22 April 1536 – Archbishop Cranmer’s Strange Letter

Posted By on April 22, 2014

Thomas Cranmer On the 22nd April 1536, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who had been away from court staying at his country residence, Knole House, wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell. In it he said:

“I was ever hitherto cold, but now I am in a heat with the cause of religion, which goeth all contrary to mine expectation, if it be as the fame goeth; wherein I would wonder fain break my mind unto you, and if you please, I will come to such place as you shall appoint for the same purpose. Thus He that made you, ever keep you. From Knol, the 22 day of April.”

It’s a very odd letter. Is it a coded reference to goings-on at court? Had Cranmer heard gossip that both Anne and the new religion were being threatened? Or is he referring to Thomas Cromwell’s policy regarding the dissolution of the lesser monasteries? Is Cranmer withdrawing his support for Cromwell’s idea? It’s hard to know and historians have different theories.  There is no reply from Thomas Cromwell on record, so we can only hypothesise about this letter.

This is one of the events on my The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown interactive timeline – click here to view it now.

Notes and Sources

  • ed. Jenkyns, Rev. Henry (1833) The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, Volume I, p162

7 thoughts on “22 April 1536 – Archbishop Cranmer’s Strange Letter”

  1. Eunice Wormald says:

    TO ME Cranmer’s LETTER IS CLEAR HE WAS NOT BOTHERED ABOUT THE CHANGE IN RELIGION BUT NOW BECAUSE IT’S TAKING A DIFFERTENT COURSE TO THAT WHICH HE EXPECTED HE FEELS HE NEEDS TO UNBURDEN HIMSELF BY TALKING TO CROMWELL.

  2. Leslie says:

    It sounds to me like a coded letter for sure – assuring Cromwell he would support Cromwell (and ultimately the King) with Anne’s upcoming downfall. “…and if you please, I will come to such place as you shall appoint for the same purpose.” – this to me sounds like acquiescence.

  3. Leslie says:

    After reading it again, it sounds to me like Cranmer has changed his mind – which surprises him – regarding an idea (Anne’s fall, the monasteries, etc.?) that is fully supported by others (“as the fame goeth”).

    He is assuring Cromwell that his mind has changed, and he wants to meet with Cromwell to discuss the matter.

    “I was ever hitherto cold, but now I am in a heat with the cause of religion, which goeth all contrary to mine expectation, if it be as the fame goeth”

    = I have changed my mind regarding an idea fully supported by others, which surprises me.

    “…wherein I would wonder fain break my mind unto you, and if you please, I will come to such place as you shall appoint for the same purpose.”

    = I would like to meet and discuss, you name the place.

    At least that is how I read it 🙂

  4. Sonetka says:

    “I’d like to meet with you and discuss a religious matter, but since I’m Thomas Cranmer and cautious to a fault, there is no way on earth I’m going to be too clear in a letter which someone else could read.” 🙂

    I think this has to fall into the category of “who knows?” Since Cranmer seemed very surprised by the charges against Anne later, and the legal machinery didn’t start moving until April 24th, it seems unlikely that he’d know at this stage. My guess would be that they were talking about some comparatively minor religious/administrative issue.

  5. BanditQueen says:

    What a very strange letter indeed? If Cranmer has been away from court and come back; has he noticed some strange changes to what he expected in the reforms? Does he suspect that all is not well? Does he know something is about to happen that could affect his hopes on his religious beliefs? The fall of Anne Boleyn is only a couple of weeks away; is Cranmer suddenly aware that all is not well and that he may have to keep his religious and political opinions close to his chest for a time at least? What happened at the meeting? A code breaker needed please to interpret?

    Interesting part of the book; this one thing stands out as strange until you read it in context and realise that Cranmer appears in some kind of panick about the religious changes and may-be he sees something he does not like; such as Cromwell going too far or Anne not being secur?

    More information would be nice: do we have anything more to give another clue about what happened next?

  6. Virginia Jecks-Wright says:

    It sounds as if he was singing the song of “The Vicar of Bray” … it doesn’t matter who.is King, I still be the vicar of Bray. He cuts his material according to the cloth. In other words he’ll change his religion so things say the same for him. He will still be the vicar of Bray.

  7. BETH VON STAATS says:

    Thomas Cranmer was well known to historians to compose letters in cipher, which is my guess as to what this is. From the “school of common sense”, I would propose that letters between Cranmer and Cromwell were coded to obscure the correspondence from distracters who might get hold of them. Given Cranmer was “clean amazed” by Anne Boleyn’s fall, I would speculate that this letter has nothing at all to do with her. Just my thoughts…

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