Saturday, August 8, 2015

Tackling Tudor Thomases, One At a Time. Today's Thomas: Cranmer

Name confusion is understandable when the names involved are Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell, or Mary Tudor  and Mary I, who was also Mary Tudor, neither of whom were Mary, Queen of Scots. 

Thomas Cranmer was the last of the religious Thomases in this series. 
Ad"Thomas Cranmer" by Unknown artist. Uploaded by qp10qp. - Chris Skidmore, Edward VI: The Lost King of England, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007, ISBN 9780297846499.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Cranmer.png#/media/File:Thomas_Cranmer.pngd caption  (That's quite a mouthful, Wikipedia!) 

Cranmer was born in 1489, the second son of a land-owning family ('gentry' or 'gentlemen') and, in the tradition of the time, his older brother inherited while Thomas and his younger brother were sent to become religious clergy. Eldest son inherits, next son(s) get to say Mass and privately curse their birth order bad luck.

Cranmer studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, spending almost thirty years immersed in books that reflected his philosophy of the rights of human dignity and welfare. At that time, Henry VIII was on the throne with his wife, Catherine of Aragon beside him, and their daughter, the Princess Mary as Henry's only legitimate heir.
Problem?
Mary wasn't a boy.
Queen Catherine was past her 'sell-by' date for producing more children.
Enter, Anne Boleyn.

Henry VIII spotted her as a potential romp; Anne held out giving the Scarlett O'Hara (of Gone With The Wind) defense, "Mistress? What would I get out of that, except a passel of brats?" 
Henry got on board with the idea of annulling/divorcing Queen Catherine in order to let Anne Boleyn become his new missus, and with all hope that Anne would give him sons.
Problem? 
Henry would need the permission of the pope in Rome to end the marriage to Catherine and clear the way for Anne. He set his right-hand man, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, to work on that agenda item.

Wolsey assumed Anne Boleyn was more flavor-of-the-month than wife-for-all-eternity material, and that Henry would get her in the sack, then move on.
With that in mind, Wolsey shoved the task of starting the annulment to the back corner of his desk, no doubt hoping if he waited it out, the problem would go away on its own.
Big mistake, Wolsey. BIG MISTAKE.
What Wolsey knew better than anyone was this: the Holy Roman Empire, nations under Roman Catholic rule, had Charles V as its king. 
The Holy Roman Empire looked like this:
The Holy Roman Empire under Charles V
Holy Roman Empire - governed not by the Pope, but by Catherine of Aragon's nephew, Charles V. Bad news for Henry VIII and his divorce plans. . .
Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was the son of Catherine of Aragon's sister, making him the nephew of the soon-to-be-discarded-for-Anne-Boleyn first wife of Henry VIII.

For the pope to grant Henry VIII an anullment, just look at all those yellow bits on the map, governed by the nephew of the woman scorned by Henry, and imagine the potential fallout.
Just as Wolsey hemmed and hawed and hesitated until Henry insisted he get to work, the pope also hemmed and hawed and hesitated, tossing the hot potato of Henry's desired annulment to another Cardinal, who hemmed and hawed and hesitated . . . see where this is going? 
None of the players had any skin in the game except Henry VIII, and all he could do was throw tantrums and insist his marriage wasn't legal in the first place (due to a phrase in the Bible forbidding brothers marrying the same woman.)

The Boleyn family, meanwhile, promoted Cranmer behind the scenes.
When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, the job vacancy was filled by Cranmer. 
He was the champion of Anne Boleyn and her cause - becoming Queen Anne - first and foremost. 

Working with Wolsey on getting the king's divorce, Cranmer came up with the brilliant idea of asking not the Pope or the Roman contingent of cardinals for their approval stamp, but to instead ask the leading clergy in England for their approval.
That put control of Henry's problem firmly in the hands of those living under his direct rule.
With that stroke of 'outside the box thinking' Cranmer grabbed the King's attention in a big way, and became one of the King's newest BFF's.
 
Cranmer then went on to lead the Church Court declaring Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon void.
To top that, he officially married Henry and Anne, then performed the ceremony of anointing Anne as Queen of England.
Cranmer's Letter describing Anne Boleyn's Coronation, 1533
Drawing depicting Cranmer's description of Anne Boleyn's coronation ceremony.

He'd managed to pull out the rug from under the threat of the pope in Rome while at the same time, giving Henry even more power as Head of the Church (in England.)

Winning and keeping favor with Henry VIII was like winning the lottery; tons of cash and fun new adventures! 
Cranmer was loyal to Anne Boleyn; they thought alike on how the newly broken-from-Rome religion should be structured.
Until?

Three years into the marriage, Catherine of Aragon's problem also became Anne Boleyn's problem: no living, legitimate son for the King.
And by then, Henry VIII had his eye on another young lovely at court.
While Cranmer defended Anne as best he could during the time the legal case against her was built, in the end, the king would have what the king would have - a new wife in the bed, with the old wife headless and in a grave.
 Anne Boleyn's grave marker
Cranmer spent the rest of his life structuring the new, Protestant religion taking over England. 
That was fine as long as the king was Protestant.
Both Henry VIII and the next king, his son Edward VI, were Protestant.
But - when Edward VI died aged only seventeen years old, his older sister, Mary, snatched the throne from her Protestant cousin Jane Grey, and Catholic rule returned to England.
Image: Thomas Cranmer's execution, 1556, from John Foxe's Book of ...
Really, Mary I? That's what you thought Jesus would do?
Mary I had Cranmer burned to death as a heretic.
If there's a shittier way to die, I'm not sure what it would be. Poor Cranmer.