1539: creation of the Great Bible
Henry and his ministers, notably Thomas Cromwell, implemented dramatic changes within the English church, following the break with Rome. Henry had already declared himself to be the Supreme Head of the Church in England, and in 1538 work began in earnest to produce the first printed English-language Bible, which was published by Myles Coverdale.
It was a turning point in English history. For the first time ordinary men and women would be able to read and listen to the Bible in English, and without the need for the clergy’s interpretation. More than 2,000 copies of the Bible were printed in Paris, and it was distributed in churches throughout England. Coverdale had used, and expanded upon, the work of William Tyndale, an English scholar and passionate religious reformer, who had been executed for heresy in 1536.
But Henry VIII did not intend for "ordinary men and women" to interpret the Holy Bible on their own, "without the need for the clergy's interpretation". As this entry for what might be Henry VIII's own copy of the Great Bible at the British Library explains the frontispiece, Henry himself would decide how they should interpret the Holy Bible:
The King took this hierarchical transmission of the Word of God seriously, as he told both the bishops and the nobility in his last speech to Parliament on December 24, 1545, just six years after the Great Bible was printed and distributed. He was upset about the failures of the clergy and the nobility to practice charity:
In the kind of list Mackay produced, of course, she did not have space to qualify or explain all the aspects of this important date.