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Portrait of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer

Holograph letter of Cranmer to Lord Wiltshire, containing
an account of Pole's book; written June
13, 1531.1

[Lansdowne MS. 115. fol. I.]

To the Right Honourable, and my singular good Lord,
my Lord of Wiltshire.

       IT may please your lordship to be advertised, that the king his grace, my lady your wife, my lady Anne your daughter, be in good health, whereof thanks be to God.
       As concerning the king his cause, master Raynolde Poole2 hath written a book much contrary to the king his purpose, with such wit, that it appeareth that he might be for his wisdom of the council to the king his grace; and of such eloquence, that if it were set forth and known to the common people, I suppose it were not possible to persuade them to the contrary. The principal intent whereof is, that the king his grace should be content to commit his great cause to the judgment of the Pope: wherein meseemeth he lacketh much judgment. But he suadeth3 that with such goodly eloquence, both of words and sentence, that he were like to persuade many: but me he persuadeth in that point nothing at all. But in many other things he satisfieth me very well. The sum whereof I shall shortly rehearse.
       First, he sheweth the cause wherefore he had never pleasure to intromit4 himself in this cause, and that was the trouble which was like to ensue to this realm thereof by diversity of titles; whereof what hurt might come, we have had example in our fathers' days by the titles of Lancaster and York.5  And whereas God hath given many noble gifts unto the king his grace, as well of body and mind, as also of fortune; yet this exceedeth all other, that in him all titles do meet and come together, and this realm is restored to tranquillity and peace: so oweth he to provide, that this land fall not again to the foresaid misery and trouble; which may come as well by the people within this realm, (which think surely that they have an heir lawful already, with whom they all be well content, and would be sorry to have any other, and it would be hard to persuade them to take any other, leaving her,) as also by the emperor,6 which is a man of so great power, the queen being his aunt,7 the princess his niece,8 whom he so much doth and ever hath favoured.
       And where he heard reasons for the king his party, that he was moved of God his law, which doth straitly forbid, and that with many great threats, that no man shall marry his brother his wife: and as for the people, that longeth9 not to their judgment, and yet it is to be thought that they will be content, when they shall know that the ancient doctors of the church, and the determinations of so many great universities be of the king his sentence: and as concerning the emperor, if he be so unrightful that he will maintain an unjust cause, yet God will never fail them that stand upon his party, and for any thing will not transgress his commandments: and beside that, we shall not lack the aid of the French king,10 which partly for the league which he hath made with us, and partly for the displeasure and old grudge which he beareth toward the emperor, would be glad to have occasion to be avenged: these reasons he bringeth for the king's party against his own opinion.
       To which he maketh answer in this manner. First, as touching the law of God, he thinketh that if the king were pleased to take the contrary part, he might as well justify that, and have as good ground of the scripture therefore, as for that part which he now taketh. And yet if he thought the king's party never so just, and that this his marriage were undoubtedly against God's pleasure, then he could not deny but it should be well done for the king to refuse this marriage, and to take another wife: but that he should be a doer therein, and a setter forward thereof, he could never find in his heart. And yet he granteth that he hath no good reason therefore, but only affection which he beareth and of duty oweth unto the king's person. For in so doing he should not only wayke,11 yea and utterly take away the princess' title, but also he must needs accuse the most and chief part of all the king his life hitherto, which hath been so infortunate to live more than twenty years in a matrimony so shameful, so abominable, so bestial and against nature, (if it be so as the books which do defend the king's party do say,) that the abomination thereof is naturally written and graven in every man's heart, so that none excusation can be made by ignorance; and thus to accuse the noble nature of the king's grace, and to take away the title of his succession, he could never find in his heart, were [the] king's cause never so good; which he doth knowledge to be only affection.
       Now as concerning the people, he thinketh not possible to satisfy them by learning or preaching; but as they now do begin to hate priests, this shall make them rather to hate much more both learned men and also the name of learning, and bring them in abomination of every man. For what loving men toward their prince would gladly hear, that either their prince should be so infortunate, to live so many years in matrimony so abominable; or that they should be taken and counted so bestial, to approve and take for lawful, and that so many years, a matrimony so unlawful and so much against nature, that every man in his heart naturally doth abhor it? and, that is more, when they hear this matrimony dispraised and spoken against, neither by their own minds, nor by reasons that be made against this matrimony, can they be persuaded to grudge against the matrimony; but for any thing they do grudge against the divorce, wherein the people should shew themselves no men but beasts. And that the people should be persuaded hereto, he cannot think it.
       And as for the authority of the universities, he thinketh and sayeth that many times they be led by affections, which is well known to every man, and wisheth that they never did err in their determinations. Then he sheweth with how great difficulty the universities were brought to the king's party. And moreover against the authority of the universities he setteth the authority of the king's grace['s] father and his council, the queen's father and his council, and the Pope and his council.
       Then he cometh again to the Pope, and the emperor, and French king. And first the Pope, how much he is adversary unto the king's purpose, he hath shewed divers tokens already, and not without a cause: for if he should consent to the king's purpose, he must needs do against his predecessors, and also restrain his own power more than it hath been in time past, which rather he would be glad to extend; and moreover he should set great sedition in many realms, as in Portugal, of which king the emperor hath married one sister, and the duke of Savoy the other.12 Then he extolleth the power of the emperor, and diminish[eth] the aid of the French king toward us, saying, that the emperor, without drawing of any sword, but only by forbidding the course of merchandise into Flanders and Spain, may put this realm into great damage and ruin. And what if he will thereto draw his sword, wherein is so much power, which, being of much less power than he is now, subdued the Pope and the French king? And as for the Frenchmen, [they] never used to keep league with us but for their own advantage, and we can never find in our hearts to trust them. And yet if now contrary to their old nature they keep their league, yet our nation shall think themselves in miserable condition, if they shall be compelled to trust upon their aid, which always have been our mortal enemies, and never we loved them, nor they us. And if the Frenchmen have any suspicion that this new matrimony shall not continue, then we shall have no succour of them, but upon such conditions as shall be intolerable to this realm. And if they, following their old nature and custom, then do break league with us, then we shall look for none other, but that Englande shall be a prey between the emperor and them. After all this he cometh to the point to save the king's honour, saying, that the king standeth even upon the brink of the water, and yet he may save all his honour; but if he put forth his foot but one step forward, all his honour is drowned. And the means which he hath devised to save the king's honour is this.
       The rest of this matter I must leave to shew your lordship by mouth when I speak with you, which I purpose, God willing, shall be to-morrow, if the king's grace let me not. Now the bearer maketh such haste that I can write no more, but that I hear no word from my benefice, nor master Russel's servant is not yet returned again, whereof I do not a little marvel. The king and my lady Anne rode yesterday to Wyndsower, and this night they be looked for again at Hampton Court: God be their guide, and preserve your lordship to his most pleasure.

       From Hampton Court this 13 day of June.

Your most humble beadman,

Thomas Cranmer

[AJ Notes:
1. This letter appears in the original spelling in Strype's Cranmer, Appendix, No. I.
2. See Cardinal Reginald Pole.
3. suadeth, persuadeth.
4. intromit, admit.
5. See The Wars of the Roses.
6. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor.
7. Queen Catherine of Aragon.
8. Princess Mary, later Queen Mary I.
9. longeth, belongeth.
10. Francis I.
11. wayke, weaken.
12. The Emperor had married Isabella, daughter of the King of Portugal in 1526; Charles III, Duke of Savoy, had married her younger sister Beatrix in 1520. Their brother, John III, was King of Portugal at this time.]

Pocock, Nicholas, ed. Records of the Reformation. Vol II.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870. 130-134.

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Persons of Interest
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
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Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
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Images of London:
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London, 1510, earliest view in print
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Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
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Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
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