As the Early Modern era started, the way people looked at life and the world around them began to change. Some began to question traditional beliefs. For example, many Catholic churches suggested that people could pay indulgences in order to buy their way into heaven. Some felt that this was just a way for the church to make money. This led to conflicts about religion and many people died because of their views.
Attempts to reform the Catholic Church and the development of Protestant Churches in western Europe are known as 'the Reformation'.
The Reformation began in 1517 when a German monk called Martin Luther protested about the Catholic Church. Protestants believed in worshipping God more simply, without the need for beautifully decorated churches and lots of money. They felt that there should be no distractions and it should just be God and his people. Catholics, on the other hand, always believed in making a church look divine in order that people could feel closer to God there. They also had different ideas on liturgy, prayer and communion. His followers became known as Protestants.
Many people and governments adopted the new Protestant ideas and found themselves attacked by those who remained faithful to the Roman Catholic religion. This led to a split in the Church.
In England, the people must have become quite confused about what religion they were supposed to be following:
Henry VIII - split the English Church away from the Pope, but this was an argument about the succession and power and not a move towards Protestantism. Henry remained a Catholic to the end of his life.
Edward VI - Henry VIII's son, was a Protestant.
Mary I - Henry VIII's daughter, tried to restore the Catholic Church.
Elizabeth I - another daughter of Henry VIII, was a Protestant but at first tried to follow a 'middle way' in religion in order to steady England after periods of religious change. She later began to persecute Catholics and by the end of her reign England was a Protestant country.
James I - son of Mary Queen of Scots, was tolerant towards the Catholics, but introduced strict anti-Catholic laws after the Gunpowder Plot.
Charles I - son of James I, tried to introduce Arminian changes. Arminianism is a type of Protestantism that has a lot in common with Catholicism. Charles ended up fighting a civil war against Oliver Cromwell – who was a Puritan.
Charles II and James II - sons of James I, were Catholics. They tried to relax the laws against Catholics.
William III - was a Calvinist Protestant from Holland.