Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 13.djvu/36

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content to submit to their laws. This, however, not being considered satisfactory, he, a few days later, made a second submission, in which he put the church and the pope before the king and queen. After his degradation he signed a third document, promising entire obedience to the king's and queen's laws, both as to the pope's supremacy and other matters, and referring the book which he had written on the sacrament to the judgment of the next general council. But this being objected to, he signed yet another profession distinctly dated 16 Feb., declaring unreservedly his belief in the teaching of the catholic church on the sacraments as in other things. There seems to be no foundation for the statement that he was lured to any of these submissions by a promise of pardon. Shortly after the fourth was made a writ was issued for his execution on 24 Feb., and it was announced to him that he should die upon 7 March. He was only urged for the sake of his soul to make as ample a profession as possible, and after consulting his spiritual advisers he signed a fifth document, which was attested by their signatures as well as his own, repudiating the doctrines of Luther and Zuinglius, acknowledging purgatory, and urging all heretics to return to the unity of the church. He at the same time wrote to Cardinal Pole begging him to procure for him a few days' respite from execution that he might give the world a yet more convincing proof of his repentance. This respite seems to have been allowed, and on 18 March he made a sixth and final submission, full of self-reproach for his past career, in which he compared himself to the penitent thief crucified along with our Lord.

Protestants and Roman catholics alike have censured these successive recantations as acts of insincerity prompted by the hope that they would buy his pardon. They may, however, have proceeded from real perplexity of mind. Royal supremacy over the church had been the fundamental doctrine with Cranmer hitherto, but if royalty chose again to acknowledge the pope's authority, what became of the very basis of the Reformation? Cranmer possibly might have reconciled himself to the new state of things as easily as Thirlby had he not written against transubstantiation, a doctrine which he clearly disbelieved even in the days of Henry VIII, when it was still reputed orthodox. It was on this subject that he was most persistently pressed to recant, and it was on this subject that, while submitting to the pope in other things, he would fain have appealed to a general council. The appeal, however, was hopeless, considering that the matter had been already settled at Trent five years before, and it was clear that with papal authority he must admit papal doctrine. He affected to be convinced by arguments that he could not very well answer (it is not easy to answer arguments in prison, with fire and faggots in the background), and he seemed a hopeful penitent. Nor would it have been impossible, perhaps, to extend to such a penitent the royal pardon, but that the flagrant character of his offences seemed to the council a reason for proceeding to the utmost extremity. For it was certainly owing to the abuse of his archiepiscopal functions that the queen had been actually declared a bastard, and all but cut off from the succession.

On 20 March, two days after his last submission, he was visited in prison by Dr. Cole, the provost of Eton, who was anxious to know if he still remained firm in the faith he had so lately professed. Next day he was to die. In the morning Friar John de Villa Garcia called upon him in prison, and Cranmer, at his request, copied and signed yet a seventh form of recantation, of which he was to take one copy with him and read it at the stake. It was intended that, just before his execution, Dr. Cole should have preached at the stake, but as the morning was wet, the prisoner was conducted into St. Mary's Church, and the sermon delivered there. He was placed on a platform opposite the pulpit, where every one could see him. There he knelt and prayed fervently, before and after the sermon; he was seen to weep, and moved his audience to tears. He was then asked to address the people, according to the general usage, and it was expected that he would read his final recantation. In this he was to declare his belief in every article of the catholic faith, and afterwards to confess that what most troubled his conscience was the publication of books and writings against the truth of God's word, and these he was to specify as the books he had written against the sacrament of the altar since the death of Henry VIII. He turned to the people, and besought first that they would pray for him; then poured out a fervid prayer himself, confessing himself ‘a wretched caitiff and miserable sinner;’ then repeated the Lord's Prayer and declared that he believed every article of the catholic faith, just as it was expected he would say. But at this point the discourse began to vary from the programme. ‘And now I come,’ he said, ‘to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than anything that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and