ABSTRACT

WHILE Cranmer was soothing the last moments of Henry’s life, two ministers were pacing up and down the gallery outside the chamber of death, busily discussing plans for dividing the mantle of the dying King. One was the Earl of Hertford, better known as Protector Somerset, the brother of Queen Jane Seymour; and the other was Sir William Paget, the King’s Secretary, and one of the astutest politicians of the age. On Monday morning, the 31st of January, Lord-Chancellor Wriothesley announced to Parliament the demise of the Crown, and in the afternoon the first meeting of the Council of Regency was held in the Tower. Cranmer’s name as Archbishop of Canterbury naturally headed the list of members; but he had no political ambitions or taste for political intrigue, and though his voice was more potent in the affairs of the Church, his political influence does not appear to have been any greater in the reign of Edward VI. than it had been under Henry VIII. There is little doubt that he welcomed the appointment of Hertford to the Protectorship, for the Earl was probably the statesman 185of the time with whom the Archbishop was in the fullest agreement and sympathy. He was a man of large and noble ideas, but these were little in harmony with the prevailing temper of the times. 1 He believed in civil and, as far as possible, in religious liberty; and not one instance of death or torture for religious opinion stains the brief and troubled annals of his rule. He has been denounced as a “rank Calviniste,” 2 apparently on no other ground than that Calvin once wrote him a letter, 3 and has been accused of feverish zeal for a Protestant revolution on the entirely erroneous assumption that he was responsible for the policy of the Second Book of Common Prayer and the Second Act of Uniformity. 4