Synopses & Reviews
This prizewinning biography provides the definitive account of Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, King Henry VIII's guide through three divorces, and ultimately a martyr for his Protestant faith. English Reformation scholar Diarmaid MacCulloch draws on new manuscript sources in Britain and elsewhere to create this vivid new study -- the first on Cranmer in over thirty years.
"This book looks marvelous -- extremely good to read as well as being a definitive biography". -- Robert Harris, The Times (London)
"This lucidly written, deeply researched and surprisingly accessible biography of the man who served Henry VIII as Archbishop of Canterbury ... ably explores both Cranmer's drive and his persistent doubts". -- Allen D. Boyer, New York Times Book Review
"At last we have the truth about Archbishop Cranmer, the most controversial bigwig in the history of the English Church.... The best biography of Cranmer, sympathetic and candid about Cranmer's shortcomings". -- A.L. Rowse, Evening Standard
"Definitive....An intellectual biography of a man whose most dramatic personal moments, despite the blood-letting all around him, took place in his mind and soul". -- Stuart Ferguson, Wall Street Journal
Thomas Cranmer, the architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, was the archbishop of Canterbury who guided England through the early Reformation--and Henry VIII through the minefields of divorce. This is the first major biography of him for more than three decades, and the first for a century to exploit rich new manuscript sources in Britain and elsewhere.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, one of the foremost scholars of the English Reformation, traces Cranmer from his east-Midland roots through his twenty-year career as a conventionally conservative Cambridge don. He shows how Cranmer was recruited to the coterie around Henry VIII that was trying to annul the royal marriage to Catherine, and how new connections led him to embrace the evangelical faith of the European Reformation and, ultimately, to become archbishop of Canterbury. By then a major English statesman, living the life of a medieval prince-bishop, Cranmer guided the church through the king's vacillations and finalized two successive versions of the English prayer book.
MacCulloch skillfully reconstructs the crises Cranmer negotiated, from his compromising association with three of Henry's divorces, the plot by religious conservatives to oust him, and his role in the attempt to establish Lady Jane Grey as queen to the vengeance of the Catholic Mary Tudor. In jail after Mary's accession, Cranmer nearly repudiated his achievements, but he found the courage to turn the day of his death into a dramatic demonstration of his Protestant faith.
From this vivid account Cranmer emerges a more sharply focused figure than before, more conservative early in his career than admirers have allowed, more evangelical than Anglicanism would later find comfortable. A hesitant hero with a tangled life story, his imperishable legacy is his contribution in the prayer book to the shape and structure of English speech and through this to the molding of an international language and the theology it expressed.
Thomas Cranmer was the architect of Henry VIII's unprecedented divorce and established the first stage of the reformed English church, while supplying its standard liturgy - the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. This book traces Cranmer's life from his Midlands roots to death at the stake in Oxford.