Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 13.djvu/29

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extraordinary severity were enacted to enforce it. A cruel persecution was threatened; Latimer and Shaxton resigned their bishoprics, and not only lay heretics but the married clergy stood in awe of the new law. Cranmer himself was obliged to dismiss the wife whom since his promotion he had been obliged to keep in seclusion. It was said by contemporaries that he carried her about in a chest perforated with air-holes to let her breathe; and that on one occasion, she and the chest being removed by an unconscious porter, and deposited wrong side up, she was compelled to disclose her situation by a scream.

In December 1539 the archbishop met Anne of Cleves on her progress from the seacoast and conducted her into Canterbury. On 6 Jan. 1540 he married her to the king, and six months later he became, by virtue of his position, the chief instrument of her divorce, which was accomplished by a sentence of convocation. About the same time he interceded as far as he could to save Cromwell from the block, or rather he wrote apologetically, as in the case of Anne Boleyn. The note of subservience was never absent from anything Cranmer ventured to write, though he doubtless heartily desired to mitigate the king's cruelty. To the bill of attainder against Cromwell he offered no opposition. Next year he was selected by the council as the fittest to convey to the king the information of the infidelity of his fifth wife, Catherine Howard [q. v.] . Afterwards by the king's command he visited her in the Tower, and when he found her overwhelmed with grief and terror gave her a delusive hope of mercy, which he had been instructed to hold out to her.

In March 1541 his cathedral of Canterbury underwent a great change, the old monastic foundation being replaced by a dean and chapter. It was then proposed by some of the commissioners to change the grammar school and restrict its privileges to the sons of gentlemen, a scheme which Cranmer opposed with a vigour and eloquence altogether admirable. Before this, in 1540, ‘the Great Bible’ was ordered to be set up in parish churches, all unauthorised translations having been already forbidden by a proclamation issued in the preceding November. This edition came to be called by Cranmer's name, partly from the avowed favour with which he regarded it, and partly from a preface which he supplied to it; but in 1542 it was greatly objected to in convocation, especially by Bishop Gardiner, who produced a long list of venerable words used in the Vulgate, for which he thought the English substitutes inadequate and commonplace. Cranmer on this proposed to refer the revision of the translation to the universities, in which he was sure of the king's support; and thereupon all further opposition was withdrawn. The archbishop also presided over the commission of 1540 on the doctrines and ceremonies of the church, one fruit of whose labours appeared three years later in a book published by authority entitled ‘The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition of a Christian Man.’

His theology at this time, though not so decidedly protestant as it afterwards became, was more latitudinarian than that of others. He had for some years a commissary in Calais who, though indeed he was obliged to dismiss him on that account, certainly represented his own views in favouring the party opposed to transubstantiation. He was a willing enough agent in carrying out the king's injunctions for the removal of shrines and relics; and he himself was held largely responsible for the abrogation of cherished customs. Three different complaints or conspiracies against him are recorded, in which it was hoped by the opposite party to procure his downfall; but the king was so well aware of his value that they completely failed. ‘Ha, my chaplain,’ said Henry on one of these occasions, receiving the archbishop into his barge, ‘I have news for you. I know now who is the greatest heretic in Kent.’ And he pulled out of his sleeve a paper containing a set of articles against the archbishop, signed by a number of his own clergy and prebendaries of his cathedral, and by several justices of the shire. Cranmer desired that the charges might be investigated, and the king said he would have them inquired into by the archbishop himself and such other commissioners as he would name, which was done accordingly, much to the confusion of those who had drawn up the indictment.

In a second case a courtier named Gostwick is said to have been set on by others, but the king on hearing of it ordered the ‘varlet,’ as he called him, to beg the archbishop's pardon. A third instance is familiar in some of its details to every reader of Shakespeare. The council had obtained leave of the king to examine Cranmer and commit him to the Tower, urging that so long as he was at liberty witnesses would fear to speak the truth. The king unwillingly complied with their request, so far as words went, but to defeat their purpose sent for the archbishop late at night and gave him a ring which, if they insisted on his committal next day, he might show the council in token that the king would have the matter heard before