Cranmer, Thomas

Signature of Thomas Cranmer

Biography: Born Nottinghamshire, 1489. Probably educated at home, then a grammar school. Student of theology at Cambridge, 1503, M.A., 1515, D.D., 1523. Fellow of Jesus Coll., divinity lecturer at Jesus. Had to forfeit his fellowship at Jesus due to his first marriage but was reinstated after his wife's death. Joined the King's diplomatic mission 1527. Consulted by the King about the annulment of his marriage to Katharine of Aragon, 1529, worked on the King's arguments in the case. Left Cambridge 1530. Sent abroad as King's envoy, to Italy 1530 and Ratisbon 1532. Archdeacon of Taunton c.1529, rectory of Bredon 1530. Began to question papal authority through his work on the King's case, and also made contact with evangelical reformers. While in Germany he met many literary men, including John Bebelius of Basel, who sent him a presentation copy of Polydore Vergil's Historia Anglica, fs. Basel, 1534. Whilst there he married his second wife, then followed Charles V's court to Italy. Summoned to be Archbishop of Canterbury 1533. Conducted the trial that annulled Henry's marriage to Katharine of Aragon, and a hearing to validate Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn. Principal role in the coronation of Anne and confirmed Elizabeth when she was born. Godfather to Elizabeth I and Edward. Sealing breaches with Rome 1534. Began his first diocesan visitation 1534. Began to make contact with European reformers from 1535. Started to preach against the Papacy 1536. Chaplain to Anne Boleyn, heard her confession and pronounced her marriage to Henry void May 1536. Took part in preparing a new doctrinal statement known as the Bishops Book 1537. First attempt to change the liturgy in 1538. Opposed Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves 1540. Role in secular politics increased after the execution of Thomas Cromwell 1540. Clear leader of the evangelical party by 1542. Plot against him from the staff of his own diocese 1542, known as the Prebendaries Plot. Presented with heresy charges by the King's conservative councillors, 1543, although the King had presented him with his personal ring, and therefore the councillors were humiliated. Palace at Canterbury destroyed by fire 1543. Published the litany, the first vernacular service, 1544. Helped defend Dover 1545. Number of his associates arrested for heresy 1546. Around this time changed his position on the Eucharist, made clear in 1548. Ministered the King as he died, without the rites of the Western Catholic Church 1547. Began inviting prominent reformers to England for safety from 1547. Issued the Book of Common Prayer 1549. Accelerated reform 1550-2, at the pace set by the King in parliament. Revision of the prayer book in 1551-2. Challenged by John Knox over kneeling at communion, but retained after Cranmer defended it. Supported the succession of Lady Jane Grey to Edward VI, rather than the catholic Queen Mary. Presided over Edward VI's funeral 1553. Appeared before commissioners 1553 to explain his role in the Lady Jane Grey coup, then lodged in the Tower. Stood trial for treason Sept 1553. Stood trial for heresy in Oxford, Mar 1554. Trial mandate issued in Rome, 1555. Signed submissions to papal authority Jan and Feb 1556. Date of execution set in Mar 1556. Died at the stake, 20 Mar 1556, at Balliol Coll., Oxford. On his death most of his books went to Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel and thence many went to Lord Lumley. For an account of the library, a list of his books and MSS and reprod. of the signature found in them see E. Burbridge in Quarritch, B. A dictionary of Book Collectors,pt 1, 1892. Most of his books found their way via the Old Royal library to the British Museum, but it appears from the work quoted that Lumley gave books to various libraries, and some of Cranmer's are now in Durham Univ. Lib. and elsewhere.

Biography Date: 1489-1556

Biography References: Prov. Reg. Notes; LOC; CERL; DNB; Drummond 298;


Book List

Items 2 Ordered by Owner, A-Z