The Defence of the Seven Sacraments also known as Assertio Septem Sacramentorum was a theological treatise written in 1521 and was officially attributed to King Henry VIII. Henry began writing it in 1519 whilst he was reading Martin Luther’s attack on indulgences and denounced the Papal system. By June 1519 Henry had shown his work to Cardinal Wolsey, Wolsey would be the only to read it for the next three years.
The original manuscript would become the first two chapters of Assertio Septem Sacramentorum with the rest of the treatise being made up of new material that related to Luther’s De Captivitate Babylonica, many believe that Sir Thomas More was involved in the working of this piece.
Henry ended his treatise by saying to readers that they should not be influenced by the likes of Luther and other heretics. He wrote;
“Do not listen to the Insults and Detractions against the Vicar of Christ which the Fury of the little Monk spews up against the Pope; nor contaminate Breasts sacred to Christ with impious Heresies, for if one sews these he has no Charity, swells with vain Glory, loses his Reason, and burns with Envy. Finally with what Feelings they would stand together against the Turks, against the Saracens, against anything Infidel anywhere, with the same Feelings they should stand together against this one little Monk weak in Strength, but in Temper more harmful than all Turks, all Saracens, all Infidels anywhere.”
Henry dedicated the treatise to Pope Leo X who received a copy on 2nd October 1521 who upon reading it rewarded Henry with the title of Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith on 11th October. Although the title was officially revoked following Henry’s break with Rome and the Catholic Church.
There has been some debate whether Henry did indeed write the book himself or whether it was written by someone such as Cardinal Wolsey, Sir Thomas More or Bishop Fisher and it was published under the King’s name in order to give it more substance.