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, August 9, 2014

9 August 1529 A.D. Thomas Cranmer Recruited by Henry VIII—Waltham Abbey

9 August 1529 A.D.  Thomas Cranmer Recruited by Henry VIII—Waltham Abbey

Pollard, Albert Frederick. Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation, 1489-1556.  No location: Hardpress Publishing, 2012.  It is available at: 

Based on a few notes from Prof. Pollard, something on the background and timeline is developed briefly on the recruitment of Thomas Cranmer to the service the reprobatish King Henry VIII.

In August 1529, Dr. Edward Fox and Stephen Gardiner met with Cranmer, the Cambridge don, while Henry VIII was on his progress (visitation of the nation) and while he was in Waltham.  Cranmer had left Cambridge that summer to avoid a developing plague in that city.  The divorce was discussed between the table companions.  Cranmer suggested taking the matrimonial dispute out of the hands of the lawyers.  Rather, he suggested the issue should be into the hands of the theologians of the universities. 

The big backstory:  Clement VII had double-crossed Henry VIII by a concordat reached with Charles V.

A wider sense, then like now, was that there had been a sense of “injustice to Catherine” and that Henry’s actions were “flagrant and unredeemed.”


Henry’s marriage to Catherine:  June 11, 1509.  It lasted until May 23, 1533.  That is, this “marriage” existed 23 years, 11 months, 19 days.  Let it be rounded off:  24 years. 


Divorced or annulled?  Technically, if it was an annulment, as would later be declared in 1533, that made Elizabeth 1 and Edward VI legal “bastards”—out and out.  Or, King “Bastard” Edward VI ruled England, 1547-1552.  Or, Queen “Bastard” Elizabeth 1 ruled the English from 1559-1603.


Henry had good reason for hopes for a Papal retraction of the earlier dispensation.  Dispensations had been given in other similarly situated matrimonial circumstances; it had been given in the first place; technically and canonically, Harry should never have been married in 1509, but a “dispensation” had been granted.  Given the dispensation in 1509, Henry got married.


If Clement VII granted the “denial” of the “original” dispensation, or a revocation of the first one, then the marriage would have been “null and void” from the beginning.  Never mind the 24 years and 5 stillborn infants…all immaculately conceived of course.  It also implies that Henry VIII had been fornicating with Catherine for 24 years. 


But, willy nilly, Henry had reason for hope that Clement VII would go along with a retraction of the dispensation.  Basis of Henry’s hopes:  (1) Henry’s younger sister, Mary Tudor, was twice married to two chaps.  (2)  She had been married to Louis XII of France and the Duke of Suffolk.  (3) Both of Henry’s brothers-in-law got “divorces” from their previous wives so they could, by turns, marry Mary Tudor.  Henry was of good cheer.  If the Pope worked these deals for his sister and these aristocratic brothers-in-law, surely he would get the same deal. 


This stuff is better than the HBO show, “Sex in the City.”  Or, perhaps it could be retitled, “Sex in the Cities as Permitted by the Bishop of Rome.”  


Henry’s brother-in-law #1:  Louis XII tossed his first wife into a nunnery because he wanted to marry the Duchess of Brittany.  That was before marrying Mary Tudor.  So, with all this Papal ease of dispensing “this and that and the other,” what’s the big deal?  This Henry saw this.


Henry’s brother-in-law #2: the Duke of Suffolk was similarly successful on precisely the same ground that Henry was claiming.  The Duke obtained a convenient “retraction” of a “previous dispensation” making his old marriage “null” so he could marry Mary Tudor.  Hah!?!  What’s to worry about old Catherine of Aragon thought Henry VIII (Pollard, 35)? 


Even Pope Clement thought Henry’s request re:  Catherine was “reasonable.”  He even put his willingness “in writing”—that is, to retract the initial dispensation in Henry’s favor. All looked pretty good for Mr. Henry VIII.


But, as the geo-political plot thickened, poor Henry’s hopes were dashed.


The Pope was having a hard time with Charles V, the nephew of Catherine of Aragon.  Clement V was in the “grip of the Imperialists who had pillaged his capital and kept him in ignominious confinement in the caste of S. Angelo” (Pollard, 36).


Here’s a pic of S. Anglo Castle, about 1000 feet from St. Peter’s, Rome.  The Pope was in lock-down and under house arrest.










That old Spanish Emperor, Charles V, had no compunction about “shutting” him in either. Clement hoped for French deliverance.  Henry’s issue was blowing in the wind. Ultimately, the French marched on Naples and defeated and boxed the Spanish in the south.


Meanwhile, Clement VII had authorized Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio to travel to England and “try the case.”  Their decision, on his word of promise, would be final.  There would be no appeal.   In essence, this was tantamount to a favorable verdict for Henry.


But and this is a big “BUT.”  But, the war changed everything.  The French pulled out.  Charles V regained his pre-dominance and pre-eminence.  Clement feared a repeat of his earlier situation.  Clement was set to write the instructions “granting Henry’s divorce” but his closest advisors said “this would mean the utter ruin of the Church as it is entirely within the power of the Emperor’s servants.” 


Clement awaited the outcome of the Spanish-French conflict in the Italian theatre of operations.  A decisive battle for Charles V was had on 21 June 1529.


Clement saw the handwriting on the wall and got religion.”  He stated that he would become “an Imperialist” and “would live and die as such” (Pollard, 37).  Too bad King Henry VIII.


Clement VII reversed himself.  A quid pro quo was available.


Clement VII gave assurances to Charles V regarding his aunt, Catherine of Aragon. 


Watch the timeline.


21 Jun1529 above.


By early July 1529, a concordat was drawn up between Clement VII and Charles V and ratified. 


Here was the quid pro quo:  Clement VII’s nephew and the bastard daughter of Charles V would marry, assume residency and take command of Florence.  A good deal for both.  “All towns wrested from the Papal estates were to be restored” to Clement VII” (Pollard, 38).  It was a land grab, taxes, and more for the Pope.


But, Charles V required that Clement VII “quash the proceedings against Catherine of Aragon.”  Hahaha!  Old Henry was thrown under the bus by the Spanish Emperor and the Pope.  But, he was none the wiser and was ignorant of the backroom deal.


Again, watch the timeline.


By 23 July 1529, the Cardinals—Wolsey and Campeggio—arrived in England.  Henry was expecting a favorable verdict.  Cheers, old boy! But, the Cardinals had the backstory.  The crowd shows up for the hearings that were allegedly predetermined in Henry’s favor. 


Instead of the proceedings, Cardinal Campeggio declared a dismissal to everyone’s surprise.


Old Harry held his temper.  What, pray tell, was this all about?  However, Suffolk pounded the table with his fist and shouted, “By the Mass, now I see that the old saw is true, that there never was a legate or cardinal that did good in England.”  Fury and furor became thematic for Henry’s supporters.


By the way, old Cranmer was not an insider to all this. He’s a scholarly don at Cambridge while these shenanigans were underway.


Cranmer will get recruited to Henry’s cause in a happenstance meal at Waltham on 9 Aug 1529—a “it just sorta” happened happenstance, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.


Old Henry begin his “progress,” or,  his “tour”  of “merry old England.”  He spends time in and around Waltham Abbey and city. 


Henry’s fellow-travellers, Dr. Edward Fox and Stephen Gardiner, are in Waltham.  These two go back to Cambridge days.  Fox was from King’s College and Gardiner was the Master of Trinity Hall.  They were old friends with Mr. Cranmer.  Cranmer had been at Jesus College, Cambridge since 1503.  By, 1529, Cranmer had been at Cambridge for 26 years.  The three Cambridge men have dinner together in Waltham.


Henry’s situation was discussed at the “fateful meeting.”  What did Cranmer know?  He was just attempting to stay away from congested areas, e.g. London, where an illness had taken ground.


The upshot of Cranmer’s input.  “Look, I’m not a canon lawyer.”  As a graduate of Jesus College, Cambridge, only theology was allowed as a subject and canon law was forbidden—they were prejudiced against canon law for some reason; that was written into the statutes at the founding of Jesus College in 1497ish.  Cranmer had been at Jesus College since 1503.  This was 1529.  Cranmer was 40 years old at this point.


Cranmer had “little patience with the law’s delays” (Pollard, 40).  He recommended that the issue be remanded to the theologians on the Continent and taken entirely out of the hands of the ecclesiastical canon lawyers.  Also, notably, this was a “back hand” to the Cardinals and the Papal decree. As an aside, Cranmer had been studying Bishop John Fisher’s diatribes against Luther and had been studying the Bible directly and diligently.


Notably, Conciliarism (authority of Councils) versus Papal infallibility roiled in the background.  But, that is another important subject for another time.  Independence, if not anarchy, was in the air.


Fox and Gardiner informed Henry of the discussion.  Henry ordered Cranmer to Greenwich.


The plot thickened.  Henry had been “hosed over” in a backroom deal between Clement VII and Charles V.  Theology and morals to the side.  This was a land deal, towns, taxes, governance, nepotism, and a wedding.  Henry was thrown under the bus.


Soon enough, Henry will turn the Church of England from Papal Romanism (Anglicanism 1.0 in the 16th century) to Non-Papal Romanism (Anglicanism 2.0, orthodox Roman doctrine, but without the Pope, like Ritualist-Tractabates of today ).


9 August 1529—Cranmer’s dinner table conversation gets him snared into the Henrician matrimonial Olympics.

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