30 March 1533 – Thomas Cranmer Became Archbishop of Canterbury

Posted By on March 30, 2013

On this day in 1533, Passion Sunday, Thomas Cranmer, Archdeacon of Taunton, was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury in St Stephen’s College, Westminster Palace, by the bishops of Lincoln, Exeter, and St Asaph. His biographer, Henry John Todd, writes of how, before he took the oath of obedience to the see of Rome, he made the following ‘protestation’:

“In the name of God, Amen. I Thomas, archbishop of Canterbury elect, do before you, persons of authority and credible witnesses, here present, say, allege, and, by this present instrument in writing, openly, publicly, and expressly protest, that whereas before my consecration, or at the time thereof, I am obliged to take the oath, or oaths, usually taken by the archbishops of Canterbury elect to the pope, for form sake, rather than for any essentiality or obligation there is in the thing, in order to my obtaining the same: It neither is, nor shall be, my will or intention to oblige myself by the said oath, or oaths, howsoever the same may seem to be worded, to any thing hereafter to be said, done, or attempted, by reason thereof, which shall be, or seem to be, contrary to the law of God, or contrary to our most illustrious king of England, or the commonwealth of this his kingdom of England, or to the laws or prerogatives of the same: And that I do not intend to oblige myself by the said oath, or oaths, in any manner whatsoever, so as to disable myself freely to speak, consult, and consent, in all and singular the matters, and things, any way concerning the reformation of Christian religion, the government of the Church of England, or the prerogatives of the crown thereof, or the good of the commonwealth; and every where to execute and reform those things, which I shall think fit to be reformed in the Church of England.

And I do protest and profess, that I will take the said oath, or oaths, according to this interpretation and this sense, and none other, nor in any other manner. And I do further protest, that whatsoever the oath may be, which my proctor hath already taken to the pope in my name, it was not my intention or will to give him any power, by virtue whereof he might take any oath in my name contrary to, or inconsistent with, the oath by me already taken, or hereafter to be taken, to our said illustrious king of England: And in case he hath taken any such contrary or inconsistent oath in my name, I do protest, that the same being taken without my knowledge, and without my authority, shall be null and invalid. And these my protestations I will have to be repeated, and reiterated, in all the clauses and sentences of the said oaths: From which [protestations] I do not intend, in any manner whatsoever, by deed or by word, to recede, nor will recede, but will always hold the same to be firm and binding to me.”

Todd explains that this protest was introduced three times at Cranmer’s consecration; firstly in front of witnesses at the chapter-house of St Stephen’s, secondly after he had processed from the chapter-house to the altar and finally after he had been consecrated and had received the pall.

This protestation’s aim was to show that the oath of obedience to the papacy that Cranmer took at his consecration would not be in conflict with his loyalty to Henry VIII and his commitment to “reformation of Christian religion”.

Cranmer’s first duty as Archbishop was to preside over the convocation meeting to to discuss the validity of the Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow. You can read more about this in my article Thomas Cranmer Consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury and 23 May 1533 – Archbishop Cranmer Declares the Annulment of Henry VIII’s Marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Notes and Sources

  • Cranmer’s protestation is taken from The Life of Archbishop Cranmer by Henry John Todd, p58-60
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2004) ‘Cranmer, Thomas (1489–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press

7 thoughts on “30 March 1533 – Thomas Cranmer Became Archbishop of Canterbury”

  1. Mary Heneghan says:

    I wonder why Thomas Cranmer took an oath where the Pope or Rome were mentioned at all. Was the Church of England not fully established at the time of his consecration or was there still some connection with Rome. Very interesting piece, Claire!

    1. miladyblue says:

      No, the Church of England, as everyone knows of it today, was not fully formed. At this moment in time, Henry was fed up with the maneuverings that were keeping him from divorcing Katharine of Aragon and marrying Anne Boleyn. But the break from Rome had not been formalized nor finalized.

      1. Mary Heneghan says:

        Miladyblue, thanks for clearing that up.

      2. Annette says:

        Was Henry VIII at the time of his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, was he afraid of his excommunication from the Rome Catholic Church by the Pope? And was he afraid to leave to church because of his fear of losing his soul? ATK

    2. Banditqueen says:

      The final break from Rome was not satisfied for some time. The legislation was still being implemented during 1534 and 1535.. When Henry appointed Cranmer he still had to have his appointment confirmed by Rome, as was the correct procedure. Cranmer still had to take the traditional oath, which is why he made his protest on paper and could reconcile this with his secular oath to Henry. The establishment of the Church of England would undergo numerous changes and legal debates before it was finalized. Cranmer would be part of those changes.

      Trivia… don’t know if this is true but there is a tale that the Pope on asking what was known about the candidate…that is Cranmer was told he was a nobody and replied…. Well then let us appoint a nobody. Afterall what harm can a nobody do to our holy church? Oh boy, understatement and underestimating a man of ideas.

  2. LadyPrincess says:

    I have a question about Cranmer’s first wife “Black Joan”. I realize there’s not much known about her, but some say that she was the daughter of a pub owner and then others say she was the niece of a landlady at the Dolphin Inn. I was just wondering which story is true?

  3. Annette says:

    Based on the trial of George Boleyn, did his relationship with Cranmer ever come into the trial?
    I intend to read GEORGE BOLEYN BY Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgeway. I always wanted to read more Queen Anne Boleyn’s brother and their religious background. ATK

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