3 May 1536 – A letter from Archbishop Cranmer to Henry VIII
Posted By Claire on May 3, 2017
On this day in history, 3rd May 1536, a very shocked Thomas Cranmer, Henry VIII’s Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to the king regarding the arrest of his good friend and patron, Queen Anne Boleyn.
In the letter, Cranmer wrote: “I am clean amazed, for I had never better opinion of woman”, but then tempered this with “but I think your Highness would not have gone so far if she had not been culpable”, so as not to cause any offence to the king.
3 thoughts on “3 May 1536 – A letter from Archbishop Cranmer to Henry VIII”
Thomas Cranmer quite rightly believed in her innocence and wished to tell his master so. It was brave of him to write that letter knowing the King would be in a bad mood, and some may have called it foolish but write it he did and I thinks its commendable of him to do so at the time when Annes character was under the most dreadful slander, one faithful servant Cromwell was dripping poison in his ear and another was extolling her virtues, in the line where he writes, ‘ I think your majesty would not have gone so far…’ Is designed to sweeten his mood as he knew the first sentance where he goes ‘he’s clean amazed as he never had better opinion of woman than he did of her’, may have angered Henry greatly, this faithful servant of both Anne and Henry was well thought of by both of them, and he was the only one to have spoken out loud in her defence, everyone else stayed silent as indeed they could do nothing else, and whatever Henry thought of this letter is unclear, one court observer writing many years later said Annes household was run very strictly with high moral standards indeed no other queen consort of Henrys he remarked was ever run better, hardly the household of a sex mad queen! Everyone who knew Anne commented on how pious she was yet according to the indictments against her, her household was nothing less than a brothel, no wonder Cranmer was ‘clean amazed’ and there were murmurings against the proceedings, it hardly fitted in with the image of a queen who had refused to sleep with her husband for seven years during their courtship, who championed and was the cause of the new religion and who instructed her women to read from the book of Tyndale, who had a strict moral code of behaviour from the gentleman as well as the ladies of her household and cared deeply for the poor and needy, the charges against her were meant to tarnish her name so deeply so Henry would gain more sympathy yet it went the other way, because the charges were so monstrous Anne was the one who gained more sympathy than her husband, Henry had power over life and death, yet he could not control his subjects minds, how they thought, he declared once he could do many things but he could not make the people cheer, he knew now that whatever happened in the future people would judge him, he may succeed in getting shot of his tiresome cranky wife, but they would never hold him in the same regard as before, gone was the sunny natured prince who had inherited the throne and had promised such a golden future, in his place now stood an increasingly overweight bad tempered tyrant who showed no qualms in having his queen and five faithful servants thrown into prison, and who was carrying on with another woman, his queens own lady in waiting so much for the moral high ground! Double standards have always applied to kings in matters of the heart, yet the fact he was seen wining and dining and visiting Jane Seymour did nothing to help portray him as the cuckolded husband, it merely made him look a hypocrite, his behaviour did nothing to garner sympathy and whilst he may not have cared at the time, in his subjects eyes and abroad he had damaged his name irretrievably, he was not to know that Jane would die in childbirth yet when he was searching for a bride amongst the European princesses, none of them were willing to hop into bed with him, Queen of England though they might be!
I feel for Cranmer. He must have believed Anne was innocent. This letter shows how conflicted he was, having to sooth the ego of the King and his ministers and show shock and disbelief of Anne’s arrest and the charges. He knew Anne as an upright woman and her household was one of virtue or at least that’s what she wanted. Anne had sent her own sister away for having a bun in the oven and marriage without her consent, she made her ladies promise to act with virtue and moderation and forbade men to go to brothels. She dismissed anyone using foul or dirty language and being intemperate with each other. Now does this really sound like a woman sleeping with four prominent members of her husband’s household and a musician, while pregnant and having children, cooked up in birthing chambers with her gossiping women around her 24/7? Did she have some weird magical powers to be in more than one place at the same time? Of course not and nobody thought this at the time either. The words ridiculous, preposterous, ludicrous and nonsense come to mind. Cranmer was also the King’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury and dependent on his good graces. He had to tactfully state he was shocked to hear what the Queen had been charged with, that it was incredulous while stating that the King would not have proceeded against vher without just cause. To be honest, in these dangerous suspicious days, to ensure my survival, I would have done the same.
Yes Anne was made out be like Queen Jezebel and Henry the virtuous prince who had afforded her honours and elevated her to Queen Of England, he was deeply wronged by this wicked woman whose virtue he had praised, who had plotted not only his own but his daughter the princess Marys death, all nonsense! Anne had made that foolish remark about bumping of her troublesome step daughter maybe she was a bit tipsy, however her brother admonished her for it saying it was a daft remark to make, but Anne would not have stooped so low, she would not stain her hands with the blood of a teenager, she was a I believe in a bad temper at the time and we all know Anne had a habit of speaking before she put her brain in gear, Mary had refused to acknowledge Elizabeth as her fathers heir and refused to accept Anne as the queen, that status was her mothers not the Kings mistress! As she still called her, and she was Princess of Wales not her baby sister, she also refused Annes show of friendship after her mothers death which so angered Anne she just gave up trying to be nice and thought she’d show her! I can be nasty to, this is another example of how words can be misconstrued, Annes words said in anger and we all say words we don’t mean and regret at the time, were reported back to Henry although he knew it was just Annes anger against Marys rude and disrespectful manner towards her, yet after her arrest he conveniently remembered them and they were used as another nail in the coffin for Anne.