Nicholas Shaxton was born in Norfolk in about 1485. He studied at Cambridge University and achieved a BA in 1506. (1) It has been argued that as a student he was a regular visitor to the White Horse tavern that had been nicknamed "Little Germany" as the Lutheran creed was discussed within its walls, and the participants were known as "Germans". Those involved in the debates about religious reform included Thomas Cranmer, William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Matthew Parker and Miles Coverdale. Shaxton also went to hear the sermons of preachers such as Robert Barnes and Thomas Bilney. (2)
Shaxton became a fellow of Gonville Hall. According to his biographer, Susan Wabuda: "In the 1520s many members of Gonville Hall became deeply involved in the theological ferment developing at Cambridge.... Gonville Hall, with Pembroke and Peterhouse, had among its members... Edward Crome (who was a fellow with Shaxton) and John Skip (later chaplain to Anne Boleyn). The royal physician William Butts (an influential advocate of reform at court) was also a Gonville man. Shaxton's devotion to his college remained a great constant throughout his life." (3)
The main issue discussed by the reformers concerned the doctrine of transubstantiation, whereby the bread and wine became in actual fact the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic Church believed because it is impossible, it is proof of the overwhelming power of God. Martin Luther believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, but denied that he was there "in substance". Luther believed in what became known as consubstantiation or sacramental union, whereby the integrity of the bread and wine remain even while being transformed by the body and blood of Christ. Eventually, Shaxton, accepted the interpretation of Luther. (4)
In August 1531 Shaxton's friend, Thomas Bilney, was burnt at the stake for heresy. John Foxe later described his execution at Norwich: "Bilney approached the stake in a layman's gown, his arms hanging out, his hair mangled by the church's ritual divestiture of office. He was given permission to speak to the crowd and told them not to blame the friars present for his death and then said his private prayers. The officers put reeds and wood around him and lit the fire, which flared up rapidly, deforming Bilney's face as he held up his hands." Foxe claimed he called out "Jesus" and "I believe". (5)
Shaxton was distressed by this event and along with his friends attempted to convert others to their beliefs. This included Henry VIII . Along with Hugh Latimer and Matthew Parker, Shaxton joined these preaching campaigns to promote the royal supremacy and attack "superstitious" practices associated with the cults of saints and the doctrine of purgatory. This pleased Anne Boleyn and become one of the queen's chaplains. Shaxton was a strong opponent of people visiting religious shrines. He urged the destruction of all "stinking boots, mucky combs, ragged rochets, rotten girdles, threadbare purses, great bullocks' horns, locks of hair, and filthy rags, gobblets of wood under the name of parcels of the holy cross." (6)
As Susan Wabuda has pointed out: "Anne Boleyn's enemies dismissed her as a Lutheran, but the importance of her dedication to the cause of evangelism cannot be overstated. Her patronage became the cornerstone of Latimer's rise to prominence, and he owed his most important promotions to her influence...Anne's influence brought Latimer promotion to the rectory of West Kington in Wiltshire, a valuable living, where he was diligent in his cure, saying mass, preaching, and keeping hospitality. It started him in a lifelong association with the cause of reform in the west country, and gave him a springboard from which to respond to invitations to preach in London, Kent, and elsewhere." It has also been claimed by Wabuda that "at the queen's request Latimer tried to persuade Henry not to confiscate the goods of the religious houses, but to re-found them or distribute their wealth in fulfilment of their ultimate potential as centres of learning and preaching, and continual relief of poverty." (7)
By the beginning of 1534 Nicholas Shaxton had risen to become Queen Anne's almoner. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer introduced Shaxton, who he called "my old acquainted friend" and Hugh Latimer onto the court's preaching schedule. "The court had rapidly become a testing ground for doctrinal change with Henry's supremacy over the English church. In Anne's evangelical household religious discussion was a fixture, especially at dinners, and the supreme head himself sometimes engaged in debates and arguments." (8)
In 1535 Nicholas Shaxton was appointed as Bishop of Salisbury. Shaxton joined forces with Thomas Cromwell to introduce religious reforms. They wanted the Bible to be available in English. This was a controversial issue as William Tyndale had been denounced as a heretic and ordered to be burnt at the stake by Henry VIII eleven years before, for producing such a Bible. The edition they wanted to use was that of Miles Coverdale, an edition that was a reworking of the one produced by Tyndale. Cranmer approved the Coverdale version on 4th August 1538, and asked Cromwell to present it to the king in the hope of securing royal authority for it to be available in England. (9)
Henry agreed to the proposal on 30th September. Every parish had to purchase and display a copy of the Coverdale Bible in the nave of their church for everybody who was literate to read it. "The clergy was expressly forbidden to inhibit access to these scriptures, and were enjoined to encourage all those who could do so to study them." (10) Cranmer was delighted and wrote to Cromwell praising his efforts and claiming that "besides God's reward, you shall obtain perpetual memory for the same within the realm." (11)
In May 1539 the bill of the six articles was presented by Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk in Parliament. It was soon clear that it had the support of Henry VIII. Although the word "transubstantiation" was not used, the real presence of Christ's very body and blood in the bread and wine was endorsed. So also was the idea of purgatory. The six articles presented a serious problem for Shaxton and other religious reformers. Shaxton had argued against transubstantiation and purgatory for many years. Shaxton now faced a choice between obeying the king as supreme head of the church and standing by the doctrine he had had a key role in developing and promoting for the past decade. (12) The act also prohibited clerical marriage and upheld vows of chastity, and lapses were considered felonies, punishable by death. This was a problem for Shaxton was a married man. (13)
Bishop Nicholas Shaxton and Bishop Hugh Latimer both spoke against the Six Articles in the House of Lords. Thomas Cromwell was unable to come to their aid and in July they were both forced to resign their bishoprics. For a time it was thought that Henry would order their execution as heretics. He eventually decided against this measure and instead they were ordered to retire from preaching. However, Latimer's close friend and mentor, Robert Barnes was burnt at the stake on 30th July, 1540. (14)
Shaxton retired to Hadleigh in Suffolk. Over the next few years he and his wife had at least three children. In February 1546 conservatives in the Church of England, led by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, began plotting to destroy the radical Protestants. (15) Shaxton was arrested and accused of giving sermons attacking the Six Articles. He was found guilty and condemned to be burnt. After further discussions he recanted.
To test his new beliefs he was sent to speak to Anne Askew. Bishop Gardiner instructed Sir Anthony Kingston, the Constable of the Tower of London, to torture Askew in an attempt to force her to name Catherine Parr and other leading Protestants as heretics. Kingston complained about having to torture a woman (it was in fact illegal to torture a woman at the time) and the Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and his assistant, Richard Rich took over operating the rack. Despite suffering a long period on the rack, Askew refused to name those who shared her religious views. According to Askew: "Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlemen, to be of my opinion... the Lord Chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nearly dead. I fainted... and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours arguing with the Lord Chancellor, upon the bare floor... With many flattering words, he tried to persuade me to leave my opinion... I said that I would rather die than break my faith." (16) Afterwards, Anne's broken body was laid on the bare floor, and Wriothesley sat there for two hours longer, questioning her about her heresy and her suspected involvement with the royal household. (17)
Askew was removed to a private house to recover and once more offered the opportunity to recant. Nicholas Shaxton went to see her in an attempt to save her life. It is reported that Askew told Shaxton that she wished he had never been born. (18) When she refused to recant she was taken to Newgate Prison to await her execution. On 16th July 1546, Agnew "still horribly crippled by her tortures" was carried to execution in Smithfield in a chair as she could not walk and every movement caused her severe pain. (19)
It was reported that she was taken to the stake which had a small seat attached to it, on which she sat astride. Chains were used to bind her body firmly to the stake at the ankles, knees, waist, chest and neck. (20) Nicholas Shaxton presided when she was burnt. "Two weeks later he appeared at Paul's Cross to recant formally, weeping copiously for his errors. It was about this time that he put away his wife. In November his reconciliation to the regime became complete when the king gave him a new licence to preach." (21)
Shaxton now supported the conservatives led by Bishop Stephen Gardiner. He never retracted this recantation, he never apologized to his former allies and he was not reconciled with his wife. His position improved under Queen Mary and in 1555 he received a pardon from Cardinal Reginald Pole for his illicit marriage and the heresies he had encouraged under Henry VIII. The following year he was involved in the persecution of John Hullier, who was burnt at the stake on 16th April, 1556. (22)
Shaxton died on 9th August, 1556.
Shaxton was arrested and condemned to be burnt. Then a panel of theologians was sent to persuade him, with even greater success than in 1531. He accepted the six articles with no further reservations, and wrote an abject letter of apology to the king. As part of his submission he was sent to persuade Anne Askew, who had similarly denied the real presence... and he presided when she was burnt with three others in Smithfield on 16 July. Two weeks later he appeared at Paul's Cross to recant formally, weeping copiously for his errors. In November his reconciliation to the regime became complete when the king gave him a new licence to preach.
From 1546 Shaxton's alienation from reform was total. He never retracted this recantation, he never apologized to his former allies, he was not reconciled with his wife, and he remained conservative in opinion for the rest of his life. Under Edward VI he seemed like a dangerous backslider to the new protestant regime, and he was the focus of many vituperative printed attacks, by John Bale (who said he fell from Christ) among others. The most damaging one, edited by Robert Crowley, carried an anonymous letter of criticism by Taylor, and even the simple rhyming admonition against sexual incontinence that Shaxton had written to his wife when he had separated from her.
Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)
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Hans Holbein and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)
The Marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon (Answer Commentary)
Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Answer Commentary)
Was Queen Catherine Howard guilty of treason? (Answer Commentary)
Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer (Answer Commentary)
Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers on her right hand? A Study in Catholic Propaganda (Answer Commentary)
Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn? (Answer Commentary)
Catherine Parr and Women's Rights (Answer Commentary)
Women, Politics and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Answer Commentary)
Historians and Novelists on Thomas Cromwell (Answer Commentary)
Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer (Answer Commentary)
Martin Luther and Hitler's Anti-Semitism (Answer Commentary)
Martin Luther and the Reformation (Answer Commentary)
Mary Tudor and Heretics (Answer Commentary)
Joan Bocher - Anabaptist (Answer Commentary)
Anne Askew – Burnt at the Stake (Answer Commentary)
Elizabeth Barton and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)
Execution of Margaret Cheyney (Answer Commentary)
Robert Aske (Answer Commentary)
Dissolution of the Monasteries (Answer Commentary)
Pilgrimage of Grace (Answer Commentary)
Poverty in Tudor England (Answer Commentary)
Why did Queen Elizabeth not get married? (Answer Commentary)
Francis Walsingham - Codes & Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)
Codes and Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)
Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner? (Answer Commentary)
Hans Holbein's Art and Religious Propaganda (Answer Commentary)
1517 May Day Riots: How do historians know what happened? (Answer Commentary)
(1) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(2) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 27
(3) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(4) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 141
(5) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 83 of 2014 edition.
(6) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 125
(7) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(8) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(9) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 294
(10) David Loades, Thomas Cromwell (2013) page 190
(11) John Schofield, The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant (2011) page 227
(12) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(13) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(14) Carl R. Trueman, Robert Barnes : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(15) C. D. C. Armstrong, Stephan Gardiner : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(16) Anne Askew, letter smuggled out to her friends (29th June, 1546)
(17) Alison Weir, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (2007) page 517
(18) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(19) Antonia Fraser, The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1992) page 387
(20) Elaine V. Beilin, The Examinations of Anne Askew (1996) page 191
(21) Susan Wabuda, Nicholas Shaxton : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(22) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 232 of 2014 edition.
On this date in 1546, Protestant martyr Anne Askew was martyred for her Protestantism.
One of the more intriguing religious martyrs of Tudor England, Askew was a gentlewoman forced to take her older sister’s place in an arranged betrothal when said sister (as was the style in the 16th century) dropped dead young.
Askew’s adherence to Protestantism put her at loggerheads with her Catholic husband, a domestic prefiguring of the factional political dispute that would see her to a Smithfield stake: the Reformation that rent England was itself contested within, with more aggressively reformist Protestant types resisted by the more conservative Catholic-without-Rome faction. Taking the wrong line at the wrong time was taking your life in your hands, and in the treacherous Tudor court, religion became the stalking-horse of deadly politics.
A like conflict played out in townships and households throughout the realm.
Askew and her husband separated (but were not granted divorce) over her conversion to Protestantism she moved to London and started preaching doctrines anathema to the doctrinaire. As a noblewoman herself, she was absorbed into social circles reaching Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr.
Askew’s outspoken heterodoxy soon brought her into conflict with anti-Protestants, and when the “send her back to hubbie” strategy didn’t take, they had her clapped in the Tower.
Here she evidently became a pawn in courtly politics with the obese and aging king liable to drop dead any moment, religious and political authority during the succession was at stake.
Askew was therefore racked in the Tower in an effort to extract evidence against powerful women of known Protestant inclinations, possibly up to and including the queen herself.
Then came Rich and one of the council, charging me upon my obedience, to show unto them, if I knew any man or woman of my sect. My answer was, that I knew none. Then they asked me of my Lady of Suffolk, my Lady of Sussex, my Lady of Hertford, my Lady Denny, and my Lady Fitzwilliam. To whom I answered, if I should pronounce any thing against them, that I were not able to prove it. Then said they unto me, that the king was informed that I could name, if I would, a great number of my sect. I answered, that the king was as well deceived in that behalf, as dissembled with in other matters.
Then they did put me on the rack, because I confessed no ladies or gentlewomen to be of my opinion, and thereon they kept me a long time and because I lay still, and did not cry, my lord chancellor and Master Rich took pains to rack me with their own hands, till I was nigh dead.
Then the lieutenant caused me to be loosed from the rack. Incontinently I swooned, and then they recovered me again. After that I sat two long hours reasoning with my lord chancellor upon the bare floor where he, with many flattering words, persuaded me to leave my opinion.
Askew didn’t talk, and the act of torturing a woman shocked contemporaries so much that it has never been officially repeated. She was burned to death with three fellow-heretics in Smithfield, so crippled by torture that she had to be carried in a chair to the pyre.
Anne Askew’s executed, together with John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian. Preaching in the pulpit is Nicholas Shaxton, who avoided the fagots with a timely recantation.
Askew survives to us as a particularly consequential Protestant martyr not only for her what-might-have-been proximity to a court plot that might have altered the course of English history, but because she left her own testimony to the ordeal.
Her Examinations — firsthand accounts of her interrogations — were reportedly smuggled out of England where they were published by John Bale. Still, we come by Anne’s own voice in the mediated form of other (male) publishers with their own agendas.
One reading of Bale’s editions that has now become conventional envisions Askew’s narrative as an embattled text: an authentic narrative, the autobiography of a learned and valiant woman, onto which Bale has imposed an insensitive, misogynistic misreading.
Specifically, Bale has been dinged for shoehorning source material that reveals a contentious and tough-minded critic into the vanilla pattern of the meek woman suffering for the faith — a cardboard cutout martyr shorn of less consumer-friendly unfeminine behavior.
While both Bale and Protestant martyrologist John Foxe, who also published versions of the Examinations, stand in that sense between us and the “real” Anne Askew, their polemical needs are precisely the reason we are able to descry the woman standing behind the martyr-archetype.
while her body was consumed by the flames, her identity remains at least partially preserved. The Henrician Anglo-Catholics made Askew famous through the process of her trial and public execution. The Protestant reformers rhetorically retrieved Askew’s broken, tortured, criminalized body from the stake and restyled it as a saint and symbol of their cause. Her identity thus paradoxically emerges in a variety of ways from the tensions … that we find in all the scraps of surviving archival material relating to her. (Theresa D. Kemp, “Translating (Anne) Askew: The Textual Remains of a Sixteenth-Century Heretic and Saint,” Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 52, No. 4 (Winter, 1999))
CHAFFYN, Thomas I (by 1498-1558), of Salisbury, Wilts.
b. by 1498, 1st s. of Thomas Chaffyn of Salisbury and Warminster, by Margaret, da. of Richard Erleigh of Wolf Hall. m. by 1519, Scolastica, da. of Thomas Coke I of Salisbury, at least 2s. inc. Thomas II 3da.1
Member of the Forty-Eight, Salisbury 1520, of the Twenty-Four 1523, assessor, New Street ward 1522, auditor 1523, 1528, 1533, 1535-7, 1539-42, 1544, 1546-52, clerk of the recognizance of the statute merchant 1548 ?commr. subsidy 1523, 1524 j.p. 1540 ?escheator, Hants and Wilts. 1547-8 commr. chantries, Wilts. and Salisbury 1548, goods of churches and fraternities, Salisbury 1553.2
Thomas was a baptismal name much favoured by the Chaffyns, and the Member for Salisbury in 1529 had many namesakes among his relatives. The family, originally from Warminster, was divided in the 16th century into two main branches. The first of these had settled in the parish of Mere, at the south-western corner of Wiltshire a Thomas Chaffyn of Mere, gentleman, died in 1555, leaving a father and son of the same name, and a Thomas Chaffyn the elder died at Zeals Clevedon in the same parish in 1570. The Member came from a cadet line settled at Salisbury. He, too, had a father and a son of the same name and although he is the first of his family described in the visitation of 1623 as a resident of Salisbury, a John Chaffyn of St. Thomas’s parish had died there in 1498 and a Thomas Chaffyn, cardmaker of Warminster, had held property in the city as early as 1417. The Member’s father, another Thomas Chaffyn of Warminster, claimed property there: the date of his death is not known and he may have been the subsidy commissioner between 1512 and 1524, as the Member himself did not begin his civic career until 1520. In 1525 either the Member or his father was assessed for subsidy on goods worth £120 in the Market ward: 12 years later the Member, now Thomas Chaffyn senior, was assessed on goods valued at £180 and in 1550-1 at £100, although in 1552 the rating dropped to £60 none the less, William Webbe II was the only citizen who paid higher taxes in Salisbury throughout this period.3
Chaffyn’s civic career, and perhaps his parliamentary one, were hampered by ill-health. On 16 Oct. 1534 he was discharged from the office of mayor for one year on account of sickness and on payment of £30. Despite a promise that he would later undertake the office ‘if it please God to send him health’, he was again discharged for a year on 27 Sept. 1535 and told that thereafter he could secure permanent release for another £30. Chaffyn took advantage of this concession, making the final instal ment of 56s.8d. ‘in full payment’ of £60 at the end of October 1536, when it was agreed that ‘he shall be in the company of the mayors and go in the order as though he had been mayor next unto Mr. Webbe’. It may well have been on the score of ill-health that Chaffyn, unlike his fellow-Member William Webbe, was not re-elected in 1536, despite the general directive for the return of the previous Members. Of his activity in the Commons there are two glimpses: his name follows Webbe’s on a list thought to be of Members opposed on religious or economic grounds to the bill to restrain appeals enacted in 1533 and in a letter wrongly ascribed to 1530 but undoubtedly written in mid 1536 Chaffyn informed Cromwell that he had asked a fellow-citizen to wait upon the minister as desired by him ‘in the Parliament house’.4
Sickness did not keep him from heading local opposition to the reformer Nicholas Shaxton, consecrated bishop of Salisbury on 22 Feb. 1535, over episcopal rights in the city. In 1537 the bishop complained to Cromwell that ‘this busybody Chaffyn’ had interrupted a hearing of their dispute by telling the justice of assize that, whatever they might decide, the city would sue to Cromwell no sentence had then been given and Chaffyn had continued to usurp the bishop’s liberties, by discharging his prisoners, claiming that Salisbury was the King’s city and abusing Shaxton as a heretic. He also imprisoned one of the bishop’s serjeants, who sued him in Chancery, and Shaxton himself brought an action for detention of deeds the court ordered that Chaffyn, being ‘impotens’, should be examined in Wiltshire, after which the defendant replied that the case had only been brought through the malice of John Goodale, the bishop’s under bailiff. Goodale himself informed Cromwell in February 1538 that Chaffyn was one of a group of merchants breaking the regulations against the export of gold. Whereas Chaffyn survived all these attacks, Shaxton was forced to resign his see in the following year after the passage of the Six Articles.5
The dispute between the citizens of Salisbury and Shaxton arose as much from the long-standing issue of civic independence as from religious incompatibility. Chaffyn was therefore not necessarily devoted to the old order, although his will opens with the traditional bequest of his soul to God, the Virgin Mary and the saints. On the other hand the good relations which he cultivated with Cromwell do not imply that he was a reformer as a champion of local liberties he would seek to invoke the authority of the King against the bishop, whoever that might be. Towards the end of his life Chaffyn seems to have challenged the government of Mary by refusing to subscribe to a loan, for on 24 Aug. 1556 he was ordered to send £100 or appear to defend himself before the Privy Council. It was probably his son or one of the Chaffyns of Mere who was elected to Parliament for Heytesbury in November 1554 the return throws no light on this, but the younger Chaffyn is known to have sat for Salisbury in 1555.6
Thomas Chaffyn, styled ‘the elder’ and a mercer, made his will on 5 May 1558. After asking for burial in ‘the grave the lady anchoress was buried . next to my pew’ in St. Thomas’s church, Salisbury, and remembering the poor, he provided for his surviving children and for the discharge of his debts. His ‘eldest’ and ‘youngest’ sons, both of them called Thomas, were appointed executors, with John Hooper as overseer, and the will was proved on 28 Oct. 1558.7
Path to St. Peter ad Vincula–Part II
Anne Bolyen’s path to her final resting place in St. Peter ad Vincular began the minute King Henry VIII turned his full attention on her. The personal element of their courtship is not the subject of this blog entry, rather the political and religious maneuverings that culminated in their marriage.
Once Anne came onto the scene, Henry’s previous scruples of being married to his brother’s widow, which was unclean as taught by scripture, became magnified. It was unacceptable to be married to Katherine of Aragon any longer. Henry had negotiated with the French King, Francis I, in order to gain support in his bid for a divorce. He also had contact with his nephew-by-marriage, Charles V, to no avail. Added to these attempts to treat, Henry gathered the opinions of university scholars and theologians throughout Europe in order to bend the Pope to claim in his favor. Nothing happened as the Pope, in this delicate position, procrastinated. In frustration Henry wrote to Clement VII on December 6, 1530, from Hampton Court of his displeasure. Henry believed that “his demands, however just and reasonable, are put aside” and that “sometimes he cannot believe the Pope to have done what he knows he has done.” Clement refused to allow the divorce case to be heard in England against the support of the French King and his councilors and “also the whole nobility and leading men in England” (Brewer IV 6759). An exasperated Henry exclaimed that the Pope had shown “by his acts before all the world that he is wholly devoted to the Emperor’s will.” Even more interesting is the fact that Henry, having read William Tyndale’s text (more on that below), laid it out to Clement that if he desires “his own rights to be respected, let him not interfere with those of Henry” and “let him not suppose that either the King or his nobles will allow the fixed laws of his kingdom to be set aside.” Henry would not let “the laws of England suffer the contrary, and … he will not brook denial” (Brewer IV 6759).
Pope Clement VII Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1526
Clement VII responded to Henry’s letter on January 7, 1531, and told Henry “there are many things in your letters in which we miss your usual wisdom, and even your modesty” and denied the “taunt that we are governed by the Emperor” Charles V. Clement claimed that it was “clear from the complaints against him made by the Emperor” that he had not submitted to Charles’ demands (Gairdner V 31).
Pope Clement VII response to Henry VIII letter
Clement addressed the charge that the case could not be heard in England. He admitted “that this is so, because it is the peculiar privilege of the Holy See to refer to himself all causes which in any province cannot be effectively determined” and the “Apostolic See allowed her [Katherine] allegation to be considered sufficient, that England was a suspected place, as the King was her opponent” (Gairdner V 31). Contrary to what Henry had been reading in Tyndale, the Pope emphasized that the kingdom’s laws would not be violated “provided they can be preserved without scandal to the Catholic Church, which is to be preferred to all law.” Perhaps suspecting the loss of Henry to the cause of the Catholic Church Clement beseeched him to remember “his title of Defender of the Faith, and peaceably arrange this cause, or acquiesce in the judgment of the Holy See” (Gairdner V 31).
Anonymous writer’s defense of the Pope
Henry remained as patient as he could for two more years awaiting the Pope’s decision, but with Anne pregnant he took action and married her in January 1533. In a proclamation Henry declared that he was “married and espoused according to the laws of God and holy Church to the lady Anne, his lawful wife, who as appertaineth to the estate is by the said assent anointed and crowned Queen of this realm” (Pocock 497). Henry further created a Proclamation in June 1533 to warn his subjects “to avoid the danger and penalty of the Statue of Provision and Premunire” which laid out his divorce from Katherine of Aragon and the fact that he “hath lawfully married and taken to wife, after the laws of the Church, the right high and ecellent princess Lady Anne now Queen of England, and she solemnly crowned and anointed as pertaineith, to the laud, praise, and honour of Almighty God, the surety of the king’s succession and posterity, and to the great joy, comfort, and contantation of all the subjects of this realm” (Pocock 502). Despite the universal happiness of the realm that Henry proclaimed occurred upon the announcement of his marriage, he had to explain to his people that his divorce from Katherine was final and anyone in doubt would “incur and run in the pains and penalties comprised in the statutes” (Pocock 502).
Within England, the pro-Catholic and the pro-Imperial factions rejoiced when Pope Clement annulled the marriage of Henry and Anne on July 11, 1533, by proclaiming, “Sententia deffinitiva Clementis Popæ septimi pro matrimonio Henrici Octavi Angliæ Regis cum Catharinâ et contra secundas ejusdem nuptias cum Annâ Bolenâ. Data Romæ anno Domini 1533. Pontificatûs Clementis decimo” (Pocock 677). Of course, Henry ignored the command. Anne was the one to suffer from the ill will of those in England loyal to the old faith.
Samuel Singer, as editor of the George Cavendish work on Thomas Wolsey, commented that since the “marriage of Henry with Anne Bullen led to the separation of the kingdom from the See of Rome, her memory has consequently always been vituperated in all possible ways by every true son of the Catholic Church…” Protestant writers have not “been wanting in zeal to defend the queen from all the unjust aspersions upon her character, and have considered her as a martyr to the cause of the reformed church” (Cavendish II 44). However, what was Anne’s true role? Was she a staunch supporter of the reformed church? Was she using the Reformation as a means to an end for her acquisition of the queenship? Most pieces of ‘evidence’ could be interpreted to support either proposition.
An engraving of Anne Boleyn in the cover George Cavendish’s book, said to be after the original portrait by Holbein.
A story collaborated by John Foxe and George Wyatt (added in George Cavendish’s work on Wolsey) related how Anne Boleyn shared with Henry a copy of the banned book The Obedience of a Christian Man written in 1528 by William Tyndale. Advocating, among other things, that a king of a country should be the head of the Church not the Pope, Tyndale’s claims were radical and dangerous to say the least. Although the idea of the divine right of kings did not take a firm foothold during the Tudor era, Henry embraced the idea that a pope had no earthly authority and that the king “is the minister of God,” and kings “are God’s ministers serving for the same purpose….” Henry welcomed Tyndale’s claim that “God therefore hath given laws unto all nations, and in all lands hath put kings, governors, and rulers in his own stead, to rule the world through them” (Tyndale 25).
Therefore while the Catholics blamed Anne for revealing the book to Henry in order to obtain the divorce from Katherine through strengthening his resolve to break from Rome and create a Church under his leadership, the Protestants praised her because “the help of this virtuous Lady, by the means aforesaid, had his eyes opened to the truth, to advance God’s religion and glory, to abhor the Pope’s doctrine” (Strype 172).
Anne had promoted Protestant ideas and had in her possession several banned books beyond Tyndale’s which she shared with Henry. It appears as if the King enjoyed Simon Fish’s Supplication of the Beggars (Warnicke 111-112) and accepted some of the doctrines of the Protestants. Henry was a conservative and did not alter many of the Church doctrines. Anne was the more liberal. The Scottish clergyman and historian, Alexander Alesius, wrote Elizabeth Regina “true religion in England had its commencement and its end with your mother” (Denny 132). Influenced by Anne, many ecclesiastical appointments were of evangelical “scholars who favoured the purer doctrine of the gospel” (Denny 212). Men such as Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Shaxton were the most prominent. Members of her own household were also more liberal including her chaplain, Matthew Parker, future Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom she entrusted the spiritual life of her toddler daughter, Elizabeth, to him in the event of anything happening to her.
Another Protestant doctrine from Tyndale that Anne embraced was the theory that the Bible should be translated into the vernacular. Showing her reluctance to push conservatives too far by disobeying a strictly forbidden work, Anne never owned an English language Bible—she had one in French.
For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I
Scholar and Feminist Change Agent Anne Askew
When I was a child in the 1960’s, a woman close to our family married, but chose to keep her maiden name. Later, she left her husband, divorcing the man and leaving her children with him. Why was she so selfish? Well, this feminist had a passion. She set off for a career, placing her dreams to change the world before traditional motherhood. She had to do it. If not her, then who? My God, that woman was a radical. When she was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War, and then when she was arrested a second time and a third time and yet a fourth time for doing the very same thing, we all thought her unpatriotic, a traitor, a second “Jane Fonda”. Just what kind of woman was she? And just what other “bra burning” women and radical hippies was she in cahoots with? As I grew to an adult, with opinions based on my own thoughts rather than those of my parents, I came to admire this woman for her passion, her courage, her willingness to take risks in her attempt to make the world a better place, at least from her own perspective.
With those childhood memories in the back of my mind, I am truly in awe of those strong women in 16th century England, who within the constraints of medieval expectations, were leaders and change agents. Catalina de Aragón reigned in her husband’s absence, leading a battle that brought Scotland to it’s knees, King James IV killed, along with most of Scotland’s nobility. Anne Boleyn held King Henry VIII’s attention, keeping his advances at bay for seven long years, ultimately wearing the crown. Her influence on the Henrican Reformation may be overstated, but is noteworthy nonetheless. Queen Mary I led a successful coup d’état, becoming England’s first female reigning monarch. Queen Elizabeth I reigned over an empire, becoming one of World History’s most acclaimed and revered government leaders. Beyond queenship though, was it possible for women to lead and influence the thoughts and beliefs of others? Could women forge their own lives, without male influence, outside of royalty or cloistered communities? Could any woman keep her own name upon marriage or divorce a man if unhappy? Could women truly be change agents? Obviously, these notions were completely unthinkable. Women were subservient to men. No person, man or woman, could question the established order. In an age of supreme monarchy and cruel torture, deprivation and execution methods, who beyond the insane would even try?
Anne Askew, a well educated daughter of a wealthy gentleman and knight once in King Henry VIII’s service, and in one of the oddities of history, a juror in Queen Anne Boleyn’s treason trial, was a devout Protestant forced into a marriage with a Roman Catholic named Thomas Kyme, a man once promised to her dead sister. The marriage was a complete and utter disaster. In 1543, King Henry VIII, in concert with his conservative faction, changed his view on just who in the realm could read the Bible. By Parliamentary Law it became illegal for any women or man below the rank of gentleman from reading God’s Word. This dramatic shift in acceptable theology practice did not deter Askew. Though two children were born of the marriage, she is said to have been studying the Bible with like minded Protestants when her husband kicked her out of the home for her disobedience to him, heresy and treason. Anne Askew, retaining her given name despite her marital status, moved in with her brother and pursued a divorce based on her scriptural interpretation that Christians need not be “yoked to non-believers”. Unsuccessful in her attempts, Askew moved to London. Taking the unlikely leadership role of a pious woman with a mission, Anne Askew became a “gospeller”, more commonly known today as a preacher. Through her intelligence and scholarship, Askew set out to share her Protestantism with those not permitted access to the Bible themselves through scripture committed to memory. Askew also continued to pursue her desire for divorce.
Upon arriving in London, Askew connected with Protestant friends who introduced her to several people close to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who by this time was absent from court, retreating to Kent. Cranmer’s absence from London clearly signaled King’s Henry’s change in stance, which became increasingly more traditionalist since the establishment of the Six Articles and the fall of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex. Through Askew’s connections, she came to know and associate with Bishop Hugh Latimer, Dr. Nicholas Shaxton, Dr. Edward Crome most certainly, and perhaps, though unproven, more clandestinely with known Protestant sympathizers Catherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, Anne Stanhope, then Countess of Hereford, and other ladies close to Queen Catherine Parr. Anne Askew became increasingly popular throughout London for her abundant scriptural knowledge, her charismatic “gospelling”, and her ability to reach out to people of all classes and persuasions. Thus, she gained attention not only from admirers, but also those committed to King Henry’s changed theological stance. By 1545, traditionalists with Roman Catholic leanings including Bishops Stephen Gardiner and Edmund Bonner, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, and Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley were actively gunning for people of high authority within King Henry VIII’s inner circle, including Queen Catherine Parr and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Together they developed a strategy to bring Parr and perhaps even Cranmer down by first focusing their attentions to more minor evangelicals with the intention those targeted would implicate others with more power closer to the King. Within this context, Anne Askew became tangled in a web, caught in the midst of a power struggle between the conservative traditionalist faction and reformers.
In 1545, Anne Askew was arrested and interviewed by Christopher Dale, under mayor of London, and then later Bishop Edmund Bonner and other religious conservatives. The charges of her heresy laid within her Protestant opinions of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which Roman Catholics view as celebration of the Eucharist liturgy, the bread and wine which after the consecration are “transubstantiated” into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Any disbelief of the Eucharist liturgy was considered gross heresy, punishable without recantation by burning. On June 13, 1545, Anne Askew was arraigned for violation of the “Act of Sacramentaries”, but no witnesses appeared to testify against her, so she was released. A few months later, Anne Askew’s petition to divorce was denied, and she was ordered to return to her husband. In some accounts, she is said to have been forced back to her husband, soon after escaping and returning to London. In others, she flat out refused to go altogether. In either case, Askew’s stance on the court order was highly disobedient and provocative, giving ammunition to her detractors. Bishop Stephen Gardiner summoned her under the guise of ordering she return to her husband. Upon questioning of her husband, Askew refused to answer. Gardiner then turned his attention to her religious views. Askew honestly and pointedly denied the existence of “transubstatiation”, and in doing so sealed her fate. On June 18, 1546, Anne Askew was arraigned at Guildhall, along with Dr. Nicholas Shaxton and two others. They all confessed and were convicted of heresy, condemned to die at the stake. Although the others recanted the next day, Anne Askew held firm to her convictions. Before burning Askew, however, the traditionalist conservative faction was eager to know who her “like-minded” supporters were, and they suspected, perhaps correctly, that those close to her included Queen Catherine Parr, along with the Queen’s high ranking friends and ladies-in-waiting.
In the most grotesque of cruelty even condemnable for the era, Anne Askew became the first and only woman tortured in the Tower of London. On June 19, 1546, she was imprisoned in the Tower. Askew was aggressively interrogated by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and Sir William Paget for two long days. Continually threatened with execution, Askew refused steadfastly to name other Protestants or recant her beliefs. Unsuccessful in securing the damning information they sought from her, most importantly an admission that she was associated with Queen Catherine Parr, the order was given to exercise torture. Askew was brought to a lower torture room in the White Tower and was shown the rack. Still refusing to name other Protestants and recant her beliefs, she was unmercifully racked by Lord Chancellor Thomas Wriothesley and Solicitor General Richard Rich. Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower and witness to much torture in the context of his job responsibilities, was appalled by the torture of a woman. He refused to participate beyond one turn of the handle, and left for court to find King Henry VIII to secure command that Wriothesley and Rich discontinue. By the time Sir Kingston was able to meet with the King and secure his command, Wriothesley and Rich had turned the handles so hard after Askew’s continued refusals to name other Protestants that she was drawn apart, her arms and legs ripped out of their sockets and her elbows and knees dislocated. By some reports, even after she was returned to her cell, Wriothesley continued questioning Askew hours thereafter, as she lay on the floor writhing in pain. Still, Anne Askew held firm to her convictions, refusing to recant or name other Protestants.frame>
Anne Askew tortured, as portrayed on The Tudors, Showtime.
On July 16, 1546, the 26 year old uncommon commoner Anne Askew, who maintained her maiden name despite convention, who sought her freedom from a loveless marriage through attempting to obtain a divorce, who provocatively “gospelled” scripture to people prevented from reading the Bible by Parliamentary Law, who refused to return to her “husband” after court order, and who refused to recant her beliefs or name other Protestants to protect them from harm’s way, was burnt at the stake. Unable to move her body in any way and obviously still in excruciating pain, she was brought to and tied to the stake in a wooden chair. Still defiant, Anne Askew refused a last chance at recantation and chimed in her disagreement to points made ironically by Dr. Nicolas Saxton in his sermon before the fags were lit. Though burned alive as a heretic, Anne Askew through her courage, conviction and martyrdom became one of English history’s most cherished national heroes and earliest feminist change agents.
Dickens, A. G. The English Reformation. New York: Schocken Books, 1965. Reprint.
Foxe, John. Foxe’s Book of English Martyrs. Edited by Hilda Noel Schroetter. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1981.
———. Fox’s Book of Martyrs Or A History of the Lives, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Primitive Protestant Martyrs. Chicago: The John C. Winston Co., [n.d.]. Kindle Edition.
———. Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World. Chicago: Moody Press, [n.d.].
Needham, N. R. 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: Part III: Renaissance and Reformation. London: Grace Publications Trust, 2004.
Patterson, Mary Hampson. Domesticating the Reformation: Protestant Best Sellers, Private Devotion, and the Revolution of the English Piety. Canterbury, NJ: Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp., 2007.
Rupp, E. G. Studies in the Making of the English Protestant Tradition. London: Cambridge University Press, 1947.
Simpson, James. Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
Taylor, C. B. Memorials of the English Martyrs. London: The Religious Tract Society, [n.d.].
The New Encyclopedia of Christian Martyrs. Compiled by Mark Water. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2001.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance. “Bilney, Thomas.” Edited by Gordon Cambell. Oxford University Press, 2005. (accessed February 15, 2014).
7 thoughts on &ldquo1546: Anne Askew, the only woman tortured in the Tower&rdquo
Anne Askew was one of the most heroic women of the Tudor Age. Forced to marry in exchange for her late sister, she married a man who was traditional in his beliefs. Thomas Kyme was not cruel, but Anne had a mind of her own and she taught herself from the scriptures and the new learning. She left her husband for some time and came to London where she preached, contrary to our laws and to the law of God. She was popular in London and she made friends in high places.
Anne became part of the circle of reformers around the new Queen Katherine Parr in 1543, at the time of her first arrest, not for Bible reading, but for public preaching. She escaped lightly this time, but as an evangelical heretic she was on borrowed time. She was close to the Queen and having been thrown out by her husband whom she had gone back to live with, she was supported by the Seymours and by the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk. The Duchess was a reformer and would be very radical after her husbands death in 1545.
The Queen began to encourage reform and her chambers held informal meetings. She used to read and preach to the King but one day went too far and Henry ordered her investigated. During this it became clear that one way to reach the Queen was via Anne Askew. Preaching again in public in 1546 Anne was arrested and questioned by Stephen Gardiner. He wanted to reach the other ladies around the Queen, and the Queen herself and condemn them as heretics. So Anne was condemned and then sent to the Tower to be questioned further.
Racking a woman was illegal and Anne is the only known case. She would not betray the Queen and her friends and she was racked. She would not name anyone and Sir Richard Rich and Thomas Whrisley (excuse spelling) interrogated her. She was placed on the rack and at first gently racked. But Rich and the Chancellor became impatient and demanded that Kingston order her to be racked more. He refused and went to the King to protest this cruel treatment of a woman. Henry intervened and the racking was stopped. However, her editor or her own account: John Bale has Rich and W rack the poor woman themselves in his absense. She was so damaged that she could not walk or stand.
When she was executed she had to be carried to her execution tied to a chair. It was terrible and we are told that someone put gunpowder around her nexk to quicken her end in the fires. Anne was heroic at the end and said nothing about the other women or the Queen. Katherine was accused but the warrant for her arrest fell into her hands. She came to the King , claimed she was only a woman and looked to him to advise and guide her and that her opinions were of no importance. He pardoned her and shouted at W the next day when he came to arrest the Queen.
John Bale puts words into the mouth of Anne but she could not possibly have made these accounts had she been racked to such an extent. Therefore we have a choice to believe. Either she was racked to the extent claimed and Bale wrote the story and had her say what he believed she would say or John Foxe, known to exaggerate and invent his evidence, was lying and Anne was not racked to the extent that she could not walk or stand. If so, then how do we explain the chair at her burning? Simple: she was exhausted by the constant questions and weakened by her ordeal. I believe she was racked I do not believe the Secretary and the Chancellor racked her themselves: they had a professional to do it for them and I do not believe she was racked to such an extent as claimed. I believe she was released from the rack by Kingston before things got out of hand and then questioned by W as the account states.
However, it is clear that she was a heroic woman and that she died for her faith.
My mother is a descendant of the Askew family, and we are relatives of Lady Anne Askew. I found out at a family reunion yesterday. This is so interesting! I had no idea that we are relatives of someone who was burned at the stake, and is included in the Book of Martyrs. Thank you for this enlightening information on your site.
I have read in two places that (1) Ann had had placed around her neck a bag of gunpowder and (2) gunpowder was poured all over her body, both while she was at the stake for the purpose of killing her quickly. This was dramatized in the TV series The Tudors. Do you know the truth of this?
We believe that Lady Anne Askew is a relative, as my grandfather’s family came from Lincolnshire.
Her story has always fascinated me, so much so that I investigated her story by going to the Guild Hall in London and reading 16th century written accounts of her story. I truly wish though she had thought more of her life and not died such an unnecessary and agonising death – but then by speaking out and keeping to your beliefs it has made our society so more open today.
81. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. GILES, NORWICH
Good Bishop Walter de Suffield (1245-57) was the founder of the noble hospital of St. Giles. The foundation charter was sealed, both by the bishop and prior, in the Norwich chapterhouse on 1 April, 1246. (fn. 1) The hospital, which was to bear the name of St. Giles, was founded in honour of the Holy Trinity, the Glorious Virgin, the Blessed Anne, and the Blessed Giles, and was to be built on a prescribed plot of ground opposite the church of St. Helen and under the walls of the priory. In this hospital the founder willed that there should be a master, who was to associate with him four devout chaplains well instructed in the divine offices. All were to rise, both for mattins and at dawn, at the sound of the greater bell, and to proceed together from the dormitory, entering the church in surplices and copes. Mattins and the other hours, as well as the mass of the day, were to be sung cum cantu et tractu moderato. No one was to move about the house or precincts before the early mass, save the master if necessity required it. There were to be three daily masses, (1) of the day, (2) of Our Lady, and (3) for the faithful departed. Once a week, save in Lent, there was to be full service of St. Giles. The master and his chaplains were to live in the same house and to partake of the same food and drink. After dinner, the master, chaplains, and brethren were to proceed to the chapel chanting (psalmodizantes) the Miserere.
Every day of the year thirteen poor men were to have a sufficiency of bread and a good mess of meat or fish, and occasionally of eggs and cheese, with a due supply of drink, in the entrance (ante caminum) of the hospital, or by the fire in winter. Seven poor scholars, apt to learn, were to be chosen by the master from the schools of Norwich to receive their board at the hospital during school term, and those who had been well taught in grammar were to be changed, from time to time, for others, so that the number should always be maintained. There were also to be in the hospital thirty beds, with bedding, sheets, and coverlets, or more if the funds allowed it, where the infirm poor who desired it might be received until they were restored to health. There were to be at least three or four sisters, of honest life and of fifty years of age, who were to take diligent care of the sick and infirm but all the rest of the work of the house, in the brewery and other offices, was to be done by men. All poor chaplains (that is, unbeneficed clergy) of the diocese of Norwich, broken down by old age or permanent sickness, so that they were not able to celebrate nor to do other clerical work for their support, were to be received into the hospital and to have suitable board and lodging in an honourable part of the house, so far as funds permitted. The hospital was to have a box for God's poor (archa Domini), from which alms were to be given daily to wayfaring poor. From the Annunciation to the Assumption there was to be a free distribution of sufficient bread to stave off hunger to all comers at the sound of the greater bell. The hospital was to be not only God's house, but the house of the bishop of Norwich and as often as the diocesan passed by he was to descend and to give his blessing to the infirm lying and lodging in the hospital, and on such a day the thirteen poor men were to be wholly fed in the hospital. There were to be four lay brothers to minister both to the residents and out patients of the hospital according to the master's directions. All within the house, brethren, sisters, priests, and clerks, were to be subject to the direction and orders of the master. Every Sunday the master was to hold a chapter, and oftener if necessary, for the correction of offences and the punishment of delinquents. As to fasts and food and refection, the Austin rule was to be followed. In chapel the master and chaplains were to wear surplices and round black copes they were each to dress in good cloth of some non-prohibited colour. The brethren were to wear white gowns with grey cowls the sisters, white mantles and black veils. The master, chaplains, brothers, and sisters were never to eat or drink in the town save in the houses of religious. The sisters were to have meals and to sleep by themselves, nor was anyone to enter their apartments save for necessity, leave being first obtained from the master. On the death or resignation of Hamo de Caletorp, the first master, and whenever there was a vacancy, the house was to be under the care of the bishop and one of the chaplains, but all the fruits during vacancies were to be retained for the use of the hospital. On a vacancy, the prior of Norwich and the archdeacons of Norwich and Norfolk, after an interval of three weeks, were to hold an inquisition as to the fitness and suitability of the chaplains of the house and of some outsider, according to their conscience, and to present such a one as master to be immediately admitted by the bishop or by his official in his absence from the kingdom. Immediately on admission the master was to swear to keep the goods of the hospital in a proper state, and to observe the ordinances of the house. If the archdeacons did not appear on the appointed day nor during two days afterwards, the prior was to associate with himself the official of Norwich consistory and the dean of Norwich and proceed to the election.
Provision was also made for any of the three offices being vacant by death, &c. but if after five weeks no appointment had been made, the bishop was to collate. The master must be a priest, and was to swear to reside, and to hold no other benefice. He was to have no mounted attendant, unless it was one of the chaplains or brethren or clerks of the house. There were to be no esquires or idle youths in the house. The master was to be content with two or three saddle-horses. The common seal was to be kept under two keys, one held by the master and the other by a senior brother. An indulgence of forty days was granted in perpetuity to all aiding the hospital during the feast of St. Giles.
The endowments granted by this elaborate charter included the land of Hales, and the churches of Calthorpe, Costessy, Cringleford, Hardley, St. Mary of South Walsham, and Seething. The last clause confers the right of burial in the hospital. (fn. 2)
In 1255 the bishop obtained the assent of Pope Alexander IV to the foundation and statutes of this hospital, which were at that time formally matured and signed by the founder. It was stated in the papal confirmation that the several churches presented to the hospital had been purchased from laymen by the bishop for that purpose, and that they were to devolve to the hospital on the death of their respective rectors it was further ordered that perpetual chaplains or vicars, with fitting stipends, were to be provided for the churches. (fn. 3)
During the founder's lifetime William de Dunwich, a wealthy burgher of the city, gave for his own soul and that of Katharine his late wife a meadow by Bishopsbridge adjoining the hospital, 6s. 8d. rent in Holme Street, and a great variety of other rents and tenements throughout the city. By his will, dated 1272, he ordered that his body should be buried before St. Katharine's altar in the hospital church, and made bequests to support five sick people in the hospital continually, and to find two chaplains at that altar to daily sing for him and his wife and ancestors. He also made provision for four wax tapers to be always burning at St. Katharine's altar during mass, and gave to the same a chalice and cruets of silver. So great were his benefactions that he was usually regarded as a co-founder with the bishop. In 1260 William de Suffield, archdeacon of Norwich, the founder's brother, gave to the hospital the church of Repps-withBastwick.
The founder died in 1257 by his will the bishop left to the hospital of St. Giles, built as he states for the remission of his sins, 300 marks to be used in any way for its advantage according to the consent of the master and his executors. He commended the hospital specially to his executors, exhorting them to benefit it in any way in their power out of his goods. He also gave to the hospital the silver-gilt cup which had belonged to the Blessed St. Edmund, and the Bible he had bought of Master Simon Blound.
The somewhat cumbersome rules for the appointment of the master were altered, with the archbishop's sanction, by Bishop Roger de Skirning in 1272, so that the chaplains of the house, on a vacancy, were entitled to choose their successor.
By the year 1310 the rents of the hospital had so increased that Bishop John Salmon added four other chantry priests to the foundation, so that there were eight clerical brethren, who were ordered to wear the habits of regular Austin Canons.
The patent rolls of Edward III contain various small bequests to the hospital, (fn. 4) and in 1334 Bishop Ayermin obtained licence to appropriate to St. Giles's the church of Thurlton. (fn. 5) In 1340 Bishop Antony Bek confirmed the appropriation of the church of St. Peter, Mundham. (fn. 6)
In 1409 Thomas Lord Dacre, lord of the manor of Horsford, licensed William Westacre, archdeacon of Norwich, and others, to settle in mortmain on the hospital the manor of Cringleford, on condition of finding a chaplain to live as a brother in the hospital, and to celebrate daily for the soul of John de Dorlington, late archdeacon of Norwich, for Roger Pratt, the late master, and for William Paston of Paston. (fn. 7)
In 1420 Henry VI, for his own soul and for that of his wife Margaret, granted licence to the hospital to hold additional lands to the value of £10. It was therein stated that the house then consisted of a master, eight chaplains, two clerks, seven poor scholars for choristers, eight poor bedridden people, thirteen poor people daily dining there, besides poor strangers passing by who had a night's lodging there, as many as the beds would hold, and all the poor chaplains of the diocese labouring under any constant infirmity, and two sisters to wait upon the poor. (fn. 8)
In 1450 Sir John Fastolf sold the manor of Mundham and the advowson of the church of St. Ethelbert to the hospital for 200 marks. The master and brethren of St. Giles covenanted with the mayor and commonalty of the city, in 1472, to find a chaplain to serve in the chapel of St. Barbara in the Guildhall. (fn. 9)
Bishop Goldwell visited this hospital on 9 October, 1492. Robert Godfrey, one of the brethren, appeared as proctor of Master Oliver Dynham, who claimed to be master of the hospital, but exhibited neither assignment as proxy nor the title of Oliver Dynham to the mastership. Robert Godfrey, together with John Dowe, John Hector, George Vyrly, and William Hadenham, chaplains and brethren of the hospital, were then severally examined. The report of the visitation, as entered by the notary, was simply to the effect that the master of the hospital was absent and non-resident, contrary to the hospital statutes, and that on account of his absence the house was vexed with suits and other serious injuries. (fn. 10)
The executors of Bishop Goldwell settled in 1520, with the residue of his estate, lands to the value of 53 marks a year in mortmain on the master and brethren of St. Giles, on condition of their finding three chaplains to celebrate for the bishop's soul: one at the cathedral church, another at the collegiate church of St. Mary in the Fields, and a third at the hospital church. The hospital assigned salaries of 10 marks a year to each of these three priests, and applied the, remainder to the poor in the hospital. (fn. 11)
On 11 June, 1526, Bishop Nicke visited the hospital and examined severally the staff, which then consisted of a master, three fellows, three stipendiary chaplains, and two chaplains who served for their board and lodging.
John Hekker, the master, presented the inventory of goods and the annual account, and said that the number of fellows was deficient, for according to the foundation there should be six, and there were only three. The house was in debt to a small extent. One of the chaplains complained that divine service was sometimes badly observed in quire, on account of the loud wrangling of two of the fellows. (fn. 12)
At the visitation of 1532 there were four fellows present. One of them, William Hekker, said that he knew nothing, as he was so often absent. The three other fellows, Robert Church, John Fisher, and Edward Osborne, all bore witness to the ruinous condition of the bakehouse, and of a guest chamber over the parlour. Osborne also stated that two of the servants of the house, the butler and baker, were married, which was not seemly, and they ought to be removed. He also complained that the master (John Hekker) had received 26s. 8d. for the obit of Master John Sayle at the feast of Purification, and it was not paid in at the feast of Barnabas. (fn. 13)
The master, Thomas Cappe, and six chaplains or brethren, Robert Church, Edward Osborne, John Blomeville, Robert Dowe, John Browne, and Edmund Frewyll, signed their acceptance of the royal supremacy on 30 August, 1534. (fn. 14) The last two signatures were probably those of two chaplains appointed under some of the chantry bequests, and not under the original foundation.
The Valor of 1535 gives full details of the financial standing of the hospital. The rectories of Costessy, Calthorpe, Hardley, Seething, Mundham St. Peter, Mundham St. Ethelbert, Cringleford, and Repps with Bastwick, yielded an annual income of £54 18s. 10d., and the altarage of the altar of St. Helen within the hospital, £1 6s. 8d. The gross income from several manors and other temporalities was £116 13s. 1d. From the outgoings we find that four brethren each received 36s. 8d. for their food, and the sisters 52s. each for their food and labour in attending on the poor who came to the hospital. The dinner for the seven grammarschool boys, at 8d. each per week, came to £12 2s. 8d. The thirteen poor persons having a daily meal and the six poor persons who had board and lodging at the hospital cost £19 15s. 3d. The 180 poor persons who received a loaf, three eggs, and a piece of cheese on the Annunciation, and the 100 who were similarly fed on St. Dunstan's day, cost 20s. The twentyfour persons who prayed daily for Bishop Goldwell at 1d. a day cost £4 6s. 8d.
The master, Thomas Cappe, for his board and stipend, and for the board of a servant, received £12 1s. 4d. Robert Church, Edward Osborne, John Blomeville, and Robert Dowe, received amongst them £20 8s. There remained of clear annual value, after the payment of all dues, pensions, alms, and salaries, the sum of £58 3s. 0½d.
When the exchange of the bishopric lands and revenues took place in 1535 the advowson of the hospital passed to the king, who, in 1537, granted the mastership to Robert Codde.
In 1546 Nicholas Shaxton, D.D., ex-bishop of Salisbury, was appointed master, but apparently only for the purpose of securing its surrender, for on 6 March, 1547, the bishop of Norwich, as patron of the hospital, Nicholas Shaxton as warden, and John Fisher and Robert Dowe, two of the chaplains or fellows, in the chapter house of the hospital, surrendered the buildings into the young king's hands, in accordance with the intention of his father, Henry VIII. (fn. 15)
The crown transferred the dissolved hospital of St. Giles and its possessions to the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty of Norwich, for the relief of poor people, to be called ' God's House,' or the ' House of the Poor in Holm Street,' and the office of master now came to an end. The further history of this foundation, the Great Hospital, is to be found in the Charity Commissioners' reports.
Masters of St. Giles' Hospital, Norwich
Hamon de Calthorpe, (fn. 16) c. 1276
Thomas de Hemmersby, (fn. 20) occurs 1296, 1311 (fn. 21)
Peter Herringflet, (fn. 22) occurs 1313
Roger de Metyngham, (fn. 23) elected 1360
John de Derbyngton, (fn. 24) elected 1372
Roger de Erpingham, (fn. 25) elected 1375
John son of Robert de Thornham, master of Sparham, (fn. 26) elected 1394
Benedict Cobbe, (fn. 27) elected 1395
Robert Fonline, (fn. 28) elected 1399
Roger Prat, (fn. 29) resigned 1412
Robert Spenser, (fn. 30) elected 1412
William Sepyngton LL.B., (fn. 31) 1431
Roger Pratte, (fn. 32) elected 1431
John Walpool, (fn. 33) elected 1436
John Schott, LL.D., (fn. 35) elected 1464
Oliver Dynham, (fn. 37) elected 1489
Thomas Schenkwyn, (fn. 38) elected 1495
Nicholas Goldwell, (fn. 39) elected 1497
Robert Honywood, (fn. 40) elected 1498
Thomas Cappe, LL.D., (fn. 44) elected 1532
Nicholas Shaxton, (fn. 47) elected 1546, last master
There is a very imperfect seal ad causas of this hospital attached to a charter of 1306, showing the church with central tower. (fn. 48)
A cast of a fine impression of a late thirteenthcentury seal of the master and brethren (1 3 /8 in. × 1 1 /8 in.) bears St. Giles seated, with an arrow-wounded fawn leaping at him. In the base a cross surmounted by a mitre. Legend:—
✠ S'MAGRI . ET . FSM . IBĪ - EGIDII . DE . NORWIC (fn. 49)
82. THE HOSPITAL OF HILDEBROND, NORWICH (fn. 50)
This hospital was founded in the ancient parish of St. Edward, at the beginning of the thirteenth century, by Hildebrond le Mercer, citizen, and Maud his wife. The patronage was given to the bishop. The founders also built, for the use of the brethren and occupants, a chapel, dedicated to the honour of St. Mary, adjoining the west end of St. Edward's church but when this church became wholly appropriated to the hospital, and the parish united to that of St. Julian, about 1269, the chapel was only occasionally used, as the church was served by the hospital chaplain. The hospital was usually known as Hildebronde's, and the various collations by the bishop in the institution books are entered in that name but it was also termed St. Mary's Hospital, and at a later date was popularly known as Ivy Hall.
In the fourteenth-century register of the archdeaconry of Norwich, known as the ' Norwich Domesday,' is the following entry, cited by Mr. Kirkpatrick:—
' There is in the parish of St. Edward a certain hospital called Hildebronde's Spytelle, lying near the churchyard on the south side, built with houses and a hall, and chambers for the master. In which said hospital, poor people wanting lodging ought to be entertained, and to have a certain quantity of fuel (focalium) from the master.' It is further stated that the master had a chapel annexed to St. Edward's church (the simple inventory is given), where he could celebrate mass at his pleasure. The annual value of the hospital was estimated at 100s.
The infirmarian of the cathedral paid the hospital a rent of 2s. 6d. (fn. 51) the city paid it 7s. 6d. for stalls in the market and the hospital of St. Giles 2s.
The common fate of so many of these hospitals overtook the one founded by citizen Hildebronde, namely the absorption of the major part of the income by the master. The bishops allowed the mastership to be held with other benefices, and seem to have considered their duties at an end when they had made a collection. That abuses were rampant in 1428 appears from the will of William Setman, some time mayor of the city. He requested that a conference might be held with 'the master of Ivyhalle, late called the Hospital, in Conysford, in Norwich,' and if the master willed for the future to observe the ancient order of the hospital, and discharge its burden, then the rent of two houses was to be restored. (fn. 52)
From subsequent wills, cited by Kirkpatrick, it would appear that some care for the poor was discharged by this hospital later in the century Thus Robert Steynton, rector of St. Julian's, bequeathed to it, in 1440, a green coverlet and a pair of blankets, and a pair of sheets a will of 1457 made a bequest to the poor of the hospital of Ivy Hall, and a third will of 1459 left 2s. to the repair of the beds of the same hospital. (fn. 53) Spoliation, however, again set in, for the Valor of 1535 gave the annual value of the messuage, with court and garden, of this hospital, as only 14s. (fn. 54)
Masters of Hildebrond's Hospital, Norwich
Nicholas, (fn. 55) rector of Bernham, 1262
Thomas de Mutforde, (fn. 57) appointed 1290
John de Wykelwoode, (fn. 58) appointed 1320
Robert de Langele, (fn. 59) resigned 1353
Henry de Plumpstede, (fn. 60) appointed 1353
Peter Mighel, (fn. 61) presented by the king, 1385
John Eyr, (fn. 62) presented by the king, 1385
John de Elmham, (fn. 63) appointed 1397
William Friseley, (fn. 64) appointed 1401
John Haukins, (fn. 65) appointed 1405
John Bowd, (fn. 66) appointed 1412
William Hayton, (fn. 67) appointed 1413
William Toby, (fn. 68) appointed 1419
Roger Malmesbury, (fn. 69) resigned 1471
Thomas Massen, (fn. 70) appointed 1471
83. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. PAUL, NORWICH (fn. 74)
The hospital of St. Paul, Norwich, otherwise called Norman's Spital, from Norman, the monk who was the first master, was founded by the prior and convent of Norwich in the early part of the twelfth century in the time of the first bishop of Norwich. It was erected in a place then called Cows Croft, in the north-eastern district of the city.
Though begun in the time of Bishop Herbert, it was not finished until the days of Bishop Everard (1121-45). That bishop, Ingulf the first prior of Norwich, and Richard de Beaufo, bishop of Avranches, were jointly responsible for the completion of the work of building the hospital and the church, which was consecrated by Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, in honour of St. Paul the apostle, and St. Paul the Hermit. The church was made parochial, but was appropriated to the hospital in 1198.
Bishop Beaufo gave the hospital the churches, glebes and tithes of the four churches of SS. Michael, Peter, Andrew, and Margaret at Ormesby, which he had of the gift of Henry I and the prior and convent of Norwich bestowed on it tithes at Marsham and Blickling, and lands at Sprowston and Thorpe. Morel de Morley and Emma his wife, who were received into the fraternity of the priory of Norwich, gave in return for that favour the tithes of Filby to the hospital. Various confirmation charters of the early beneficiaries are set forth in the Monasticon. (fn. 75) Bishop Everard (1121-45) granted forty days' pardon to all who came to the church and offered there during the octave of St. Paul's Day in the summer, that is the Commemoration of St. Paul on 30 June. The hospital maintained fourteen poor men or women, who were impotent through old age or chronic illness. The master or warden was to be always a monk of Norwich in priests' orders, and was appointed by the prior and convent.
In the time of Master Walsham, appointed 1429, the scheme of the hospital was changed. No more men were admitted, and the benefits were reserved for fourteen sisters, seven of whom were termed whole sisters and received board, lodging, and clothing in the hospital whilst the other seven half-sisters had no lodging assigned them. A wardeness or mistress was at the same time appointed to overlook the sisters her appointment rested solely with the master. The master served the church and exercised general oversight concerning the hospital and its property. The hospital buildings were repaired directly by the priory.
The account rolls of the hospital of St. Paul's preserved in the treasury of the cathedral are seven in number, and are for the years 1423, 1430, 1431, 1436, 1441, 1443, and 1509. The average receipts were about £65 and the expenditure was somewhat in excess of the income.
To each of the full sisters, thirteen in number, in 1436 the sum of 8d. a week was paid. Of the less favoured sisters who were apparently on an out-relief list (mediis sororibus), eleven received 3d. a week for 39 weeks, and ten the same for 13 weeks. There were also small gifts made to the sisters and to the poor in God's House on Christmas Day, whilst the oil for a lamp in each of the resident sisters' houses or rooms cost 2s.
Bishop Goldwell visited the hospital on 9 October, 1492. The master, Denis Hyndolveston, eight full sisters, and seven half-sisters were in attendance. Their several examinations are not given, but the report states that the sisters' stipends were not paid at the right time, and this because the rents of the houses were very often considerably overdue that the stipends were frequently delayed in payment for eight weeks, and sometimes for ten and that no sister was admitted into the house save on payment of ten marks or more, which was contrary to the foundation. The bishop adjourned the visitation till the morrow of the feast of St. Clement but the continuation is not on record.
On 8 June, 1532, Dr. Miles Spenser visited the hospital as the bishop's commissary, Henry Manuel was then master. The names of Margaret Dyver, gardiana, and nine other sisters are given but no injunctions or report are attached to this record.
When the Valor of 1535 was drawn up, £20 7s. 1d. was named under the alms of Norwich Priory that went yearly to the support of divers women lodging in the hospital of St. Paul, and of other poor women coming daily to the hospital. It is stated that they prayed daily for the soul of Richard, formerly archdeacon of Norwich (Bishop of Avranches) there described as the founder, and for the souls of Henry I, Stephen, and Matilda.
On the dissolution of the priory, no more masters were appointed, but the hospital escaped Henry VIII's clutches, and remained as heretofore under a wardeness. Henry Manuel the last master, was made third prebend of the cathedral church by the charter of 1533, and the hospital and revenues were assigned to the new dean and chapter.
On the death of Margaret Dyver, Agnes Lyon was appointed wardeness and the sisters reduced to twelve. On the death of Agnes in 1545, the dean and chapter granted to the corporation of Norwich at 1d. a year, a lease of the hospital ' theretofore used for the relief and lodging of poor strangers and sick impotent persons,' on condition of its being used for like purposes. But after litigation, this condition fell through in 1571, and this ancient hospital was turned into a bridewell, or house of correction for idle and lazy beggars.
About Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
Thomas Cranmer (2 July 1489 – 21 March 1556) was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. He helped build a favourable case for Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon which resulted in the separation of the English Church from union with the Holy See. Along with Thomas Cromwell, he supported the principle of royal supremacy in which the king was considered sovereign over the Church within his realm.
During Cranmer's tenure as archbishop, he was responsible for establishing the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the Church of England. Under Henry's rule, Cranmer did not make many radical changes in the Church due to power struggles between religious conservatives and reformers. However, he succeeded in publishing the first officially authorised vernacular service, the Exhortation and Litany.
When Edward came to power, Cranmer was able to promote major reforms. He wrote and compiled the first two editions of the Book of Common Prayer, a complete liturgy for the English Church. With the assistance of several Continental reformers to whom he gave refuge, he developed new doctrinal standards in areas such as the eucharist, clerical celibacy, the role of images in places of worship, and the veneration of saints. Cranmer promulgated the new doctrines through the Prayer Book, the Homilies and other publications.
Cranmer was tried for treason and heresy when Mary I came to the throne. Imprisoned for over two years and under pressure from the Church authorities, he made several recantations and reconciled himself with the Catholic faith. However, on the day of his execution, he dramatically withdrew his recantations and died as a Protestant martyr. His legacy lives on within the Church of England through the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles, an Anglican statement of faith derived from his work.
Cranmer was born in 1489 in Aslockton in Nottinghamshire, England. His parents, Thomas and Agnes (nພ Hatfield) Cranmer, were of modest wealth and were not members of the nobility. Their oldest son, John, inherited the family estate, whereas Thomas and his younger brother Edmund were placed on the path to a clerical career. Cranmer’s early schooling remains a mystery. He probably attended a grammar school in his village. At the age of fourteen, two years after the death of his father, he was sent to the newly created Jesus College in Cambridge. It took him a surprisingly long eight years to reach his Bachelor of Arts degree following a curriculum of logic, classical literature, and philosophy. During this time he began to collect medieval scholastic books, which he preserved faithfully throughout his life. For his Master’s degree, he took a different course of study, concentrating on the humanists, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and Erasmus. This time he progressed with no special delay, finishing the course in three years. Shortly after receiving his Master of Arts degree in 1515, he was elected to a Fellowship of Jesus College.
Sometime after Cranmer took his MA, he married a woman named Joan. Although he was not yet a priest, he was forced to forfeit his fellowship, resulting in the loss of his residence at Jesus College. In order to support himself and his wife, he took a job as a reader at another college. When Joan died during her first childbirth, Jesus College showed its regard for Cranmer by reinstating his fellowship. He began studying theology and by 1520 he had received holy orders, the University already having named him as one of their preachers. He received his doctorate of divinity in 1526.
Not much is known about Cranmer’s thoughts and experiences during his three decades at Cambridge. Traditionally, he has been portrayed as a humanist whose enthusiasm for biblical scholarship prepared him for the adoption of Lutheran ideas, which were spreading during the 1520s. However, a study of his marginalia reveals an early antipathy to Martin Luther and an admiration for Erasmus. When Cardinal Wolsey, the king's Lord Chancellor, selected several Cambridge scholars, including Edward Lee, Stephen Gardiner, and Richard Sampson, to be diplomats throughout Europe, Cranmer was chosen to take a minor role in the English embassy in Spain. In two recently discovered letters by Cranmer, an early encounter between Cranmer and the king, Henry VIII of England was revealed. Upon Cranmer's return from Spain in June 1527, he was given a personal half-hour long interview with the king, whom he described as "the kindest of princes".
Henry VIII's first marriage had its origins in 1502 when his elder brother, Arthur, died. Henry VII then betrothed Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon, to the future king. The betrothal immediately raised questions related to the biblical prohibition against marriage to a deceased brother’s wife. The couple married in 1509 and after a series of miscarriages, a daughter, Mary, was born in 1516. By the 1520s, Henry still did not have a son to name as heir and he took this as a sure sign of God’s anger and made overtures to the Vatican about an annulment. He gave Cardinal Wolsey the task of prosecuting his case Wolsey began by consulting university experts. From 1527, in addition to his duties as a Cambridge don, Cranmer assisted with the annulment proceedings
In the summer of 1529, Cranmer stayed with relatives in Waltham Holy Cross to avoid an outbreak of the plague in Cambridge. Two Cambridge associates, Stephen Gardiner and Edward Foxe, joined him. The three discussed the annulment issue and Cranmer suggested putting aside the legal case in Rome in favour of a general canvassing of opinions from university theologians throughout Europe. Henry showed much interest in the idea when Gardiner and Foxe presented him this plan. It is not known whether the king or his Lord Chancellor, Thomas More, explicitly approved the plan. Eventually it was implemented and Cranmer was requested to join the royal team in Rome to gather opinions from the universities. Edward Foxe coordinated the research effort and the team produced the Collectanea Satis Copiosa ("The Sufficiently Abundant Collections") and The Determinations, historical and theological support for the argument that the king exercised supreme jurisdiction within his realm.
Cranmer’s first contact with a Continental reformer was with Simon Grynaeus, a humanist based in Basel, Switzerland and a follower of the Swiss reformers, Huldrych Zwingli and Johannes Oecolampadius. In the summer of 1531, Grynaeus took an extended visit to England to offer himself as an intermediary between the king and the Continental reformers. He struck up a friendship with Cranmer and after his return to Basel, he wrote about Cranmer to the German reformer Martin Bucer in Strasbourg. Grynaeus' early contacts initiated Cranmer’s eventual relationship with the Strasbourg and Swiss reformers.
In January 1532, Cranmer was appointed the resident ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. As the emperor travelled throughout his realm, Cranmer had to follow him to his residence in Ratisbon (Regensburg). He passed through the Lutheran city of Nuremberg and saw for the first time the effects of the Reformation. When the Imperial Diet was moved to Nuremberg in the summer, he met the leading architect of Nuremberg’s reforms, Andreas Osiander. They became good friends and during that July, Cranmer took the surprising action of marrying Margarete, the niece of Osiander's wife. This was all the more remarkable given that the marriage required him to set aside his priestly vow of celibacy. He did not take her as his mistress as was the prevailing custom with priests for whom celibacy was too rigorous. Scholars note that Cranmer had moved, however moderately at this stage, into identifying with certain Lutheran principles. This progress in his personal life, however, could not be matched in his political life as he was unable to persuade Charles, Catherine's nephew, to support the annulment of his aunt's marriage.
The family of Anne Boleyn secured the appointment of Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury. Later portrait by an unknown artist.While Cranmer was following Charles through Italy, he received a royal letter dated 1 October 1532 informing him that he had been appointed the new Archbishop of Canterbury, following the death of the former archbishop, William Warham. Cranmer was ordered to return to England. The appointment had been secured by the family of Anne Boleyn, who was being courted by Henry. When Cranmer's promotion became known in London, it caused great surprise as Cranmer had previously held only a minor positions in the Church. Cranmer left Mantua on 19 November and arrived in England at the beginning of January. Henry personally financed the papal bulls necessary for Cranmer’s promotion to Canterbury. The bulls were easily acquired because the papal nuncio was under orders from Rome to please the English in an effort to avert a final breach. The bulls arrived around 26 March 1533 and Cranmer was consecrated as archbishop on 30 March in St Stephen's Chapel. Even while they were waiting for the bulls, Cranmer continued to work on the annulment proceedings, which required greater urgency after Anne announced her pregnancy. Henry and Anne were secretly married on 24 or 25 January 1533 in the presence of a handful of witnesses. Cranmer did not learn of the marriage until a fortnight later.
For the next few months, the archbishop and the king worked on establishing legal procedures on how the monarch's marriage would be judged by his most senior clergyman. Several drafts of the procedures have been preserved in letters written between the two. Once the procedures were agreed, Cranmer opened his court on 10 May inviting Henry and Catherine of Aragon to appear. Gardiner represented the king Catherine did not appear or send a proxy. On 23 May Cranmer pronounced the judgement that Henry's marriage with Catherine was against the law of God. He even issued a threat of excommunication if Henry did not stay away from Catherine. Henry was now free to marry and on 28 May, Cranmer validated Henry and Anne’s marriage. On 1 June, Cranmer personally crowned and anointed Anne queen and delivered to her the sceptre and rod. Pope Clement VII was furious at this defiance, but he could not take decisive action as he was pressured by other monarchs to avoid an irreparable breach with England. However, on 9 July he provisionally excommunicated Henry and his advisers (which included Cranmer) unless he repudiated Anne by the end of September. Henry kept Anne as his wife and on 7 September, Anne gave birth to Elizabeth. Cranmer baptised her immediately afterwards and acted as one of her godparents.
It is difficult to assess how Cranmer’s theological views had evolved since his Cambridge days. There is evidence that he continued to support humanism he renewed Erasmus' pension that had previously been granted by Archbishop Warham. In June 1533, he was confronted with the difficult task of not only disciplining a reformer, but also seeing him burnt at the stake. John Frith was condemned to death for his views on the eucharist: he denied the Real Presence. Cranmer personally tried to persuade him to change his views without success. Although he rejected Frith’s radicalism, by 1534 he clearly signalled that he had broken with Rome and that he had set a new theological course. He supported the cause of reform by gradually replacing the old guard in his ecclesiastical province with men who followed the new thinking such as Hugh Latimer. He intervened in religious disputes, supporting reformers to the disappointment of religious conservatives who desired to maintain the link with Rome.
Thomas Cromwell was the vice-gerent acting as the main agent for the king over spiritual matters. Portrait by Hans Holbein, 1532.Cranmer was not immediately accepted by the bishops within his province. When he attempted a canonical visitation, he had to avoid locations where a resident conservative bishop might make an embarrassing personal challenge to his authority. In 1535, Cranmer had difficult encounters with several bishops, John Stokesley, John Longland, and Stephen Gardiner among others. They objected to Cranmer’s power and title and argued that the Act of Supremacy did not define his role. This prompted Thomas Cromwell, the king's chief minister, to activate and to take the office of the Vice-gerent, the deputy supreme head of ecclesiastical affairs. He created another set of institutions that gave a clear structure to the royal supremacy. Hence, the archbishop was eclipsed by Vice-gerent Cromwell in regards to the king's spiritual jurisdiction. There is no evidence that Cranmer resented his position as junior partner. Although he was an exceptional scholar, he lacked the political ability to outface even clerical opponents. Those tasks were left to Cromwell.
On 29 January 1536, when Anne miscarried a son, the king began to reflect again on the biblical prohibitions that had haunted him during his marriage with Catherine of Aragon. Shortly after the miscarriage, the king started to take an interest in Jane Seymour. Behind the scenes at the Court, Cromwell had decided to turn against Anne. Unaware of his actions, Cranmer continued to write letters to him on minor matters up to 22 April. Anne was sent to the Tower of London on 2 May and Cranmer was urgently summoned by Cromwell. On the very next day, Cranmer wrote a letter to the king expressing his doubts about the queen’s guilt, highlighting his own esteem for Anne. After it was delivered, Cranmer was resigned to the fact that the end of Anne's marriage was inevitable. On 16 May, he saw Anne in the Tower and heard her confession and the following day, he pronounced the marriage null and void. Two days later, Anne was executed.
The vice-gerency brought the pace of reforms under the control of the king. A balance was instituted between the conservatives and the reformers and this was seen in the Ten Articles, the first attempt at defining the beliefs of the Henrician Church. The articles had a two-part structure. The first five articles showed the influence of the reformers by recognising only three of the former seven sacraments: baptism, eucharist, and penance. The last five articles concerned the roles of images, saints, rites and ceremonies, and purgatory, and they reflected the views of the traditionalists. Two early drafts of the document have been preserved and show different teams of theologians at work. The competition between the conservatives and reformers is revealed in rival editorial corrections made by Cranmer and Cuthbert Tunstall, the bishop of Durham. The end product had something that pleased and annoyed both sides of the debate. By 11 July, Cranmer, Cromwell, and the Convocation, the general assembly of the clergy, had subscribed to the Ten Articles.
In the autumn of 1536, the north of England was convulsed in a series of uprisings collectively known as the Pilgrimage of Grace, the most serious opposition to Henry’s policies. Cromwell and Cranmer were the primary targets of the protesters’ fury. Cromwell and the king worked furiously to quell the rebellion, while Cranmer kept a low profile. After it was clear that Henry's regime was safe, the government took the initiative to remedy the evident inadequacy of the Ten Articles. The outcome after months of debate was The Institution of a Christian Man informally known from the first issue as the Bishops' Book. The book was initially proposed in February 1537 in the first vice-gerential synod, ordered by Cromwell, for the whole Church. Cromwell opened the proceedings, but as the synod progressed, Cranmer and Foxe took on the chairmanship and the co-ordination. Foxe did most of the final editing and the book was published in late September.
Even after publication, the book’s status remained vague because the king had not given his full support to it. In a draft letter, Henry noted that he had not read the book, but supported its printing. His attention was most likely occupied by the pregnancy of Jane Seymour and the birth of the male heir, Edward, that Henry had sought for so long. Jane died shortly after giving birth and her funeral was held on 12 November. That month Henry started to work on the Bishops’ Book his amendments were sent to Cranmer, Sampson, and others for comment. Cranmer's responses to the king were far more confrontational than his colleagues' and he wrote at much greater length. They reveal unambiguous statements supporting reformed theology such as justification by faith or sola fide (faith alone) and predestination. However, his words did not convince the king. A new statement of faith would be delayed until 1543 with the publication of the King’s Book.
In 1538, the king and Cromwell arranged with Lutheran princes to have detailed discussions on forming a political and religious alliance. Henry had been seeking a new embassy from the Schmalkaldic League since summer 1537. The Lutherans were delighted by this and they sent a joint delegation from various German cities, including a colleague of Martin Luther, Friedrich Myconius. The delegates arrived in England on 27 May 1538. After initial meetings with the king, Cromwell, and Cranmer, discussions on theological differences were transferred to Lambeth Palace under Cranmer’s chairmanship. Progress on an agreement was slow partly due to Cromwell being too busy to help expedite the proceedings and partly due to the negotiating team on the English side which was evenly balanced between conservatives and reformers. The talks dragged on through the summer with the Germans becoming weary despite the Archbishop’s strenuous efforts. The negotiations, however, were fatally neutralised by an appointee of the king. Cranmer’s colleague, Edward Foxe, who sat on Henry’s Privy Council, had died earlier in the year. The king chose as his replacement, Cranmer’s conservative rival, Cuthbert Tunstall, who was told to stay near Henry to give advice. On 5 August, when the German delegates sent a letter to the king regarding three items that particularly worried them (compulsory clerical celibacy, the withholding of the chalice from the laity, and the maintenance of private masses for the dead), Tunstall was able to intervene for the king and to influence the decision. The result was a thorough dismissal by the king of many of the Germans’ chief concerns. Although Cranmer begged the Germans to continue with the negotiations using the argument "to consider the many thousands of souls in England" at stake, they left on 1 October having made no substantial achievements.
Philipp Melanchthon was the Continental reformer Henry most admired. In 1552 Cranmer invited him to participate in an ecumenical council in England. Engraving by Albrecht Dürer, 1526Continental reformer Philipp Melanchthon was aware that he was very much admired by Henry. In early 1539, Melanchthon wrote several letters to Henry criticising his views on religion, in particular his support of clerical celibacy. By late April another delegation from the Lutheran princes arrived to build on Melanchthon’s exhortations. Cromwell wrote a letter to the king in support of the new Lutheran mission. However, the king had begun to change his stance and concentrated on wooing conservative opinion in England rather than reaching out to the Lutherans. On 28 April 1539, Parliament met for the first time in three years. Cranmer was present, but Cromwell was unable to attend due to ill health. On 5 May the House of Lords created a committee with the customary religious balance between conservatives and reformers to examine and determine doctrine. However, the committee was given little time to do the detailed work needed for a thorough revision. On 16 May, the Duke of Norfolk noted that the committee had not agreed on anything and proposed that the Lords examine six doctrinal questions which eventually became the basis of the Six Articles. They affirmed the conservative interpretation of doctrines such as the Real Presence, clerical celibacy, and the necessity of auricular confession, the private confession of sins to a priest. As the Act of the Six Articles neared passage in Parliament, Cranmer moved his wife and children out of England to safety. Up until this time, the family was kept quietly hidden, most likely in Ford Palace in Kent. The Act passed Parliament at the end of June and it forced Latimer and Nicholas Shaxton to resign their dioceses given their outspoken opposition to the measure.
The setback for the reformers was short-lived. By September, Henry was displeased with the results of the Act and its promulgators the ever-loyal Cranmer and Cromwell were back in favour. The king asked his archbishop to write a new preface for the Great Bible, an English translation of the Bible that was first published in April 1539 under the direction of Cromwell. The preface was in the form of a sermon addressed to readers. As for Cromwell, he was delighted that his plan of a royal marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves, the sister of a German prince was accepted by the king. In Cromwell's view, the marriage could potentially bring back contacts with the Schmalkaldic League. Henry was dismayed with Anne when they first met on 1 January 1540 but married her reluctantly on 6 January in a ceremony officiated by Cranmer. However, the marriage ended in disaster as Henry decided shortly thereafter that he would request a royal divorce. This resulted in Henry being placed in an embarrassing position and Cromwell suffered the consequences. His old enemies, including the Duke of Norfolk, took advantage of the weakened Cromwell and he was arrested on 10 June. He immediately lost the support of all his friends, including Cranmer. However, as Cranmer had done for Anne Boleyn, he wrote a letter to the king defending the past work of Cromwell. Henry's marriage to Anne of Cleves was quickly annulled on 9 July by the vice-gerential synod, now led by Cranmer and Gardiner.
Following the annulment, Cromwell was executed on 28 July. Cranmer now found himself in a politically prominent position, with no one else to shoulder the burden. Throughout the rest of Henry’s reign, he clung to Henry’s authority. The king had total trust in him and in return, Cranmer could not conceal anything from the king. At the end of June 1541, Henry with his new wife, Catherine Howard, left for his first visit to the north of England. Cranmer was left in London as a member of a council taking care of matters for the king in his absence. His colleagues were Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley and Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. This was Cranmer's first major piece of responsibility outside the Church. In October, while the king and queen were away, a reformer named John Lascelles revealed to Cranmer that Catherine engaged in extramarital affairs. Cranmer gave the information to Audley and Seymour and they decided to wait until Henry’s return. Afraid of angering the king, Audley and Seymour suggested that Cranmer inform Henry. Cranmer slipped a message to Henry during mass on All Saints Day. An investigation revealed the truth of the marital indiscretions and Catherine was executed in February 1542.
In 1543, several conservative clergymen in Kent banded together to attack and denounce two reformers, Richard Turner and John Bland, before the Privy Council. They prepared articles to present to the Council, but at the last moment, additional denunciations were added by Stephen Gardiner’s nephew, Germain Gardiner. These new articles attacked Cranmer and listed his misdeeds back to 1541. This document and the actions that followed were the basis of the so-called Prebendaries' Plot. The articles were delivered to the Council in London and were probably read on 22 April 1543. The king most likely saw the articles against Cranmer that night. The archbishop, however, appeared unaware that an attack on his person was made. His commissioners in Lambeth dealt specifically with Turner’s case where he was acquitted, much to the fury of the conservatives.
While the plot against Cranmer was proceeding, the reformers were being attacked on other fronts. On 20 April, the Convocation reconvened to consider the revision of the Bishops’ Book. Cranmer presided over the sub-committees, but the conservatives were able to overturn any reforming ideas, including justification by faith. On 5 May, the new revision called A Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for any Christian Man or the King’s Book was released. Doctrinally, it was far more conservative than the Bishops’ Book. On 10 May, the reformers received another blow. Parliament passed the Act for the Advancement of True Religion, which abolished "erroneous books" and restricted the reading of the Bible in English to those of noble status. From May to August, reformers were examined, forced to recant, or imprisoned.
For five months, Henry took no action on the accusations against his archbishop. The conspiracy was finally revealed to Cranmer by the king himself. According to Cranmer’s secretary, Ralph Morice, sometime in September 1543 the king showed Cranmer a paper summarising the accusations against him. An investigation was to be mounted and Cranmer was appointed chief investigator. Surprise raids were carried out, evidence was gathered, and ringleaders were identified. Typically, Cranmer put the clergymen involved in the conspiracy through immediate humiliation, but he eventually forgave them and continued to use their services. To show his trust in Cranmer, Henry gave Cranmer his personal ring. When the Privy Council arrested Cranmer at the end of November, the nobles were stymied by the symbol of the king’s trust in him. Cranmer’s victory ended with two second-rank leaders imprisoned and Germain Gardiner executed.
With the atmosphere in Cranmer’s favour, he pursued quiet efforts to reform the Church, particularly the liturgy. On 27 May 1544 the first officially authorised vernacular service was published, the processional service of intercession known as the Exhortation and Litany. It survives today with minor modifications in the Book of Common Prayer. The traditional litany uses invocations to saints, but Cranmer thoroughly reformed this aspect by providing no opportunity in the text for such veneration. Additional reformers were elected to the House of Commons and new legislation was introduced to curb the effects of the Act of the Six Articles and the Act for the Advancement of True Religion.
In 1546, the conservatives in a coalition including Gardiner, the Duke of Norfolk, the Lord Chancellor Wriothesley, and the bishop of London, Edmund Bonner, made one last attempt to challenge the reformers. Several reformers with links to Cranmer were targeted. Some such as Lascelles were burnt at the stake. However, powerful reform-minded nobles Edward Seymour and John Dudley returned to England during the summer from overseas and they were able to turn the tide against the conservatives. Two incidents in autumn tipped the balance. Gardiner was disgraced before the king when he refused to agree to exchange episcopal estates and the son of the Duke of Norfolk was charged with treason and executed. There is no evidence that Cranmer played any part in these political games and there were no further plots as the king's health ebbed in his final months. Cranmer performed his final duties for the king on 28 January 1547 when he gave a reformed statement of faith while gripping Henry’s hand instead of giving him his last rites. Cranmer mourned Henry’s death and it was later said that he demonstrated his grief by growing a beard. The beard was also a sign of his break with the past. Continental reformers grew beards to mark their rejection of the old Church and this significance of clerical beards was well-understood in England. On 31 January, he was among the executors of the king’s final will that nominated Seymour as Lord Protector and welcomed the boy king, Edward VI.
Martin Bucer who had corresponded with Cranmer for many years was forced to take refuge in England.Under the regency of Seymour, the reformers were now part of the establishment. A royal visitation of the provinces took place in August 1547 and each parish that was visited was instructed to obtain a copy of the Homilies. This book consisted of twelve homilies of which four were written by Cranmer. His reassertion of the doctrine of justification of faith elicited a strong reaction from Gardiner. In the "Homily of Good Works annexed to Faith", Cranmer attacked monasticism and the importance of various personal actions involved in liturgical recitations and ceremonies. Hence, he narrowed the range of good works that would be considered necessary and reinforced the primacy of faith. In each parish visited, injunctions were put in place that resolved to "eliminate any image which had any suspicion of devotion attached to it".
Cranmer’s eucharistic views, which had already moved away from official Catholic doctrine, received another push from Continental reformers. Cranmer had been in contact with Martin Bucer since the time when initial contacts were made with the Schmalkaldic League. However, Cranmer and Bucer's relationship became ever closer due to Charles V’s victory over the League at Mühlberg which left England as the sole major nation providing sanctuary for persecuted reformers. Cranmer wrote a letter to Bucer (now lost) with questions on eucharistic theology. In Bucer's reply dated 28 November 1547, he denied the Real Presence and condemned transubstantiation and the adoration of the elements. The letter was delivered to Cranmer by two Italian reformed theologians, Peter Martyr and Bernardino Ochino who were invited to take refuge in England. Martyr also brought with him an epistle written allegedly by John Chrysostom, Ad Caesarium Monachum, which appeared to provide patristic support against the Real Presence. These documents were to influence Cranmer’s thoughts on the eucharist.
In March 1549, the city of Strasbourg forced Martin Bucer and Paul Fagius to leave. Cranmer immediately invited the men to come to England and promised that they would be placed in English universities. When they arrived on 25 April, Cranmer was especially delighted to meet Bucer face to face after eighteen years of correspondence. He needed these scholarly men to train a new generation of preachers as well as assist in the reform of liturgy and doctrine. Others that accepted his invitations include the Polish reformer, Jan Laski, but Cranmer was unable to convince Osiander and Melanchthon to come to England.
As the use of English in worship services spread, the need for a complete uniform liturgy for the Church became evident. Initial meetings to start what would eventually become the Book of Common Prayer were held in the former abbey of Chertsey and in Windsor Castle in September 1548. The list of participants can only be partially reconstructed, but it is known that the members were balanced between conservatives and reformers. These meetings were followed by a debate on the eucharist in the House of Lords which took place between 14 and 19 December. Cranmer publicly revealed in this debate that he had abandoned the doctrine of the Real Presence and believed that the eucharistic presence was only spiritual. Parliament backed the publication of the Prayer Book after Christmas by passing the Act of Uniformity 1549 it then legalised clerical marriage.
It is difficult to ascertain how much of the Prayer Book is actually Cranmer’s personal composition. Generations of liturgical scholars have been able to track down the sources that he used, including the Sarum Rite, writings from Hermann von Wied, and several Lutheran sources including Osiander and Justus Jonas. More problematic is determining how Cranmer worked on the book and with whom he worked. Despite the lack of knowledge of whom might have helped him, however, he is given the credit for the editorship and the overall structure of the book.
The use of the new Prayer Book was made compulsory on 9 June 1549. This triggered a series of protests in Devon and Cornwall, the Prayer Book Rebellion. By early July, the uprising had spread to other parts in the east of England. Bucer had just taken up his duties in Cambridge when he found himself in the middle of the commotion and had to scurry to shelter. The rebels made a number of demands including the restoration of the Six Articles, the use of Latin for the mass with only the bread given to the laity, the restoration of prayers for souls in purgatory, and the rebuilding of abbeys. Cranmer wrote to the king a strong response to these demands in which he denounced the wickedness of the rebellion. On 21 July, Cranmer commandeered St Paul’s Cathedral where he vigorously defended the official Church line. A draft of his sermon, the only extant written sample of his preaching from his entire career, shows that he collaborated with Peter Martyr on dealing with the rebellion.
The Prayer Book Rebellion and other events had a negative effect on the Seymour regency. The Privy Council became divided when a set of dissident Councillors banded together behind John Dudley in order to oust Seymour. Cranmer and two other councillors, William Paget, and Thomas Smith initially rallied behind Seymour. However, after a flurry of letters passed between the two sides, a bloodless coup d’état resulted in the end of Seymour’s Protectorship on 13 October 1549. Despite the support of religiously conservative politicians behind Dudley’s coup, the reformers managed to maintain control of the new government and the English Reformation continued to consolidate gains. Seymour was initially imprisoned in the Tower, but he was shortly released on 6 February 1550 and returned to the Council. The archbishop was able to transfer his former chaplain, Nicholas Ridley from the minor see of Rochester to the diocese of London, while John Ponet took Ridley’s former position. Incumbent conservatives were uprooted and replaced with reformers.
John Hooper was influenced by the Zwinglian Reformation and advocated more radical reforms. Portrait by Henry Bryan Hall, 1839.The first result of co-operation and consultation between Cranmer and Bucer was the Ordinal, the liturgy for the ordination of priests. This was missing in the first Prayer Book and was not published until 1550. Cranmer adopted Bucer’s draft and created three services for commissioning a deacon, a priest, and a bishop. In the same year, Cranmer produced the Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, a semi-official explanation of the eucharistic theology within the Prayer Book. It was the first full-length book to bear Cranmer’s name on the title-page. The preface summarises his quarrel with Rome in a well-known passage where he compared "beads, pardons, pilgrimages, and such other like popery" as weeds, but the roots of the weeds were transubstantiation, the Real Presence, and the sacrificial nature of the mass.
Although Bucer assisted in the development of the English Reformation, he was still quite concerned about the speed of its progress. Both Bucer and Fagius had noticed that the 1549 Prayer Book was not a remarkable step forward, although Cranmer assured Bucer that it was only a first step and that its initial form was only temporary. However, by the winter 1550, Bucer was becoming disillusioned. Cranmer, however, made sure that he did not feel alienated and kept in close touch with him. This attention paid off during the vestments controversy. This incident was initiated by John Hooper, a follower of Heinrich Bullinger who had recently returned from Zürich. Hooper was unhappy with Cranmer’s Prayer Book and Ordinal and he particularly objected to the use of ceremonies and vestments. When the Privy Council selected him to be the Bishop of Gloucester on 15 May 1550, he laid down conditions that he would not wear the required vestments. He found an ally among the Continental reformers in Jan Laski. Laski had become a leader of the Stranger church in London, a designated place of worship for Continental Protestant refugees. His church’s forms and practices had taken reforms much further than Cranmer would have liked. However, Bucer and Peter Martyr, while they sympathised with Hooper’s position, supported Cranmer's arguments of timing and authority. Cranmer and Ridley stood their ground which resulted in Hooper’s imprisonment and he eventually gave in. He was consecrated on 8 March 1551 according to the Ordinal and he preached before the king in his episcopal garments. Cranmer’s vision of reform through careful steps under the authority of the government was maintained.
Cranmer’s role in politics was diminishing when on 16 October 1551 Seymour was arrested on charges of treason. In December he was put on trial and although the charges of treason were dropped, he was judged guilty of felony and hurriedly put to death on 22 January 1552. This was the beginning of the breach between Cranmer and Dudley. It was aggravated during the year by the gradual appropriation of ecclesiastical property by the regency. However, even throughout this political turmoil, Cranmer worked simultaneously on three major projects in his reform programme: the revision of canon law, the revision of the Prayer Book, and the formation of a statement of doctrine.
The original Roman canon law that defined governance within the Church clearly needed revision following Henry's break with Rome. Several revision attempts were made throughout Henry's reign, but these initial projects were shelved as the speed of reform outpaced the time required to work on a revision. As the reformation stabilised, Cranmer formed a committee in December 1551 to restart the work. He recruited Peter Martyr to the committee and he also asked Laski and Hooper to participate, demonstrating his usual ability to forgive past actions. Cranmer and Martyr realised that a successful enactment of a reformed ecclesiastical law-code in England would have international significance. Cranmer planned to draw together all the reformed churches of Europe under England’s leadership to counter the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation. In March 1552, Cranmer invited the foremost Continental reformers, Bullinger, John Calvin, and Melanchthon to come to England and to participate in an ecumenical council. The response was disappointing: Melanchthon did not respond, Bullinger stated that neither of them could leave Germany as it was riven by war between the Emperor and the Lutheran princes, and while Calvin showed some enthusiasm, he said he was unable to come. Cranmer acknowledged Calvin and replied stating, "Meanwhile we will reform the English Church to the utmost of our ability and give our labour that both its doctrines and laws will be improved after the model of holy scripture." One partial manuscript of the project survived that was annotated with corrections and comments by Cranmer and Martyr. When the final version was presented to Parliament, the breach between Cranmer and Dudley was complete and the regent effectively killed the canon law bill in the House of Lords.
As in the first Prayer Book, the origins and participants in the work of its revision are obscure, but it was clear that Cranmer led the project and steered its development. It had begun as early as the end of 1549 when the Convocation of Canterbury met to discuss the matter. Late in 1550, the opinions of Martyr and Bucer were sought on how the liturgy might be improved and they significantly influenced the revision. The spiritual presence view was clarified by the use of entirely different words when the communicants are offered the bread and the wine. New rubrics noted that any kind of bread could be used and any bread or wine that remained could be used by the curate, thus disassociating the elements from any physical presence. The new book removed any possibility of prayers for the dead as such prayers would imply support for the doctrine of purgatory. The Act of Uniformity 1552 which authorised the book's use specified that it was to be exclusively used from 1 November. However, the final version was not officially published until nearly the last minute due to the intervention of Dudley. While traveling in the north of the country, he met the Scots reformer, John Knox, then based in Newcastle. Impressed by his preaching, Dudley selected him to be a royal chaplain and brought him south to participate in the reform projects. In a sermon before the king, Knox attacked the practice of kneeling during communion. On 27 September 1552, the Privy Council stopped the printing of the new Prayer Book and told Cranmer to revise it. He responded with a long letter using the argument that it was for Parliament with the royal assent to decide any changes in the liturgy. On 22 October, the council decided to keep the liturgy as it is and add the so-called "Black Rubric" which explained that no adoration was intended when kneeling at communion.
The origins of the statement which eventually became the Forty-Two Articles are equally obscure. As early as December 1549, the archbishop was demanding from his bishops subscription to certain doctrinal articles. In 1551 Cranmer presented a version of a statement to the bishops, but its status remained ambiguous. Cranmer did not devote much effort into developing the articles, most likely due to work on the canon law revision. He became more interested once the hope for an ecumenical council began to fade. By September 1552, draft versions of the articles were being worked on by Cranmer and John Cheke, his scholarly friend who was commissioned to translate them into Latin. When the Forty-Two Articles were finally published in May 1553, the title-page declared that the articles were agreed upon by the Convocation and were published by the authority of the king. This was not in fact the case and the mistake was likely caused by miscommunications between the archbishop and the Privy Council. Cranmer complained about this to the council but the authorities' response was to note that the articles were developed during the time of the Convocation, hence evading a direct answer. The council gave Cranmer the unfortunate task of requiring subscription to the articles from the bishops, many of whom opposed them and pointed out the anomaly of the title-page. It was while Cranmer was carrying out this duty that events unfolded that would render the subscriptions futile.
Edward VI became seriously ill from tuberculosis and the councillors were told that he did not have long to live. In May 1553, the council sent several letters to Continental reformers assuring them that Edward's health was improving. Among the letters was one addressed to Melanchthon inviting him to come to England to take up the Regius Chair in Cambridge which was vacant since the death of Martin Bucer in February 1551. Both Henry VIII and Cranmer had previously failed to convince Melanchthon to come this time the council made a serious effort by sending him an advance to cover his travel expenses. Cranmer sent a personal letter urging him to take the offer. Despite his plea, Melanchthon never made the voyage to England. While this effort to shore up the reformation was taking place, the council was working to convince several judges to put on the throne Lady Jane Grey, Edward's cousin and a Protestant, instead of Mary, Henry and Catherine of Aragon's daughter and a Catholic. On 17 June 1553 the king made his will noting Jane would succeed him, contravening the Third Succession Act. Cranmer tried to speak to Edward alone, but he was refused and his audience with Edward occurred in the presence of the councillors. Edward told him that he supported what he wrote in his will. Cranmer’s decision to support Jane must have occurred before 19 June when royal orders were sent to convene the Convocation for the recognition of the new succession.
By mid-July, there were serious provincial revolts in Mary’s favour and support for Jane in the council fell. As Mary was proclaimed queen, Dudley, Ridley, Cheke, and Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk were imprisoned. However, no action was taken against the archbishop. On 8 August he led Edward’s funeral according to the rites of the Prayer Book. During these months, he advised others, including Peter Martyr, to flee England, but he himself chose to stay. Reformed bishops were removed from office and conservative clergy, such as Edmund Bonner, had their old positions restored. Cranmer did not go down without a fight. When rumours spread that he authorised the use of the mass in Canterbury Cathedral, he declared them to be false and said, ". all the doctrine and religion, by our said sovereign lord king Edward VI is more pure and according to God's word, than any that hath been used in England these thousand years." Not surprisingly, the government regarded Cranmer's declaration as tantamount to sedition. He was ordered to stand before the council in the Star Chamber on 14 September and on that day he said his final goodbye to Martyr. Cranmer was sent straight to the Tower to join Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.
On 13 November 1553 Cranmer and four others were brought to trial for treason, found guilty, and condemned to death. Throughout February 1554 the political leaders of the supporters of Jane were executed, including Jane herself. It was now time to deal with the religious leaders of the reformation and so on 8 March 1554 the Privy Council ordered Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer to be transferred to Bocardo prison in Oxford to await a second trial for heresy. During this time Cranmer was able to smuggle out a letter to Martyr who had fled to Strasbourg, the last surviving document written in his own hand. He stated that the desperate situation of the church was proof that it will eventually be delivered and wrote, "I pray that God may grant that we may endure to the end!" Cranmer remained isolated in Bocardo prison for seventeen months before the trial started on 12 September 1555. Although it took place in England, the trial was under papal jurisdiction and the final verdict would come from Rome. Cranmer performed poorly under interrogation he admitted to every fact that was placed before him, but he denied any treachery, disobedience, or heresy. The trial of Latimer and Ridley started shortly after Cranmer's but their verdicts came almost immediately and they were burnt at the stake on 16 October. Cranmer was taken to a tower to watch the proceedings. On 4 December, Rome decided Cranmer's fate by depriving him of the archbishopric and giving permission to the secular authorities to carry out their sentence.
In his final days Cranmer's circumstances changed, which led to several recantations. On 11 December, Cranmer was taken out of Bocardo and placed in the house of the Dean of Christ Church. This new environment was very different from that of his two years in prison. He was in an academic community and treated as a guest. Approached by a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia, he debated the issues of papal supremacy and purgatory. In his first four recantations, produced between the end of January and mid-February, Cranmer submitted himself to the authority of the king and queen and recognised the pope as head of the church. On 14 February 1556, he was degraded from holy orders and returned to Bocardo. He had conceded very little and Edmund Bonner was not satisfied with these admissions. On 24 February a writ was issued to the mayor of Oxford and the date of Cranmer's execution was set for 7 March. Two days after the writ was issued, a fifth statement, the first which could be called a true recantation was issued. Cranmer repudiated all Lutheran and Zwinglian theology, fully accepted Catholic theology including papal supremacy and transubstantiation, and stated that there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. He announced his joy of returning to the Catholic faith, asked for and received sacramental absolution, and participated in the mass. Cranmer's burning was postponed and under normal practice of canon law, he should have been absolved. Mary, however, decided that no further postponement was possible. His last recantation was issued on 18 March. It was a sign of a broken man, a sweeping confession of sin.
Cranmer had three more days to live. He was told that he would be able to make a final recantation but this time in public during a service at the University Church. He wrote and submitted the speech in advance and it was published after his death. At the pulpit on the day of his execution, he opened with a prayer and an exhortation to obey the king and queen, but he ended his sermon totally unexpectedly, deviating from the prepared script. He renounced the recantations that he had written or signed with his own hand since his degradation and as such he stated his hand would be punished by being burnt first. He then said, "And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine." He was pulled from the pulpit and taken to where Latimer and Ridley had been burnt six months before. As the flames drew around him, he fulfilled his promise by placing his right hand into the heart of the fire and his dying words were, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."
Immediately after the death of Cranmer, the Marian government produced a pamphlet with all six recantations plus the text of the speech he was to have made in the University Church. No mention was made that he had withdrawn his recantations. However, what had actually happened became common knowledge and the account of the event ceased to be effective propaganda. Similarly on the Protestant side, there was difficulty making use of the event given his recantations. The exiles' propaganda concentrated on publishing various specimens of his writings. Eventually his story was effectively put to use in John Foxe's book Acts and Monuments in 1559.
Cranmer’s family had been exiled to the Continent in 1539. It is not known exactly when they returned to England, but it was soon after the accession of Edward VI in 1547 that Cranmer publicly acknowledged their existence. Not much is known about the early years of the children. His daughter, Margaret, was likely born in the 1530s and his son, Thomas, came later probably during the reign of Edward. Sometime around Mary’s accession, Cranmer’s wife, Margarete, escaped to Germany, while his son was entrusted to his brother, Edmund Cranmer, who also took him to the Continent. Margarete Cranmer eventually married Cranmer’s favourite publisher, Edward Whitchurch. The couple returned to England after Mary’s reign and settled in Surrey. Whitchurch also negotiated for the marriage of Margaret to Thomas Norton. Whitchurch died in 1562 and Margarete married for the third time to Bartholomew Scott. She died in the 1570s. Both of Cranmer’s children died without issue and his line became extinct.
When Elizabeth I came to power, she restored the Church of England's independence from Rome under the Elizabethan Religious Settlement. The church that she re-established was, in effect, a snapshot of the Edwardian Church from September 1552. Thus the Elizabethan Prayer Book was basically Cranmer's 1552 edition but without the "Black Rubric". In the Convocation of 1563, the Forty-Two Articles which were never adopted by the Church were altered in the area of eucharistic doctrine to form the Thirty-Nine Articles. Most of the exiles returned to England and resumed their careers in the Church. To some like Edmund Grindal, an Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth's reign, Cranmer was a shining example whose work needed to be upheld and extended.
Cranmer's greatest concerns were the maintenance of the royal supremacy and the diffusion of reformed theology and practice. But he is best remembered for his contribution to the realm of language and of cultural identity. His prose helped to guide the development of the English language and the Book of Common Prayer is a major contribution to English literature that influenced many lives in the Anglophone world. It was the vehicle that guided Anglican worship for four hundred years. Cranmer has many promoters and detractors, but no biography can do full justice to the complexity of his life and his age. Catholic biographers sometimes depict Cranmer as an unprincipled opportunist and a tool of royal tyranny, while neglecting to note that many other sixteenth-century clergymen and politicians fail to live up to modern standards. For their part, hagiographic Protestant biographers sometimes overlook the times that Cranmer betrayed his own principles. Yet both sides can agree that Cranmer was a committed scholar whose life showed the strengths and weaknesses of a very human and often under-appreciated reformer.
Nicholas Shaxton - History
Sonning village in Berkshire is situated next to the River Thames three miles north-east of Reading. Its famous lock, built in the 18th Century, is 40.5 miles from Oxford and 72 miles from London Bridge via river. The village lies within easy access of the A4, M4 and M40 motorways, bus routes and railway stations at Reading, Twyford and Winnersh.
Although archaeological evidence revealed the existence of earlier Romano-British settlement at Sonning Hill (now the site of the Thames Valley Business Park) and Neolithic stone circles near Charvil, Sonning originated in Anglo-Saxon times when ‘Suna’s people’ reputedly pitched camp some time during the 5th Century AD in clearings along the River Thames.
Missionaries brought Christianity to the Thames Valley with the arrival of St. Birinus, Bishop of Dorchester-on-Thames, in the 7th Century. Soon afterwards, the very first foundations of Sonning’s St. Andrew’s parish church would have been laid probably on or near the site of an earlier place of pagan worship. Following a substantial grant of land from the Crown, the ancient parish of Sonning gradually extended from Sonning Common (five miles to the north-west on higher ground where farm animals would have grazed) to the heath lands of Sandhurst (some fifteen miles to the south-east). In 909, Sonning including the parish of Ramsbury in Wiltshire was constituted a separate bishopric. Sonning, meanwhile, became the seat of sizeable &lsquohall&rsquo or &lsquopalace&rsquo built upon a steep incline on the bishops’ Holme Park estate and well above the flood plain. This site commanded fine views of the river and surrounding countryside.
In 1075, only nine years after the Norman Conquest, the entire see of &lsquoSonning&rsquo was handed over to Old Sarum (better known as Salisbury) as William the Conqueror attempted to centralise and regulate some of the smaller centres of old Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical administration.
This did not seem to diminish Sonning’s importance having a residence so close to the Thames and within easy reach of Westminster commended it to many bishops looking for a convenient resting place en route to official business. The 1086 Domesday Survey also bears witness to a thriving and prosperous community sustained by ample woodland, plentiful pasture, five fisheries and a flour mill, all representing valuable sources of income. It is estimated that Sonning had a population of about 330 at this time.
Although bishops resided at their &lsquopalace&rsquo only for relatively short intervals, their presence was enough to attract various notables including King John and Edward (the ‘Black Prince’), home from campaigning in France during the Hundred Years’ War. John stayed as the articles of Magna Carta were being drafted in 1215 and also received a ransom for the release of William d’Albini, one of the King’s more stubborn baronial antagonists.
In 1399, following Richard II’s ignominious overthrow and imprisonment by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, the King’s child bride, Isabella of Valois, was temporarily incarcerated in the Bishop of Salisbury’s Sonning residence.
Months after an abortive attempt to rescue her, she was finally sent back to France. Richard, meanwhile, was murdered at Pontefract Castle and local legend has it that the exiled Queen’s melancholy ghost still languishes along quieter reaches of the Thames.
In 1574, Sonning’s episcopal connexions were finally severed when Queen Elizabeth exchanged two of her Wiltshire manors for Bishop Edmund Gheast’s Holme Park estate. Frequent petitions complaining about the monarch’s reluctance to pay for the repair of Sonning Bridge’s &lsquorotten bayes&rsquo offer an interesting insight into Queen Elizabeth’s celebrated parsimony.
By the end of the 16th century much of the old palace had fallen into disrepair and neglect leaving its stonework literally to be &lsquoquarried&rsquo and taken away by local inhabitants. Many a village property can still claim a &lsquopiece of the palace&rsquo within its fabric. When the site of the Bishop’s Palace was professionally excavated in 1914 many interesting artefacts were sent to Reading Museum where they are now displayed.
Sonning’s manor remained a Crown property until 1628 when Charles I’s indebtedness persuaded him to sell the Holme Park estate to two London merchants, Abraham Chamberlain and Lawrence Halstead. The ensuing civil war (1642-1648) was largely peripheral to Sonning with major military engagements taking place elsewhere around Reading and Oxford. Nevertheless, generous supplies of flour from Sonning Mill continued to reach the King’s army during the siege of Reading and Sir Thomas Rich as &lsquolord of the manor&rsquo secretly provided a &lsquosafe house&rsquo for persecuted Anglican clergy during the interregnum. Rich was rewarded with a baronetcy by Charles II for his services to the Crown in 1661.
In 1795, the manor passed from the hands of the Rich family to Richard Palmer of Hurst, the Duke of Bedford’s former land agent. The Rich family’s old mansion was demolished and replaced with a Regency-style house and the grounds were redesigned by landscape architect, Humphrey Repton. Encompassing a large swathe of land which included much of present-day Woodley and Earley, the estate remained in the Palmer family’s possession until 1911 by which time death duties and a prolonged agricultural depression were beginning to take their toll.
Meanwhile, the house redesigned in the Gothic style with which we are so familiar today took shape when the new owners Henry and Isabella Golding Palmer commissioned a wholesale refurbishment of their Holme Park mansion between 1880-1882.
One of the most distinguished owners of Holme Park was Robert Palmer, Tory MP for Berkshire at the height of the Reform Bill agitation in the 1830s. A generous benefactor, patron of various local charities and well-respected landlord, Palmer’s name is still associated with the alms houses in Pearson Road, the first water pump in Sonning, and new churches in Dunsden, Earley and Woodley.
A period of unprecedented social and economic change much of which was profoundly distasteful to powerful local landowners, was heralded by the arrival in 1838 of Brunel’s ambitious Great Western Railway. When disaster struck on Christmas Eve, 1841, after heavy rain, a landslip along the newly excavated Sonning Cutting swept away hundreds of &lsquonavvies&rsquo. Their remains were later interred in an unmarked grave in a quiet corner of Sonning’s churchyard.
Agriculture continued to be the mainstay of the local economy well into the 20th Century and in 1934 Reading University took over an area of the old Holme Park estate for teaching and research. Its thriving University Farm quickly gained a worldwide reputation for excellence and over the years has welcomed many distinguished visitors from developing countries.
Two marble indoor war memorials on the south wall of St Andrew’s Church honour parishioners who died in the two world wars and North American visitors might be interested to know that Canadian and American troops were billeted in Sonning before the 1944 D-Day Normandy landings. General Eisenhower (a future President of the USA) also stayed briefly at The Grove in Pearson Road, the very same house where the defeated Admiral Villeneuve had been imprisoned in 1805 following the Battle of Trafalgar.
In 1939, various departments of the Royal Veterinary College, London were evacuated to Holme Park, others being accommodated at Goring. Terence Rattigan, the playwright, lived at the Red House in Thames Street from 1945 to 1947 and band leader, Jack Payne, leased Bishop’s Close with its fine views across the old Palace site for a short time after the war as well.
The Architecture of Sonning
Sonning is very proud of its fine range of distinctive buildings and architectural styles.
Chief amongst these is St. Andrew’s Church which occupies a central position in the village close to the river. Extensively redesigned in its present neo-Gothic style by the architect, Henry Woodyer in 1852-53, it contains two prominent memorials, one to the Palmer family and the other in grand Baroque style to Sir Thomas Rich.
Not much of the original stained glass has survived the depredations of the Reformation in the 16th century. Nicholas Shaxton, Bishop of Salisbury at the time, was an enthusiastic supporter of Henry VIII’s revolution during which many medieval treasures would have been destroyed. Most of the stained glass on view today dates back to Woodyer’s time and in 1869 a new east window was donated by the Palmer family.
A modern vicarage next to the Church was erected in 1994 to supplant its over-large Victorian predecessor and occupies a very ancient site. When a medieval incumbent complained in 1102 that he had “no fit domicile wherein to lay his head”, Bishop Osmund sanctioned the construction of Sonning’s very first vicarage on a meadow overlooking the Thames. In 1858, Robert Palmer gave land from the old Bone Orchard to enlarge the churchyard, and a new burial ground was linked in 1948 to the original by an archway built with bricks from bombed London houses.
The Bull Inn, located next to the Church and owned by it, was originally known as Church House and probably served as a guest house for pilgrims visiting the old chapel of St. Sarik in St. Andrews. An archaeological dig on the site in 2000 uncovered human remains dating back to 1000 AD, during the reign of Ethelred &lsquothe Unready&rsquo, and there was speculation that these could well have been the bones of sick and disabled inmates of a medieval hospice close to the site. It is known, too, that famine was widespread in 1003 and around this time the Danes had also raided deep into southern England. A small memorial plaque next to the southern boundary of the &lsquonew&rsquo churchyard marks the spot where these remains were reinterred.
Another building of note is the St. Sarik Room, named after a local Saxon saint and converted from an older existing structure to commemorate the Millennium. Opened in 2000, it serves both as a popular meeting place for churchgoers and a comfortable venue for smaller Church functions. At the time of writing, plans are in hand for the construction of a new church hall and parish office nearby.
Situated on the north side of the Bull is the Deanery Garden, one of Sir Edwin Lutyens’ best known country houses which he built on the site of a much older residence belonging to the Deans of Salisbury who regularly visited their &lsquoDean’s peculiar&rsquo. Edward Hudson, the founder of &lsquoCountry Life&rsquo magazine, having just acquired the three-acre site, invited Lutyens to design a completely new house. Gertrude Jekyll set to work on the gardens between 1898-1899.
Overlooking an attractive reach of river and the Wharf stands the Great House Hotel which reputedly occupies the site of a 12th century Ferryman’s dwelling. Formerly named the White Hart due to Sonning’s associations with Richard II’s queen, its spacious car park known as Palace Yard, once accommodated stables and outbuildings belonging to the Bishop’s palace.
Close by, Sonning’s familiar brick bridge was constructed in 1790 by local builder John Treacher and is intersected by the county boundary between Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Two-way traffic was permitted before the installation of traffic lights in the 1960s and a structure better suited to the conveyance of pack animals and pedestrians continues to bear a highly disproportionate amount of road traffic across the Thames. The river itself, now well known for its pleasure cruising, has been a vital trading artery for centuries and in 1773 its weir and Pound lock was first opened.
Sonning Mill, mentioned in the Domesday Book, supplied flour locally for nearly a thousand years until 1969. It was later converted into a brand new Dinner Theatre, one of the first of its kind in the country.
Named after a celebrated vicar, Canon Hugh Pearson (1817-1882) and right in the heart of the village, is the Pearson Hall, first opened in 1889 and which continues to be a popular venue for many village events. Next door is the Sonning Club, formerly the old &lsquoworking men’s club&rsquo originally set up in 1876 to discourage “excessive drinking”.
Boys’ and girls’ schools had both been established early in the 19th Century and in 1965 Sonning’s Church of England primary school acquired new premises adjoining Pound Lane. Also lying within the parish boundaries is Reading Blue Coat School, an independent HMC school of nearly 750 pupils which removed to Holme Park from Reading in 1947 where it celebrated its tercentenary in 1960. By a happy historical coincidence, the school took up residence on the old site of a farm belonging to Sir Thomas Rich whose 17th century bequest still provides it with four Foundation Scholarships to educate pupils from Sonning and Sonning Eye.
As pressures from economic development, population growth and increased traffic intensified with the expansion of Reading and its suburbs by the 1970s and 1980s, the preservation of Sonning’s heritage has faced new and difficult challenges. Many of the village’s traditional crafts and retail outlets gradually began to disappear, a story repeated throughout many parts of rural England. Although its centre was designated a &lsquoconservation area&rsquo over thirty years ago, the Sonning and Sonning Eye Society was founded in 2004 specifically to address important environmental concerns.
Sonning Parish Council would like to thank Peter Van Went for this account of the History of Sonning.