Thomas Cranmer: The Yes-Man Who Said No: Richard Wilkinson Elucidates the Paradoxical Career of One of the Key Figures of English Protestantism

By Wilkinson, Richard | History Review, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Thomas Cranmer: The Yes-Man Who Said No: Richard Wilkinson Elucidates the Paradoxical Career of One of the Key Figures of English Protestantism


Wilkinson, Richard, History Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

One of Thomas Cranmer's few qualifications when Henry VIII made him Archbishop of Canterbury in March 1533 was obsequiousness. It was indeed a strange appointment. Cranmer was an obscure, naive Cambridge theology don with recent but very limited experience of diplomacy. Typically when he put in for his expenses, he swindled himself. He had heretical leanings and was on his second marriage, his first wife having died in childbirth. In order to procure his official cloak, the pallium, Cranmer had to commit perjury in promising obedience to the Pope. However, Henry needed a yes-man and, as a natural bully, he could recognise one when he saw one. Like many throughout history Cranmer turned subservience into an art-form. 'Mild, tractable, loath to displease', Cranmer actually elevated obedience to the ruler into a moral principle, established in the Bible. Cuius regio eius religio (the ruler decides the religion) was a familiar sixteenth century adage; but Cranmer was exceptional, even in a king-worshipping age, by arguing that it was morally right. So he condemned the West Country rebels in 1549 as brutally as Luther had damned the German peasants in 1525. Were there any values which rivalled Cranmer's obligations to the crown? This article explores the conflicts which produced English Protestantism.

An Uncomfortable Fudge

To be fair to Cranmer, he needed other qualities if he was to fulfil his ambition to create a Protestant nation. He was genuine in his wish to exclude papal influence from England. He substituted the authority of the Bible and wished it to be available in the vernacular for all his fellow citizens. Likewise, he aimed at church services in English and not Latin. Not the least of his problems was that his formidable and erudite monarch, who with some justification fancied himself as a theologian, had to be convinced that England needed any settlement more radical than 'catholicism without the pope'.

In the short term Cranmer's task was to terminate Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon and replace her with Anne Boleyn, the 'goggle-eyed whore' --as the London mob called her--with whom Henry had fallen in lust. That having been done, what next? The parliamentary campaign to pass the necessary legislation by which Henry replaced the Pope and the systematic looting of the medieval church were masterminded by Thomas Cromwell, the king's piggy-eyed vice-gerent. Cranmer was not involved. But he had to surmount an embarrassing blip when Anne the Protestant heroine disgraced herself by producing a daughter and then allegedly sleeping around in order to provide her impatient lord with a son. (Incidentally, has any historian pointed out the significance of Anne's alleged adultery with her own brother? A baby boy who resembled a Boleyn would arouse no suspicion.) Anyway, Cranmer's role was to hear Anne's confession, which convinced him of her innocence, and to intercede unsuccessfully with her husband. The Protestant cause was now at risk.

Cranmer's enemies--and there were many, whether inspired by envy or doctrinal disagreement--had several opportunities to destroy him. For instance, when Anne's replacement Jane Seymour died in childbirth, the Protestant cause very nearly hit the buffers due to Cromwell's arrangement of a royal marriage with the 'mare of Flanders', Anne of Cleves ('full of bad odours' according to her gallant husband). Down went Cromwell, and Cranmer almost went down with him. Cranmer's survival throws interesting light on his alleged psycophancy Not only did he plead the cause of Thomas Cromwell unsuccessfully again but perhaps winning the grudging respect of his royal master--but he also defended Thomas More, to say nothing of Princess Mary, drawing the prophetic comment from Henry that he might well live to regret Mary's survival. Henry came to admire his archbishop's guileless defence of the vulnerable, even to his own disadvantage. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Thomas Cranmer: The Yes-Man Who Said No: Richard Wilkinson Elucidates the Paradoxical Career of One of the Key Figures of English Protestantism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.