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What if…Henry VIII had been granted a divorce?

Prospect’s counter-factual column

By Leanda de Lisle   February 2014

In 1533, Henry VIII broke with Rome and claimed power over Church and state in England. This enabled him to get the marriage annulment Pope Clement VII had denied him. But what if Clement had overcome the great doctrinal obstacles of Catholic teaching and granted it? Would there have been a Protestant Reformation in England? And how might the history of the dynasty have then unfolded?

In 1527, when Henry first requested his annulment, he and his people were among the most contented Catholics in Europe, and loyal to the papacy. Henry had even written a book (with some help)…

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