Queen Mary Tudor, Was She Out for Revenge? (Thomas Cranmer: Martyred 21 March 1556)

March 21, 2017 in Queens of World History, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Queen Mary Tudor — Was She Out for Revenge?



Editor’s Note: This article includes an excerpt from Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell, by Beth von Staats (MadeGlobal Publishing).


Thomas Cranmer, England’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, has a tainted and complicated legacy. One of world history’s most morally and emotionally conflicted historical figures, Cranmer’s professional life, combined with his wholehearted belief in the scriptural truth of the royal supremacy, left him continuously weighing his religious beliefs, moral centre, family values, and conscience with those of the monarchs he steadfastly served, King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Queen Jane Dudley – and most tragically for Cranmer and those who loved him, also those of the monarch he ardently betrayed, Queen Mary Tudor.

When discussing Thomas Cranmer’s 21 March 1556 tragic martyrdom, sadly commemorated by the Church of England and the Worldwide Anglican Communion today, people often ask for my thoughts of Queen Mary Tudor. Did she orchestrate Cranmer’s downfall, imprisonment, and martyrdom due to her steadfast Roman Catholic belief system? Did she hate Cranmer? Was she out for revenge?

Queen Mary Tudor

Most people assume the answers to these questions to be, “yes, yes, and yes”. After all, Queen Mary Tudor was a devout Roman Catholic. In contrast, Thomas Cranmer believed the Pope to be the antichrist. Queen Mary Tudor believed her mother, Queen Catherine of Aragon, to have been the anointed Queen Consort of England from her marriage to King Henry VIII to the day she died. Thomas Cranmer instead declared Queen Catherine of Aragon’s marriage to the king to be “null and void from the start”, a decision that for all intents and purposes bastardized Mary. In short, at the time of Queen Mary Tudor’s ascension to the throne, beyond King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell, both dead and gone, there was one man left alive thought responsible for Queen Mary’s tragic childhood — her separation from her mother, her loss of her father’s affection, her loss of royal status and succession rights, her life at times at risk of execution. That man was Thomas Cranmer.

Given all we know of Queen Mary Tudor’s life before her ascension, if we are to look solely at her actions taken against Thomas Cranmer in isolation, setting aside the hundreds of others martyred by burning during her reign, would we really find her choice all that surprising? Would we even question it? I hazard to think we would not — but, I also believe it is important to point out in fairness to Queen Mary Tudor’s legacy — and also Thomas Cranmer’s — that there was far more behind Cranmer’s martyrdom than the simple desire by the reigning monarch to exact hate-filled revenge. The fact of the matter is this. Once it became clear that King Edward VI would die without an heir, Thomas Cranmer and Mary Tudor literally fought one another for survival — and through extension, the survival of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in England. In a valiant struggle of one against the other, Mary Tudor knowingly won the battle. Thomas Cranmer unknowingly won the war.

As all Tudor History enthusiasts know, when it became clear that King Edward VI would not survive to adulthood, the realm faced a huge succession crisis. History teaches us that the young king’s solution from that established by his father King Henry VIII was to change the succession to one more acceptable to his staunch Protestant beliefs. In his own hand, King Edward VI drafted “My devise of the succession”. In doing so, King Edward VI passed over both of his sisters Mary and Elizabeth Tudor and, like his father, his Scottish relatives, and settled upon the progeny of his paternal aunt, Mary, Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk.

King Edward VI

Although Thomas Cranmer testified at his heresy hearing in 1555 that he was allowed no private access to King Edward VI during the final months of his reign to hear first-hand in a confidential forum what the king’s wishes actually were, he accepted them just the same. After all, King Edward VI’s commands were in original form in his own hand and further articulated to Cranmer in a group forum. Thus, steadfastly loyal to the two kings he served, Thomas Cranmer not only signed the bond of allegiance supporting the devise, he signed it FIRST — “unfeignedly and without dissimulation” — in an oversized signature, “T. CANT.”

King Edward VI’s death on 6 July 1553 came more swiftly than most anticipated. This created two major complications that would come back to haunt Thomas Cranmer. First, King Edward VI’s “My devise of the succession” had not yet passed through Parliament. Far more ominous, Mary Tudor, with advance warning of her brother’s impending doom, was able to flee. Without securing the person of the Lady Mary, Cranmer and John Dudley — who for the previous two years were at odds with one another — needed to immediately ally and work together. They did just that.

The first order of business was to crown a queen. The original heir to the throne Lady Frances Grey by prearrangement renounced her claim. Thus, the first intended regnant Queen of England would be Lady Jane Dudley (nee: Grey), who had married the Duke of Northumberland’s son Guildford just six weeks previously. The proclamation of Jane Dudley as Queen of England went smoothly, spreading throughout the realm. As was customary, she was initially housed at the Tower of London. Unfortunately for Cranmer, however, within two days of the king’s death, Mary Tudor was safe in East Anglia.

A wave of popular support for the Mary Tudor enabled her to safely venture on to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk. Wisely avoiding any debate of the religion question, Mary Tudor pressed her claim to the throne as the rightful heir as King Henry VIII’s eldest daughter. The strategy worked, and support for her ground-swelled. John Dudley’s hastily formed London forces, partially armed with men, armour, weapons and horses provided by Thomas Cranmer, intended to cut the Mary off from the Midlands. Unnerved by the resistance he was encountering, Dudley retreated to Cambridge, proclaiming for Mary Tudor as Queen of England himself. Cranmer stood alone.

John Dudley

While Dudley led his expeditionary forces, Thomas Cranmer composed a letter on 11 July in which he formally rejected Mary Tudor’s claim to the throne. Cranmer wrote that the divorce of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon “was necessary to be had both by the everlasting laws of God, and also by the ecclesiastical laws, and by the most part of the noble and learned universities of Christendom…”  Then, Cranmer’s name again led a list of Privy Councillors ordering sheriffs throughout the kingdom to pull together forces to retrieve the “bastard Mary”, because she was “plotting to bring papists, Spaniards and other strangers into the realm at the great peril and danger of the utter subversion of God’s holy word.” While Mary Tudor pointedly focused on her succession rights, Cranmer attempted desperately to bring religion back into the discussion.

One week into the reign of Queen Jane, news of revolts throughout the realm reached London, resulting in several Privy Councillors slipping away to join Mary Tudor’s cause. In contrast, Thomas Cranmer dug his heels in, again leading a now shortened list of signatures in a desperate attempt to secure the support of Sir Richard Rich and his influence in Essex on Queen Jane’s behalf. By then the cause was hopeless, his words wasted on Tudor History’s most notorious “flip-flopper”. Most Councillors signing the letter slipped away the same day, proclaiming Mary Tudor Queen of England.

Although resistance to her cause continued through the entire month of July in Cranmer’s home diocese of Cambridgeshire and also the Fens, Mary Tudor, accompanied by her younger sister Elizabeth, rode into London triumphant. The daughter of Queen Catherine of Aragon, granddaughter of Queen Isabella of Castile, was Queen of England. Thomas Cranmer instead was a traitor, the last man left not to proclaim for her.

Treason charges lodged against Thomas Cranmer were inevitable. With thirty suits of Cranmer’s armour found abandoned by the Duke of Northumberland’s troops and his bold signature leading several damning documents, his arrest was a fait-accompli. The Dudleys and Bishop Nicholas Ridley already in the Tower of London by the end of July, Cranmer walked free until mid- September. Evidently, Queen Mary was cautious not to show her religious cards too soon, also treading lightly with evangelical protesters.

Thomas Cranmer

With the luxury of time this afforded, Thomas Cranmer could have easily escaped to Europe as many other Protestants had, such as Peter Martyr, Francis Walsingham and Katherine Willoughby. Instead, Cranmer stayed in England, residing in plain sight in his private estates, carrying out his typical duties. Was Cranmer making arrangements to protect his wife and two children? Was he intent through duty and loyalty to preside over the funeral of his godson King Edward VI? Historians have yet to solve the mystery, but his decision to remain in England certainly had tragic consequences.

Commanded by Queen Mary Tudor to call together Convocation and appear at the Court of Richmond, Thomas Cranmer complied. Fearful of placing his contemporaries and friends in danger, he refused to speak with them publicly, most notably Sir William Cecil. As others around him, such as Secretary Cheke and Lord Russell were questioned and arrested, he refrained from his typical habit of writing letters of support on their behalf. From the point Queen Mary Tudor took power, she refused to see or speak with Cranmer, this quite obvious at functions where both were in attendance. In short, knowing his arrest and condemnation were forthcoming, Cranmer went about the business of preparing himself for the inevitable, careful to do so in a way that no one else was dragged alongside.

By August, Queen Mary Tudor no longer showed tolerance for open evangelical services. Rather than banning them altogether, she cleverly opened the possibility of the Eucharist mass being worshiped in all parishes instead. The tide swiftly turned, Eucharist masses swiftly overwhelming those clergies still willing to preach evangelical services. Cranmer was shocked by the Roman Catholic conversions of the imprisoned John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and Sir John Gates, Marquess of Northampton. A wonderful turnabout in Queen Mary’s favour, the lay leadership neutralized and religious tides turning her way, she took the opportunity to purge the Protestant clergy. Though careful not to involve others, Thomas Cranmer was still not of a mind to capitulate. Civil disobedience for him still reigned.

His arrest imminent, commissioners working on behalf of Queen Mary delivered to the archbishop a list of questions he was compelled to answer, along with a command to prepare a complete listing of his possessions. While Thomas Cranmer went along with the commissioners’ directives, he concurrently refused to bend to the Marian regime’s religious policies. Cranmer sent a letter to a friend condemning a Eucharist mass celebrated at his own Canterbury Cathedral, along with a draft of a proclamation condemning the celebration of mass as “devil devising”, further denying all rumours that he would ever celebrate any Eucharist mass before the Queen of England. Somehow this draft proclamation was promulgated. Thomas Cranmer was frustrated, to say the least. His intention was to edit the draft into a public manifesto that “a la Martin Luther” would be affixed to every church door in London with his official seal. Obviously, the ruling regime considered his action sedation, Cranmer proudly admitting to it himself when finally questioned and subsequently arrested after an appearance at Star Chamber.

Thomas Cranmer

In spite of Thomas Cranmer’s steadfast support of and scriptural belief in the royal supremacy, he engaged in active high treason. Although his signature on King Edward VI’s “Devise of the succession” was boldly signed while Edward was still king, it was never approved by Parliamentary decree. Once the king died, Cranmer engaged in overt activities to prevent Queen Mary’s succession, thirty suits of armour at the very least provided to John Dudley’s troops, documents written and signed ordering additional troops from all local sheriffs, and composition of written declarations of her illegitimacy and of heresy. Once Queen Mary Tudor ascended to the throne, Thomas Cranmer failed to proclaim her, engaged in activities in opposition to her religious agenda, and publicly shamed her belief in Roman Catholicism. Thus, after being paraded through the city of London in disgrace, Thomas Cranmer was found guilty of high treason on 13 November 1553 at the same trial that also condemned England’s shortest-reigning monarch Jane (Grey) Dudley, her husband Guildford and others.

Though Lady Jane Dudley and Guildford Dudley bravely faced inevitable beheadings, Queen Mary Tudor’s plans for Thomas Cranmer took a far different path. The first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury would be charged and convicted of heresy, like many “heretics” before him — some condemned by him — burned at the stake. From Queen Mary Tudor’s 16th-century mindset, heresy was the greater crime, Cranmer’s burning death a needed step towards England’s return to Roman Catholicism, and with it, the ultimate salvation of her subjects.


A Video Tribute to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer by Mercy Rivera

Mercy owns none of the contents.



Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

Thomas Cranmer -mini-bio



(free of charge via Kindle Unlimited)



A Godfather’s Solemn Charge — The Coronation of King Edward VI

February 20, 2017 in News, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

By Beth von Staats

Edward VI granting the Royal Charter to Bridewell Hospital, 1553.

Edward VI granting the Royal Charter to Bridewell Hospital, 1553.


Today marks the anniversary of the Coronation of Edward, Sixth of his name, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and also of Ireland, on earth the supreme head. That is a very heavy load for a nine-year-old child, but with King Henry VIII dead, the weight of the crown — a smaller jeweled variation crafted for the occasion — fell to a brilliant and precocious boy, supported first by Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector and later John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Lord President of the Council, along with an assortment of Privy Councillors jockeying for power and influence. The degree to which King Edward VI contributed to the management of his realm increased as he aged towards his majority, its depth a common debate among historians. One thing is certain, however. This genius intellect King, politically mentored by Somerset and far more pronouncedly by Northumberland, was not most influenced by either man — or even his father. Instead, King Edward’s moral center, religious faith, and understanding of his responsibilities of kingship were embedded through the mentoring and profound influence of his godfather, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Prince Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI) Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

Prince Edward Tudor (later King Edward VI)
Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger

Although many of us today outside the Roman Catholic Church view selection as godparent as an honorary title afforded to cherished family members and close friends upon the christening of a new baby, in the 16th-century, religion was serious business. The selection of godparents was an important undertaking, especially for a reigning monarch. After all, religious tenant and church doctrine prescribed the role of godparentship as a solemn charge. First, godparents professed the faith of an infant at baptism. Thereafter, godparents were to show a living example of faith, providing spiritual guardianship for the child throughout their lives. The most serious responsibility of godparents was to make sure that the baptized infant was thereafter given proper instruction in the faith, particularly when the parents neglected this duty or are otherwise were unable to do so. If the parents died or became unable to teach their child the faith, it was the responsibility of the godparent to ensure that the child learned and loved the faith.

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke

With this all in mind, King Henry VIII carefully considered just whom he would trust with the solemn charge of godparentship of his long prayed for heir to the throne. His choices — Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk; Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; and the Lady Mary Tudor — were striking for their diverging religious beliefs. This stated, despite any varying opinions of church theology, at the time King Edward VI was born, these were the people King Henry VIII most trusted with his heir’s religious mentorship. Also godfather of the Lady Elizabeth Tudor, Henry VIII’s trust in ‘mine chaplain’ Thomas Cranmer was especially profound and was proven to be well grounded. As Archbishop of Canterbury, religious theologian, and scholar, Thomas Cranmer took on his solemn charge of godparentship seriously indeed, especially in preparing Edward Tudor first as Prince and ultimately as “King …, Defender of the Faith, and of the Church of England and… on earth the supreme head.”

Latimer preaches before Edward VI at St Paul's Cross.

Latimer preaches before Edward VI at St Paul’s Cross.

In World History’s most magnificent public display of the devotion and duty of a godparent towards his godchild, the coronation of King Edward VI on 20 February 1547 would set the tone of a truly Protestant England, and it did not disappoint. The ceremony shortened to avoid the “tedious length of the same which should wear and be hurtsome peradventure to the King’s majesty, being yet of tender age” and also to eliminate all trappings of previous Roman Catholic coronations, as Archbishop of Canterbury, and more profoundly as the King’s dutiful godfather, Thomas Cranmer counseled the child as to his role as monarch of England:

Most dread and royal sovereign; the promises your highness hath made here, at your coronation, to forsake the devil and all his works, are not to be taken in the bishop of Rome’s sense; when you commit anything distasteful to that see, to hit your majesty in the teeth, as pope Paul the third, late bishop of Rome, sent to your royal father, saying, ‘Didst thou not promise, at our permission of thy coronation, to forsake the devil and all his works, and dost thou run to heresy? For the breach of this thy promise, knowest thou not, that it is in our power to dispose of thy sword and sceptre to whom we please?’ We, your majesty’s clergy, do humbly conceive, that this promise reacheth not at your highness’s sword, spiritual or temporal, or in the least at your highness swaying the sceptre of this your dominion, as you and your predecessors have had them from God. Neither could your ancestors lawfully resign up their crowns to the bishop of Rome or his legates, according to their ancient oaths then taken upon that ceremony.

Cranmer for EHFW

The bishops of Canterbury, for the most part, have crowned your predecessors, and anointed them kings of this land; yet it was not in their power to receive or reject them; neither did it give them authority to prescribe them conditions to take or leave their crowns, although the bishops of Rome would encroach upon your predecessors, by their act and oil, that in the end, they might possess those bishops with an interest to dispose of their crowns at their pleasure. But the wiser sort will look to their claws and clip them.

The solemn rites of coronation have their ends and utility; yet neither direct force or necessity: they are good admonitions to put kings in mind of their duty to God, but no increasement of their dignity; for they are God’s anointed; not in respect of the oil which the bishop useth, but in consideration of their power, which is ordained; of the sword, which is authorized; of their persons, which are elected of God, and endued with the gifts of his Spirit, for the better ruling and guiding of his people.

The oil, if added, is but a ceremony: if it be wanting, that king is yet a perfect monarch notwithstanding, and God’s anointed, as well as if he was inoiled. Now for the person or bishop that doth anoint a king, it is proper to be done by the chiefest. But if they cannot, or will not, any bishop may perform this ceremony.

To condition with monarchs upon these ceremonies, the bishop of Rome (or other bishops owning his supremacy) hath no authority; but he may faithfully declare what God requires at the hands of kings and rulers, that is, religion and virtue. Therefore, not from the bishop of Rome, but as a messenger from my Saviour Jesus Christ, I shall most humbly admonish your royal majesty, what things your highness is to perform.

Your majesty is God’s vicegerent, and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshiped, and idolatry destroyed; the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed. These acts are signs of a second Josiah, who reformed the church of God in his days. You are to reward virtue, to revenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice throughout your realms. For precedents on those kings who performed not these things, the old law shows how the Lord revenged his quarrel; and on those kings who fulfilled these things, he poured forth his blessings in abundance. For example, it is written of Josiah, in the book of the Kings, thus: ‘Like unto him there was no king, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.’ This was to that prince a perpetual fame of dignity, to remain to the end of days.

Being bound by my function to lay these things before your royal highness; the one, as a reward if you fulfil; the other, as a judgment from God if you neglect them; yet I openly declare, before the living God, and before these nobles of the land, that I have no commission to denounce your majesty deprived, if your highness miss in part, or in whole, of these performances: much less to draw up indentures between God and your majesty; or to say you forfeit your crown, with a clause for the bishop of Rome, as have been done by your majesty’s predecessors, king John and his son Henry of this land. The Almighty God of his mercy let the light of his countenance shine upon your majesty, grant you a prosperous and happy reign, defend you, and save you; and let your subjects say, Amen.

God Save the King.



Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

Thomas Cranmer -mini-bio



(free of charge via Kindle Unlimited)



“…Till Death Us Depart” — Cranmer’s Dearly Beloved, Joan and Margarete

February 14, 2017 in The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke

Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke


I take thee to my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart.
– Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – Book of Common Prayer (1549) –

Although Thomas Cranmer is often considered by historians to be a cautious reformer, his marriage liturgy composed for the Church of England in the Book of Common Prayer introduced a very radical and innovative concept. Beyond the traditional rationals of avoidance of sin and procreation, marriage became for the first time by definition an enjoyable partnership between a man and woman who vowed to “love and cherish” one another.

In our modern era, the thought that God brings people together as kindred spirits and soul mates is embedded in our very societal norms and cultural identity, but in Cranmer’s world, his theological stance was revolutionary. Just how did he form his scriptural interpretation of marriage? Many would propose his study of the First Epistle of the Corinthians may have influenced Cranmer’s thoughts, but more likely his scriptural studies were personified in his love for two women, a love so profound that he took enormous personal and professional risks uncharacteristic to his highly cautious personality.

Thomas Cranmer certainly was not a priest who kept a mistress as many of his time did. No, this was a man who instead threw to the wayside his vows of clerical celibacy, a practice he came to believe to be a pagan invention, and instead vowed to the women he loved “to love and to cherish, till death us depart”, not literally in those words, but certainly in spirit and practice.

Thomas Cranmer’s first tragic marriage is a mere footnote to history, a short relationship with a woman named Joan. Cranmer rarely spoke about the marriage, and then only to those he most trusted. The memories were understandably too painful.

In 1515, Cranmer was conferred a Masters Degree in Divinity at Jesus College, Cambridge and was elected to a highly sought fellowship. At some point between 1515 and 1519, Cranmer met and married Joan, and in so doing was stripped of his fellowship, along with all affiliation with Jesus College. With no home of his own, Cranmer turned to a family member in Cambridge, a female proprietor of an inn called The Dolphin. There his wife lived, while he worked as a common reader and resided at Buckingham College.

Cranmer’s trusted secretary Ralph Morice reported that the marriage ended tragically within a year. Joan, surname unknown but reported to be either Black or Brown at Cranmer’s heresy hearings in 1555, died in child bed, along with their baby. This unfortunately all too common 16th-century event changed the course of history, altering the course of the impending English Reformation.

Soon after his wife’s and child’s deaths, Cranmer was readmitted to Jesus College. He subsequently was ordained a priest in 1520. As the years past, Roman Catholic detractors and later Roman Catholic recusants commonly scorned Cranmer’s wives to discredit him.

Regarding his first marriage, Cranmer was proclaimed to be an ostler (a caretaker of horses), while the elusive Joan was labeled, “black Joan of the Dolphin”. Detractors armed with little detail of the heart-wrenching short marriage painted “black Joan” as a sinful whore, obviously pregnant before marriage.


What the heart loves, the will chooses and the mind justifies.
— Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury —

Andreas Osiander, German Lutheran Theologian

Andreas Osiander, German Lutheran Theologian

In July 1532, Thomas Cranmer, then an ordained priest, Archdeacon of Taunton and England’s Ambassador to the Holy Roman Emperor, King Charles V of Spain, married once again. While following King Charles throughout Europe, he visited the independent city of Nuremberg, then increasingly Lutheran in both its governance and religious teaching.

At the time Cranmer arrived in Nuremberg, his theological beliefs very closely aligned with King Henry VIII. Besides a strong belief in the Royal Supremacy, Cranmer was highly humanist in his thinking, heavily influenced by Desiderius Erasmus. Thomas Cranmer’s two visits to Nuremberg, however, unleashed a watershed change in Cranmer’s religious beliefs, which were heavily influenced by a friendship he developed with Lutheran priest and theologian, Andreas Osiander.

Beyond the religious discussions Cranmer and Osiander enjoyed, which influenced both men’s theological development, Andreas Osiander, as well as other Lutheran priests in Nuremberg, was happily married with children. He introduced Cranmer to his niece, Margarete (surname unknown) over dinner.

Soon after, Cranmer did the absolutely unthinkable for a priest working directly in service for the King of England. He ignored his vows of clerical celibacy and married yet again, a Lutheran woman at that. The risks were incalculable. What was the man thinking? Perhaps Cranmer decided it was God’s will. If so, he was right. Though the marriage endured years of secrecy and long separation, Thomas Cranmer and his wife begot children and lived openly and by all appearances lovingly upon the ascension of King Edward VI.

Now secretly married, Archdeacon Thomas Cranmer continued his services to King Henry VIII through his Ambassadorship to the Holy Roman Emperor, following King Charles through his travels. Given the Holy Roman Empire’s ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire, Cranmer’s job was a dangerous one indeed. He eloquently updated King Henry VIII, often in cipher, of the horrors he witnessed.

Unknown to Cranmer at the time, William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury, died August 22, 1532. The death, though not unexpected, provided King Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, and the Boleyns with an outstanding opportunity to hand select a new Archbishop like minded to resolving the “King’s Great Matter”.

Who was their man? Certainly not Bishop Stephen Gardiner, who though highly qualified, recently enraged the King through his defiance over Church liberties. Instead, at the urging of the future Queen of England, King Henry VIII appointed the Boleyn family patroned Archdeacon Cranmer, a move that stunned everyone but those who proposed it. After all, Thomas Cranmer’s title of Archdeacon was largely honorary. He never administered a single parish, let alone a diocese.

In October 1532, Cranmer was shocked to learn of his appointment while on assignment in Italy. Commanded to return home immediately to prepare for his consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury, he was left to sort out what steps were needed to safeguard the secrecy of his marriage and more importantly, the safety of his wife.


Those that God hath joined together let no man put asunder.
Book of Common Prayer (1549), translated from the Book of Matthew

Thomas Cranmer's wife depicted hidden in a crate. Julia Wakeham, The Tudors, Showtime

Thomas Cranmer’s wife depicted hidden in a crate.
Julia Wakeham, The Tudors, Showtime

Exactly when Margarete Cranmer stepped on English soil is not known, but all indications are that she arrived after her husband’s return. Where did she live? A closely guarded secret successfully kept, her location was and still is unknown. Margarete certainly was not either at Lambeth Palace, where a German woman’s presence would elicit curiosity — nor as humorously and commonly believed, hidden in a large wooden box.

In December 1543, Thomas Cranmer endured the personal tragedy of his palace at Canterbury being destroyed by fire. One of his brothers-in-law and several of his faithful servants were killed.

Saved from the fire was a precious box owned by the Archbishop, the contents within unknown. This, in turn, evolved into a story commonly enjoyed and told repeatedly by Roman Catholics during the reigns of Queens Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Margarete was hiding in that box. Well, of course, she was!

Shortly after Thomas Cranmer’s martyrdom, detractors published a widely distributed and humorous story weaving a plot where during the reign of King Henry VIII, Cranmer traveled throughout England with his wife, carefully hidden in a large crate with breathing holes. Later versions of the story portray Cranmer anxiously praying for the safe retrieval of a precious wooden crate during the Canterbury Palace fire, the box, of course, containing “this pretty nobsey”. Unfortunately, this is our only hint of Margarete Cranmer’s appearance.

In reality, a complete silence enveloped Margarete Cranmer during her stay in England throughout the 1530’s. For all intents and purposes, she was invisible. For the politically naive Thomas Cranmer, this was an outstanding accomplishment. In fact, the feat was “astonishing”, claims historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. With conservative detractors seeking any way possible to upend him for good, Cranmer’s ability to keep his wife and later also his daughter safe speaks to his steadfast commitment to his family and his remarkable resourcefulness.

Unfortunately, even with Thomas Cranmer’s great caution, by 1539 it became too dangerous for his wife Margarete and their young daughter Margaret to remain in England. The passage of the Act of Six Articles through Parliament, which included a mandate of strict adherence to clerical celibacy, imposed all married clergy put away their wives. The risk to his family now untenable, he arranged for their exile in Europe. Thus, Thomas Cranmer was separated from his family for the remaining eight long years of King Henry VIII’s reign.

Cranmer for EHFW

Upon the death of King Henry VIII, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer became theologically liberated to craft a Church of England in line with his increasingly Protestant religious beliefs. His first two decisions clearly forecast the sweeping reforms to come. Cranmer began growing a beard, commonly known to be a casting away of Roman Catholicism and papal authority. Far more importantly, he brought his family home.

For the first time since marrying 15 years earlier, Thomas and Margarete Cranmer lived openly as man and wife. An utter astonishment to all those but the very few entrusted through the years, their long kept secret was finally revealed. Unfortunately, they enjoyed a mere five years of family life together before the untimely and premature death of King Edward VI. Soon after, Archbishop Cranmer was arrested by Queen Mary Tudor. His fate sealed, Cranmer’s separation from Margarete and his two children, the youngest less than five years old, was permanent.

Thomas Cranmer’s arrest, imprisonment and eventual execution a foregone conclusion, some sources propose that with the help of friends in the London printing community, Margarete Cranmer and her daughter escaped the wrath of Queen Mary Tudor and again lived in exile in Europe. Whether reports Margarete fled England are accurate, the London printing community was forefront in her sheltering and protection.

Cranmer’s young son, Thomas, was entrusted to the care of his brother, Edmund Cranmer. They too fled with 100% certainty to the Continent. Without the support of his family, and then later colleagues Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, the Archbishop completely broke down, signing the recantations so damaging to his legacy.

Eventually, after Thomas Cranmer’s magnificent final speech and ultimate martyrdom at age 66, the much younger Margarete remarried his close friend and favored publisher, Edward Whitchurch while still in Europe. Upon the ascension of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, the couple settled down with her daughter of Thomas Cranmer in Surrey.

Widowed once more, Margarete married yet again, this time to Bartholomew Scott. Some historical sources claim that Scott married Margarete solely for her money, so she reportedly left him, seeking refuge with Thomas Cranmer’s close friend Reyner Wolfe, yet another London printer who hailed originally from the Netherlands, and his wife.

Margarete Scott, widow of Thomas Cranmer, England’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, died on a date lost to history during the 1570’s. Unfortunately for us all, her legacy to the nation is unknown but to her family, those who knew her and God.



Author Unidentified, Thomas Cranmer (1489 – 1556), Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature

Author Unidentified, Thomas Cranmer (Archbishop of Canterbury), tudorplace.com.

Foxe, John, “The Life, State, and Story of the Reverend Pastor and Prelate, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury”, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Thomas Cranmer, A Life, Yale University Press, 1996.



Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


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Majesty, Honor, and Tradition: The Monarch’s Royal Christmas Message

December 22, 2016 in Queens of World History, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her first Christmas Message Broadcast, 1952

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her first Royal Christmas Message, 1952

“At my Coronation next June, I shall dedicate myself anew to your service…. You will be keeping it as a holiday; but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day – to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.”
— Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Day, 1952 —
Technology is a remarkable thing. Prior to the advent of the wireless radio, the vast majority of the subjects of the kings and queens of first England and Wales, then Great Britain, and ultimately the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth nations never heard directly from their monarchs. Although common people could guess through portraiture and know from photography what their monarchs looked like, unless they had the great fortune to attend an event where the monarch spoke or gained an audience, hearing their king or queen speak directly to them was virtually impossible.

There are few people alive in the United Kingdom today who remember a Christmas Day without hearing their monarch speak directly to them. Now a time-honored tradition, the monarch’s Royal Christmas Message, first delivered by radio, then also television, and now additionally by streaming on the internet, is as ingrained into the British national consciousness as Christmas Eve church services, Father Christmas, choral singing, Ebenezer Scrooge, mistletoe, the Yule log, Christmas crackers, and the delightful, albeit laboriously prepared, flaming Christmas pudding.


King George V delivering his first Christmas Message Broadcast, 1932

King George V delivering his first Royal Christmas Message, 1932

In 1932, with the growing popularity of the wireless radio, Sir John Reith, a brilliant founding father of the British Broadcasting Company, pitched a novel idea to the Royal Family. Would King George V be willing to speak directly to his people via the wireless radio on Christmas Day as a prologue to inaugurate the Empire Christmas Service?

Initially, King George was hesitant. Nothing short of His Majesty touring the British Broadcasting Company personally convinced him of the brilliance of the idea. Ultimately, after much deliberation, the king agreed. With this simple leap of faith into the modern era, the vast majority of King George V’s subjects listened to the voice of their monarch for the first time in history, hearing firsthand the king marvel at the technology that brought him to them on Christmas Day. Leaving nothing to chance, the words spoken from the king were not of his composition, but instead those of renowned poet and author Rudyard Kipling.


Video Credit: Roman Styran (You Tube)

With an estimated 20 million subjects around the globe witness to the event, King George V’s first Royal Christmas Message had an enormous impact on the British people. Beyond a far more pronounced feeling of closeness to the monarchy, the use of the wireless radio as a means to speak to the realm created a unifying force of patriotism through shared values, hardships, sacrifices, challenges and the ultimate success and victory possible, despite all odds, created by a unified sense of purpose. Though unknown to him at the time, King George V set the precedent and ultimate stage for his son, King George VI, as well as the British government, to galvanize an entire nation to fight for their survival together as one people during the dark days of World War II.


King George VI delivering his first Christmas Message Broadcast, 1939

King George VI delivering his first Christmas Message Broadcast, 1939


Although the monarch’s Royal Christmas Message was becoming increasing popular, it did not become an annual event until Christmas Day 1939. Overcoming through exhaustive speech therapy a life-long pronounced stammer, King George VI spoke to his people in the midst of the onset of the horrors of World War II. With conviction and valor, King George VI reassured his people by forthrightly telling them, “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.”

Although King George VI was a constitutional monarch with only the power to advise, his ability to reassure his people through his committed example of true courage and shared sacrifice as communicated through the print media and wireless radio profoundly impacted morale and confidence among the realm that victory was not only possible but inevitable. Consequently, the Royal Christmas Message broadcasts that King George VI conscientiously prepared and then persevering and haltingly articulated during World War II hold a pronounced importance in the history of the nation.


Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Christmas Message Broadcast, 2015

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Christmas Message Broadcast, 2015


Upon her ascension to the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II delivered via radio transmission a memorable inaugural Royal Christmas Message, asking her subjects for their prayers on her behalf. Five years into her reign, Her Majesty then entered a new age of communication by delivering the first televised Royal Christmas Message, broadening and personalizing further still the reach of the monarchy to the people. For the first time in history, common people caught a glimpse of the Royal Family’s homes decked for the holidays, further humanizing the monarchy in the eyes of the subjects of the realm. By 1960, to insure all people throughout the Commonwealth nations could view the Queen’s Royal Christmas Message, her holiday broadcasts became prerecorded, further increasing the monarch’s ability to reach her intended audience.

Unlike her grandfather King George V, Queen Elizabeth does not rely on others to craft her words and message. Each year, Her Majesty selects a meaningful theme often driven by current events and builds her speech around it. For example, in 1966, the Queen focused her message towards women, telling those listening at home and abroad, “In the modern world the opportunities for women to give something of value to the human family are greater than ever, because, through their own efforts, they are now beginning to play their full part in public life.” With the advent of the ability to prerecord her broadcasts, Her Majesty also is able to highlight visually events of the year, along with her thoughts and opinions about their impact.


Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Christmas Message Broadcast, 1997

Queen Elizabeth II delivering her Royal Christmas Message, 1997


Although the Royal Christmas Messages of Queen Elizabeth II rarely hold the historical impact of her beloved father during the war years, her annual conversation with her people sometimes does rise to importance in establishing the monarchy as continually viable. This took on a critical priority in the Queen’s 1997 Christmas broadcast, the first Her Majesty delivered after the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Her Majesty’s affection from her people at its lowest in her reign, Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Christmas Message of 1997 provided essential reassurance of her humanity, compassion, and love for her family.

Now an annual cherished tradition for over 80 years, the monarch’s Royal Christmas Message broadcasts continue to hold an essential role in binding and unifying the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations, not only in reinforcing the pride and patriotism of the realm’s subjects but also in insuring the continued popularity and vibrancy of their constitutional monarchy.

Happy Christmas! Long live the Queen!




“I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all:

‘Go forth into the world in peace,

be of good courage,

hold fast that which is good,

render to no man evil for evil,

strengthen the faint-hearted,

Support the weak,

help the afflicted,

honour all men.’

It is a simple message of compassion… and yet as powerful as ever today, two thousand years after Christ’s birth.

I hope this day will be as special for you as it is for me. May I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.”


— Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Day, 2000 —



Author Unidentified, A History of Christmas Broadcasts, The Official Website of the British Monarchy.

Logie, Phyllis, Looking at the History of the Queen’s Christmas Day Speech, Humanities: Every Topic, Every Angle, 360.
Proctor, Charlie, A History of Christmas Broadcasts, Royal Central.



Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


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BBC One’s “Six Wives with Lucy Worsley” and the Positive Influence of “Popular History”…

December 9, 2016 in The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

Lucy Worsley Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company

Lucy Worsley
Photo Credit: British Broadcasting Company


Who in heaven’s name is Joel Golby? As an American whose news and editorial obsessions include CNN, PBS television, and The New York Times, I had not a clue — well not until today when a dear friend sent along a link to Golby’s scathing and mean-spirited “review” of BBC One’s Six Wives with Lucy Worsley.

Who is this guy? According to The Guardian, he “writes about general stuff for VICE and the Guardian Guide”. My quick google adventure of Joel Golby’s “general stuff” sent me on a whirlwind of articles about a variety of fun topics. Do you want to learn about weekly London “rental opportunities”? Who is the best dog ever? “Hysterical” newspaper front pages? How about “pricks” that dress like clowns or a man “bitten on the dick” twice by a spider? If so, Joel Golby is your man. His “general stuff” is really — and I mean really really — great stuff. Who knew?

I need to say I am “scratching my head” at this mess, though. With a resume as stellar as Joel Golby’s, along with his obvious love of history, how could he get things so wrong? Is Lucy Worsley really “very slowly and carefully polishing a turd, that turd being the subject of history“? Is Six Wives with Lucy Worsley as Golby describes, “Game Of Thrones without any of the good bits”? Has TV popular history “pecked the carcass clean”?

Heavens no. Within British and American cultures where history education is marginalized, historian David Starkey correctly teaches us, “There is evidence of an extraordinary evacuation of basic historical knowledge.” Let’s take a peek at some “average Americans” answering a few basic history questions to prove David Starkey’s point.

Video Credit: Mark Dice

Case closed. Step in Lucy Worsley.

BBC One’s Six Wives with Lucy Worsley, truth be told, is a delightfully engaging introduction to the six wives of King Henry VIII. As a wonderful example of the “Popular History” television genre, Six Wives throws a wide net, drawing viewership among ordinary people by emphasizing the personalities and real-life experiences of the historical figures highlighted. This is accomplished by period costumed acting vignettes combined with Lucy Wolsey’s enthusiastic, engaging, informative, vividly detailed and colorful documentation style.

Let’s face facts. Lucy Worsley has the “right stuff” for History TV. Not only is she intellectually brilliant, but she is just “too darn cute”. In Six Wives, Lucy time-travels dressed as a common maiden eavesdropping on King Henry’s court. That may seem silly, but guess what? The historical events she “witnesses” are spot-on accurate from contemporary accounts, with a surprising amount of common misconceptions dispelled. Making history not only accurate but fun draws in new history lovers and leaves viewers interested in learning more. That’s the point of it.

If you are an avid Tudorphile, you will likely learn nothing new from Six Wives with Lucy Worsley. Watch it just the same — with a youngster, family member or friend that you want to introduce to your love for “all things Tudor”. They’ll catch the bug, trust me.



Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


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The Martyrdom of Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex

July 28, 2016 in News, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

after Hans Holbein the Younger, line engraving, possibly 18th century © National Portrait Gallery, London

after Hans Holbein the Younger, line engraving, possibly 18th century
© National Portrait Gallery, London


“Most gracious Prince, I cry for mercy, mercy, mercy!”

– Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex –


Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, is a study in contrasts. Bearer of a complicated legacy, Cromwell is often demonized for his role in the falls and ultimate executions of Elizabeth Barton, Saint John Fisher, Saint Thomas More, Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry Pole, Henry Courtenay and several others. Vilified for his leadership and efficiency in orchestrating the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Thomas Cromwell with his king’s support and approval ended a way of life going back centuries.

In stark contrast, Thomas Cromwell is also heralded as the architect of the Henrican Reformation. A self-made man who rose from dire poverty, Cromwell brought the English language Bible to England and Wales, stabilized the English economy, patronized the arts, advocated for the poor and down-trodden, and as a “man of laws” changed the very face of Parliament, introducing the notion that governmental laws could and should be established and approved through representation of the people.

It is no surprise then that historian Edward Hall noted, “Many lamented, but more rejoiced,” when Thomas Cromwell was arrested on 10 June 1540.

John Foxe by Martin Droeshout line engraving, 1620s-1630s © National Portrait Gallery, London

John Foxe
by Martin Droeshout
line engraving, 1620s-1630s
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Painted by his detractors as a traitor and “secret sacramentarian”, a sinful heretic who not only denied Roman Catholic transubstantiation but also the Lutheran sacramental union, Thomas Cromwell died via a botched beheading from an inexperienced executioner on Tower Hill, his severed head speared onto a spike placed in exhibition on London Bridge.

Though most view Thomas Cromwell as either a “hero of the common man” or “evil incarnate”, 476 years ago today, 28 July 1540, Cromwell died as neither. Instead, as much as most people rarely consider the possibility, this complex intellectual genius who changed the face of England died a religious martyr for his faith. Martyrist John Foxe honored him alongside other heralded Protestant martyrs in his famous, albeit heavily biased historical accountings — and justifiably so. As Foxe proclaimed in his Book of Martyrs:

In this worthy and noble person, besides divers other eminent virtues, three things especially are to be considered, to wit, flourishing authority, excelling wisdom, and fervent zeal to Christ and to his gospel. First, as touching his fervent zeal in setting forward the sincerity of Christian faith, sufficient is to be seen before by the injunctions, proclamations, and articles… that more cannot almost be wished in a nobleman, and scarce the like hath been seen in any.

How could this be? Thomas Cromwell, a religious martyr?

Foxe’s assessment of Cromwell’s “fervent zeal to Christ and to his gospel” is not overstated. As early as 1524, Cromwell showed plainly his desire to reform the Church in England through his association with merchants such as Thomas Somer, a stock fishmonger who was a known smuggler of evangelical heretical books, including Tyndale’s New Testament.

By 1530, Thomas Cromwell’s faith demonstrated decisively a commitment to fostering of “the new learning” within the realm. Within a year, he was smuggling and organizing the translation and printing of Lutheran works, most notably The Apology of the Augsburg Confession by Philipp Melanchthon. With Sir Thomas More and John Stokesley, Bishop of London, actively chasing heretics, burning six evangelical smugglers at the stake, Thomas Cromwell certainly took dangerous risks to foster his reformist religious agenda – all activities known, and likely far more unknown, accomplished with great secrecy before his service to or any protection from King Henry VIII.


“My prayer is that God give me no longer life than I shall be glad to use my office in edification and not in destruction.”

– Thomas Cromwell


To all living in 16th century Tudor England, there was only one true religion, all those disbelieving heretics. The problem became disagreement on what exactly the true religion was. 16th-century religion was serious business. Unfortunately for the subjects of the realm, just what religion one was to adhere to changed with the theological whims of the reigning monarchs and was particularly confusing during the reign of King Henry VIII. Overstep the mark of the king’s ever-changing religious philosophies, and a person would quickly become the victim of judicial murder.

after Unknown artist line engraving, possibly late 18th century © National Portrait Gallery, London

after Unknown artist
line engraving, possibly late 18th century
© National Portrait Gallery, London

As loyal as Thomas Cromwell was to Henry VIII through his ten years of faithful service, eventually he crossed the religious line of the king over an issue the monarch actually never wavered upon. The truth of the matter was that though a sinner by his own admission, Thomas Cromwell, like other evangelicals and Lutherans, believed heart and soul in justification by faith alone. Once King Henry VIII understood what this all meant upon digesting a rousing sermon by Cromwell’s rival Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, at St. Paul’s Cross on the first day of Lent 1540, Thomas Cromwell’s days were numbered.

King Henry VIII, though hateful of the papacy, still held close many Roman Catholic tenants, particularly the notion that abundant good works combined with faith were needed for salvation. This disagreement in religious belief ultimately became a sticking point in the King Henry VIII’s relationship with his most faithful servant, enabling the king to ultimately order Cromwell’s execution after his detractors, most notably Stephen Gardiner and other high ranking conservative clergy, along with Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, orchestrated Cromwell’s arrest and imprisonment upon certainly false charges.

Perhaps most convincing of Thomas Cromwell’s “fervent zeal to Christ and to his gospel” was his speech to those witness to his execution. Though many people, particularly historical fiction writers and arm-chair historians, mistakenly assume Cromwell recanted his Lutheran beliefs by proclaiming, “I die in the Catholic faith, not doubting in any article of my faith…” during his final speech, he, like Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, Philipp Melanchthon and other Lutherans and evangelicals, used the term “Catholic” to mean the “Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. To this day, Lutherans and Anglicans are Catholics. What they are not are papists or “Roman” Catholics, neither term used by Cromwell.

Instead of the recantation many assumed was offered, Thomas Cromwell professed clearly and pointedly to those in witness, to his family, to his king, and to his God his steadfast belief that his salvation could only be justified through his faith and his faith alone. He prayed at the block,

I see and acknowledge that there is in myself no hope of salvation, but all my confidence, hope and trust is in thy most merciful goodness. I have no merits or good works with I may allege before thee… Of sins and evil works, alas, I see a great heap… but through thy mercy, I trust to be in the number of them to whom thou wilt not impute their sins; but will take and accept me for righteous and just…

With Thomas Cromwell’s staunch Lutheran beliefs intact, like Cardinal John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, John Frith, John Lambert, the Carthusian Monks, Father John Forest, and his blessed William Tyndale before him, Thomas Cromwell died a religious martyr to his faith. Though often forgotten, ignored or dispelled, that truth remains undaunted.


Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury by Pieter Stevens van Gunst line engraving, published 1707 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
by Pieter Stevens van Gunst
line engraving, published 1707
© National Portrait Gallery, London


Surviving Partial Letter Composed by

Thomas Cranmer to King Henry VIII

14 June 1540


…….. I heard yesterday in your Grace’s Council, that he [Crumwell] is a traitor, yet who cannot be sorrowful and amazed that he should be a traitor against your Majesty, he that was so advanced by your Majesty; he whose surety was only by your Majesty; he who loved your Majesty, as I ever thought, no less than God; he who studied always to set forwards whatsoever was your Majesty’s will and pleasure; he that cared for no man’s displeasure to serve your Majesty; he that was such a servant in my judgmentt, in wisdom, diligence, faithfulness, and experience, as no prince in this realm ever had; he that was so vigilant to preserve your Majesty from all treasons, that few could be so secretly conceived, but he detected the same in the beginning? If the noble princes of memory, King John, Henry the Second, and Richard II had had such a counsellor about them, I suppose that they should never have been so traitorously abandoned, and overthrown as those good princes were:

…….. I loved him as my friend, for so I took him to be; but I chiefly loved him for the love which I thought I saw him bear ever towards your Grace, singularly above all other. But now, if he be a traitor, I am sorry that ever I loved him or trusted him, and I am very glad that his treason is discovered in time; but yet again I am very sorrowful; for who shall your Grace trust hereafter, if you might not trust him? Alas! I bewail and lament your Grace’s chance herein, I wot not whom your Grace may trust. But I pray God continually night and day, to send such a counsellor in his place whom your Grace may trust, and who for all his qualities can and will serve your Grace like to him, and that will have so much solicitude and care to preserve your Grace from all dangers as I ever thought he had…….. [14 June 1540.]


Sir Thomas Wyatt By J. Thurston, engraved by W.H. Worthinton after a drawing by Hans Holbein the younger in the Buckingham Library from Charles Cowden Clarke, The Poetic Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt
By J. Thurston, engraved by W.H. Worthinton after
a drawing by Hans Holbein the younger in the
Buckingham Library from Charles Cowden Clarke,
The Poetic Works of Sir Thomas Wyatt


Sir Thomas Wyatt’s Poem Heralding

the Execution of Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex


THE pillar perish’d is whereto I leant,

The strongest stay of my unquiet mind;

The like of it no man again can find,

From east to west still seeking though he went,

To mine unhap, for hap away hath rent

Of all my joy the very bark and rind,

And I, alas, by chance am thus assign’ d

Daily to mourn, till death do it relent.

But since that thus it is by destiny,

What can I more but have a woeful heart;

My pen in plaint, my voice in careful cry,

My mind in woe, my body full of smart;

And I myself, myself always to hate,

Till dreadful death do ease my doleful state.

– Sir Thomas Wyatt


Coat of Arms Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex

Coat of Arms
Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex



Cranmer, Thomas, Archbishop, Letter of Thomas Cranmer to King Henry VIII, Regarding Thomas Cromwell, Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature.

Foxe, John, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 195. Thomas Cromwell.

Loades, David, Thomas Cromwell, Servant to Henry VIII, Amberley Publishing, Gloucestershire, 2013.

Schofield, John, The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Most Faithful Servant, The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2008.

Wyatt, Thomas, THE pillar perished is whereto I leant, Luminarium: Renaissance Literature.



Beth vo

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


"Thomas Cranmer In a Nutshell" Final Blog Stop

Thomas Cranmer -mini-bio



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“Recantations” — In Memory of Saint Thomas More, Executed July 6, 1535

July 6, 2016 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), The Tudor Thomases, Tudor Y Writer's Group by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

st-thomas-more-rubens-12x14-2052212 (1)


Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

— Book of John 20:27, King James Bible —


“I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

Over twenty years ago, Sir Thomas More spoke those words for all to hear just before the executioner swung the ax, just before his head rolled from his shoulders onto the straw, just before his self-serving martyrdom. For months beyond a year holed up in The Tower, he stoically embraced his fate, faithfully hung to his God, stubbornly held firm in his convictions, and refused to see the truth, no matter how hard dearest Cromwell, Audley and I tried to convince him, no matter how much his wife and children begged he compromise his self-righteous scruples. In scripture, there is no Pope. There is no purgatory. There are no idols, relics, or indulgences. Mary is the mother of Jesus, not a saint interceding on behalf of all who pray to her. It’s really that simple. What is not written in God’s word is not truth. Why could More not see the obvious? Was he blind? Was he daft? Was he of Satan?

And why after 20 years does More’s sorry fate still weigh my conscience down like a stone?

“More was not satisfied to be Lord Chancellor, Your Grace. His heresy burnings were not enough to fill his soul. More yearned for a higher calling than service to the realm and His Majesty. He yearned to be a martyred saint. He yearned for pilgrims to travel long journeys to touch his hair shirt and gaze upon his pickled head, disgusting as that be.”

Dearest Cromwell, I hear him ringing through my mind as if he were sitting in this dank horrid cell right alongside me. The Earl always found a way to rationalize quandaries, bless his soul. All we asked, all His Majesty wanted, all that was required to save his very life was for Sir Thomas More to take the oath, say the words out loud publicly, and do what he wanted in private. More could worship his Latin Mass, give confession, fondle his rosary, collect his idols, venerate his relics, wear his hair shirt, and whip his back bloody to his heart’s content.

“Just take the damn oath, and then do what you will.”

“No, and I will speak nothing of it.”

Again, again, again, the Earl pleaded for this simple sign of obedience to the King. Again, again, again, the same reply. My God in heaven, the Pope is the antichrist. To this day, I am still dumbfounded. The man was brilliant, scholarly, eloquent. So why was he such a fool?

After hours of mulling over my fate, I look down at the parchment. My couched recantations, written to baffle His Eminence and the Queen without sully to my conscience, baffled them not. Cardinal Pole then took a quill to parchment and wrote out another, and then an another and yet another, one that clearly says to all in the far more eloquent words of the papal whore, “The last twenty years of my life were heresy. The liturgy of the Church of England is heresy. The lyrical Evensong at Friday service is heresy. The Collects said in worship all through the year are heresy. The Book of Common Prayer is heresy. Holy Communion as a commemoration to the Lord’s Last Supper is heresy. I recant. I recant it all. The Eucharist correctly turns wine to Christ’s blood, turns bread to Christ’s body. The holy church in England and its clergy are led by His Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome. Unless you purchase an indulgence, your mother will remain rotting to the bones in purgatory. There I said it. Now, you know my truth.”

Thomas Cranmer, Parish Church of St. George

Thomas Cranmer, Parish Church of St. George

If I want to live another day, die in my own bed, not burn pitifully as my beloved friends Ridley and Latimer, I must copy this in myne own hand, and sign my name to it. And, no, this is not the same challenge More faced. More was never forced to endure a trial for treason, found guilty, and yet a second trial for heresy, found guilty again. More did not have to debate at Oxford, over and over, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year with papist religious scholars wearing him down, chiding his every word. More did not have to watch his friends burn at the stake, poor Ridley lingering for hours due to a poor man’s misguided attempt to help. More did not have the entire Church of England and its future laying squarely on his shoulders. No, it is not the same challenge More faced. No, it is not.

If I say it enough, I might believe it.

I confess Sir Thomas More’s writings so authored while he himself imprisoned give me strength. A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation is just brilliant in all truth. Though they believed pushing More down my throat would wear me down, instead, his writings give me hope, nourish my soul. As More so correctly alluded through his story telling, persecution for one’s faith is a hazardous quandary indeed. It brings upon us at the same time both the lure and comfort rewarded for recantation — and the dread of torture and a painful death if we remain steadfast and true.

I look at the parchment yet again. No, I will not copy it in myne own hand. No, I will not sign it.

More conceded, and I agree, that it is not acceptable to escape persecution by compromising some of God’s truths, while keeping true to the rest. His err laid in not knowing what God’s truths truly are, by placing his faith and belief as defined by a papal authority instead of God’s word in scripture.

I look to the flickering candle, the only light in this stench laid cell and hold the parchment near. I will burn this parchment, and then I will burn. God, give me strength.

The cell door slams open, bashing the stone wall like a death knell.

“The recantation, is it ready Dr. Cranmer?!”

I startle upright. Damn, it be the Spaniard friar, Juan de Valligarcia, bellowing at me yet again. I look to the man wearily and hold out the parchment. He snatches it from me.

“No, I refuse to write it.”

This friar, I swear he is paid handsomely just to torment my soul. He saunters to the front of me and glares me down — evil incarnate, I do swear.

“I have word from Her Majesty. She desires I give you a message and one last chance to comply. Do you wish to hear it?”

I remain silent, mulling over how best to respond. The dirty dog drums his fingers impatiently on the table.

“Am I commanded to hear it? If not, I choose you leave with her words unsaid.”

“Yes, you are so commanded!”

“Carry on then.”

“As you so professed these many years, a monarch is supreme and heads the clergy is this realm. His Majesty King Henry chose to delegate to you and the heretic Emissary of Satan, Cromwell, while Her Majesty chooses to delegate to His Holy Father,” the friar scowls. He then holds out a parchment, its wax seal of the Queen made evident for myne benefit.

“Dr. Cranmer, as your monarch I command that you recant in writing as so drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and sign your name in full. I further command that you attend Latin Mass and recant publicly through a sermon approved in advance by His Eminence. From this day forward, you will attend Mass, celebrate the Eucharist, and worship the Roman Catholic faith with all humility.”

That bastard friar begins pacing to and fro. I say nothing. What be there to add to that?

“Will you abide Her Majesty’s command? If not, I need not remind that you will burn, mayhaps hanging in a giblet liken you and the concubine’s butcher did unto poor Friar Forest. The poor man be roasted hours on end like a chicken on a spit.”

Forest? He dares speak of the devil Forest?

I be in a rage now. “Forest’s burning fulfilled God’s prophecy! Saint Derfel burned with the forest as foretold from one to the next for many a moon — a suitable punishment for the evil Franciscan. He was both a sin-filled heretic and heinous treasoner of the King’s Majesty!”

I grab hold tight onto the table. Myne humors be in a twist, near to spew. The damn Spaniard steps up right close to me and leans into myne beard, so close his putrid rank breath near makes me faint.

“Cranmer, you are a hopeless, spineless, wretched, evil little man. God forgive you.”

My gout raging in my legs, I steady myself by the table, push him back and stand strong. What there be to lose? I am already a dead man. “No, I will not abide the damn command. Leave me to rot and be gone. You can light the fags another day.”

“But Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty is supremely your head as you define by scripture, eh? Are you not by your own interpretation of God’s Holy Word sinning through your treason?”

The man, he is of Satan and chides me mockingly, finding my greatest weakness yet again. This very issue, this very dilemma, has me confused and conflicted once more. This pitiful servant of the antichrist is right, but in my heart to recant is a larger sin, an unforgivable sin.

“I said, NO, I will not abide by the damn command.”

Unsteady of feet, I sit back down.

“Dr. Cranmer, Her Majesty in her great benevolence wishes to extend this offer. Queen Mary, Regina remains steadfast in her vision to route this realm of all heresy, and will burn it all wherever it lays. Her Majesty desires to reassure you that should you recant, your Lutheran whore and bastard children will sleep safe. If not, they will burn as the heretics they are  — before you, as Ridley and Latimer did.”

Did myne heart just stop? Frozen in fear, I look at the Spanish friar, my blood frozen cold, just like that. Satan speaks through him as sure as Christ died for his sins. Mary, Regina — no one could be this evil, no one, especially a woman. De Villagarcia is trying to trick me. He must be. Margarete, my children, they fled to Nuremburg. Edmund promised me.

Aye, but Satan reached Tyndale. Why not them? My mind, it be cloudy, worn thin. I can’t concentrate. Think, Thomas – think. Would she really command my Margarete burned? Thomas and Marge? Would she really kill them before myne very eyes? Or is this man baffling me? Are they safe on the Continent or did Pole’s spies find them?

I gaze just beyond the Spaniard, and dearest Bishops Latimer and Ridley stand before me, burning pitifully, screaming in agony. Yes, the friar speaks truth. The Queen of England, Satan’s mistress, seeks revenge. This is hopeless. Either way I go, I be damned.

Broken, yes, after two long years, I am finally broken. I am sorry, Sir Thomas More. For this tribulation, there is no comfort. To route out this tribulation, I am willing to burn in hell so they don’t burn. Am I selfish? Or is that God’s will? Your writing, your gentle and humble wisdom, they tell me not.

I hold out my trembling hand, and the Spaniard hands back the parchment. My voice quivering, I say in complete surrender, “Come back in the ‘morrow. It shall be done.”

The friar sits down on the table before him, and holds out a fresh quill.

“Now, Dr. Cranmer, or Her Majesty’s offer is not guaranteed.”

I swallow hard, tears welling. O Lord forgive me.  I take the quill in my hand, and though shaking,  dip the quill in ink and seal my fate.

—– fade to black —–


Given the overwhelming breadth of the magnificent life of Saint Thomas More, many people do not realize that he was an outstanding poet. In memory of Saint Thomas More, his poem, “The Words of Fortune to the People”:
Lady Fortune and her Wheel. Boccaccio De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

Lady Fortune and her Wheel.
Boccaccio De Casibus Virorum Illustrium

The words of Fortune to the people.
~~ Master Thomas More — 1504 ~~

.Mine high estate, power, and authority
If ye ne know, ensearch and ye shall spy1
That riches, worship, wealth, and dignity
Joy, rest, and peace, and all things finally
That any pleasure or profit may come by
To man his comfort, aid, and sustenance,
Is all at my devise and ordinance.

.Without my favour there is nothing won,
Many a matter have I brought at last
To good conclude that fondly was begun,2
And many a purpose, bounden sure and fast
With wise provision, I have overcast.
Without good hap there may no wit suffice,3
Better ’tis to be fortunate than wise!
.And therefore have there some men been ere this
My deadly foes, and written many a book
To my dispraise.   And other cause there n’is4
But for me list not friendly on them look.5
Thus like the fox they fare, that once forsook
The pleasant grapes, and ‘gan for to defy them
Because he lept and yet could not come by them.6
.But let them write, their labour is in vain;
For well ye wot, mirth, honour, and riches7
Much better is than penury and pain.
The needy wretch that ling’reth in distress
Without my help, is ever comfortless,
A very burden, odious and loath
To all the world, and eke to himself both.8
.But he that by my favour may ascend
To mighty pow’r and excellent degree,
A commonweal to govern and defend,
O! in how bless’d condition standeth he,
Himself in honour and felicity,
And over that, may farther and encrease
A region whole in joyful rest and peace.
.Now in this point there is no more to say,
Each man hath of himself the governance;
Let every wight then follow his own way.9
And he that out of poverty and mischance
List for to live, and will himself enhance
In wealth and riches, come-forth and wait on me;
And he that will be a beggar, let him be.


Saint Thomas More “Prayer Card” of the Roman Catholic Faith



Tudor Martyr of Archbishop, King and Saint: John Frith

July 4, 2016 in The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats

by Beth von Staats

John Frith going to his martyrdom, July 4, 1533 (Credit: Universal Images Group)

John Frith going to his martyrdom, July 4, 1533
(Credit: Universal Images Group)


Merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that thou has made, nor wouldest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and heretics, and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word: and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Isrealites, and be made one fold under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord…

— Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer, 1549 —


In 16th century Tudor Era England and Wales, religion was serious business. Unfortunately for the subjects of the realm, just what religion one was to adhere to changed with the theological whims of the reigning monarchs and was particularly confusing during the reign of King Henry VIII. Overstep the mark of the King’s ever changing religious philosophies, and a person would very quickly become the victim of judicial murder.

During the course of King Henry VIII’s reign, hundreds and perhaps thousands of people were executed for belief in their chosen faiths. Roman Catholics with one notable exception, Blessed John Forest, were executed for treason, while Evangelicals most commonly were executed for heresy.

Were convicted Roman Catholics actually traitors or convicted Evangelicals really heretics? Well that all depended on the King’s religious beliefs at any given point of his 37 year reign. What was treason or heresy today changed tomorrow.

Whether Saint Thomas More was Lord Chancellor or Thomas Cranmer was Archbishop was irrelevant. Revered by many as great martyrs themselves, people were executed for their religious beliefs at the hands of both men — those convicted of heresy typically burned at the stake, those convicted of treason, commonly hanged, drawn and quartered. Convicted women were burned at the stake to prevent the disrobing necessary of the “traitor’s death” or were simply hanged to death or decapitated.

Saint Thomas More (Holbein)

When we think of Saint Thomas More, his religious beliefs are straight forward, and thus his life choices and the rationale for his decisions are easily grasped and understood. A staunch Roman Catholic his entire life, there is no gray in any decision he made.

To More, Roman Catholicism was the one and only true religion. Those who did not accept the true religion and papal authority were heretics. It was that simple.

Thomas Cranmer’s religious beliefs, on the other hand, are far more complex in sorting out, because this was a man whose religious theology evolved over time. While a young Cambridge don, he was a humanist Roman Catholic with similar beliefs to Thomas More.

Incrementally over time, however, Thomas Cranmer’s theology became increasingly Evangelical and ultimately Protestant. Thus, while Cranmer was Archbishop, people were convicted of heresy and burned at the stake for exercising the very same beliefs Cranmer would later embrace himself.

Though Saint Thomas More and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer were steadfast rivals, disagreeing vehemently regarding the sanctity of marriage, the justification of papal authority, King Henry’s break with Rome, and the King’s ultimate Supremacy over the Church of England, the two men came together with their beloved King to defend the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and in so doing, hold joint responsibility with Henry VIII for the tragic martyrdom of Evangelical Reformer John Frith.

The story of John Frith began long before Thomas More was appointed Lord Chancellor and later Thomas Cranmer consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury. Educated at Eton College and later Cambridge University, John Frith was ordained a priest in 1525.

While still a student at Cambridge, Frith began meeting with Thomas Bilney, a graduate student at Trinity Hall. Bilney organized a group of scholars that met at the White Horse Inn to study scripture and theology through the reading of the Greek New Testament.

It is believed that John Frith first met William Tyndale in these group meetings. Tyndale greatly influenced Frith’s theological beliefs that became decidedly Evangelical in leaning.

Upon ordination, John Frith was recruited to became a junior canon at Thomas Wolsey’s new Cardinal College in Oxford. While at Oxford, he was arrested with nine other men hiding in a cellar that stored fish for possessing books considered “heretical” by the university. In close confinement in unsanitary conditions for six months, four of the men died.

John Frith survived the torment and was eventually released. He wisely fled to Europe, joining William Tyndale in Antwerp, Belgium in 1528. There, Frith assisted Tyndale in his scripture translations into English and subsequent publications.

While in Antwerp, John Frith translated the Latin work of the Scottish Evangelical martyr Patrick Hamilton. Patrick’s Places became the first explanation of Reformation Doctrine published in the English language.

Soon after, Frith translated an assortment of other religious articles, including A Pistle to the Christian Reader: The Revelation of the Anti-Christ and An Antithesis Between Christ and the Pope. These historic works originally penned by an unknown author were the first anti-papal works printed in the English language.

Thomas Cromwell (Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger)

Thomas Cromwell
(Artist: Hans Holbein the Younger)

While completing these translations, both William Tyndale and John Frith secretly met with English merchant Stephen Vaughan, agent and suspected smuggler and spy to Thomas Cromwell. Authorized by King Henry VIII, Cromwell through Vaughan offered both Tyndale and Frith safe haven back in England. Suspecting a trap, neither man accepted the offer.

Unknown to both, some historians conjecture that Stephen Vaughan smuggled Evangelical and Lutheran works to Thomas Cromwell, both men highly Evangelical themselves. Cromwell’s admiration of Tyndale in particular is well documented. Whether this was actually a missed opportunity for both Tyndale and Frith is lost to history.

Instead, Frith stayed in Antwerp, married and entered with Tyndale into a spirited debate with Saint Thomas More, Saint John Fisher and John Rastell. His original work, Disputation of Purgatory Divided Into Three Books, disputed the existence of purgatory to each Roman Catholic scholar in turn.

Although neither More or Fisher were swayed, Rastell was so persuaded that he was won over to the Evangelical cause. Ironically, Rastell was More’s brother-in-law. More’s opinions of the conversion can be easily imagined.

In 1532, John Frith decided to return to England, while William Tyndale remained in Europe. Irrespective of their individual decisions, both men eventually perished for practice of their faith. Upon returning home, Frith was quickly arrested in Reading, mistaken for a vagabond. He was released with the assistance and persuasion of school master Leonard Cox, who was impressed with his obvious scholarship. From there, Frith traveled secretly from place to place, preaching the gospel.

Learning John Frith was in England, Saint Thomas More issued a warrant for Frith’s arrest, offering a large reward for his apprehension. On the run, Frith was ultimately arrested by More’s agents and local authorities while attempting to board a ship bound to Antwerp.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Frith was charged by Saint Thomas More in his role as Lord Chancellor with heresy. Against his mentor Tyndale’s advice and all reasonable caution, Frith began writing comprehensively of his views of purgatory and more alarmingly his denial of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Concurrent with Frith’s substantiated Evangelical writings becoming increasingly pronounced and obvious, Saint Thomas More resigned his Lord Chancellorship upon the clergy’s ultimate submission to King Henry VIII’s authority. Soon thereafter, Archbishop William Warham died.

It is within this context and timeline that Thomas Audley was appointed Lord Chancellor. Soon thereafter Thomas Cranmer was consecrated Archbishop, leaving both men to inherit the unenviable task of dealing with John Frith’s controversial theology, most pointedly Cranmer.

Although secretly married himself and becoming increasingly Reformist in theology, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1533 agreed with Saint Thomas More, King Henry VIII, Pope Clement V and Martin Luther of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Consequently, John Frith was summonsed to Cranmer’s palaces at Lambeth and Croydon for several intense interrogations about his “sacramentarian” Eucharist theology.

Thomas Cranmer attempted repeatedly to counsel John Frith to alter his Eucharist theology to those of the King to no avail. Per Cranmer in frustration, Frith “… looketh every day to go unto the fire.” 

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Gerlach Flicke)

Interestingly, Thomas Cranmer never labeled any Evangelical a heretic openly, but his opinion regarding John Frith’s religious interpretations was clearly documented in a letter to his friend Nicholas Hawkins.

“His said opinion is of such nature, that he thought it not necessary to be believed as an article of our faith, that there is a very corporal presence of Christ within the host and sacrament of the altar, and holdeth of this point… And surely I myself sent for him three or four times to persuade him to leave that to his imagination; but for all that we could do therein, he would not apply to any counsel.”

With Cranmer unable to convert John Frith’s views, the law of England inevitably proceeded in due course through the offices of the new Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley. On July 4, 1533, by command of King Henry VIII, John Frith was burned at the stake for heresy.

In 1535, Saint Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Supremacy in accordance with his religious beliefs. As a Roman Catholic, he was charged and convicted of treason, then executed. Though not charged with heresy or burned at the stake, he is a martyr to his faith, as were many Roman Catholics executed during the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

Already in agreement with John Frith’s views of the non-existence of purgatory, thirteen years after Frith burned at the stake, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s views of the Eucharist took a dramatic shift. Now Protestant in his beliefs, Cranmer’s views of the Eucharist ultimately mirrored those of the man he, King Henry VIII and Saint Thomas More together martyred.

King Henry VIII dead and no longer an impediment, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s sweeping Protestant reforms during the reign of King Edward VI personified the beliefs John Frith embodied. The premature death of the young king, however, resulted in a return of a Roman Catholic monarch.

In 1556, at the command of Queen Mary I, like John Frith before him, Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for heresy, a martyr to the Protestant beliefs he ironically and ultimately shared with the man he once steadfastly attempted to convert.

Today, Thomas Cranmer and John Frith, once greatly divided in theological beliefs, together are considered among England’s most cherished Protestant Martyrs.



Ashdown, A.G., Roman Catholic and Protestant Martyrs Contrasted.

Author Unidentified, A Puritan’s Mind, John Frith.

Graves, Dan, John Frith Burned for Beliefs, Christianity.com.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Thomas Cranmer, A Life, Yale University Press, 1996.

Samworth, Dr. Herbert, John Firth: Forging the English Reformation, Grace Solar Foundation, Inc.



Beth vo

Beth von Staats

Beth von Staats is a history writer of both fiction and non-fiction short works. A life-long history enthusiast, Beth holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She is the owner and administrator of Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers website, QueenAnneBoleyn.com.

Beth’s interest in British History grew through the profound influence of her Welsh grandparents, both of whom desired she learn of her family cultural heritage. Her most pronounced interest lies with the men and women who drove the course of events and/or who were most poignantly impacted by the English Henrician and Protestant Reformations, as well as the Tudor Dynasty of English and Welsh History in general.


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“Black Joan of the Dolphin” (Experimental Fiction — Deep Total 1st Person)

July 2, 2016 in Hampton Y Court, Historical Fiction, The Tudor Thomases by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Artwork by Susan Santiago

Artwork by Susan Santiago


“In the midst of life we are in death, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection.”

~~~ Thomas Cranmer, The Book of Common Prayer


Joan Cranmer: For weeks now, I languish in this pitiful chamber. The walls, I do swear, they are closing me in. The window wide ajar, no air comes of it. My back aching, my belly bulging, my legs swollen, my lungs pushed small, the summer heat stifling, my nightgown glued to me with sweat, no comfort eases me. Bored, I yearn for company, yearn for Thomas, yearn for his lessons. I am desperate to learn to read, learn the scriptures, learn all the Greek scholars, learn of Erasmus, Aristotle, all the things rummaging in his mind — anything, just anything to pass the time. Day by day, the room gets smaller, the air staler, the bed harder, the candles dimmer… closing me in, closing me in, closing me in tight. Wide awake, unable to settle myself, distracted by his snoring, again I can’t sleep. All I want to do is sleep, Lord. I beg for respite. Can’t You just grant me that? I try to rise from bed to at least catch a breeze by the window, but it’s no use. For the last fortnight, Thomas has helped me in and out of our bed, and up from my favorite soft chair. God, please, I beg you. Bring this babe to us soon.

I look at my husband, and I’m angry. He did this to me. Yes, he calls himself a religious scholar, but he did this to me. What kind of man does this to a woman? Thomas, that’s who. How dare he sleep while I am so pitiful? Look at him, so peaceful, deep in dreams of God knows what, snoring like a sleeping sow. How dare he? How dare he? I look again, and guilt suddenly consumes me. Thomas is a good man, a gentle man. My God he is beautiful, just beautiful. I fill with love for him, this Godly man who will never be a priest. No longer the clergy’s, no longer the pilgrims’, no longer even God’s, he is mine, and I need not share him.  I nudge his shoulder. “Thomas?” I nudge him a little harder, and yet once again. “Thomas?!” Heavens is the man deaf?  ”THOMAS?!!…  THOMAS?!!”

Thomas Cranmer: Startled, stunned, I awaken, sit up straight, groggy, a tad dazed. Oh my… oh my… I shake the sleep out of my head. It must be time. ”Joan, shall I rush for the midwife?” My wife, she has been with child since the birth of Eve from Adam’s rib. It must be time.

Joan Cranmer: Men are daft. Soothingly, as I see his panic, I say simply. “No, not yet. Just help me out of bed, love.”

Thomas Cranmer: Joan woke me from the dead to help her out of bed? Even the birds sleep soundly. Why can’t she? “Yes, Joan. Of course, dear woman.” I rise, stagger to her side of things, and help her to sit up, move her body gently over the side, and raise her gently upward. Oh my, as my wife stands, I look to her belly. It’s huge and dropped low, so low I believe the babe will drop from it right now, on to the straw, just like that. Now what is that sound? What? I look down, my eyes wide as the moon is full. The ocean’s currents lay on the floor before me.

Joan Cranmer: “Thomas, I think I just passed the babe’s water.” I look to him and smile. “Do rise the midwife. I think it’s time.”


Thomas Cranmer: All was planned since I was a babe in the cradle. As the second son, there would be no inherited title. As the second son, there would be no worldly goods passed from one generation to the next. As the second son, there would be no advantageously arranged marriage. So, as the second son, I would enter the clergy. Ordained from the womb, I knew my role in life. I accepted it. I welcomed it. I cherished it. I embraced it. At Cambridge twelve terms, I finally mastered it, finally was awarded a fellowship, finally grown in my knowledge and studies to begin doctoral work. Once completed, my family’s hopes, prayers and expectations — and my destiny — would be fulfilled, ordination into the priesthood. I was on my way. I could taste it. I could smell it. As I read the scriptures, Erasmus and Aristotle, I could see. I could touch it. Why am I here with all these rowdy men and barmaids at the Dolphin Inn then? Why do I nervously sit at a back table with the owner drinking stale ale? And why am I a lowly ostler shoveling horse dung, you ask? Well, my world changed on the flip of a crown. On cool autumn day I met her, the exquisitely blonde Joan Black — and now, here through the day and night, then day and now night again, I sit in stunned silence, frozen in fear.

Henry Black: A rowdy night, the revelers carry on, ale pouring freely, the barmaids entertaining the menfolk.  The singing, the merriment, the noise bounce off the large wooden ceiling beams, and bounce back along the long wooden tables, ring stained from reveler’s past. New straw Thomas needs toss upon the flooring, I note as I pick off a few pesky fleas.  Farthings fill the coffers, though, so ’tis a good night for mine taxes and tithes.  I look to poor Thomas, and he worries so. In truth, so do I. My wife long dead from child bed, this is taking too long, much too long. Lord God, I pray, don’t take my daughter, too.

“Thomas? Thomas? Have some more ale, lad. It will take the edge off.”

I motion over the men’s favorite wench, and as she pours the ale, her breasts spill before us.  I force a wide smile and nod. “Thomas, all will be fine lad. ‘Tis a first babe, so long we wait.”

I pause, and he looks at me, nods politely and says nothing, drinking the ale down in one long swig. There be thoughts, though, filling that head of his. There always be. That lad always be thinking, always be reading, always be writing on his books, all over the pages yet. I told Thomas once, “Don’t be doing that. How can you sell the thing once done?” He looked at me odd-like and said, “I never sell my books. They are part of me, like an arm, like a leg, like my heart, like my soul.” For a smart young man, he sure be daft.

“Thomas, pray tell me what is on your mind, lad? Let it out before it spills out your ears, before it spills out and asunder like Pandora’s Box.”

Thomas Cranmer: Should I tell him? There are no priests to confess to, and this man is gentle spirited and forgiving, so maybe so. I swallow hard. “When I became a father, I thought it would be to celebrate the Eucharist, hear confessions, counsel the downtrodden, christen infants, marry lovers and bury the dead. I misunderstood God’s will all these many years. He wants me to marry a wife, father children, raise them well. How could I not know? I am unprepared. I studied not for this.”

Henry Black: I laugh. “There be many Godly men who are not priests, Thomas. Look no farther than our glorious king. His Majesty is godly, a husband, and now a father. God will soon give us an heir by the Spanish queen, and a new king will carry on his glorious reign. What say you?” Smiling I chide before he can answer, “You be smart, but God needs to show you His will, as you are stubborn like the goats in the barn — and He did.”

Thomas Cranmer: I smile. This man humors me so. “All I know is scriptures. The church welcomes not a married man.”

Henry Black: I see now. The lad worries of livelihood. Reassuring I reply, “You tutor the school boys, and I will tutor you, Thomas. Look around lad. Once God calls me, all this be yours and Joan’s. I willed it.”

Thomas Cranmer: Christendom just lifted from my shoulders. “Thank you, good man.” We smile and rise our goblets in toast.

Oh my God in heaven, a crashing shriek cuts through the loud reveling and festivities, cuts straight to my very core. A woman’s voice cries out pathetically, “Noooooooooooooooo, nooooooooooo God!”

No man can stop me, though several try. I run up to the stairs, and head straight to our chambers. Oh Lord, the women are crying. I try to open the door, and it’s bolted, locked tight. I start banging on in, again, again. “Let me in! Damn it, let me in!” I begin slamming the side of my body against the door to try and force it, beginning to crack the threshold. As I try once again, knowing success is one jarring jolt away, Joan’s father and three other men, God knows who, I care not, hold me back.

He says gently, “Not yet, Thomas. Not yet.”

I look to him, tears streaming, both of us. I say meekly, “No baby cries, but women do.”

I drop down to the floor, huddled, waiting, Joan’s father beside me, helpless. God, please don’t foresake us, not now.

As I sit quietly, waiting… waiting… waiting, hoping, praying, my mind is filled with her, my whole body and soul consumed by her. “Yes, Lord, I fell fast. I fell hard. I’m in deep. Joan’s blonde hair flows long and glistens in the sunlight. Her blue, then green, then blue and green as one eyes look deep, straight through to my soul. Her lilting voice, accented from the south, soothes the demons within me. Her soft skin brushed up against me arouses every sense in my being, every feeling deep within. Yes, Lord, it’s helpless. It’s hopeless. She owns me. Your will? She must be. My will? She is. Yes, I confess as virgin as Christ’s mother, we learned together, exploring each other, molding one to the other, fading in to each other. Where Joan ends and I begin, I do not know. God, You did bless us before the parish priest did, my seed growing and the babe quickening within Joan’s belly as we said our vows. I am released from my fellowship. My doctoral studies are terminated. I’m disgraced by my family. Please, the penance is paid. It matters not, really. I will tend the inn’s horses, shovel their stable muck, tutor the town’s school boys, and die without a farthing to be with her. God please, I am happy to shovel the muck. I need crowns not. I need Cambridge not. I need ordination not. I need indulgences not. I just need her, nothing else, nothing ever.”

The door opens. I look up inquisitively. I venture, “My Joan?” Tears falling, the midwife shakes her head. Joan’s father, his voice cracking, asks, “The babe?” Her head looks to the floor, the answer clear. My heart stops beating. I can’t breathe. Joan’s father helps me rise, and we enter. I want to see, pray to see, afraid to see what I know in my heart now is God’s will. I look with dread and yet wonder. My Joan, my beloved agape, she lays peacefully as if sleeping, in her arms a babe, so tiny. It’s quiet, so quiet it’s deafening, only the sound of the women’s tears, my tears, my internal rage, my swirling thoughts of joining them in leaving this world, filling the room. I look on not knowing what to do. I want to jump into bed with them, hold them, love them. Is that proper? Would God frown? I do not know. At Cambridge, they never taught me. The scriptures, they do not say.

“Thomas…. Thomas,” I hear the midwife call me. “Sit down here, good man.”

I sit in a chair close beside the bed. I watch as she carefully picks up the baby, swaddled in a blanket Joan lovingly sewn.

“A girl Thomas. Look, she is pretty.”

Trembling, I ask the unthinkable. “Can I hold her? Please? I just want to hold her.”

She hands me the babe, my daughter, and I cradle her gently. I open the blanket, and she looks so perfect. She can’t be dead. I poke her gently once, and yes she is. I gaze up and see them leaving, the women, the midwife, and Joan’s father, who with graceful nobility nods and quietly closes the chamber door. Here with my family, with my thoughts, with my tears, with my God, I am but alone.

~~~~~~~~~~ Fade To Black ~~~~~~~~~~

Someday we’ll all be gone;
But lullabies go on and on;
They never die;
That’s how you and I will be.
~~~ Billy Joel ~~~


Meet Susan Santiago and see her beautiful art. She is amazing. The Art of Susan Santiago

Note: Very little is known of Thomas Cranmer’s two marriages, particularly his first. All that is known is that Cranmer married a woman named Joan, surname stated at his heresy trial to be either Black or Brown, between 1515 and 1519. Ralph Morice, Cranmer’s devoted secretary and biographer, details that they were married “within one year” and that Joan died, along with their baby, in child bed. Due to an association undefined with the Dolphin Inn, and the short length of marriage, Roman Catholic detractors labeled Cranmer “an ostler” (a person who takes care of horses stabled at an inn), and scornfully referred to his wife as “Black Joan of the Dolphin”, inferring she was pregnant before marriage.


May 16, 2016 in News, The Final Days of Queen Anne Boleyn, The Tudor Thomases by Beth von Staats


Thomas Cranmer with Anne Boleyn



(POV: Thomas Cranmer, May 1536)

“She wanted his head smitten off, Your Grace.”

Ralph Morice told me Queen Anne fell out hard with the King’s Secretary. If she does not fall, he will. Why did they both keep this from me? I would have mediated, gladly. Their differences could be resolved. Yes, I am sure of that. Did dear Cromwell keep me away to plot her undoing? To keep me from His Majesty’s ear? Does this all lay at his feet, or at His Majesty’s? Or did they conjure this all up together? O Lord, intercede, I pray. Show me your will.

Yes, I know His Majesty longs for a male heir, and our realm is in desperate need of stability. And yes, I know deep down too that my beloved Queen is not beloved by the people. And yes, as Dear Cromwell correctly argues, I admit that she and the Boleyns, my steadfast patrons and supporters to whom I owe all, stand in the way of our long awaited reformation, though they pray for reforms more than I do. And yes, the poor last babe lost, God’s will, changed His Majesty’s heart, hardened it towards his wife irrevocably.

O Lord, why disgrace Anne with lies? Defame her integrity? Paint her a whore? A treasoner? Kill her? My mind is clean amazed. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing. On a sunny May day, I rose from bed with my wife hidden in like any other. Dearest Cromwell called me to court to await the king’s pleasure, and I find the world is upside down, the court spinning in chaos, people hiding in the shadows, afraid for their very lives.

The King’s Secretary told me he beseeched His Majesty to send Queen Anne to a priory in Europe. I believe him. The king could not be swayed from his will, wants her dead and commanded dear Cromwell to make it so. His Majesty is like a god on Earth, Supreme Emperor of this blessed realm, Defender of the Faith. His command is law.

God in heaven forgive me. As Archbishop of Canterbury, tomorrow I must find the king’s marriage at his command to Queen Anne null and void, thus bastardizing my own beloved godchild. All I could find the courage to do was write to His Majesty and plead mercy, as I know he is a gracious king, a benevolent king, a gentle spirited king, a noble king – and pray that his heart softens. Alas, we are all sinners, even His Majesty. When King Henry sins and commands sin, do I obey? Scripture says I must, so I do. God, this is a quandary. Help me see my way through it. I will follow Your word, but in truth, I find this abhorrent.

As I kneel in prayer in chapel, distracted by my thoughts, I feel a hand gently rest on my shoulder. I look up. There stands my Margerete, the woman who risks all to be with me. “Thomas, you have been here for hours, love. God knows your heart. Do come break bread with me before you go to The Tower.”

I nod, rise to my feet and hold my wife close. I draw my strength from her, truth be told. “Margerete, she is innocent. They all are. I know deep down to my soul.”

Whilst I speak these words, Margerete steps back. Looking deep into my eyes, she says, “Yes, I know. Do what you can, what your heart speaks you to do, but also do what you must.” Such gentle wisdom, my wife humbles me.

We eat breakfast together, but no words come between us. Knowing my weakness of humors more common of a woman than a man, my wife holds my arm for support. Done, I look to her and say simply, ” ‘Time I go.”

She nods, tears welling. We both rise, and as I head towards the door to leave, I turn back. She rushes me, and we hug close. I kiss her softly. “Pray for me that I find the strength, Margerete, that my long tormenting frets stay unknown.”

With love in her voice, I hear the words I need. “I will, Thomas. You are a good man. God will strengthen you, dear husband.”

I step outside into another bonny and a sunny spring day, the gardens at Lambeth blooming full. How ironic, I think. In my mind, all is black. I breathe in the sweet smell of irises, walk over to the dock and step onto my beautiful barge, gifted by the woman I visit this day to celebrate my consecration. As the barge floats on slowly to The Tower, my mind fills with memories of Queen Anne, our first meeting, our prayerful discussions of the Lord, her beautiful coronation, the birth of Elizabeth. I pray for her soul, that she finds acceptance, and that the Lord bless her with strength to do what she must do, rewarded with everlasting peace in heaven. I pray also for those poor men, caught up in the evil lies and innuendo that laid their ruin. Most times I ride my wonderful barge people call out excitedly to greet me, children running along the shoreline. I respond with sincere hearty blessings. This day, few take notice. This day, those who do receive a simple nod.

When the barge reaches the shores near The Tower, I see Sir William Kingston awaits. He helps me on to the dock and steadies me. We begin walking to the Queen’s chamber. I ask simply, “How is she?”

“Your Grace, when she first came, the Lady spoke quite wildly, making strange comments such as all crops will fail unless she is released, that no rains would come until she is vindicated, and so on. These last few days the Lady is completely preoccupied with preparing for her death, every waking moment in discussion of it. I do believe she is reconciled with the inevitable.”

Whilst we approach the chamber, the very place the Queen resided as she prepared for her coronation, I look to Sir Kingston and admit, “My heart grieves for what I do this day.” He simply nods.


With that, he unlocks the chamber door, opens it wide and announces, “His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

We both step in, and my heart sinks. There she is, my beautiful Queen, dressed simply, as pale as a spook in the mist. She looks to me and smiles. We lock eyes, and I sigh deeply. I bend a knee with the respect deserving of the Queen of England, as to me she will always be my queen. I take a deep breath, and careful with my words as Sir Kingston and the ladies he assigned not by her choice hearing all, I say simply, looking to her with a slight nod knowingly, “Your Majesty, I am humbled to be in your presence. It pains me to say what I must do. Please do sit, and I will explain all as gently as I can, and with God’s grace, you will hear me.”

“Your Grace, I must remind you that this is the Lady Anne. Her former titles were stripped at trial yesterday,” Sir Kingston interjects.

“Oh yes… oh yes, forgive my transgression… My Lady Anne, please do sit.” With Master Kingston at the ladies at my back, attention focused on their prisoner and not me, I mouth silently and motion to a chair, “Your Majesty…” Wisely, she does not respond and simply sits.

I move a chair from across the chamber and sit before my Queen. “Your Grace, His Majesty sent you? To what purpose?”

“The reasons for my visit Lady Anne are purely pastoral. I came to offer you to share your last confession with me and any pastoral care you most desire. I also need share my obligations as archbishop in your most dire situation. You deserve to know myne charge.”

Upon hearing me, Master Kingston glares me down. I shake him off and wave my hand dismissively. Yes, I fear his reporting to dearest Cromwell, but I will not show it. “Be careful, Thomas. Choose your words wisely,” I remind myself. God make it so.

My queen pauses before answering, carefully choosing her words for her audience like I do. “Your Grace, I trust all my pastoral needs to you gladly, as well as my almoner. I shall confess to you this day, and again to him before meeting our Lord.”

“Your devotion to God’s will is admirable, Lady Anne.” Her courage, her graciousness touches me to the core. I so want to tell her, but I dare not, maybe later when we are alone.

“Your Grace, you look pained. Do tell me your charge, good man. Be out with it. I am condemned to die. What else could there be?”

Our eyes lock once more, and I see the fear in hers plain. Her death inevitable, I see instead the terror of a mother’s love. Oh God, please forgive me what I do now.  Scripture says to abide to the supreme authority of the King, but this is cruelty I now inflict. I look down at the hay scattered across the floor to settle the fleas, ashamed. Shoring myself, I look up again avoiding her gaze. “Tomorrow… Lady Anne…, I will announce… formally that your marriage to His Majesty was not legal and never was a true marriage in the eyes of God.”

Thomas Cranmer with Anne Boleyn 2

My queen rises, pacing to and fro. Finally, she stops and looks to me, “Your Grace… Thomas… our Elizabeth… my daughter… Henry’s daughter… your Godchild… a bastard? How could you? On what basis can you find this?” I hold my hands together to compose their trembling, to compose my humors still flushing my cheeks red.  My Queen sits, and glares me down. “On what scriptural justification, Your Grace?” she asks me pointedly, her regal authority rising.

I answer simply, “His Majesty’s prior affinity with your sister, the Lady Mary Stafford.” I pause and add as if ’tis any consolation, “I will not be stating the reasons why, just the proclamation, Lady Anne.”

“Your Grace, you vowed to God you would protect Elizabeth on her Christening Day. You vowed to God!” My Queen, her tears now flow. “Your Grace, if you had a wife, a daughter of your own, you would know the pains of myne heart.”

No words come easy, so I simply nod. Her pain is my pain, my penance. My God, I so deserve it. My queen, she has no idea how her words stab at the truth of things. She doesn’t know, only dear Cromwell. So many times I wanted to tell her, confess my marriage and family to her. ‘Twas a selfish desire, as all who know risk with me, so I held my tongue. That is how one survives, truth be told.

“Yes, and I shall protect Elizabeth, Lady Anne. As archbishop, I do what I must. As her godfather, I will do what I vowed, most willingly, I promise you.” I place my hand gently on her knee and say softly, “I will do all I can for Elizabeth, always. That is my vow first to God and now to you.”

“Thank you, Thomas.” My queen’s words, so soft, said so simply, raised the weights hanging heavy on me, if just a moment, respite for my weary soul.

I look around this now haunting chamber and recall the exquisite tapestries now gone that the Cromwell so directed be hung for my queen in happier times. Then this chamber was duly decorated for the promise of a new day. O Lord, why here? Why torment this woman with glory now gone? My queen’s ladies, here to spy rather than console and serve I am sure, prepare the alter for the Eucharist I will celebrate after Queen Anne confesses her last. I shore up my humors, find my courage, as say firmly, “I shall meet with the Lady Anne alone now. Her confessions are to the Lord God, not the court spies.”

Kingston, motions the women leave, and once he shuts the chamber door, locking it tight, we are alone. My queen readies to kneel, and I hold my hand up. I speak quietly, so quietly she needs lean in to hear. “Your Majesty, tell me all. I beseech you. I knew nothing, nothing. What happened with Cromwell? What brought on this horror?”


Thomas Cranmer with Anne Boleyn 3 (500x281)


“All I speak is true, myne salvation will attest, Your Grace. The King’s Secretary and I did struggle for Henry’s ear, our advisories opposed. His Majesty, my beloved husband, wanted the advice of his wife not,” she says in a hushed whisper.

Cocking her head pensively, she continues. “Your Grace, we wanted the religious houses used for enrichment of the poor. They want the crowns for God knows what, a war with France mayhaps. You and I desired the poor attended. They suffer for want of the care the monks, friars and nuns provided. The people will rebel this, trust me on that.”

I nod. She speaks truth, but I hold my finger to my mouth to hush her. The walls, they have ears. When tongues wag, heads roll. Queen Anne, she was never cautious enough. I did advise, but her will strong, her words did flow, her defiance to His Majesty’s will plain before all. “Did you threaten to smitten dear Cromwell’s head, Majesty?” She nods.

“Is it true he and His Majesty had words in front of the Imperial Ambassador?” She nods again. “Ralph Morice told me dearest Cromwell then left court, feigning ill. While he was at Austin Friars, the Lady Worcester clucked like a chicken, turning rumor to fact. Does he speak truth?”

Tears welling, Her Majesty hands begin to tremble, so I place my hand on hers to steady them. She nods again. My queen leans to my ear once more. “Your Grace, His Majesty is courting the Lady Jane Seymour and Cromwell aims to bed her sister. You know me. I did not hold myne tongue. I spoke quite arrogantly to Sir Henry Norris, I confess, but nothing was between us. You must believe that.”

I pat her arm reassuringly and nod. “I believe you all, Majesty.” I dwell a moment, then decide I will tell her. “The musician was tormented, Majesty. Norfolk told me.” She smirks in agreement. Finally, I swallow hard and whisper my truth, my voice breaking. “I know in myne heart dearest Cromwell kept me a far to hasten your fall from grace without impediment, but now the deed done, myne obligations lay to His Majesty’s will. God’s word in scripture commands it, Majesty. Please forgive me.”

“I forgive you willingly,” she says, forcing a smile.

“We best get started, then… or they will think you have many a sin to confess indeed. We both laugh lightly, the tension finally broken. I say simply, “Do you wish to confess your sins, my Queen?”

Last Confession

Queen Anne kneels before me, holding her prayer book and a small cross and chain. We both make the sign of the cross as if one, and I say simply, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

“Bless me Your Grace for I have sinned. I last confessed to mine almoner the morning of the day my world fell asunder.”

I rise and lay both my hands upon her head gently, “Bless you, my beloved queen. Speak your truth.”

“I confess before you and God, Your Grace that myne heart and mine words leave five men dead at the scaffold.” Tears come, the poor woman. “You always so wisely advised to keep words close, let them settle deep before speaking. I spoke near treason to His Majesty’s Master of the Stool, chiding Sir Henry Norris that he desired myne hand when the King breathed his last. This be my most outward sin. Though the man said naught, his head will be smitten.”

I place myne hand on my Queen’s shoulder to shore her. “Go on… only God and I are witness.”

I watch as she talks a deep breath, holding on to the shiny cross and pray book tight. “I confess before you and God, Your Grace that myne thoughts did wander to murder. I wished death to the King’s Secretary and the Lady Mary. I confess my hatred towards them both. My sins laid in my thoughts only towards the Lady, but I do confess if I had my husband’s trust still, the Secretary would fall like his beloved Cardinal, both men in myne way to my husband’s will.”

“Oh my, I never knew, Majesty,” I admit quite stunned. “Be there anything more?”

“Yes, I confess though I did not give His Majesty always the respect as I should as his wife and loyal subject, I never offended with myne body. I came to him a virgin, and I lain only with him.”

She looks up at me, tears running down her cheeks. I feel myne welling, but I stuff them down deep. “O Lord God, I pray most humble sorrow for my sins with all my heart. I have sinned against you, whom I should love above all things.” My Queen then kisses her cross, and lays her pray book down.

I make the sign of the cross. “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son, brought forgiveness to sin of the world. As archbishop of His blessed Church of England, I grant you pardon and absolution for your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

I hold out my hand to my Queen, and she grasps a tight hold and rises. We look upon each other, and as a father holds a child, I draw her in close. I whisper, “God keep you, Anne.” Finally tears come, and with the grace of the angel this beloved woman shall become, she lifts her slightly trembling hand to wipe them dry. Touched by her tender kindness, I find no words. Instead, I let the moment pass slowly, our thoughts felt deep, one to the other. “Do you wish the Eucharist alone or would you prefer the ladies join?” I finally ask.

She steps back and says in a strong voice, “Bring them in. Let them witness my love of the Lord.”

Before I can call the goaler, my queen opens my hand and places the cross and chain upon it. She then guides it clenched tight, raises it to her lips and kisses gently. “Myne gift to you, dear friend. God keep you.”

—– fade to black —–

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