Heroes of the Faith: Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer was a leader during the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury. He brought major changes to the church during the reigns of King Henry VIII and two of his children, Edward VI and Mary I.

He died a martyr’s death, which was immortalized in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and his legacy continues through the Book of Common Prayer and Thirty-Nine Articles.

He was born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1489. He was the second of three sons of Thomas Cranmer and his wife, Agnes Hattfield. Thomas Sr. was the lord of the manor of Whatton.

His father died when he was twelve and he was sent to school. In 1515, he received his Master of Arts degree. He married Joan shortly upon completing his degree, but she died a short time later in childbirth.

Thomas Cranmer

In 1526, he received his Doctor of Divinity. The following year he met King Henry VIII whom he described as “the kindest of princes”. He then began assisting Cardinal Wolsey with the annulment proceedings of the king to his wife, Catherine of Aragon.

In 1532, he was appointed he resident ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. That same year he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, a position he would hold for the following two years.

Cranmer continued working with the king on forming the Church of England. He even validated the kings marriage to Anne Boleyn. In 1536, he wrote to the king expressing his doubts on the charges brought against the queen, Anne Boleyn.

He continued to fight for reform on the king’s behalf. The king revealed a plot on Cranmer’s life to him. Cranmer was one of the contributors to work on the Book of Common Prayer in 1548-1549.

Cranmer’s martydom

After King Henry VIII’s death there was a political breach between Cranmer and the reformation for the Church of England.

After King Edward VI died and his half-sister, Mary I became queen, many supporters for the Church of England were arrested.

On November 13, 1553, Cranmer and four other men were brought up on charges of treason, found guilty and condemned to death. He wrote “I pray that God may grant that we may endure to the end!”

He was imprisoned for two years, recanting and reconciling with the Roman Catholic Church.

On the day of his execution, he withdrew his recantation and died a heretic to the Roman Catholic Church. He was burned to the stake on December 4, 1555.

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