 and the Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy of 1558 that restored the original act.[3] The new Oath of Supremacy that nobles were required to swear gave the Queen's title as Supreme Governor of the church rather than Supreme Head, to avoid the charge that the monarchy was claiming divinity or usurping Christ, whom the Bible explicitly identifies as Head of the Church.


  1. ^ a b "Henry VIII". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1910.
  2. ^ "Mary Tudor". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1910.
  3. ^ Gee, Henry; Hardy, William John, eds. (1896). "Elizabeth's Supremacy Act, Restoring Ancient Jurisdiction (1559), 1 Elizabeth, Cap. 1". Documents Illustrative of English Church History. New York: Macmillan: 442–458. Retrieved 23 March 2018.