Thomas Cranmer becomes Archbishop of Canterbury – 30 March 1533

Posted By on March 30, 2011

Archbishop CranmerOn this day in history, 30th March 1533, Thomas Cranmer, Archdeacon of Taunton, was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury. In his new biography of Henry VIII, David Loades, writes:-

“The Archdeacon of Taunton was by no means an obvious man for this job. He was not a bishop, and had no administrative experience outside of Cambridge University. He was, however, a theologian and biblical scholar of some merit, and above all he was absolutely committed to the King’s cause in the one issue which mattered above all others at that time – the question of Henry’s marriage to Catherine.”

Here was a man who had been “on various missions to promote Henry’s cause”, who the King could rely on to help him. By Spring 1533 it was urgent that the King get his “Great Matter” sorted out once and for all. He had married Anne Boleyn in secret in the January (possibly November 1532 too) and she was pregnant, yet Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon has still not been annulled. The King was desperate, he needed this baby, this potential son, to be legitimate. Fortunately, Pope Clement VII did not kick up a fuss and confirmed Cranmer’s appointment.

At the end of March and early April 1533, convocation met to discuss the validity of the King’s marriage to his brother’s widow and ruled in the King’s favour, declaring that it broke Biblical law and that a papal dispensation should never have been given. On Wednesday 9th April, Catherine of Aragon was informed that she was no longer queen and that her title was now “Dowager Princess of Wales”. On 11th April (Good Friday) Henry VIII informed the court that Anne Boleyn was now queen and on the 12th April, Easter Saturday, Anne Boleyn attended mass as Queen.

On the 10th May 1533, Archbishop Cranmer opened a special court at Dunstable for the annulment proceedings. Catherine of Aragon did not attend, believing that Cranmer had no jurisdiction. On the 23rd May, Cranmer’s court ruled that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was against the will of God and declared that the marriage was null and void. On the 28th May, Cranmer declared the marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn valid and on the 29th May the coronation pageantry began, culminating with the crowning of Anne Boleyn as Queen at Westminster Abbey on the 1st June 1533.

On the 7th September 1533, the baby that has caused all this urgency and stress was born, it was not the longed for boy, it was a girl: the future Queen Elizabeth I.