Thomas Cranmer was the principal figure of the English Reformation and was primarily responsible for the first Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and its first revision in 1552. (from Holy Women Holy Men, Church Publishing (New York, 2010).
A biography of Cranmer by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St. Cross College, Oxford, contains an academic prelude which describes Cranmer very well:
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant Lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool:
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
Almost, at times, the Fool. T.S. Eliot, The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
After a chance meeting with the King, Henry VIII in 1529 Cranmer was enlisted to assist in the “Kings Great Affair” that is the quest for an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer represented the King’s position before the universities in England and Germany and to Rome.
On a trip to Germany Cranmer associated with the Lutheran reformers, especially Andreas Osiander, whose daughter he married. In 1553 King Henry obtained papal confirmation of Cranmer’s appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury. As such one one of his ear;oest acts was to declare the King’s marriage null and void and to validate the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn.
When Henry broke with Rome and declared himself the supreme head of the church in England the worship, doctrine and practice of the Church continued according to the Roman rite. Upon Henry’s death and the accession of his young son Edward VI Cranmer, who was one of his most trusted advisors, had a free hand in reforming the Church.
After Edward’s death Cranmer fell into disfavor with his successor Queen Mary and was arrested, deprived and degraded. He was burned at the stake on March 21, 1556.
The life, ministry, and death of Archbishop Cranmer will be commemorated tomorrow at Morning Prayer in Seibels Chapel, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Columbia, South Carolina at 8:00 a.m. All are invited and welcome.
Holy Women, Holy Men, Chruch Publishing, New York (2010); Thomas Cranmer, A Life, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Yale University Press (1996).