1489-1556. Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533. Born in Nottinghamshire, he was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge and became a fellow there. He was influenced by humanist and Lutheran opinions, and became strongly antipapalist. In 1529 heard Cranmer had suggested consulting the theologians at the universities on his “divorce,” and employed him for this purpose as an ambassador in Europe. While in Germany in 1532 Cranmer married Margaret, niece of the Lutheran Reformer Osiander.* On the death of Warham he was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury with papal approval. He pronounced Katherine of Aragon's marriage null and void in the same year. In the years that followed Cranmer was able to bring about a moderate doctrinal reform, mirrored in the Ten Articles* and the Bishops' Book.* He supported in securing an official English translation of the Bible, for which he wrote a preface. While not directly involved in the dissolution of the monasteries, he approved of it, but protested against the financial abuse involved.
A Catholic reaction which led to the fall of Cromwell was opposed by Cranmer with great courage. In the last years of Henry's reign and under his protection, Cranmer began the task of liturgical revision. In 1544 he produced the first of his vernacular services, the English litany. From 1547 onward under Edward VI he had a greater freedom to reform the liturgy.
In 1549 the Communion service of his first
When Mary came to the throne in 1553, Cranmer was condemned to death for treason, but the sentence was not carried out. Under the renewed heresy laws of 1555 he was tried at Oxford and was convicted and degraded. He was forced to watch the burning of Latimer* and Ridley.* After much pressure he signed a number of recantations through fear of suffering and through loyalty to the royal supremacy. On the eve of his execution his courage returned, and he went to the stake on 21 March 1556, denying his recantations and suffering for his faith.
C.H. Smyth, Cranmer and the Reformation Under Edward VI (1926); T.M. Parker, The English Reformation to 1558 (1950); J. Ridley,