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ENCYCLOPEDIA OF BRITAIN
 
  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

 
More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Thomas Cranmer

(1489–1556)
Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533 (the first in the reformed *Church of England), and a major influence on the English *Reformation. He was one of a group of young priests at Cambridge in about 1520 who were inspired by the ideas of Martin *Luther. From 1529 he was employed by *Henry VIII to further his divorce from *Catherine of Aragon. Appointed archbishop in 1533, he immediately annulled the royal marriage and validated the new one to *Anne Boleyn (which he would in turn annul three years later). He continued to act with considerable compliance to his master's whims in all fields except theology, where he bravely opposed the royal tendency to revert to Roman Catholic doctrine. Meanwhile Cranmer was gradually laying the foundation of the Anglican church; the *Book of Common Prayer was largely his work, and he provided the basis of the *Thirty-nine Articles.
 






He moved to a more radical Protestant position in the reign of *Edward VI, with the result that he inevitably suffered in the swing back to Roman Catholicism under *Mary I. He had also, at the dying king's insistence, supported the claim of Lady Jane *Grey. This enabled his enemies to charge him with treason as well as heresy, and they believed that they had finally discredited Protestantism when they persuaded the archbishop to sign a document denying his previous beliefs.
 






Just before being burnt he was to make his recantation public in Oxford's university church. Instead he used the occasion to deny the authority of the pope, disclaiming his recantation; and at the stake in Broad Street he thrust into the flames his right hand ('this was the hand that wrote it, therefore it shall suffer first punishment'). His act of defiance was a lasting inspiration to Anglicans, as has been the superb language of his litany.
 








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