12 September 1555 – Archbishop Cranmer’s Trial Begins
Posted By Claire on September 12, 2014
On 12th September 1555, the trial of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, began in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin at Oxford. He was accused of two offences, or doctrinal errors: repudiating papal authority and denying transubstantiation.
You can read all the details of his trial, and the subsequent proceedings, in my article The Trial of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.
2 thoughts on “12 September 1555 – Archbishop Cranmer’s Trial Begins”
I don’t believe Thomas Cranmer was a coward but I have to question his principles which seem to change with the weather. (Same thing could be said for many people who just wanted to survive in Tudor England) He was content to end the lawful marriage of Henry and Katherine, to declare Mary a bastard, to do the same at the point of Anne’s fall, to promote the headship of Henry over the church, even if he did not frame the original legislation, to accept the law disallowing appeals to Rome, then recants five times before his terrible death. Suddenly I think we see here the heart of Cranmer who does not believe in an earthly head of the Church, either in the Pope or the monarch. For him Christ alone is head.
Although Thomas Cranmer gives us an enthusiastic and eloquent defence of the beliefs he promoted in his common prayer service, he was not a martyr in the making. He changed his mind to attempt to save his life. I can’t judge him for that, his reasons why are his own. But no matter how desperate he was, Cranmer was not going to be saved. To the regime of Mary Tudor, he was a traitor, he was also charged with this. Mary had good personal reasons for not pardoning the man she believed to have ruined her mother’s life as well as her own. I have to admit that his challenge to the authority of the court probably did not help matters. I believe that the government decided that his recanting was not genuine, used these required documents as evidence against him, and as he was also involved with plots to depose Mary they determined to make him pay for his duplicity.
I believe Thomas Cranmer was a far more complex man and he was neither coward or brave bold calm martyr. He was a simple human being attempting to succeed in a cruel and changing country that had lost its spiritual identity and which was struggling to prevent the religious war on the continent. Cranmer was a clever man, but he also just hoped that he could swim with the tide. Unfortunately for him, the government saw him as too dangerous to have around, and his time was done. It was time to go home. Mary for some reason choose to condemn him as a heretic and not a traitor, although he was both. His recanting should have saved him from the fire, but he could still have been hung drawn and quartered as a traitor. Perhaps in the end all that mattered to the Marian regime was that he was executed, the method was not important. And perhaps Cranmer realised that tragic fact…..he could not save his life….so he may as well do whatever the crown asked of him. From the point of view of Mary and the government Cranmer is being given every opportunity to repent and has failed. He continues to be a traitor. The confession has been made, justice can be seen to have been done.
I think Mary had it in for him as he had declared her parents marriage illegal but he was only acting on the authority of her father, I like Thomas Cranmer he was the only one who defended Anne Boleyn and he was a great favourite of Henry V111, so what if he changed his mind he was only human and to die like that was absolutely horrendous, I just hope that all those poor people who suffered that most inhuman of deaths choked to death first on the smoke before the flames got to them, just can’t imagine what they went through.