Brewer's: Defender of the Faith
A title given by Pope Leo X. to Henry VIII. of England, in 1521, for a Latin treatise On the Seven Sacraments. Many previous kings, and even subjects, had been termed “defenders of the Catholic faith,” “defenders of the Church,” and so on, but no one had borne it as a title. The sovereign of Spain is entitled Catholic, and of France Most Christian.
God bless the king! I mean the `faith's defender! ' God bless—no harm in blessing the Pretender. But who Pretender is, or who is king- God bless us all! that's quite another thing.
Richard II., in a writ to the sheriffs, uses these words: “Ecclesia cujus nos defensor sumus,” and Henry VII., in the Black Book, is called “Defender of the Faith;” but the pope gave the title to Henry VIII., and from that time to this it has been perpetuated. (See Graceless Florin.)