ABSTRACT

THE first Lord Houghton, who took a dilettante interest in the Tractarian movement and a reflected interest in the Anglican Reformation, has described Cranmer as “the most mysterious personage,” and, next to Henry VIII., “the most influential factor” in the history of that convulsion. 1 Cranmer’s influence on the Reformation is an obvious fact, but the mystery of his character disappears before a closer study of his environment. In reality his was one of the simplest of characters, and the ambiguities which obscure his career arise not from the complexity of his mind but from the contrasts and contradictions of the age in which he lived. It was the age of the Renaissance as well as of the Reformation, of the New Monarchy and State-despotism as well as of revolt against established forms of belief. New forces in literature, commerce, art, religion, and politics jostled one another and produced many strange and startling combinations; Calvinists and Jesuits might join in preaching tyrannicide while other 304papists and Protestants proclaimed the sanctity of kings. There were many cross-currents in that turbulent stream, and it was not possible for man to steer a straight and unvarying course. Yet Cranmer, although like a swimmer he was carried hither and thither and buffeted by the waves, consistently set his face in the same direction. The stream in the main was with him, but when caught in the eddies he struggled against them; and if during one brief space of a month or more his courage gave way, he did no worse than the stubborn Queen Mary herself, who in similar time of stress subscribed to terms at least as humiliating 1 as any contained in Cranmer’s recantations.