Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) Thomas Cranmer, considered by many to be the creator of the English Reformed Church as we know it today, entered the ministry for a simple reason: his father only had enough land to give his eldest son, so Thomas and his younger brother as poor members of the gentry joined the clergy.
Cranmer was given a fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1510, which he lost when he married the daughter of a local tavern-keeper. She died in childbirth, at which point he was re-accepted by the college and devoted himself to study. He took holy orders in 1523. A plague forced Cranmer to leave Cambridge for Essex. Here, he came to the attention of Henry VIII, who was staying nearby. The King and his councillors found Cranmer a willing advocate for Henry's desired divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer argued the case as part of the embassy to Rome in 1530, and in 1532 became ambassador to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. In Germany, where he was sent to learn more about the Lutheran movement, he met Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran reformer whose ideology appealed. It seems Osiander's niece also appealed, and Cranmer and the niece, Margaret, were married that year. In 1533, Cranmer was chosen to be Archbishop of Canterbury and forced (for a time) to hide his married state. Once his appointment was approved by the Pope, Cranmer declared Henry's marriage to Catherine void, and four months later married him to Anne Boleyn. In 1536 it was Anne's marriage that was declared invalid, then Anne of Cleves (1540), then Catherine Howard. He was warmly supported by Henry until the King's death. With Thomas Cromwell, he supported the translation of the Bible into English. In 1545 he wrote a litany that is still used in the church. Under the reign of Edward VI, Cranmer was allowed to make the doctrinal changes he thought necessary to the church. In 1549 he helped complete the Book of Common Prayer, for which his contributions are well-known. After Edward VI's death, Cranmer supported Lady Jane Grey as successor. Her nine-day reign was followed by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, who tried him for treason. After a long trial and imprisonment, he was forced to proclaim to the public his error in the support of Protestantism, an act designed to discourage followers of the religion. However, at his execution, he dramatically stuck his right hand in the fire, the hand with which he had falsely signed his renouncement of his beliefs, crying, "This hath offended!" With that gesture, the government's hope of quelling the Reform Protestant movement was undone. ~From the BBC website
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