|A burial marker in the aisle of Holy Trinity, Loddon|
Henry VIII is often seen as a villain. As an American, it would be inappropriate for me to either criticize him or to sing his praises. But after robbing the Catholic Church of the power it wielded over all aspects of English life, he didn't try to create his own religion. While he made significant changes to religious practice and belief, he still allowed his subjects to worship in a way they recognized as Christian.
Three hundred years later, in their zeal to empower the common people, French reformers like Robespierre did not follow Henry VIII's example. After bringing down the religious authority of the Catholic Church, they went on to rob the country of the entire basis of its secular government. Then they set up an entirely new calendar, and established not one, but two new state religions. The people embraced neither the calendar nor the new religions. Eventually, they returned to the Catholic Church. As they had eradicated the aristocracy, France today lacks the rich history and cultural diversity England enjoys as a modern republic which also has a monarch.
As bloody and as terrible as Henry VIII's reign was, one wonders what might have occurred had the English king not broken with the Catholic Church. Might the number of the common people who hungered for change have grown, until centuries later, they rose up and brought down the entire secular and the religious leadership of Britain? What might the United Kingdom look like today had that happened? Would it have an American style President and Congress? Would all its churches be barren rooms, without a trace of ornamentation or memorials, their painted rood screens destroyed, plaster board covering aging frescos on old stone walls, and their historic stain glass windows replaced with triple insulated glass? Or would Catholicism have returned, stronger than before, like it did in France?
In merging their separate communities, the townspeople of Loddon may have lost some of the beliefs and practices particular to their respective denominations. But unlike the people of France during their revolution, as popularized by Baroness Emma Orczy in her novel The Elusive Pimpernel, they are not beheading anyone, either by a republican guillotine, or a royal executioner. They may not worship a goddess of their own design, but they employ reason in sharing a true community spirit, and generosity of spirit in merging their differences in belief and opinion.