Henry VIII’s savage Reformation

When Henry VIII instituted the break with Rome, he ushered in an era that would see Protestants and Catholics burn, starve, hang and hack each other to death in their thousands. Peter Marshall tells the story of England's bloody wars of religion

Travelling Mass set, c1535, consisting of a silver-gilt chalice; a paten (Communion plate) and a glass bottle for wine, with a leather box in which to carry them. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of BBC History Magazine

Fierce fighting raged all day on 4 August 1549 in the fields and lanes outside the Devon village of Clyst St Mary. By evening, royal forces had driven the rebels from the streets, and taken the bridge over the river Clyst. But even in the moment of victory, 
the king’s commanders feared a counter-attack. The order was given for soldiers to 
kill any prisoner in their custody: perhaps 900 men were, in the words of a chronicler, “slain like beasts”.

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