Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some Biographers of Mr. (Canterbury) Thomas Cranmer

Mr. Cranmer, c. 1545 or 1546
Ridley, Jaspar. Thomas Cranmer. Oxford: Clarendon Pres, 1962.

Recon of the lay of the land and "some" biographers of Mr. Cranmer.

Two perspectives have dominated Cranmer studies for the last four centuries. He has been bitterly attacked or ardently defended “as if the righteousness of the English Reformation and the justification of the Church of England depended on the moral probity of the man who was its first archbishop.”

Whether it was Foxe v. Sanders, Burnet v. Bousett, Todd v. Linard, or Pollock v. Belloc, these general orientations have prevailed. Mr. MacCulloch thinks that those telling the hero-narrative have, on the whole, been more fair.

Preliminary instances of obloquy or praise: (1) Cranmer’s note about his early education, was he an excuse-maker as a mediocre student with a tendency to blame others? (2) Was his undistinguished Cambridge career more about his general academic mediocrity or was it a commendable dissatisfaction with Cambridge’s Romanist curricula? (3) Was his “exception” clause upon consecration to Canterbury “outright perjury” or “moral rectitute and wise caution?” (4) During the arrest of Ms. (Anne Boleyn) Tudor, was Mr. Cranmer a “courageous intercessor” or “cowardly betrayer?” (5) Were there doctrinal changes as an “opportunist” or was he “broad-minded?” (6) From a Romanist perspective, were his two marriages indicative of “moral lechery” and a man “without impulse control?” (6) When the Six Articles were issued, was he an “opportunist,” a “compliant Henrician” and/or a “scheming Reformer awaiting the next shot?” (6) What about his involvement with Mr. Lambert's martyrdom? (7) What about his recantation of Reformed doctrines with their subsequent reassertion while on trial at Oxford? These are some of the questions under review.  There will be more.

One special subset of debates occurs within the Anglican tribe, to wit, Cranmer’s view of the presence of Christ at the Communion Table. Altar or Table?   The Transubstantion-Consubstantiation-Conjunction or something from the Bucer-Bullinger-Calvin axis or worse, Zwingli? We’ll defer on that debate for now.

Romanist biographers and detractors:

Cope, Alan. "Bishop Cranmer’s Recantacyons." Cope is the suggested author. There may be a manuscript in Reginold Pole’s papers; Cope may have been working on a commission from Pole. Nicholas Harpsfield attributes the work to Mr. Cope. Cope’s intention, published within months of Cranmer’s death, was to blacken his name.

Harpsfield, Nicholas. "The Pretended Divorce of Catherine of Aragon." No location: Hardpress Publishing, 2013. It should be noted that Mr. Harpsfield was also a Marian and Papal apologist, who wrote several volumes. He supervised 100s of criminal trials against Reformed Churchmen. Foxes says he was “pitiless.” He also replaced Mr. Cranmer’s brother as the Archdeacon of Canterbury. He also wrote "The Six Dialogues." Mr. Harpsfield did brig time under Ms. (Queen) Elizabeth 1. "The Pretended Divorce" is available at: It is also available online at:

Sander, Nicholas. "The Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism." Charlotte, NC: Tan Book and Publishers, 2009. Originally, this was published in 1576. It is available in hardcopy at: It is available online at:

Mr. Sander’s point, 180-182, is as follows:

"Cranmer himself had been a Henrician, that is a follower of Henry VIII, from whose instructions he never dared to depart even a hair’s breadth in anything…But when the King died, Cranmer ceased to be a Henrician and became wholly a Lutheran, knowing at the same time that Henry had been a most earnest opponent of Luther…But a few month had hardly gone by when the miserable man found out that the Protector of the King, the Duke of Somerset, was a Calvinist, not a Lutheran. What was he to do? He recasts the catechism, changes his language, and he who was a Henrician, then a Lutheran, becomes a Calvinist.”

Allen, William. "Defence of English Catholics." No location: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. The original was published in 1584 and the author took the title of “Cardinal,” another name in the ecclesiologically complicated system akin to an obese cow’s digestive tract. Mr. Allen’s work is available at: It may be read online at:

In 1585, allegedly, there was a Briegerus who, from the Neapolitan hellhole (Naples, IT...and Naples is that), published "The Flowers of Calvinism, as shown in the lives of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, John Knox, and other protectors and apostles of the Zwinglian sect." We were unable to locate it. Of note, Cranmer is put into the "Calvinistic" and "Zwinglian" camp.

Parsons, Robert. "Treatise of Three Conversions of England from Paganisme to Christian Religion, Vols. 1-3." No location:, 2012. It was originally published in 1603. Mr. Parsons was a Jesuit akin to varied Tractarian tribes in our time, e.g. Society of Sacred Cross, Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.   One thinks of Misters Duncan, Ackerman, Iker, Sutton and a host of others in the new U.S. startup called the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). The three volumes can be purchased at: . Volume 2 may be accessed online at:

Mr. Parson’s will follow the Sander-Roman-line attack of Cranmer’s mutability, Vol. 11, 373: “…it was his nature, then and ever after, to run after the times.”  Compliance and pliability were his characteristics. 

Other arguments were: (1) Mr. Cranmer famously and repeatedly insinuated, as the Chaplain to Ann Boleyn, that Mr. (king Henry) Tudor was never lawfully married to Catherine of Aragon, (2) Mr. Cranmer had perjuried himself in his consecration oath, (3) Mr. Cranmer was a “moral lecher” being married twice and supporting clerical marriages, (4) Mr. Cranmer was guilty of high treason to the lawful Queen by his support of Lady Jane Grey, and (5) Mr. Cranmer was guilty of doctrinal permutations or mutations as indexed to royal impulses as an opportunist, time-server and proto-Vicar of Bray (the last being our term).

Protestant biographers and defenders:

Bale, John. "Centuries." We were unable to locate this work, "The Centuries," allegedly written in 1548. It contains the lives of 500 eminent Britons. Mr. (bp.) Bale includes Mr. Cranmer. Eight years after this volume was written, Mr. (bp.) Stephen Gardiner, Cranmer’s theological opponent, would receive a “state funeral” and would be buried in a “splendid tomb” in Winchester Cathedral. Mr. Cranmer, to the flames in 1556, would have his ashes tossed into a ditch outside the walls of Oxford.

However, we have located Mr. Bale’s "The Image of Two Churches edited by Ms. Gretchen E. Minton. No location: Springer Publishing, 2013. This hardcopy is available online at: . Mr. Bale’s work is also in the Parker Edition and it contains the "The Image of Two Churches." This work is entitled: Select Works of John Bale, D.D., Bishop of Ossory (Parker Society). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1849. It is available online at:

The Parker edition has a lovely biography on Mr. Bale. Mr. Bale was a fellow student at Jesus College with Mr. Cranmer. A bit of a raconteur.  He says this of Mr. Cranmer’s tutelage and time in leadership at Jesus College, Cambridge:

"In the midst of Babylon, he always acted as the upright leader of the people of Israel, and among the Papist tyrants he guided, with unheard of wisdom, the people of God to the truth of Christ, lest they should become the prey of the foxes."

Two other biographers appear between 1556-1559: Becon, Thomas or a certain Mr. Scory.   In the "Narratives of the Reformation," it is either Becon or Scory who is the author the first of two anonymous biographies. No one has ventured a guess on the second biography. Some, like Foxe, thought Ralph Morice, Cranmer’s personal secretary, was the author of the second biography. More to follow on this "guess" regarding the second anonymous biography. 

Both of these early biographies are found in the following volume. See Nichols, John Gough, ed. "Narratives of the Days of the Reformation: Chiefly From the Manuscripts of John Foxe The Martyriologist; With Two Contemporary Biographies of Archbishop Cranmer." Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2006. Available at:

Another anonymous biographer appears by a Hungarian in that language. "Thomas Cranmer the Martyr." We could not locate this.

In earlier communications, we have noted that Elizabeth 1 directed Cecil and Mr. (abc) Parker to gather up all correspondence and writings of Mr. Cranmer. She said, “Forasmuch as such a rare and precious treasure we think it not to be kept in secret oblivion, as a candle under a bush.”

See the Parker Society series: "The Correspondence of Matthew Parker, D.D., Archbishop of Canterbury." It is available online at:

Any discerning Churchman of the cloth must assay the 54 volumes of the Parker Society.

Parker, Matthew. "De Antiquitate Brittanica." Mr. Ralph Morice spoke with Mr. Parker noting that he knew of many private and person situations with Mr. Cranmer. Mr. Morice also spoke with Mr. Foxe about Cranmer and availed him of varied stories. We were unable to locate the "De Antiquitate" although Mr. Parker refers to his efforts in his letters. One interesting discovery by Mr. Parker is an ancient Saxon manuscript of the Bible that was “well worn” from use. Mr. Parker observes that the Bible was in the Saxon tongue and in use before the Vulgate’s dominion. Mr. John Strype alludes to "De Antiquitate" as well. He includes a favorable review of Mr. Cranmer.

Godwin, Francis. "De Praesulibus Angliae." London: Nortiana, 1616.  It is available by a search at

 Fuller, Thomas. "Church History of Britain: From the Birth of Jesus Christ Until 1648." No location: Ulan Press, 2012. In this volume, Mr. Fuller defends Cranmer from Mr. Prynne’s charges. Fuller is available online at: Various versions are available online at:

Prynne, William. "The antipathie of the English lordly Prelacie, both to regall monarchy and civill unity; or, an historicall collection of the severall execrable ... brittish, french, scottish and irish Lordly." This is a reprint of the 1641 version. No location:, 2012. Mr. Prynne uses the stock Roman charges: perjury at the consecration, complicity in the Lambert death, treason to the and Queen by support of Lady Jane Grey.   Further, even from the title itself, the work sounds nearwise rash and disturbed. Available at:

A side digression to Mr. Lambert in relation to Mr. Cranmer. Mr. Lambert was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, the home to Mr. Erasmus. He was made a fellow upon the nomination of Catherine of Aragon. After theological disputes he changed his name, went to Antwerp, and served as priest to an English factory. He became friends with John Frith and William Tyndale, proto-Reformers. There are reported, but as of yet, unverified, contacts with the White Horse Inn. Upon return in 1531, Lambert came under Mr. (archbishop) William Warham’s scrutiny, but he died in 1532. Lambert then earned his living teaching Greek and Latin near the Stock markets. In 1536 he was accused of heresy by the Duke of Norfolk. He escaped until 1538. Then he was caught and and put on trial for denying the real presence of Christ, or, transubstantiation, in the bread and wine of the Mass. Mr. Thomas Cranmer condemned these views although he later adopted them himself. 1556 will be Mr. Cranmer’s turn at the stake.

Heylin, Peter. "Ecclesia Restaurata V1:  Or The History Of The Reformation Of The Church Of England (1849)." Whitefish, Montana: Kellinger Publishing, 2009. This is a reprint of Mr. Heylin’s 1661 work.   Mr. Heylin was a Chaplain to Mr. (king) Charles 1.

More to follow in the preliminary recon and lay of the land of leading biographers.

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