I’ve made nice with our friends over at The Tudorials and they were willing to share this post about Thomas Cramner – a topic I have not yet touched upon. I love their colorful take on history – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. đź™‚ – Tudors Weekly
2nd July 1489 – Thomas Cranmer is born
I’ve always thought of Thomas Cranmer as a bit of an obscure Tudor, in that he did a lot to shape the country during Henry VIII’s reign and yet never seems to take much of a centre stage despite his importance. He was born in 1489 under the reign of Henry’s dad, Henry VII (they liked the name Henry back then), and rose to fame as the archbishop of Canterbury before being executed by Henry’s daughter Mary at the ripe old age of 67 for the crime of heresy, (I always think it hardly seemed worth executing anybody above 50 in Tudor times as being left to the ravages of old age was probably a far shittier punishment).
Thomas was born to parents of minor gentry and sent off to University in Cambridge to become a priest. However before qualifying, he fell in love and married his first wife Joan so the University kicked him out, (the Catholics didn’t like married priests, but priests were allowed to take a mistress….I don’t get it either). Anyway within the year Joan died during childbirth and the University, being the understanding bunch that they were, reinstated Cranmer’s fellowship allowing him to qualify as a priest and eventually a ‘Doctor of Divinity’, which has to be up there amongst the best titles ever. Eventually Cardinal Woolsey (the Popes right hand man in England), came sniffing about for bright young Cambridge scholars to work in Spain as ambassadors to the Pope and Cranmer’s name cropped up, so off he went.
Meanwhile, Back in England in the 1520’s, Henry VIII was growing fed up with his first wife Katherine. She had not only failed to produce an heir (how selfish), but she had also produced a long list of miscarriages and still born babies. The king was anxious that he would have no heir so turned his attentions to the idea of a new wife to chuck out some boys. In order to do this he needed an annulment (to get around the problem of divorce and the Pope). In order to get an annulment Henry needed a good lawyer,( just like every corrupt noble), and he figured it might be a good move to find somebody from the clergy willing to justify Henry’s actions to the Pope. Henry chose Thomas Cromwell as his lawyer, and in 1527 he interviewed Thomas Cranmer and decided he was exactly the man he needed to get him out of his 24 year marriage. The men became good pals and decided between them that Henry’s marriage contradicted a passage in the bible which stated that you must not marry your brother’s wife. They added evidence to this claim stating that the marriage was cursed and the failure to produce a male heir was proof (they neglected to mention Henry’s syphilis). This did not stick in the slightest and they were told by the Pope that it was basically tough shit. He chose to marry Katherine and to abandon her would be an act of heresy and result in excommunication.
In 1532 Thomas found himself in Rome as the ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Katharine’s nephew. He was not happy about the annulment either. Anyway, whilst following Charles around Europe, Thomas met his second wife Margarete. He loved her so much that he decided to sack off celibacy (its silly anyway) and his vows to the church and marry her anyway. Shortly after this he got a letter from Henry VIII ordering him to return to England to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was a bit of a bugger for Thomas so he decided that he would hide his wife in exile.
Back in England Henry was still trying desperately to get his annulment from his wife (it went on for 6 years). In 1532 he dropped a massive bollock by getting Anne Boleyn knocked up, (he had promised to marry her in order to bed her, so now the need for divorce was greater than ever). In January 1533 Henry secretly married Anne (and did not tell Cranmer till 2 weeks after, possibly so as not to piss him off whilst working on the annulment bullshit and also so he didn’t get into a hot mess for being a bigamist). Anyway all was good when Cranmer came through for Henry in May of the same year, declaring his marriage void.
As you can imagine this did not fly with the pope, so Henry went to Cranmer again for help. The two decided they would sack off Catholicism and invent a new religion where Henry could be boss and Cranmer could re-write Holy passages which basically allowed Henry to do what he wants and be thought of as equal to the Pope (in that he was the head of the Church of England as the pope was the head of the Roman catholic church).
Cranmer remained faithful to Henry and a load of other less interesting stuff happened: Henry executed Anne after just 3 years of marriage, got remarried to a bird called Jane who gave him his heir and died in the process. He also married Anne of Cleeves and decided he didn’t like her so Cranmer helped the king ditch her only to go forward to marry a girl of 19, (when he was 49 like a dirty old bastard), called Katherine Howard. Katherine was his ‘rose without thorns’…his words, and he was besotted with her, giving her wealth beyond her wildest dreams and bragging about all the sex they had been having (imagine the poor girl having that fat oink writhing on you with his old body and stinking, ulcerated leg. Not exactly a turn on).
Being a girl of 19 in a court full of hot young lads, It didn’t take long for Katherine’s eyes to wander and they fell upon the youthful face of Thomas Culpepper (member of the Kings privy council). They began an affair and it also came out that she had shagged a couple of dudes before she had met the king and not quite been the virgin he had taken her to be. Nobody wanted to tell the king of his new wife infidelities so the job was handed to Cranmer. Cranmer, being the brave, fearless man he was, slipped a note informing the king of all Katherine’s shenanigans under his chair at mass. The king upon finding this note was most pissed off and decided to send wife number 5 to the block at the tender age of 19.
When Henry VIII died in 1547, Cranmer was all about Protestantism. He cared so little about what the Catholics thought that he almost seeming only purpose went out of his way to piss them off. Under the Reign of the boy king Edward VI, who was also a big fan of Protestantism, (after all it had assisted his dad in binning off 2 wives prior to knobbing his Ma and spawning the sickly lad), Thomas Cranmer was allowed to run wild. He was given free reign to the changed he thought necessary to the church in order to make it a bit less catholic and also write two books of prayer.
When Ed died Thomas supported his successor, the protestant ‘nine day queen’ Lady Jane Grey. The thought of Lady Jane inheriting the throne pissed loads of people off. Edward’s sisters, (Princess’ Mary and Elizabeth), had both been declared bastards by Henry and moreover, if Mary (who’s turn it was next) inherited the throne she would try and make the country Catholic again…she was having none of Edward’s Protestant bullshit. Likewise, Edward wasn’t about to risk the Catholics coming back and the Pope laying some smack-down on his country or losing the gold looted from the monasteries some years earlier by his Dad, so he did the sensible thing and named their cousin Jane as the next sovereign.
Long story short, Mary went mental, rallied an army, marched on London like a banshee, told Jane she would be spared if she converted to Catholicism, Jane told her to cock off so was totally executed. This meant Mary inherited the throne of England and Cranmer swiftly ran out of allies.
And so to poor Thomas’ end. Mary was a psycho b*tch. She HATED Protestants and loved nothing more than torturing, hanging and setting fire to them. Thomas Cranmer being the King of the Protty’s now found himself in deep shit. Mary had Cranmer arrested and put on trial for the crime of heresy, he was told that if he recanted all would be OK, so he did. He basically told the court that Protestantism was crap and Catholicism was amazing, but they did not believe him, (can’t think why), so Cranmer was sentenced to death.
Upon his death took back his recantation, stating that the Pope was the Antichrist and that he had cleared his conscience before his death, basically stating that because he had nothing to loose he was going to let the world know his thoughts about the catholic reign. He was then tied to the woodpile with chains and set alight. Thomas then did something totally awesome and shoved his first recantation (the one which said he now likes Catholics), into the fire first, held it there whilst the paper burnt (and his hand with it), and said ‘this unworthy right hand’, before being consumed by the flames.
After surviving Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Lady Jane Grey, Thomas was executed by the hand of Mary I at the ripe old age of 67.
Thomas Cranmer…religious bad-boy.
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