Foxe's Book of Martyrs
The Life, State, and Martyrdom of the Reverend Pastor and Prelate, Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.
As concerning the life and estate of Thomas Cranmer, late archbishop of Canterbury, it is first to be noted and considered that the same Thomas Cranmer, coming of an ancient parentage, from the conquest to be deducted, was born in a village called Aslacton, in Nottinghamshire. Being from his infancy kept at school, and brought up not without much good civility, he came in process of time unto the university of Cambridge; and there prospering in right good knowledge amongst the better sort of students, was chosen fellow of Jesus college in Cambridge. It was at that time, when all good authors and fine writers being neglected, filthy barbarousness was embraced in all schools and universities. The names and numbers of liberal arts did only remain, the arts themselves were clean lost; and divinity was fallen into the state, that being laden with articles and distinctions, it served rather for the gain of a few than for the edification of many. At length the tongues and other good learning began, by little and little, to spring up again, and the books of Faber and Erasmus began to be much occupied and had in good estimation, with a number of good authors besides: in whom the said Cranmer took no small pleasure. At length, when Martin Luther was risen up, the more bright and happy days of God's knowledge did waken men's minds to truth; at which time, he being about thirty years old, gave his whole mind to discuss matters of religion.
So Cranmer, being master of arts, and fellow of Jesus college, it chanced that he married a gentleman's daughter, by which he lost his fellowship, and became a reader in Buckingham college. In order that he might with the more diligence apply himself to his office of reading, he placed his wife at an inn, in Cambridge, the mistress of which was a relation of hers. On account of his frequent visits he was much noticed by some popish merchants: on this arose the slanderous noise and report against him, after he was preferred to the archbishopric of Canterbury. He continued reader in Buckingham college till his wife died in child birth. After this the masters and fellows of Jesus college, desirous of their old companion, for his eminent learning, chose him again fellow of the same college. Remaining at his study, he became in a few years reader of the divinity lecture, and in such estimation was he held by the whole university, that when doctor of divinity, he was commonly appointed to examine such as yearly proceed in commencement, either bachelors or doctors, and by whose approbation the whole university licensed them to proceed unto their degree, or by whose non-approbation the university retained them until they were better furnished with knowledge and qualified for advancement.
Dr. Cranmer, ever favouring the knowledge of the scripture, would not permit any to proceed in divinity, unless they were substantially versed in the history of the Bible: by which certain friars and other religious persons, who were principally brought up in the study of school-authors, without regard to the authority of the scriptures, were commonly rejected by him, so that he was greatly hated; yet it came to pass in the end, that many of them, thus compelled to study the scriptures, became afterwards very learned; insomuch, that when they became doctors of divinity, they could not too much extol Cranmer's goodness towards them, who for a time had put them back, to initiate them in better knowledge. His merit soon spreading abroad, he was much solicited by Dr. Capon, to be one of the fellows in the foundation of Cardinal Wolsey's college in Oxford, which he refused, not without danger of offending. While he continued in Cambridge, the important cause of Henry's divorce with the lady Katherine came into question; which being many ways, for the space of two or three years amongst the canonists, civilians, and other learned men, diversely disputed and debated, it came to pass that Dr. Cranmer, on account of the plague being in Cambridge, resorted to Waltham-Abbey, to the house of Mr. Cressey, whose wife was his relation, and whose two sons he brought with him from Cambridge, they being his pupils.
During this summer, cardinals Campeius and Wolsey, being in commission from the pope, to hear and determine the great cause in controversy between the king and queen, delayed until the month of August in hearing the cause debated. When August was come, the cardinals little caring to proceed to give sentence, took occasion to finish their commission, and to determine no further therein, pretending that it was not permitted by the laws to keep courts of ecclesiastical matters in harvest time. This sudden interruption so much enraged the king, that taking it as a mock at the cardinals' hands, he commanded the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk to dispatch immediately to Rome cardinal Campeius: and in haste removed himself to Waltham for a night or two, while his household removed to Greenwich: by which means it happened that the harbingers, Dr. Stephen Gardiner, secretary, and Dr. Foxe, almoner, came to lodge in the house of Mr. Cressey, where Dr. Cranmer resided. When supper-time came, the three doctors met together; Gardiner and Foxe were very much surprised at Cranmer being there. He declared the cause, namely, because the plague was in Cambridge: and as they were old acquaintance, the secretary and the almoner very well entertained Dr. Cranmer, intending to learn his opinion concerning the great business they had in hand. And as this occasion served, while they were at supper, they conferred with Dr. Cranmer concerning the king's cause, requesting him to give his opinion of it.
Cranmer answered, That he could say little to the matter, as he had not studied not looked for it. Notwithstanding, in his opinion they made more ado in prosecuting the ecclesiastical law than needed. It were better, he thought, that the question--Whether a man may marry his brother's wife, or no? were discussed by the divines, and by the authority of the word of God, whereby the conscience of the prince might be better satisfied and quieted, than thus from year to year, by unnecessary delays, to prolong the time, leaving the very truth of the matter unsettled. There was but one truth in it, which the scripture will soon make manifest, being by learned men well handled, and that may be as well done in England in the universities here, as at Rome, or elsewhere in any foreign nation, the authority whereof will soon compel any judge to come to definitive sentence: and therefore as he took it, they might that way have made an end of the matter long since. When Dr. Cranmer had thus ended his tale, the other two liked well his device and wished they had proceeded so before, and thereupon conceived some matter of council to instruct the king with, who was then thinking to send to Rome again for a new commission.
Now the next day, when the king removed to Greenwich, recollecting in himself, how he had been used by the cardinals, in thus deferring his cause, his mind was very uneasy, and desirous to see an end of this long and tedious suit, he called unto him the two principal managers of his cause, Gardiner and Foxe, who related their conference with Dr. Cranmer, and told the king the plan he had suggested for a more speedy termination of the affair. The king accordingly sent for Dr. Cranmer, approved and adopted his scheme, received him into favour, and advanced him, on the death of archbishop Warham, to the see of Canterbury, anno 1530.
Although the said Cranmer was now exalted to so great dignity and honour, still was he compassed about by mighty enemies, and by many crafty trains impugned; yet, through God's mighty providence working in the king's heart to favour him, he rubbed out all king Henry's time; and under the government and protection of his son king Edward (to whom Cranmer was godfather) his state was rather more advanced. Afterward, this king Edward falling sick, and perceiving that his death was at hand, and knowing that his sister Mary was wholly wedded unto popish religion, bequeathed the succession of the realm to the lady Jane Grey, by consent of all his council and lawyers. When all the nobles of the realm, states and judges, had subscribed to this testament, they sent for the archbishop, and required that he also would subscribe. Cranmer refused at the first; but after that he had spake with the king, and when they all agreed that by law of the realm it might be so, with much ado he subscribed. Well, not long after this king Edward died, A.D. 1553, being almost sixteen years of age, to the great sorrow but greater calamity of the whole realm.
At the oppression of the good lord Cromwell, in king Henry's time, it was fully determined that Cranmer also should be committed to prison; but he privily obtaining speech of the king, there upon his knees declared his innocence in the matter of which he was accused; and the king delivered him his signet, saying, "Go thy ways! if thou deceive me, I will never trust thy bald pate again while I live." And thus he escaped that present danger. Here also may be noted the saying which is constantly affirmed of divers persons, that the said archbishop, with the lord Wriothesley, saved the life of queen Mary, the king being determined to have off her head for certain causes of stubbornness; whereupon the king afterward said that Cranmer made intercession for her, which would his destruction, and would trouble them all.
After king Edward's decease immediately it was commanded that the lady Jane should be proclaimed queen; but Mary, hearing of the death of her brother, was established in the possession of the realm by the assistance of the commons as ye heard before. This queen Mary, coming to London, caused the duke of Northumberland and the duke of Suffolk to be executed, and likewise the lady Jane, together with her husband. The rest of the nobles, paying fines, were forgiven, the archbishop of Canterbury only excepted; for as yet the old grudge against Cranmer, for the divorcement of her mother, remained hid in the bottom of her heart; and besides she remembered the state of religion changed, the cause whereof was imputed to him.
Not long after Cranmer was condemned of treason, and committed to the Tower; and when the queen could not honestly deny him his pardon, seeing all the rest were discharged, she released to him his action of treason, and accused him only of heresy. Thus stood the cause of Cranmer, till at length it was determined by the queen and the council that he should be removed from the Tower to Oxford, there to dispute with the doctors and divines, to whom word was sent privily to prepare themselves. After these said disputations were finished in Oxford, between the doctors of both universities, and the three worthy bishops, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, ye heard then how sentence condemnatory was ministered against them by Dr. Weston and others of the university; whereby they were judged to be heretics, and so committed to the mayor and sheriffs of Oxford. But forasmuch as the sentence given against them was void in law, (for, at that time, the authority of the pope was not yet received into the land,) therefore was a new commission sent from Rome, and a new process framed for the conviction of these reverend and learned men aforesaid.
At the coming down of the said commissioners, which was upon Thursday the 12th of September, 1555, there was erected a solemn scaffold in the east end of the church of St. Mary, over against the high altar, with cloth of state very richly and sumptuously adorned, for bishop Brooks was pope's legate, apparelled in pontificalibus, representing the pope's person. On the right hand beneath him sat Dr. Martin, and on the left hand Dr. Storey, the king and queen's commissioners, which were both doctors of the civil law; and underneath them other doctors, scribes, and pharisees also, with the pope's collector, and a rabblement of such other like.
And thus these bishops being placed in their pontificalibus, the bishop of Canterbury was sent for to come before them. He came forth of the prison to the church of St. Mary, set round with bills and glaves for fear he should start away, being clothed in a fair black gown, with his hood on both shoulders, such as doctors of divinity in the university use to wear, and in his hand a white staff. After he was come into the church, and did see them sit in their pontificalibus, he did not put off his cap to any of them, but stood still till that he was called. And anon one of the proctors for the pope, or else his doctor, called, "Thomas archbishop of Canterbury! appear here, and make answer to that shall be laid to thy charge; that is to say, for blasphemy, incontinency, and heresy; and make answer here to the bishop of Gloucester, representing the pope's person!"
Upon this, Cranmer being brought more near unto the scaffold, where the foresaid bishop sat, he first well viewed the place of judgment, and spying where the king and queen's majesties' proctors were, putting off his cap, he (first humbly bowing his knee to the ground) made reverence to the one, and after to the other. That done, beholding the bishop in the face, he put on his bonnet again; making no manner of token of obedience towards him at all: whereat the bishop, being offended, said that it might beseem him right well, weighing the authority he did represent, to do his duty unto him. Whereunto Dr. Cranmer answered, that he had once taken a solemn oath, never to consent to the admitting of the bishop of Rome's authority into this realm of England again; that he had done it advisedly, and meant by God's grace to keep it; and therefore would commit nothing either by sign or token which might argue his consent to the receiving of the same; and so he desired the said bishop to judge of him. He did it, he said, not for any contempt to his person, which he could have been content to have honoured as well as any of the others, if his commission had come from as good an authority as theirs. When, after many means used, they perceived that the archbishop would not move his bonnet, the bishop of Gloucester proceeded with studied eloquence and painted art in his oration; and after he had finished, Dr. Martin took the matter in hand. After that Dr. Martin had ended his oration, the archbishop said, "My lord, I do not acknowledge this session of yours, nor yet you, my mislawful judge; neither would I have appeared this day before you, but that I was brought hither as a prisoner. And therefore I openly here renounce you as my judge, protesting that my meaning is not to make any answer, as in a lawful judgment, (for then would I be silent,) but only for that I am bound in conscience to answer every man of that hope which I have in Jesus Christ, by the counsel of St. Peter; and lest by my silence many of those who are weak, here present, might be offended. And so I desire that my answers may be accepted as extra judicialia." When he had ended his protestation he said, "Shall I then make answer?" To whom Dr. Martin answered, "As you think good; no man shall let you." And here the archbishop, kneeling down on both knees towards the west, said first the Lord's Prayer; then rising up, he reciteth the articles of the creed; which done he entereth on his profession of faith.
Toward the close of the session, Dr. Martin demanded of Dr. Cranmer, who was supreme head of the church of England? "Marry," quoth my lord of Canterbury, "Christ is head of this member, as he is of the whole body of the universal church." "Why," quoth Dr. Martin, "you made king Henry the eighth supreme head of the church." "Yea," said the archbishop, "of all the people of England, as well ecclesiastical as temporal." "And not of the church?" said Martin. "No," said he; "for Christ only is the head of his church, and of the faith and religion of the same. The king is head and governor of his people, which are the visible church." "What," quoth Martin, "you never durst tell the king so." "Yes, that I durst," quoth he; "and in the publication of his style, wherein he was named supreme head of the church, there was never other thing meant." A number of other fond and foolish objections were made, with repetition whereof I thought not to trouble the reader.
After that they had received his answers to all their objections, they cited him to appear at Rome within fourscore days, to make there his personal answers; which he said, if the king and queen would send him, he would be content to do. And so thence he was carried to prison again, where he continually remained, notwithstanding that he was commanded to appear at Rome. Furthermore, though the said archbishop was detained in strait prison, so that he could not appear, (as was notorious both in England and also in the Romish court,) yet in the end of the said fourscore days was that worthy martyr decreed "contumax," that is, sturdily, frowardly, and wilfully absent, and in pain of the same his absence condemned and put to death.
And as touching the said executory letters of the pope sent to the king and queen, by virtue of that commission, the bishop of Ely, and Bonner bishop of London, were assigned by the king and queen to proceed in the execution thereof upon the 14th day of February. These two coming to Oxford upon St. Valentine's day, as the pope's delegates with a new commission from Rome, by the virtue thereof commanded the archbishop aforesaid to come before them, in the choir of Christ's church, before the high altar; where they sitting (according to their manner) in their pontificalibus, first began to read their commission, the which came from the pope, "plenitudine potestatis;" supplying all manner of defects in law or process committed in dealing with the archbishop, and giving them full authority to proceed to deprivation and degradation of him, and so upon excommunication to deliver him up to the secular power, "omni appellatione remota." When the commission was read they proceeded thereupon to his degradation; and when they would have taken his crosier-staff out of his hand, he held it fast, and refused to deliver the same; and withal, imitating the example of Martin Luther, pulled an appeal out of his left sleeve, which he there and then delivered unto them, saying, "I appeal to the next general council; and herein I have comprehended my cause and form of it, which I desire to be admitted;" and prayed divers of the standers by, by name to be witnesses, and especially master Curtop.
This appeal being put up to Thirleby the bishop of Ely, he said, "My lord, our commission is to proceed against you, 'omni appellatione remota,' and therefore we cannot admit it. But," he added, "if it may be admitted, it shall," and so received it of him. Then began he to persuade earnestly with the archbishop to consider his state, promising to become a suitor to the king and queen for him. Afterward, they proceeded with his degradations; and whilst they were thus doing Cranmer said, "All this needed not; I had myself done with this gear long ago." Last of all they stripped him out of his gown into his jacket, and put upon him a poor yeoman-beadle's gown, full bare and nearly worn, a townsman's cap on his head, and so delivered him to the secular power.
While the archbishop was thus remaining in durance, (whom they had kept now in prison almost three years,) the doctors and divines of Oxford busied themselves all that ever they could, to have him recant, essaying by all crafty practices and allurements they might devise how to bring their purpose to pass, specially Henry Sydal and John de Villa Garcia. First, they set forth how acceptable it would be both to the king and queen, and especially how gainful to him, and for his soul's health. They added how the council and noble men bare him good will; and put him in hope that he should not only have his life, but also be restored to his ancient dignity, saying, it was but a small matter and so easy that they required him to do, only that he would subscribe to a few words with his own hands; which, if he did, there should be nothing in the whole realm that the queen would not easily grant him, whether he would have riches or dignity; or else if he had rather live a private life in quiet rest, in whatsoever place he listed, without all public ministry, only that he would set his name in two words to a little leaf of paper. But if he refused there was no hope of health and pardon, for the queen was so purposed that she would have Cranmer a catholic, or else no Cranmer at all. Moreover, they exhorted him that he would look to his wealth, his estimation and quietness, saying that he was not so old but that many years yet remained in this his so lusty age; and if he would not do it in respect of the queen, yet he should do it for respect of his life, and not suffer that other men should be more careful for his health than he was himself. Finally, if the desire of life did nothing move him, yet he should remember that to die is grievous in all ages, and especially in these his years and flower of dignity it were more grievous; but to die in the fire and such torments is most grievous of all.
With these and like provocations, these fair flatterers ceased not to solicit and urge to their side; whose force his manly constancy did a great while resist. But at last, when they made no end of calling and crying upon him, the archbishop being overcome, whether their importunity, or by his own imbecility, or of what mind I cannot tell, at length gave his hand, though it was against his conscience. But so it pleaseth God, that so great virtues in this archbishop should not be had in too much admiration of us without some blemish, or else that the falsehood of the popish generation by this means might be made more evident, of else to minish the confidence of our own strength, that in him should appear an example of man's weak imbecility.
This recantation was soon caused by the doctors and prelates to be imprinted, and set abroad in all men's hands. All this while Cranmer was in uncertain assurance of his life, although the same was faithfully promised to him by the doctors; but after that they had their purpose, the rest they committed to all adventure, as became men of that religion to do. The queen received his recantation very gladly, but of her purpose to put him to death she would nothing relent. And now was Cranmer's cause in a miserable taking, who neither inwardly had any quietness in his own conscience, nor yet outwardly any help in his adversaries.
In the meantime, while these things were adoing in the prison among the doctors, the queen taking secret counsel how to dispatch Cranmer out of the way, appointed Dr. Cole, and secretly gave him in commandment, that against the 21st of March he should prepare a funeral sermon for Cranmer's burning. Soon after, the lord Williams of Thame, and the lord Chandos, sir Thomas Bridges, and sir John Brown were sent for, with other worshipful men and justices, and commanded in the queen's name to be at Oxford at the same day, with their servants and retinue, lest Cranmer's death should raise there any tumult.
Cole the doctor, having this lesson given him before, and charged by her commandment, returned to Oxford ready to play his part; who, two days before the execution, came into the prison to Cranmer, to try whether he abode in the catholic faith wherein before he had left him. To whom, when Cranmer had answered, that by God's grace he would daily be more confirmed in the catholic faith; Cole, departing for that time, the next day repaired to the archbishop again, giving no signification as yet of his death that was prepared. In the morning appointed for his execution, the said Cole, coming to him, asked him if he had any money; to whom when Cranmer answered that he had none, he delivered him fifteen crowns to give to the poor to whom he would; and so exhorting him so much as he could to constancy in faith, departed thence about his business.
By this partly, and other like arguments, Cranmer began more and more to surmise what they went about. Then there came to him the Spanish friar, John de Villa Garcia, witness of his recantation, bringing a paper with articles which Cranmer should openly profess in his recantation before the people. But the archbishop, thinking that the time was at hand in which he could no longer dissemble the profession of his faith with Christ's people, put secretly into his bosom his prayer with his exhortation, which he minded to recite to the people, before he should make the last profession of his faith, fearing lest, if they had heard the confession of his faith first, they would not afterward have suffered him to exhort the people.
Soon after, about nine of the o'clock, the lord Williams, sir Thomas Bridges, sir John Brown, and the other justices, with certain other noblemen that were sent of the queen's council, came to Oxford with a great train of waiting men. Also of the multitude on every side (as is wont in such a matter) was made a great concourse, and greater expectation. Cranmer at length cometh from the prison of Bocardo into St. Mary's church, (the chief church in the university,) with the mayor and aldermen, walking between two friars. There was a stage set over against the pulpit, where Cranmer had his standing, waiting until Cole made him ready to his sermon. He that was late archbishop, metropolitan, and primate of all England, and the king's privy councillor, being now in bare and ragged gown, and ill-favouredly clothed, with an old square cap, exposed to the contempt of all men, did admonish men not only of his own calamity, but also of their state and fortune. In this habit, when he had stood a good space upon the stage, turning to a pillar near adjoining thereunto, he lifted up his hands to heaven, and prayed unto God once or twice, till at the length Dr. Cole coming into the pulpit began his sermon. Proceeding a little from the beginning, he took occasion by and by to turn his tale to Cranmer, and with many hot words reproved him, that once he, being indued with the favour and feeling of wholesome and catholic doctrines, fell into the contrary opinion of pernicious error.
All this meantime, with the greatest grief, Cranmer stood hearing his sermon: one while lifting up his hands and eyes unto heaven, and then again for shame letting them down to the earth, while the tears gushed from his eyes. Great commiseration and pity moved all men's hearts, that beheld so heavy a countenance, and such abundance of tears in an old man of so reverend dignity. Cole having ended his sermon, he called back the people that were ready to depart. "Brethren," said he, "lest any man should doubt of this man's earnest conversion and repentance, you shall hear him speak before you; and therefore I pray you, Mr. Cranmer, to perform that now which you promised not long ago; namely, that you would openly express the true and undoubted profession of your faith, that you may take away all suspicion from men and that all men may understand that you are a catholic indeed."
To this Cranmer, rising up and uncovering his head, replied thus: "I will do it, and that with a good will. Good people, my dearly beloved brethren in Christ, I beseech you most heartily to pray for me to Almighty God, that he will forgive me all my sins and offences, which are without number, and great above measure. But yet one thing grieveth my conscience more than all the rest, whereof, God willing, I intend to speak more hereafter. But how great and how many soever my sins be, I beseech you to pray to God of his mercy to pardon and forgive them all." And here kneeling down he said the following prayer.
"O Father of heaven, O Son of God, Redeemer of the world, O Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, have mercy upon me, most wretched caitiff and miserable sinner. I have offended both against heaven and earth, more than my tongue can express. Whither then may I go, or whither shall I flee; to heaven I may be ashamed to lift up mine eyes, and in earth I find no place of refuge or succour. To thee, therefore, O Lord, do I run; to thee do I humble myself. O Lord my God, my sins be great, but yet have mercy upon me for thy great mercy. The great mystery that God became man was not wrought for little or few offences. Thou didst not give thy Son, O heavenly Father, unto death for small sins only, but for all the greatest sins of the world, so that the sinner return to thee with his whole heart, as I do at this present. Wherefore have mercy on me, O God, whose property is always to have mercy; have mercy upon me, O Lord, for thy great mercy. I crave nothing for mine own merits, but for thy name's sake, that it may be allowed thereby, and for thy dear Son Jesus Christ's sake. And now, therefore, our Father of heaven, hallowed be thy name," etc.
Rising he said--"Every man, good people, desireth at the time of his death to give some good exhortation, that others may remember the same before their death, and be the better thereby: so I beseech God grant me grace that I may speak something at this my departing, whereby God may be glorified, and you edified. It is a heavy cause to see that so many folk so much dote upon the love of this false world, and be so careful for it, that of the love of God, or the world to come, they seem to care very little or nothing. Therefore this shall be my first exhortation, that you set not your minds overmuch upon this deceitful world, but upon God, and upon the world to come, and to learn to know what this lesson meaneth which St. John teacheth, that the love of this world is hatred against God.
"Next unto God, you obey your king and queen willingly and gladly without murmuring or grudging; not for fear of them only, but much more for the fear of God; knowing that they be God's ministers, appointed by God to rule and govern you: and, therefore, whosoever resisteth them, resisteth the ordinance of God. Then I further entreat that you love altogether like brethren and sisters. For, alas! pity it is to see what contention and hatred one christian man beareth to another, not taking each other as brother and sister, but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, to do good unto all men, as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that man, although he think himself ever so much in God's favour.
"I exhort them that have great substance and riches of this world, that they will well consider and weigh three sayings of the scripture: one is of our Saviour himself, who saith, 'It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.' A sore saying, and yet spoken by him who knoweth the truth. Another is of St. John, whose saying is this--'He that hath the substance of this world, and seeth his brother in necessity, and shutteth up his mercy from him, how can he say that he loveth God?' One more saying I wish you to remember is of St. James, who speaketh to the covetous rich man, after this manner--'Weep you and howl for the misery that shall come upon you: your riches do rot, your clothes be moth-eaten, your gold and silver doth canker and rust, and their rust shall bear witness against you, and consume you like fire; you gather a hoard or treasure of God's indignation against the last day.' Let them that be rich ponder well these three sentences: for if they ever had occasion to shew their charity, they have it now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victuals so dear.
"And now forasmuch as I am come to the end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life past, and all my life to come, either to live with my Master Christ for ever in joy, or else to be in pain for ever with wicked devils in hell, and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or else hell ready to swallow me up: I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith how I believe, without any colour of dissimulation; for now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have said or written in times past." He then recited the creed, and added--"I believe every article of the catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Saviour Christ, his apostles and prophets, in the New and Old Testament.
"And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth; which now I here renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life if it might be; and that is, all such bills and papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire, it shall be first burned. As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine. As for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester, which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand at the last day before the judgment of God, where the papistical doctrine contrary thereto shall be ashamed to shew her face."
Here the standers-by were all astonished and amazed, and looked upon one another, whose expectation he had so notably deceived. Some began to admonish him of his recantation, and to accuse him of falsehood. Briefly, it was a world to see the doctors beguiled of so great a hope; for they looked for a glorious victory by this man's retractation. As soon as they heard these things they began to rage, fret, and fume: and so much the more, because they could not revenge their grief; for they could no longer threaten or hurt him. For the most miserable man in the world can die but once; whereas of necessity he must needs die that day. And so when they could do nothing else to him, yet lest they should say nothing, they ceased not to object unto him his falsehood and dissimulation. To this he replied--"Ah, my masters, do not you take it so. Always since I lived hitherto, I have been a hater of falsehood, and a lover of simplicity, and never before this time have I dissembled." In saying this he wept bitterly. And when he began to speak more of the sacrament and of the papacy, some of them began to cry out and bawl, especially Cole, who cried out, "Stop the heretic's mouth and take him away!"
Then Cranmer being pulled down from the stage, was led to the fire, accompanied by those friars, vexing, troubling, and threatening him most cruelly. "What madness," say they, "has brought thee again into this error, by which thou will draw innumerable souls with thee into hell?" To whom he answered nothing, but directed all his talk to the people, saving that to one troubling him in the way he spake, and exhorted him to get home to his study, and apply to his book diligently; saying, if he did earnestly call upon God, by reading more, he should get knowledge. But the other, raging and foaming was almost out of his wits, always having this in his mouth, Non fecisti? Didst thou it not?
When he came to the place where the holy bishops and martyrs of God, Latimer and Ridley, were burnt before him for a confession of the truth, kneeling down he prayed to God; and not long tarrying in his prayers, putting off his garments to his shirt, he prepared himself to death. His shirt was made long, down to his feet, which were bare; likewise his head, when both his caps were off, was so bare that one hair could not be seen upon it. His beard was so long and thick, that it covered his face, and his reverend countenance moved the hearts both of his friends and enemies. Then the Spanish friars, John and Richard, began to exhort him, and play their parts with him afresh; but Cranmer, with steadfast purpose, abiding in the profession of his doctrine, gave his hand to certain old men and others that stood by, bidding them farewell. When he had thought to have done so likewise to Mr. Ely, the latter drew back his hand and refused, saying, it was not lawful to salute heretics, and especially such an one as falsely returned to the opinions he had forsworn. And if he had known before that he would have done so, he would never have used his company so familiarly, and chid those serjeants and citizens who had not refused to give him their hands. This Mr. Ely was a student in divinity, and had been lately made a priest, being then one of the fellows in Brazen-nose college.
Then was an iron chain tied about Cranmer, whom when they perceived to be more steadfast than that he could be moved from his sentence, they commanded the fire to be set unto him. And when the wood was kindled and the fire began to burn near him, stretching out his arm, he put his right hand into the flame, which he held so steadfast and unmovable, (saving that once with the same hand he wiped his face,) that all men might see his hand burned before his body was touched. His body did so abide the burning of the flame with such constancy and steadfastness, that standing always in one place without moving his body, he seemed to move no more than the stake to which he was bound; his eyes were lifted up into heaven, and oftentimes he repeated "his unworthy right hand," so long as his voice would suffer him; and using often the words of Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit," in the greatness of the flames he gave up the ghost, in the sixty-seventh year of his age.
And this was the end of this learned archbishop, whom, lest by evil subscribing he should have perished, by well recanting God preserved; and lest he should have lived longer with shame and reproof, it pleased God rather to take him away, to the glory of his name and profit of his church. So good was the Lord to his church, in fortifying the same with the blood and testimony of such a martyr; and so good also to the man with this cross of tribulation, to purge his offences in this world, not only of his recantation, but also of his standing against John Lambert and master Allen, or if there were any other with whose burning and blood his hands had been before anything polluted. Thus have you the story of the life and death of this reverend archbishop and martyr of God, and also of divers other the learned sort of Christ's martyrs burned in queen Mary's time, of whom Cranmer was the last, being burned about the very middle time of the reign of that queen, and almost the very middle man of all the martyrs which were burned in all her reign besides.
Divers books, treatises, and letters the said Thomas Cranmer wrote, both in prison and out of prison, the which we have no space here to insert, saving an extract from a letter to queen Mary, which here followeth:
"I learned by Dr. Martin, that on the day of your majesty's coronation, you took an oath of obedience to the pope of Rome, and at the same time you took another oath to this realm, to maintain the laws, liberties, and customs of the same. And if your majesty did make an oath to the pope, I think it was according to the other oaths which he useth to administer to princes; which is, to be obedient to him, to defend his person, to maintain his authority, honour, laws, lands, and privileges. And if it be so, then I beseech your majesty to look upon your oath made to the crown and realm, and to compare and weigh the two oaths together, to see how they do agree, and then do as your majesty's conscience shall direct you: for I am surely persuaded, that willingly your majesty will not offend, nor do against your conscience for any thing. "But I fear there are contradictions in your oaths, and that those who should have informed your grace thoroughly, did not their duties therein. And if your majesty ponder the two oaths diligently, I think you shall perceive you were deceived; and then your highness may use the matter as God shall put in your heart. Furthermore, I am kept here from the company of learned men, from books, from counsel, from pen and ink, except at this time, to write unto your majesty, which were all necessary for a man in my case. Wherefore I beseech your majesty that I may have such of these as my stand with your majesty's pleasure. And as for my appearance at Rome, if your majesty will give me leave, I will appear there. And I trust that God shall put in my mouth to defend his truth there as well as here. But I refer it wholly to your majesty's pleasure."