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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Henry VIII, King of England (1491-1547)

Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum 1521

RCIN 1006836

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Presented by Cardinal William Allen to the English College at Rome about 1590, passing in 1846 to the library of M. Yemenis of Lyons. Acquired for the Royal Library in December 1900.

Henry VIII wrote the 'Defence of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther' in response to the German monk and theologian’s pronouncement that there were only two sacraments (the solemn rites considered to have been instituted by Christ to confer grace) rather than the traditional seven. As such he defended the practices of the Roman Catholic Church against Luther’s Protestant teachings. The book was published in London in 1521, with a dedication to Pope Leo X, who subsequently granted Henry VIII the title 'Fidei Defensor' (Defender of the Faith). The Royal Collection’s copy is signed by Henry and was probably one of those he sent to cardinals in Rome.

In the 1530s the absence of a male heir led Henry to seek an annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, and resulted in a contradiction of his earlier ‘Defence’. As Henry was unable to gain consent for the divorce in Rome, he rejected the authority of the papacy, instead asserting the authority of the Scriptures above the pope. This led to his excommunication and his establishment as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. Despite this break with Rome, Henry retained the title ‘Defender of the Faith’. It was revoked by Pope Paul III but in 1543 was given by the English Parliament to Henry and his successors in perpetuity. It forms part of The Queen’s style and F.D. still appears on our coins today.