Thomas CranmerOn this day in history, Thursday 12th September 1555, the trial of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, began at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin at Oxford.

Cranmer, who had served both King Henry VIII and King Edward VI as Archbishop of Canterbury, stood accused on this day in Mary I’s reign of two offences or doctrinal errors: repudiating papal authority and denying transubstantiation.

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If you want to know more about Thomas Cranmer then I’d recommend the book Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell by Beth von Staats as it is an excellent introduction to this fascinating Tudor man.

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2 thoughts on “12 September 1555 – The Trial of Archbishop Cranmer begins”
  1. Guess I have an immediate ’emotional’ reaction to this, just looking at the portrait of this venerable, vulnerable old guy, a sort of Blessed Gandalf, so wise, so clever, so frail, and I think, “How could they?” What kind of animals are we, who do this? It makes me feel less human, more animal. And yet, no animal behaves like this. And I kind of despair a bit. It is uncomfortable. But then I think of a very young man, a pilot, locked in a cage, by zealots of a different yet all too familiar kind, set on fire and burning to death in 2015 and think, have we really moved on, are we now or can we ever be, truly human and humane, or does our feral brutal animal self emerge in the long run? And yes, I am an atheist, and bound to question that human thing called ‘faith’, but this also applies to politics, and even, in another way, to chariot racers and football teams. Something about this archbishop, this man with a most wonderful way with words, moves me. I just squirm at this death. I don’t see it as ‘noble’. I feel it as infinitely sad, too sad for tears.

  2. Cranmer was one of the most important people in the country as well as the leading architect of the early and later reformation, plus the man who helped Henry Viii achieve his divorce (although he was also making possible that process which Henry had desired and began years before hand) which made him both a target and a prize for this regiem. A target due to his prominence and strong views/faith, but a prize as a compliant and recanted Cranmer would be someone who could promote the new ideas, say we are right, you are wrong and be a personal win for Queen Mary. I just want to shout sometimes, however, what is wrong with you people back then, but sadly this was how people thought all over the country, all over Europe and later even when Europeans went to what would be America, some people forgot that they left to escape persecution and intolerance.

    I don’t believe that Thomas Cranmer was not brave when he went through four or five recantations, he did not have much choice if he wanted to live. I also believe that he was making a stand here at his trial, by refusing to acknowledge their authority as he had taken a vow to do just that, not to bow to the Catholic authorities that he no longer accepted. Cranmer may have kept some of his beliefs, as well as a marriage or two to himself under Henry Viii, but he was his own man under Edward and had introduced the reforms that the majority of people still had problems accepting, which I think had given him more status and courage to make a stand. Cranmer over the month of his trial, the period of his imprisonment, the delays, recantations had been seriously conflicted, he had, according to a recent investigation (sorry I cannot recall the lady who has done the work) suffered from Stockholm syndrome and acted to please the authorities. In the end he chose to stand by what he held as truth and reversed the recantations. It does not matter, I think if we share his creed or understand this, but he stood firm. It is sad that anyone should have been killed for a belief, but it is important that we have now learned that we can live with different people with a wide variety of beliefs and none at all. In Chester there is a monument to a Protestant martyr and a Catholic martyr killed by the Parliament of Oliver Cromwell.

    I don’t believe that this was a personal act of revenge by Mary, but Cranmer was guilty of treason, so his recanting was a political move by the government, which was not given the weight that it should have been, which other acts of recanting normally would have been, due to this and other political agendas.

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