Monday, August 04, 2008

Question from Nikki - "Defender of the Faith" title

henry viii was given the title "defender of the faith" by the pope before the break of rome. after becoming disconnected with the catholic church, why would a monarch still be able to carry that tile if they had no affiliation with the roman catholic church? i think "defender of the faith" is still in the current queen's title. i'm confused as to why they still carry the title after the break with rome. seems to me like the pope would've taken it back?


  1. well, as far as i know, once king henry viii divorced katharine, and he became head of the church, he was DEFENDER of the church of england, but i could be wrong. i reccoment reading "King Henry VIII" by alison weir, it has furthur information on the subject. also "the six wives of king henry VIII"

  2. Well, just as Henry made himself "head of the Church of England," he also ultimately made himself "Defender of the Faith." The Pope did revoke the original grant of the title in the mid-1530s, when Henry was excommunicated (and logically could not be anymore a Defender of the (Roman Catholic) Faith), but Henry was very attached to it. He had lobbied strenuously to get it, so that he might be equal with fellow monarchs who already basked in the styles of "Most Christian King" and "Most Catholic Majesty." As part of his campaign he had written a book defending the seven sacraments against Luther in the early 1520s (Luther only recognized three) as well as the authority of the Pope (subsequently rather embarrassing); and the Pope professed himself delighted with the English king's scholarship and devotion to true religion. So Henry got the title. He really enjoyed being Fidei Defensor and the prestige it reflected on his monarchy.

    So in 1544, Parliament awarded him the title again, this time independently of any reference to the Pope. He was reaffirmed as "Defender of the Faith" - the Faith now being Henrician-style Catholicism in a Pope-free England. His successors retained the title as part of their official style, so the present Queen is the Defender of the (Anglican) Faith.

  3. As Foose points out, Henry was indeed fond of gathering all the titles and honors he could. He seems to have had a bit of an inferiority complex when it came to his own status relative to that of his royal "cousins" on the continent, especially the kings of France and Spain (the latter of which was also the Holy Roman Emperor). In 1541, for example, Henry had himself formally designated King of Ireland by the Irish Parliament (prior to that he had been simply Lord of Ireland). And as a king over two legally separate kingdoms, he then had the right to wear a closed crown (with arches) in the imperial style instead of an open crown. And such visual symbols mattered very much indeed to a man with Henry's ego. A closed crown set him on a par with the HRE, Charles V, or so Henry thought. So just as Foose points out, once the Pope stripped Henry of the Fidei Defensor title, Henry set about compelling Parliament to name him Defender of the Faith in England and Ireland anew, just 3 years after he became King of Ireland.

    It might be worth noting that the current Prince of Wales has publicly ruminated on the possibility of altering the title "Defender of the Faith" in order to make it less specific to Anglicanism ... a suggestion that has angered many of those in the UK who fear the rise there of Islam.

  4. The U.K. newspapers reported today that Charles has definitely decided to be "Defender of Faith," not "the Faith," when he becomes king.

    At least the Latin will not need to be changed. Fidei Defensor can be translated as "Defender of Faith," too.


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