Defender of the Faith

views updated


A title conferred on henry viii by Pope leo x in 1521 and still retained as part of the style of the English crown, appearing on all royal instruments, e.g., English coins. Henry VIII had been pressing for years for a papal titleto match those enjoyed by the French and Spanish kings. In 1512, 1515, and 1516 various formulae were proposed, including "Defender of the Holy See," "Apostolic King," and "Defender of the Faith," but none succeeded. In 1521, having produced his work against Martin luther and thinking that his claim was thus strengthened, he resumed the quest. A presentation copy of his work was sent to Rome and, after considerable dilly-dallying, Leo X conferred on its author the title of his choice, viz, "Defender of the Faith."

This somewhat grudging grant was probably intended as a personal gift to Henry but was converted into a permanent addition to the royal style. Despite England's repudiation of Rome and the fact that the faith concerned was that of the popes and scarcely that of the Church of which the English monarch is supreme head, it has remained. Of the many extra titles acquired by the English crown, this one has fared best.

Bibliography: m. brown, "Henry VIII's Book Assertio Septem Sacramentorum and the Royal Title of Defender of the Faith " in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 1st ser. 8 (1880) 242262. m. creighton, History of the Papacy , 6 v. (New York 1897) 6:374375. f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 384.

[j. j. scarisbrick]