We know that Henry VIII had been against Luther, even after Henry broke with Rome. So the Reformation in England developed differently to the one in Europe at that point. But were later Protestants in England such as the Roundheads more approving of Luther? Did they move the Church of England closer to Lutheranism while they were in power?

Edit: Thomas Cromwell was sympathetic to some Luther's ideas, so Luther had a high profile at that point in England... it's not like Oliver Cromwell (related to Thomas) could have only heard of Calvin!

  • 1
    Don't you mean King Henry VIII? Henry Tudor was his father, King Henry VII. Henry Tudor was already dead before Luther started the reformation movement. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 13:16
  • 4
    Afaik the English Puritans were mostly of a Calvinist bent. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 13:56

2 Answers 2


Oliver Cromwell left no written opinion of Martin Luther, but people in his circle were keen to use Luther's writings to further their own aims. Meanwhile, John Milton and John Bunyan thought well of Luther though in general only a few translations of the German Reformer had been made into English.

The Puritan feeling for Luther was rather a cool one, not professedly hostile but decidedly critical. There were two reasons for this. On the Continent the mutual hatred of the Calvinists and the Lutherans was almost as great as their common detestation of the Catholics. The point that divided the Protestant churches was the doctrine of the sacrament, Lutherans holding to the cor- poreal Presence more literally than did Calvinists. These disputes were also rife in England, though in a milder form. Then again the German had too little respect for the proprieties and austerities so dear to the Puritan heart. He had expressed approval of amusements like cards and dancing, anathema to the Independents. ...

Though Oliver Cromwell has left no estimate of Luther, there were in his camp a small party of extremists who appealed to the authority of the German to justify their antinomian and anti-social tenets. Such was William Dell, a field-chaplain at Cromwell's headquarters, a preacher in a radical form of justification by faith only. Dell also abused Luther's authority to support an attack on human learning. In his Tryal of Spirits (1660) he printed under the title, Testimony of Martin Luther touching Universities, a part of the Reformer's Answer to Ambrose Catharinus. Dell prefaces it thus: “These now are Luther's own words, which I have made legible to English men. Wherein it is manifest that he condemns Universities in the very Institution and Constitution of them." Of Dell's party was John Eaton, the author of The honey-combe of free justification by Christ alone (1642). In this essay it would seem that he both built upon the Wittenberg theologian and went beyond him.

John Milton confesses that he "had not examined through” Luther's works, and was certainly not deeply indebted to him. Coleridge states that Milton got the idea that Eve ate the apple at noon from the Table Talk translated by Bell. It is possible that the poet may have been thinking of the Reformer in his description of Noah in Paradise Lost:

"The only son of light
In a dark age, against example good,
Against allurement, custom, and a world
Offended. Fearless of reproach and scorn
Or violence."

But this is merely a conjecture. That he thought of Luther, as far as he thought of him at all, is seen in an obiter dictum in the Apology for Smectimnuus, where the poet is excusing the violence of his language. ...

The other chief religious writers of the age have little or nothing to say of Luther.
Smith, 'English Opinion on Luther'

Note the link on the article's title is far better than the other one, but I left the original one in on the author's name.

I tried finding out on similar lines what Cromwell or his contemporaries thought of John Calvin, but didn't find anything.

  • Thanks. What was the context of Milton's remark? Did someone ask him about Luther or what?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 17:39

The history of the Reformation is a VAST topic. It proceeded quite differently in England, to the way it did in Scotland, and was different again in the German states and elsewhere in Europe.

There was a form of protestantism in England which long preceded Luther. Lollardy based around the writings and leadership of John Wycliffe began in the 14th century (nearly 200 years before Luther). This movement led to some of the very earliest translations of the bible into English.

The movement in the Anglican Church, at the time of Henry VIII, is referred to as the Henrician Reformation, the theological inspiration having come from Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

However before you get to the time of the Roundheads - a hundred years later (1640s) other non-conformist movements have started to develop based on continental reformers such as Calvin and others. As for whether they liked Luther or not, I don't really know the answer, but there were certainly different theological approaches in each of the movements.

If you are serious about the topic, here is a short bibliography of where you might start:

Perhaps the best place is the Wiki entry on the English Reformation

Then there are:

Thomas Koziara's work on the Henrician period

and specifically on Cranmer

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    Ahh...thank you! Was not relishing stopping what I was doing to research essentially this same answer. Added some links for those wanting to read more on Wycliffe and Lollardy.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 18:50
  • Just added in question, what about Thomas Cromwell and his gang? They followed Luther, didn't they?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 21:36
  • It would be a major exaggeration to put it like that. Remember that Cromwell was the Chief Minister (equivalent to Prime Minister today). The Wiki article on him indicates that he did introduce some theological ideas that made it possible to forge an alliance with some German states. But in the whole article, the name Luther only appears once, and that is as part of the word Lutheran.
    – WS2
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 9:50

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