Who would have ever thought? All I did was try to run far from the sweat ravaging Cambridge, and with one major coincidence, one simple idea, one philosophical question answered, my life changed forever. What does His Majesty see in me? I am just a simple man, a humble man, a shy man. All I do is point out the obvious to Bishops Foxe and Gardiner over dinner that His Majesty’s marriage to Queen Catherine can be nullified by the ordinary ecclesiastical courts, and you would think I was Desiderius Erasmus himself. One idea, one concept, one simple thought so easily attained, and now I am commanded to devote my life, my knowledge, my research, my every being to securing the Defender of the Faith an annulment from his wife, mayhaps an annulment from the very papacy itself. And King Henry, long may he reign, does not make it easy. First, he sends me off to reside with the Boleyns at Durham Place, then appoints me one of His Royal Chaplains, and after yet ships me off to Rome with Lord Wiltshire to defend my treatise arguing the King’s valid cause, where the matter of the annulment was disputed and ventilated. Yes, I met the Bishop of Rome. Yes, the Roman Catholic Pope named me “Grand Penitentiary of England”, but no, we got no further. Still, His Majesty shows me favor anyway. I am not worthy. Listen, seriously, I am not worthy. Now, God save me I pray, His Majesty appointed me an ambassador. By a cruel twist of fate, the man believes me most appropriate to be ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor himself. I, Thomas Cranmer, largest proponent of His Majesty’s “Great Matter”, am ambassador of England to Queen Catherine’s nephew. I, Thomas Cranmer, the most timid man in Christendom, must face down politely the Holy Roman Emperor, him knowing my views. Is there not a single man in England and Wales besides me who speaks Spanish and Latin? What was His Majesty thinking?
Well, His Majesty’s appointments in Europe turned out to be a blessing I do admit. Living among the like-minded in Nuremberg, I know in my every being now the evilness of the Roman Catholic Church, it’s pagan roots, the sinfulness of the papal authority. Andreas Osiander, noble reformer, cherished friend, I gained my knowledge from his wisdom, and now I endeavor my life’s work to following the truth of the scriptures. His niece, my beautiful wife, Margarete — yes, that is right, my wife — fills me soul. God blessed us abundantly. No longer shackled by the pagan customs governing imposed celibacy, we married with the support of God’s love within the freedom of her Lutheran community. Though now traveling with the Holy Roman Emperor as he battles the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, I know we shall be together again soon. Yes, once my mission is over, I shall resign His Majesty’s service and worship the Lord, work towards our long awaited reformation, and live with my beloved Margarete and the family we will raise here in Europe. Henry, Eighth of His Name, King of England, Wales and France, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Head of the Church of England will have his annulment. Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke will be Queen of England. Through His Majesty’s new Secretary, Thomas Cromwell and Bishop Stephen Gardiner, I will see to it. God, I see your path for me now most vividly, and I thank Thee with all humility.
Tonight, like is usual each Tuesday, I have an audience with the King Charles. Given the stress of the battles he commands, I believe he enjoys the diversion of intelligent discourse. I walk towards his tent and breathe in the cool, crisp evening air, the smoke from nearby camp fires sweetening my senses. As I approach, I realize there is something wrong, and the hair goes up on the back of my neck. The Spanish Lords, they bend a knee — not to him, but to me. Is this his idea of a joke? As long as I live, I will never sort out the Spanish. They baffle me, pagans all of them. Once announced, I enter the royal tent and bend a knee, near caught up in my cape. The Emperor speaks and motions I rise. I join him as commanded at his dining table. The servants pour us wine, and I eye a parchment in his hand with King Henry’s Seal, a letter to me intercepted yet again.
King Charles looks at me, smiling broadly. His snicker unnerves me, but I compose quickly. After much practice, I am getting good at that. “Ambassador, do enjoy the claret… my best, long aged. The grapes date back to King Solomon.” Well this is unusual. The Emperor rarely speaks English, but the wine is quite good, I do admit. I force a laugh as he continues. “I have word from England, a missive here from Enrique himself,” he tells me. So what else is new?
I feign a surprised look. “Su Majestad, I would be most delighted to have word from home, especially from my most benevolent King. Though it is an honor to serve your court, I do pine for England. What say he then?”
King Charles bends over and places his hand gently on my arm. “Well, my friend, I am sorry to say Enrique is in deep grief. It seems your dear Archbishop, the leader of your diocese in Canterbury, passed on to purgatory. May his stay be brief.”
His voice is gentle in tone, but did he just smirk? I swear, King Charles just wiped off a smirk from that ugly face. God forgive my evil thoughts of him. The Emperor thinks me daft, a fool unbeknownst. The man, he is chiding me, teasing me. I am sure of it. I drink down some wine and then some more, my nerves raw. What is he leading to?
“Archbishop Warham died? This is not unexpected, Su Majestad. The poor man was aged and suffered much from gout and lameness. I am certain His Majesty will appoint a worthy replacement, and the Papal Bulls sent to Rome soon.” Gardiner is Archbishop. There will be no living with Cromwell now. O Lord, thanks be to You I will be staying in Europe.
King Charles is snickering, laughing. What is so humorous about the Archbishop’s death? Yes, the man was stubborn, sworn to the papacy, unyielding to His Majesty’s supremacy, but he was still a child of God. The King slaps me on the back hard, but good-naturedly. “Oh, your great king made his choice, my friend. In fact, Enrique lays all bare right here in this missive.”
He laughs heartily now, enjoying himself at my torment. “Enrique commands you return to England immediately. Abundant blessings, Your Grace.”
Your Grace? Oh my God, no. He can’t be serious. Oh my God, no… not me, not NOW. What do I tell my wife? What do I do with her? Hide her in Lambeth’s wine cellars? In stunned disbelief, I offer, “Su Majestad, you must be mistaken. I am merely a Cambridge don, a scholar.”
I fumble on, my words like stones in my mouth. “I’ve yet to lead a church parish, let alone the realm’s congregation.” I pause awkwardly, trying to convince myself with mine words. “Bishop Gardiner is Archbishop now. He must be. All knew it to be coming. Yes, it is he.”
King Charles begins laughing heartily once more, that ugly chin wagging like a duck in flight. My face flushes red. “Here, Your Grace. Do read this, good man.” He then tosses the parchment into mine lap. My hands trembling, I pick up the missive and begin reading.
Warham is dead, and I command you return to England
in all haste. The Papal Bulls are on route to Rome for confirmation,
and upon your arrival to London, you shall be consecrated
Archbishop of Canterbury.
Oh my God, this is a blasted nightmare straight from Satan. No, not me. Lord, I just married, a Lutheran yet. If the heretic hungry Thomas More finds out, I will be burnt at the stake like the smugglers of dearest Tyndale’s scriptures. What a blasted mess this be.
I look up to the Holy Roman Emperor. In all sincerity, I say meekly, “Su Majestad, God knows my heart. This is not His doing. Pray for me.”
~~~~~~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~~~~~~