Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 13.djvu/35

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

lowed to survive them by five months, during which time earnest efforts were made by the Spanish friar Soto, and others, for his conversion. Meanwhile, the eighty days allowed for his appearance at Rome having expired, the case was heard in consistory, where the report of the proceedings in England was examined, and counsel on both sides were heard, though the accused had instructed no one to defend him. Judgment was pronounced against him, and on 11 Dec. the pope appointed, or, as it is called, ‘provided,’ Cardinal Pole to the archbishopric of Canterbury. On the 14th he addressed a brief executorial to the king and queen, notifying that he had condemned Cranmer for heresy, and deprived him of his archbishopric. Much has been said of an apparent injustice in the process, because this brief in the preamble declares the late archbishop contumacious for non-appearance at Rome when he was a prisoner at Oxford; and to heighten the impression, Foxe tells us that he expressed his willingness to go and defend himself at Rome if the queen would let him. But the statement is scarcely consistent with the position he had already taken up in declining papal jurisdiction altogether. In fact, the preamble of the brief accuses him of contumacy first towards the papal sub-delegate, Bishop Brookes, secondly towards the delegate, Cardinal Dupuy, and lastly towards the pope himself, for not appearing in consistory before the final decision. Cranmer had taken up his position advisedly not to recognise papal authority at all, and if he had since relented he might yet have found means to engage a proctor at Rome, even if the queen did not think fit to let him go thither in person, as she probably would have done if he had expressed any willingness to submit to the Roman pontiff.

A papal commission next came to Bonner, bishop of London, and Thirlby, bishop of Ely, for his degradation. It was a painful duty to the latter, to whom Cranmer had been an early friend and patron. The two, however, sat together for the purpose in Christ Church on 14 Feb. 1556, when Cranmer was brought before them. At the recitation of their commission, in which it was declared that he had had an impartial trial at Rome, he exclaimed with rather unbecoming vehemence, if Foxe has reported him truly, ‘O Lord, what lies be these, that I, being continually in prison, and never could be suffered to have counsel or advocate at home, should produce witness and appoint my counsel at Rome! God must needs punish this open and shameless lying.’ After the commission was read he was taken outside the church, where the process of his degradation was to be performed. But first he was carefully clothed in the special vestments of a sub-deacon, a deacon, a priest, a bishop, and an archbishop, one on the top of the other, but all of canvas, with a mitre and pall of the same material, and a crosier was put in his hand. Bonner then declared the causes of his degradation, the condemned man sometimes interrupting him with vain retorts and explanations. The crosier was then taken out of his hands by force, for he refused to relinquish it, and he drew from his sleeve a lengthy document and called on the bystanders to witness that he appealed from the pope to the next general council. ‘My lord,’ said Thirlby, ‘our commission is to proceed against you, omni appellatione remotâ, and therefore we cannot admit it.’ Cranmer replied that this was unjust, as the cause was really between him and the pope; and Thirlby received it with the remark, ‘Well, if it may be admitted it shall.’

Thirlby was moved to tears, and, addressing Cranmer, offered to be a suitor for his pardon. Cranmer desired him to be of good cheer, and the work proceeded. The late archbishop was stripped successively of the vestments of an archbishop, bishop, priest, deacon, and sub-deacon, with appropriate ceremonies and words, after which he was further degraded from the minor orders of acolyte, exorcist, reader, and doorkeeper. Lastly a barber cut his hair close about his head, and Bishop Bonner scraped the tips of his fingers where he had been anointed. His gown was then taken off, and that of a poor yeoman bedel was put upon him in its place, with a townsman's cap on his head, in which guise he was delivered over to the secular power, and conveyed again to prison.

As a last protest against these proceedings, while they were divesting him of his pall, he had said to the officiating bishops, ‘Which of you hath a pall to take away my pall?’ The answer, however, was plain that, although as bishops they were his inferiors, they were acting by the pope's authority; and Cranmer seems to have made no further opposition. He now resigned himself to his altered position. He had been for some time strongly urged to recant by divines who conversed with him in prison, especially by the Spanish friar, John de Villa Garcia, with whom he had held long arguments on the primacy of St. Peter, the authority of general councils, and so forth; and apparently even before his degradation he had made two submissions. First he had signed a declaration that, as the king and queen had admitted the pope's authority within the realm, he was