-In the year 1533, the destiny of England changed forever.
Defying the Catholic Church, King Henry VIII divorced his wife and married Anne Boleyn.
So began the Reformation.
England set course on a different religious and political path, separate from the influence of Rome.
In lots of versions of the story, the Reformation almost seems like a side product of Henry's love life, a consequence of his desire for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.
But was Anne really the scheming seductress history has made her out to be?
Or was she cleverly persuading the king to think differently about the world?
-Anne obviously had a real hold on his heart and so could introduce ideas to him that other people couldn't possibly say.
-This is a book that me and all kings should read.
-And was Henry's ruthless chancellor using the king's desires to further his own political agenda?
-The church possesses near 1/3 of all land in England.
-He's about to suggest some serious asset stripping.
So what's the inside story of the Reformation?
Lust, an obsessive desire, or a political earthquake that shapes Europe to this day?
It seems we just can't decide, and maybe that's because many of the stories told about the Reformation have been spun from myths, fabrications, and some of royal history's biggest fibs.
♪♪ ♪♪ -The story of the English Reformation begins on Halloween 1517 when the monk Martin Luther nailed a document to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Northeast Germany, attacking the Roman Catholic Church.
♪♪ Luther believed that the Catholic Church was corrupt.
He thought that the clergy had tricked people into thinking they could buy their way into heaven by paying priests to say masses to wash their sins away.
He believed that faith, not money, was what got you redemption.
Luther's protest in Wittenberg is often seen as the decisive act that inspired Henry VIII's break with Rome.
But this may well be the first myth in the story.
Like all the best stories, it's probably been hammed up a bit, and it's doubtful that this scene with the church door ever took place.
Luther has left us no fewer than 120 volumes of writing about all different aspects of his life, including a really bad case of constipation, which he thinks was given to him by the devil.
But nowhere in any of this does he mention nailing anything to any doors.
♪♪ However Luther's message was first delivered, it quickly spread and unleashed a religious and political revolution across Europe.
But when it came to the attention of Henry VIII, it left him cold.
Over the centuries, Henry has sometimes been claimed as one of history's great Protestants.
But when Luther's revolutionary message started to arrive in London, Henry was dead against it.
After reading Luther's tract, Henry fired off an angry response.
It was called "The Defense of the Seven Sacraments."
[ Chuckles ] And he didn't hold back, Henry said that Luther was "a venomous serpent, a pernicious plague, an infernal wolf."
He said he had "an infected soul," and he also called him "a detestable trumpeter of pride, calumnies, and schism."
So Henry wasn't particularly promising material as a convert to Protestantism.
And in fact, he never would become a Protestant.
He would remain a Catholic until the day he died.
Henry's attack on Luther so delighted Pope Leo X that he rewarded Henry with the title Defender of the Faith.
But Henry's love-in with the pope wouldn't last long.
Soon, he himself would be branded a heretic.
So what went wrong?
♪♪ According to the popular myth, everything changed when a beautiful, young seductress arrived at Henry's court.
The year is 1522.
Henry is 31 years old and married to the Spanish princess Catherine of Aragon.
♪♪ Catherine is exhausted.
In the last 13 years of marriage to Henry, she's been pregnant seven times.
But six of those pregnancies have ended in tragedy, either miscarriage or stillbirth and, in one case, a baby boy who lived only a few weeks.
♪♪ Henry and Catherine do have a daughter, Mary.
But what Henry really wants is a son, a male heir.
And the longer poor Catherine takes to give him one, the more likely it is that Henry's eye will wander, perhaps to somebody else who can do the job instead.
♪♪ It's at this point that a new lady in waiting for Catherine arrives at court.
Her name -- Anne Boleyn.
Anne's older sister Mary has already been Henry's mistress.
Rumor has it she's borne the king two illegitimate children.
♪♪ -She is Mary Boleyn's sister, yes?
♪♪ -This is the first time that Henry has set eyes on Anne Boleyn.
He's clearly intrigued by this new arrival to his court.
But this isn't exactly love at first sight.
And Anne herself is not exactly the scheming harlot that people will make her out to be.
Henry might not be smitten with Anne right away, but he soon will be.
By 1527, Anne had completely turned the king's head.
And the story of how Henry dumped his old wife in favor of the younger, sexier model has formed the plot line of royal bonkbusters ever since.
From the early days of silent cinema to more recent TV dramas, directors, too, have delighted in casting the demure and devoutly Catholic Catherine against the sexy Protestant pinup Anne.
16th century artists also portrayed her as a great beauty.
But the truth is, no one really knows what Anne looked like, because this small medallion is the only surviving portrait known to have been made during her lifetime.
And this has meant that Anne's image has become a sort of battleground.
She shifts shape according to who's telling her story.
Only one thing is absolutely certain -- Anne was much more than just a pretty face.
♪♪ Anne Boleyn arrived at Henry's court fired up with radical ideas.
She grew up here at Hever Castle in Kent, the daughter of Lady Elizabeth Howard and an ambitious diplomat, Thomas Boleyn.
♪♪ Thomas secured his younger daughter a coveted position as maid of honor in the French court.
♪♪ And it was there that Anne was introduced to the new ideas that were transforming Europe.
♪♪ -During those years, she came in contact with evangelical Protestants, people who were rethinking old verities, who were coming up with new ways of approaching everything, including faith.
-What were these perhaps contentious new religious ideas that Anne was picking up in France?
-A key one is the source of authority.
So, when you're making decisions about religious matters, who do you look to as the authority on that matter -- whether it's the Bible, Scripture, which is what these evangelicals were arguing, or whether you turn to the wisdom of the church?
And followers of Luther said that actually the church was flawed, that the pope was fallible.
-Do you think Henry would have taken these ideas about the authority of the pope to heart if it hadn't been for Anne?
-I think Anne's pivotal, because we know that Henry hates Luther.
Anne obviously had a real hold on his heart and so could introduce ideas to him that other people couldn't possibly say.
-And this is something that's been downplayed by the people who see her as just a sexpot.
-I think that comes down to pretty misogynistic ways of seeing Henry VIII's wives in the past, actually, and that it's much easier if you can sort of boil them down to being a bit of skirt and not really anything more.
And actually with Anne, we do have something more.
She is somebody who makes a massive difference in terms of English history.
We could argue that Henry VIII would not have broken with the Roman Catholic Church if it weren't for Anne's influence.
♪♪ -Anne was at court for several years before she turns the king's head.
♪♪ But when she did, Henry became besotted with her.
♪♪ They weren't lovers yet.
Instead, in the private moments they had together, Anne took the opportunity to introduce Henry to a radical Protestant book.
♪♪ The book Anne's showing Henry is called "The Obedience of a Christian Man" by William Tyndale, the Protestant scholar.
Now, this book is controversial.
You might even call it seditious.
♪♪ Tyndale's seen as a heretic by the Catholic Church because his book implies that kings have lost their power to the church.
Anne's taken a serious risk smuggling this book out of France and into England.
And then she's been bold enough to put it under Henry's nose.
She's even marked a special passage for him to read.
♪♪ -"Kings, they are but shadows, vain names and things idle, having nothing to do in the world but if our Holy Father needeth the help."
This is a book that me and all kings should read.
♪♪ The little interaction shows Anne beginning to persuade the king that maybe not all radical Protestants are bad and that may be breaking with Rome could hold advantages for them both.
♪♪ Anne was winning Henry 'round to some Protestant ideas.
And she refused to sleep with the king until he'd made her his new queen.
But there were many obstacles in her way.
Henry was still married, and his wife had many supporters at court.
Chief among these was Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, to Emperor Charles V, the standard bearer for Catholicism across Europe.
♪♪ Eustace Chapuys was devoted to Charles V, who just happened to be the nephew of Catherine of Aragon.
Chapuys really loved Catherine of Aragon.
It was said that he venerated her like a saint.
And partly as a result of this, he really hated Anne Boleyn.
In his letters to Charles V, Chapuys describes Anne as more Lutheran than Luther, and he's slut-shamed her.
He called her "the concubine" and "the whore."
And Chapuys really set up this image of Anne that does survive to this day as the wicked, evil seductress, as the original other woman.
Anne's genuine intelligence and sense of political strategy just don't fit into this soap opera version of the story.
By 1527, the king's desperate desire for a male heir had become known as the king's great matter.
After nine years of marriage, Catherine had produced six children, but all had died apart from a daughter, Mary.
Henry wanted a son to continue the Tudor dynasty, and he was now convinced that Anne Boleyn could deliver.
It was time to start creating some myths to help him get rid of Catherine.
In 1527, Henry asked Pope Clement VII to annul his marriage.
It seems that Henry had suddenly woken up to the fact that Catherine had previously been married to his older brother, Arthur.
And this, according to the Bible, was a bad thing.
The book of Leviticus said that if a man shall marry his brother's wife, it is an unclean thing.
And Henry now argued that this uncleanliness was the reason that Catherine had never produced a healthy baby boy.
Their marriage, he now said, had been blighted from the start in the eyes of God.
But Henry's manipulation of biblical quotations failed to impress.
The pope refused to annul his marriage, and his wife refused to go quietly.
Henry had hopes that with the offer of a generous settlement, Catherine would give way gracefully and go off to a nunnery.
But no, she wasn't having that.
"We've made vows," she said.
"They cannot be undone."
As a Roman Catholic himself, Henry would have understood this, but he was determined to get his divorce.
And thanks to Anne, Henry no longer saw the need to kowtow to the pope.
And there was somebody else close to Henry who was manipulating facts to persuade the king that breaking with Rome could lead to unexpected rewards.
♪♪ In 1532, Thomas Cromwell became Henry's chief minister.
Unlike Henry, he was a radical Protestant who saw Luther as a progressive force.
An ally of Anne Boleyn, he saw the king's great matter as an opportunity to advance the Protestant cause.
So Cromwell began to weave some expert political propaganda.
He assured Henry that there was a way to get him his divorce, improve his finances, and enhance his political power.
It would just take two acts of parliament.
The first was drafted in 1533.
♪♪ This is the real, actual Act in Restraint of Appeals.
And because this act banned appealing to the pope in ecclesiastical matters, it meant the Catherine was now banned from appealing to the pope in her and Henry's great matter.
From this point onwards, it would be parliament, not the pope, it would be London, not Rome, that would be the final authority on the constitutional affairs of England.
By this time, Anne had succumbed to Henry's advances.
And in January 1533, before the act had even been passed, Anne discovered she was pregnant.
To make sure a potential baby boy was legitimate, they quickly got married.
Henry, who was still married to Catherine, was now a bigamist.
The pope expelled him from the Catholic Church.
This guaranteed that Henry would burn in hell for eternity.
♪♪ But Henry didn't seem to mind too much, because with Cromwell busy drafting his revolutionary acts, Henry seemed to feel that his powers were limitless.
♪♪ A year later, Cromwell produced a second bill, the Act of Supremacy.
This made Henry the supreme head of a new Church of England and severed all ties with Rome.
But how could he possibly justify this massive break with Rome?
Well, the first clue comes in the very first line of the Act in Restraint of Appeals, where we begin to see Cromwell emerging as one of history's biggest fibbers.
It says, "By diverse and sundry old authentic histories and chronicles, it's manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an empire governed by one supreme head and king having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial crown."
What he's saying here is that Henry rules an empire.
He is an emperor, as kings of England have been for centuries.
And emperors are beholden to nobody, certainly not to the pope.
But where did this whole idea of empire come from?
Who was Cromwell kidding?
The truth is that Henry had no empire beyond the British Isles, apart from a precarious foothold in Calais that was increasingly expensive to defend from the French.
But Cromwell wasn't about to let facts like these get in the way of his master plan.
To justify the passage of power from Rome to London, he manipulated English history.
♪♪ This is the 12th century book that Cromwell used as his source and his justification.
It's "The History of the Kings of Britain" by a Welsh monk called Geoffrey of Monmouth.
And in it, he takes the story of the kings of Britain right back to one of Britain's best-loved legends, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
But this is really pseudo-history.
It's more like a collection of fairy stories.
But these fairy stories were the diverse and sundry old authentic histories and chronicles Cromwell was relying upon for his claim that England really was an empire.
The idea that the Reformation could bolster his image as an emperor, descended from the mighty King Arthur, was especially appealing to Henry.
Henry had always fancied himself as a 16th-century King Arthur.
So he was quite happy to go along with a bit of colorful myth-making from back in the mists of time, especially if it got him what he wanted.
Henry had an extraordinary gift for believing most sincerely in things which just happened to be to his advantage.
Cromwell's revolutionary acts gave Henry the power he craved, but they also left him isolated.
Rejecting Rome wasn't only a religious matter.
The pope also had diplomatic and economic powers.
He even had approval on international trade deals.
And by rejecting the Lutheran cause, Henry was also driving a wedge between England and the rest of Protestant Europe.
By 1536, Henry had absolute power over both nation and the church.
But after three years of marriage to Anne, Henry still had no male heir, only a daughter, Elizabeth.
So Henry now ordered his fixer, Thomas Cromwell, to find a solution.
Operating in Henry's court was notoriously a dangerous affair.
You had to stay a step ahead of your enemies and keep your allies close.
But although Anne was super smart, her strong character and radical views hadn't endeared her to everybody.
And it would be her former ally, Thomas Cromwell, who produced the damaging evidence that would eventually bring her down.
In May 1536, Anne was brought to the Tower of London to be tried on charges of adultery, incest, and conspiracy to kill the king.
Cromwell had witnesses tortured to help create a dodgy dossier against her which would seal her reputation as a wanton woman.
-We have from Anne's trial the indictment, and there's a list of five men with whom she's accused of adultery.
She's also accused of incest, because one of those five men is her brother.
And crucially, she's accused of conspiring the king's death.
-Do you think that Anne did anything -- anything wrong, anything that we can blame for her downfall?
-Well, I don't think that she committed the adultery or the incest that she was accused of, but I do think she did the conspiring the king's death, if we understand that to be talking about the king's death, because there's a moment with a man called Henry Norris, who's one of the king's best friends, where she said to him, "You look for dead men's shoes, for if all came to the king but good, you would look to have me."
In other words, she's saying, "You want to marry me when my husband's dead, don't you?"
And under the 1534 Treasons Act, if you think of the king's death in words, you are committing treason.
-Suzie, why do you think that Cromwell, who used to be Anne's ally and supporter, turned against her and produced his dossier of evidence?
-Well, ultimately, Cromwell is doing what Henry tells him to do.
And Henry has told him, "Look, there are these charges against Anne.
Look into them."
And Cromwell finds the dirt.
-Anne was found guilty on all charges.
But as the case against her was based on fibs, her guilt seems both morally and legally dubious.
This has given Anne her lasting appeal as a martyr, and she still has a starring role in the tours at the Tower of London.
-The year was 1536.
The swordsman walked towards the Queen of England.
He called out, "Boy, bring me my sword."
That got the Queen's attention enough to look up.
The neck was there for the taking.
In one motion, the swordsman bent down, picked up the sword, and the head was off.
-Barely 24 hours had passed before Henry became engaged to his third wife, Jane Seymour.
A year later, she gave birth to his long-awaited son, Edward.
Henry now had a male heir to secure the Tudor dynasty.
But by this time, Henry was in financial trouble.
He'd frittered away his father's inheritance on grand palaces and luxuries, and he'd spent huge sums on battles with France.
♪♪ Henry is broke, but the royal fixer, Thomas Cromwell, has come up with a cunning plan to give the royal bank account a much-needed boost.
♪♪ He's about to suggest some serious asset stripping.
-Tell me, Thomas, how can I be prince as well as pauper?
-You need not be, sire.
A pauper, that is.
-You have the gift of alchemy, as well as the law.
-The church possesses near 1/3 of all land in England.
-The church possesses far greater wealth, is richer than Your Majesty.
♪♪ -That's true, as well.
-And does the church see fit to honor England's king with its riches?
The church sends its wealth to Rome, where the pope uses it in pursuit of myriad excesses and depravities.
-That is less true.
Cromwell is spinning a story here in order to get his own way.
♪♪ Once again, Cromwell was using Henry's personal problems to further his own Protestant agenda.
History remembers the next stage of the Reformation as just an act of religious vandalism.
In fact, it was also a far-reaching political reform.
Henry's fixer had the monasteries in his sights.
Cromwell hated these Catholic institutions.
He felt they were centers of homosexuality, of depravity, of superstition and corruption.
This would be a radical transfer of wealth and power from church to state.
Cromwell was setting out to destroy the web of religious communities across England that provided work, education, and welfare for local people.
He now sent the king's men all over the country, knocking on the doors of monasteries and nunneries to find evidence to blacken their reputation.
This process was politely known as the visitation of the monasteries.
though, actually, it involved interrogation and terror.
The findings were placed before Parliament in the Compendium Compertorum, which means "the compendium of true facts."
And in this, we discover the nuns at Grace Dieu were accused of superstition, of holding in reverence the girdle and parts of the tunic of Saint Francis, which was thought to be helpful to women in labor.
Then at the monastery of Garadon -- whoa, this is bad -- they had discovered five sodomites.
But given Cromwell's economic agenda for the dissolution of the monasteries, how much of this "compendium of true facts" is reliable, and how much is fiction?
Is there any evidence for actual, financial "wrongdoing" on behalf of the monasteries?
Were they really sending all this cash to Rome?
-Well, I suppose like any institution, there's some mismanagement.
There are some abbots and priors who aren't behaving as they're entirely supposed to be.
But the idea that the monasteries are sending huge sums of money to Rome is absolutely a fantasy.
There are some fees, but in fact, before the Reformation, as after the Reformation, the English Crown takes much more money out of the Church than the popes were ever able to do.
-Now, these people examining the monasteries, they seem very keen on superstition.
That excites them.
They like a good bit of superstition to catch.
What does that mean exactly?
-I think this is an area where the monasteries are vulnerable.
Many of them have large collections of relics.
And, of course, kind of by definition, these relics, which have been there for a very long time, are difficult to verify or prove that they genuinely are the bone of this or that saint.
But the visitors clearly have a brief to try and make these things sound like forms of fraud.
-And what about this emphasis on the sex lives of the clergy?
It's very prurient, isn't it?
And I suppose it works as propaganda, because it fits with some of the cliches.
You know, the lecherous monk or friar is a well-known literary type in the Middle Ages.
One of the things that the compendium produces is very long lists of sodomites.
-That seems to be the kind of headline sin that has been highlighted.
But in fact, when one drills down into that a little bit, many of these so-called sodomites, it appears, are sodomites per voluntaria polluciones, a rather sort of roundabout Latin phrase "through voluntary pollution" -- in other words, masturbation.
-Sodomy is a very large catchall term.
-Sodomy is a very large catchall term.
And in fact, it's not nearly as endemic or widespread as the the Compendium Compertorum is trying to pretend or to spin the material in such a way that it looks as if the monastery is, like, these kind of cesspits of vice.
-Using this dubious evidence, Cromwell unleashed a four-year campaign of destruction.
By 1540, 800 religious houses had been dissolved, along with their hospitals, schools, and provision for poor people.
Some were sold off to wealthy landowners who supported the king.
Others, like Tintern Abbey, were deliberately left in ruins as a reminder that the church was being cleaned up and absorbed into the state.
Now, if you were to read your standard Victorian history textbook, it would suggest that the Reformation was a good thing in very basic terms.
But would you say something was lost here, something important?
-The great promise was to liberate the individual from a corrupt Catholic church, you know, from a sort of overbearing papacy that would tell you how to live your life and control your every movement, to essentially a more personal relationship between the individual and God, no longer mediated by the church.
I think in reality, what happened is that the Reformation really subordinated the individual to the national state and also increasingly to the economy.
That is to say, Henry really concentrated wealth in the hands of the landed gentry, and he centralized power.
And that meant that the individual was actually stripped of all sorts of support.
The monasteries were a huge source of support for individuals.
And when they were dissolved by Henry, it basically meant that all sorts of things like education, what we would now call social services, essentially were no longer there to support people where they lived.
So power moved to London.
Wealth moved to the landed gentry, and lots of individuals were basically without support.
-Protestant propagandists created a myth that the Reformation was widely welcomed.
But the destruction of the monasteries was met with resistance, especially in the north of England.
Thousands marched on London in angry protest against Cromwell's radical reforms that were overturning centuries of belief and a whole way of life.
So it's not surprising that Cromwell's legacy as a progressive Protestant hero has taken quite a battering over the years.
Some historians have described him as a brute, a thug responsible for this -- for ruins, one of the great acts of vandalism in the story of our nation.
But is this really fair?
Diarmaid, where has this idea of Cromwell the terrible thug come from?
Is it Catholic propaganda?
-Well, it certainly is Catholic propaganda, because they were part of an old world, and his reformation was determined to destroy that old world.
He is actually carrying out the king's policy of breaking with the pope, breaking with Rome, but was also doing things off his own bat.
He had his own policies, which weren't quite King Henry VIII's.
-Now, this is intriguing.
What was Cromwell's real agenda, then?
-A very radical Protestant Reformation, more radical than that of Martin Luther in Germany.
He wanted to do something with what Henry had done, which was break with Rome, push the Protestant Reformation.
He pushed the English Bible when the king didn't want it.
He's an impressive man.
This is someone who has got a very determined agenda to change and reform this country, to make it better.
-You're on his side.
-I'm on his side because I think he had a sense of social justice, reform.
I can see that he's also, in many ways, a thug.
But anyone in politics at the time was a thug.
Alongside that, though, there is this idealism, this determination to get things done.
-As part of his national reforms, Cromwell tabled the Vagabond Act.
This required every community to fund a system of state poor relief to replace the church's charity.
-The Vagabond Act was an attempt to start the very first national system of relieving the poor.
Now, in Thomas Cromwell's eyes, the church wasn't the organization to do it.
It was the king.
It was this new independent kingdom of England, the Church of England under the king.
And so this is an attempt to solve a problem by parliamentary legislation.
-I suppose that's a new and exciting and radical thing to do.
But I find there's something quite scary about Cromwell.
He appears to be a zealot and a very clever and successful and almost frighteningly efficient zealot.
-I'm sure you're right.
But someone's got to think about these things.
His king didn't have the time or the inclination to sort problems out.
Cromwell was there to sort things out, and he did.
-We often think of Henry and Cromwell as a reforming team.
But while Cromwell was a true believer, Henry was still resisting any move towards Luther's ideas.
So what exactly were his people supposed to believe?
How should they pray?
How should they live?
Henry attempted to clarify things with another act of parliament.
This is the Act of the Six Articles of 1539, also known as "an act for the abolishing of diversity in opinions," which sounds rather like the thought police.
In this one, Henry sets out his own rather singular version of Anglo-Catholic doctrine.
The things listed here include a belief in celibacy for the clergy, a belief in confession and in communion.
And actually, people were left feeling even more confused, because these things were really ancient Roman Catholic rituals and beliefs and very far distant from the radical new Protestant direction of Henry's closest advisers.
The gulf between Cromwell's belief in the Lutheran revolution and Henry's Anglo-Catholicism kept on growing.
Finally, Henry turned on his fixer.
In June 1540, Thomas Cromwell was taken to the tower, charged with heresy and treason.
♪♪ The story usually goes that Cromwell fell because of his role in Henry's disastrous fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves, the one he didn't fancy and, therefore, divorced.
But there's more to it than that.
Cromwell's trial records show that he was also in trouble for failing to enforce Henry's Six Articles.
For years, Cromwell had managed Henry.
But finally, in his enthusiasm for religious reform, he'd gone too far.
And Henry could be ruthless if you questioned his authority.
Cromwell was executed without trial.
He was buried alongside the Protestant ally he'd betrayed, Anne Boleyn.
As Protestant ideas continued to spread across England, Henry's Anglo-Catholicism became more entrenched.
His last will and testament stipulated that twice-daily masses be said by his tomb in perpetuity.
Henry VIII, always remembered as the great reformer, would remain Catholic for eternity.
But his surviving children, zealous Edward, who was raised entirely in the Protestant faith, Roman Catholic Mary, and Anglo-Catholic Elizabeth, were all named by Henry as his heirs.
♪♪ The truth is that Henry's hedging of all of his bets would plunge England into turmoil after his death.
This is the moment the story of the Reformation starts to be told and retold to suit the needs of each successive Protestant and Catholic monarch.
Henry had set the stage for centuries of confusion and lies.
♪♪ In 1547, Henry was succeeded by his 9-year-old son, Edward, and a new, hard-line Protestant Reformation began.
All of Henry's Catholic concessions, including his Six Articles, were scrapped.
The Latin mass was replaced by the English Book of Common Prayer, celibate priests by married clergy.
But Edward died after just five years on the throne.
The crown now passed to his Roman Catholic half-sister Mary, who immediately reversed all of Edward's Protestant reforms.
Latin masses were reinstated, and the pope was declared head of England's Roman Catholic Church once more.
♪♪ Mary also restored medieval heresy laws.
Protestants who refused to recant were burnt alive at the stake.
Between 1555 and '57, 17 men and women from the Protestant stronghold of Lewes in Southeast England were put to death in this way.
The first of them was a Flemish immigrant called Dirick Carver.
He was a brewer.
He was arrested at his house because he'd been holding an illegal session of reading the Bible in English.
He was tortured for eight months.
He eventually signed a confession to heresy.
And then when he came to be punished, in a really nasty nod to his profession, they put him inside a barrel of beer before burning him alive.
♪♪ Within three years, over 300 men and women died at the stake across England.
♪♪ Since 1605, crowds have regularly descended on Lewes to take part in the town's notorious bonfire night on November the 5th.
It marks the day when the Catholic rebel Guy Fawkes was foiled in his attempt to blow up Parliament.
But its roots lie in the anti-Catholic period that immediately followed Mary's death.
As you can see, it's quite a riotous affair.
There's something of a medieval carnival about it.
And the local authorities have tried lots of times to get this stopped.
I think that's because on one level, it is about intolerance.
You worry what might happen to any Catholics who might be brave enough to show their faces here.
The 17 Lewes martyrs are represented by 17 burning crosses proudly held by the Bonfire Boys, as they call themselves.
They still believe that Catholic Mary had far more blood on her hands than her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth.
When Mary died childless in 1558, Elizabeth took the throne just as Henry had wished.
♪♪ Like her father, she initially pursued a middle way with her state religion and allowed some Catholic rituals to remain in place.
But in 1570, this tolerance suddenly stopped.
The pope was encouraging Catholic Spain to invade England and replace Elizabeth with her Catholic cousin Mary Queen of Scots, -1570 is a massive game-changer.
Pope Pius V excommunicates Elizabeth I.
So he declares her a heretic.
He says she's illegitimate, and he says she's a usurper, a monster-like usurper.
-A monster-like usurper.
-That's a brilliant phrase.
And he orders her subjects, her Catholic subjects, to disobey her.
So, what Elizabeth's privy council come up with is something that is known as the bloody question.
It is sinister.
And it's a bloody difficult question, as well.
I mean, effectively, it is, "If the pope backs an invasion of England to restore the Catholic faith to England, who are you going to support?
Are you going to support the pope, or are you going to support the queen?"
It's very tough for the Catholics, because now they've suddenly got really the choice of two betrayals.
You know, you can betray the pope and condemn yourselves to damnation forever, or you can betray the queen and subject your body to all sorts of temporal punishment.
-In the 1580s, the conflict with Catholic Europe intensified.
England was now at war with Spain.
Every Catholic priest was seen as a potential traitor secretly plotting to kill the queen.
It was the start of a dark but often forgotten chapter in Tudor history.
-From 1585, if you're a priest and you've been ordained abroad and you even set foot on English soil, then you will be automatically deemed a traitor, and you will be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
And the ordinary Catholic who puts them up in his house, they too will swing for it.
So some very grim things happen in Elizabeth's reign.
This is not a golden age for the Catholics.
♪♪ -This is Harvington Hall in Worcestershire.
Buried within its walls lie hidden clues that reveal just how bloody Queen Elizabeth herself could be.
Harvington was home to the Pakington family.
To the outside world, they appeared to be respectable Protestants.
♪♪ But Humphrey Pakington, who remodeled medieval Harvington in the 1580s, was, in fact a Catholic.
This wasn't all that unusual.
Lots of Catholic families went on worshiping the old way behind the closed doors of their private chapels, despite the risk of persecution and execution.
As the death toll rose, though, Pakington had to come up with more and more ingenious ways of keeping his secret and of protecting the lives of the Catholic priests who are now being hunted down by Elizabeth's henchmen.
To help him provide sanctuary for these persecuted men, Humphrey Pakington employed a lay Jesuit brother, a master carpenter, Nicholas Owen.
Owen clearly had one of those brains that works in 3-D, a bit like computer modeling program.
And he set about devising secret hiding places for priests all over what's already a really baffling house.
Everything you see is designed to trick you, to deceive the eye.
Like this, for example.
Looks like an ordinary bedroom.
Looks like an ordinary fireplace.
Clearly is being used, is covered in soot... [Chuckles] ...until you look closely, and you realize that this soot of ages is, in fact, black paint.
And up here, there are a couple of little footholds so that the chimney can be used as an escape route to the roof.
Owen always worked alone, and each priest hole he devised was different, so it provided no clues about the mechanisms or the positions of the others.
♪♪ And here in the library is the best priest hole of all.
It's so well hidden.
It was only rediscovered in the 19th century.
You think, "Mm, books.
More bookshelves up here.
Here's a ladder for getting the books."
But there's something odd about these beams.
There's one beam.
It's on a swivel.
♪♪ I think you'd suffer from claustrophobia if you had to spend any amount of time in here.
Conditions inside these hiding places were truly grim, but countless lives were saved thanks to Owen.
He himself wasn't so lucky.
-Nicholas Owen was eventually caught in a raid in a house not far from Harvington.
And he was taken to the Tower of London, and he was tortured, and he died in his cell.
But what's certain is that he never gave up the secrets of his hides.
-Do you think that Elizabeth knew what these sometimes sadistic priest hunters were up to in her name?
I mean, she doesn't want to be seen to be torturing, of course, and it's officially illegal.
So that's why someone like Topcliffe is very useful to her.
And there are sort of letters where she unofficially let some of these priest hunters know that she is pleased with their good services.
-You're making her sound quite cruel.
And of course, everybody knows that it was Mary, her half-sister, who was the bloody one.
How would you compare the two of them?
-If we're looking at the sort of bloody balance sheet, about 300 people are burnt in Mary's reign, in a short period of time, a few years.
And Elizabeth's reign, it's almost 200 people for religious reasons, but over a much longer time span.
-It's quite close in numbers, though, isn't it?
-Well, it is quite close in numbers, and also, you know, what's worse, being burned at the stake or being strung up, cut down while you're still alive, have your intestines pulled out in front of you, burned in front of you, and then have your head chopped off, you know, possibly with being tortured beforehand?
So it's -- you know, it's pretty macabre.
Neither is pleasant.
-And yet she has this whole image, doesn't she, as good Queen Bess.
Where does that come from?
Who's doing her propaganda for her?
-Well, she had some very good playwrights.
She had some good dramatists.
She had some excellent writers in her reign.
And I think we have to acknowledge that the winners write the national story.
♪♪ -This Protestant propaganda was met with some Catholic counter-propaganda by a priest called Nicholas Sander.
He'd escaped the heretic state of Elizabethan England to find sanctuary in Rome.
This book is "The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism" by Nicholas Sander.
It was the first widely distributed Catholic account of the Reformation.
It's a lurid retelling of the story of the break with Rome, full of pride and lust and perversion.
In it, Elizabeth becomes an evil thing, the bastard child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, whose unlawful coupling has opened the floodgates to all of this Reformation heresy.
And in Sander's version of the story, things are even worse than that for Elizabeth, because she is the product of incest.
Anne Boleyn is not only Henry VIII's wife, she's also his daughter, according to Sander.
And in support of his argument, he produces the evidence of what she looks like, which is clearly weirdly incestuously monstrous.
In Sander's hands, her olive-skinned complexion becomes sallow, as if troubled with jaundice.
A projecting tooth under her upper lip distorts the shape of her mouth.
On her right hand, a vestigial fingernail growth becomes a whole extra finger.
And a slight swelling on her neck becomes a large wen, or goiter, whose ugliness, Sander claims, she tried to hide by wearing a high dress covering her throat.
♪♪ The fact that Anne didn't wear high-necked dresses -- She was much too elegant for that -- didn't seem to bother Sander.
He was effectively describing her as if she were a witch.
By the time he was publishing in 1585, Anne Boleyn was long dead.
So clearly his target was Anne's daughter, Elizabeth.
With a mother like that, what must the daughter be like?
♪♪ But Sander's propaganda failed.
The daughter went on to become one of England's greatest monarchs, Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen who defeated Catholic Spain's invading armada, thus underlining the myth that England was destined by God to be gloriously isolated from Europe's influence.
♪♪ Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell used a dodgy reading of history to spin a story about a proud and independent nation, one that was separate from the Catholic world and separate, too, from the Protestant nations of Europe.
And this is still a powerful vision of history, one that sees Britain flourishing without interference from its European neighbors.
That view has informed the way we've done business with Europe ever since, from Churchill's postwar insistence that we were with Europe but not of it, to Margaret Thatcher's rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in 1990.
[ Men clamoring indistinctly ] -Brexit!
-And for many, the idea of Britain as an exceptional island nation is as strong as ever.
For them, Henry's Reformation was the making of this country and can be again.
-I think outside, we will do incredibly well.
It's like another Reformation.
It'll be the same explosion of talent and opportunity.
Mr. Duncan Smith -- -It's a new Reformation.
-The story of Henry VIII's break with Rome so he could get his divorce and marry Anne Boleyn has been entertaining us for centuries, and that's because it's a fabulous royal soap opera.
-When do we want it?
-But now that issue of breaking so decisively with Europe is once again taking center stage.
And it's partly because of those myths that Henry and Cromwell started spinning in the 16th century.
They are still splitting the country to this day.
-Next time, Regency Britain, when Mad King George III... -Traitors and knaves.
-...was forced to hand power to his extravagant son.
Was this an age of elegance or revolution?
And how did royal secrets and myths help save the British throne?
-In some ways, it was the most astounding piece of propaganda in the 19th century.