Thomas Cranmer

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Thomas Cranmer as played by Hans Matheson

Born July 2nd, 1489 - executed March 21st, 1556
by the order of Queen Mary I

Character's backstory:
Cranmer was born in Nottinghamshire, began studying at Cambridge in 1503, and married upon graduating. When his wife died within a year, however, he returned to Cambridge and was ordained a priest. In 1520 he began meeting with other Cambridge scholars whom Lutheran winds blowing across the North Sea informed and invigorated. "Little Germany", as the group was called, had within it many who would subsequently become leaders in the English Reformation -- and pay dearly for it.

For two years King Henry VIII had wanted to divorce Queen Katherine of Aragon on account of her "failure" to provide him with a male heir. Cranmer was consulted. He concluded that scripture, the church fathers, and church councils concurred that Henry was unlawfully married. (Katherine was prievouisly married to Henry's brother, Prince Arthur.)

By January, 1533, Henry was desperate for a divorce, if only because the woman he wanted to marry next, Anne Boleyn, was already pregnant. Since the Archbishop had died, Henry appointed Cranmer, assuming Cranmer to be a supporter. Cranmer pronounced Henry's marriage to Catherine void and that to Anne (they had meanwhile been married secretly) valid.

Like Cromwell, Cranmer benefited directly from the fall of Queen Katherine of Aragon and the Imperial alliance and the rise of Anne Boleyn and her Norfolk relations. Henry's midlife crisis provided fertile ground for ambitious men. Cranmer and Cromwell liked one another and became friends, though Cranmer was careful to distance himself once Cromwell's ruin was assured.

Gentility: Lesser Gentry

Position: Archdeacon of Taunton, First Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury

Personality type: His native brilliance and his unrelenting diligence saw him acclaimed a theologian of immense learning.
He was deeply religious but not psychologically resilient.

Signature look: clerical robes

Endearing trait(s): although considered to be somewhat of a ditherer, he was a heroic defender of the reformed Christian faith. He helped translate and reform the faith and worship of the English speaking world, recalling it to a simpler more direct proclamation of Christ and the Gospel.

Annoying trait(s): concerned almost entirely with his own self-interest and self-preservation; is willing to break with principles or betray friends to stay alive or in power.

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Thomas Cranmer

"...Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of
Canterbury and spiritual foster-father of the Reformation in England. Pliable and naive, one of the few men for whom Henry ever felt real affection, and imbued with a quiet common sense and a divine gift for translating enduring ideas into the magic and majesty of the English language, Cranmer was helpless with out the political acumen of Thomas Cromwell. More Christian than Winchester [[[Bishop Stephen Gardiner|Stephen Gardiner]]] deep down perhaps stronger than any of his colleagues or rivals the Archbishop is of more ultimate importance than any of them, but in the crisis of 1540 he played a minor role, viewing what happened with something of the shocked astonishment of the child. "
~ Lacey Baldwin Smith A Tudor Tragedy

When Anne Boleyn was arrested he wrote to King Henry VIII :

'If it be true that is openly reported of the Queen's Grace...I am in such perplexity that my mind is clean amazed; for I never had better opinion in woman than I had in her; which maketh me to think that she should not be culpable... Next to Your Grace, I was most bound to her of all creatures living... I wish and pray for her that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent... I loved her not a little for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and His Gospel.'


Family members:
Anne Cranmer *
Thomas Cranmer Jr. *1538
Margaret Cranmer *1553

1st wife - Joan
2nd wife - Margaret Osiander*, the niece of a Lutheran reformer, Andreas Osiander

*NB. In his book "Thomas Cranmer: A Life" Historian Diarmaid MacCulloch raises, only to dismiss, the rumour that Cranmer's wife was kept in a box. However he does say that Margaret, the second Mrs. Cranmer, must have lived in England so secretly that even her husband's most bitter opponents never learned of her existence. Thus perhaps the box was used as symbolic of that fact.
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
Sir Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
George Boleyn
Anne Boleyn

The Catholic faction
spearheaded by Princess Mary Tudor who finally had him executed



  • Taking Anne Boleyn's last confession and then when she is giving her scaffold speech, falls to his knees and the crowd follow suit.


Thomas Cranmer Thomas Cranmer

Cranmer's wife in her boxCranmer's wife in her box

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