- Cranmer, Thomas
- (1489-1556)martyred author of the Book of Common PrayerChief author of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer was remembered even more for his martyrdom during the reign of Mary I, which helped win her the name "Bloody Mary."Cranmer was born at Aslockton, Nottinghamshire, in 1489. He attended Jesus College at Cambridge University. Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1523, he remained in Cambridge as a campus preacher. Recruited as a diplomat in 1527, he worked on the issue of annulling the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon, who had not produced a male heir.Cranmer's theological colleagues sided with Henry, and Cranmer began to rise. Four years later, he was named archbishop of Canterbury and thus head of the Church of England. Among his first acts was a declaration annulling the marriage to Catherine and legitimizing Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn.By this time, Cranmer had absorbed a variety of Protestant ideas and had begun instituting reforms, suppressing masses for the dead, prayers to the saints, and pilgrimages. He worked with Miles Coverdale on a revised translation of the Bible.Cranmer was able to survive Henry's vacillating demands, but he reached the pinnacle of power only after Henry's death in 1547, when he was named one of the regents who would govern England in the name of the new child king, Edward VI. He was the chief voice in dictating changes that were instituted throughout the British church.Cranmer produced two editions of the Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552) containing the order of worship that would replace the Roman Catholic Mass. The prayer book, though subsequently revised, remains an essential item defining the Anglican tradition. He authored the new doctrinal statement, the Forty-two Articles, which under Elizabeth was edited to become the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion still found in Anglican prayer books.Following the coronation of Mary as queen of England, Cranmer was arrested, partially for his acquiescence in the unsuccessful attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He was condemned for treason (1553) and then of heresy (1554). In an attempt to avoid execution, he signed several statements recanting his Protestant views, but these did not save him from the stake. He made a last public recantation of his statements before being burned on March 21, 1556.Further reading:■ P. Ayris and D. Selwyn, eds. Thomas Cranmer, Churchman and Scholar. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, U.K.: The Boydell Press, 1999)■ Peter Brooks, Thomas Cranmer's Doctrine of the Eucharist, 2nd ed. (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, U.K.: Palgrave Press, 1992)■ Thomas Cranmer, Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1556, ed. by John Edmund Cox. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846)■ ----, Works, 2 vols., ed. by John Edmund Cox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844)■ Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.