Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury Timeline 1489-1556

Thomas Cranmer

Born – 2nd July 1489
Died – 21st March 1556 (executed)
Father – Thomas Cranmer (d. 1501)
Mother – Agnes Hatfield
Spouses – m. 1515 – Joan (d.1516), m. 1532 – Margarete Hetzel (d. 1571)
Children – Margaret (b. 1536), Thomas (b. 1538)
Archbishop of Canterbury – 1533 – 1555
Preceded byWilliam Warham 1503 – 1532
Succeeded byReginald Pole 1555 – 1558


1489 (2nd July)
Thomas Cranmer was born to Thomas Cranmer and Agnes Hatfield in Aslockton Nottinghamshire. He was the couple’s second son, his elder brother John had been born earlier.
1498 (around)
Thomas is likely to have attended a local grammar school.
1501 (during)
Thomas Cranmer’s father died.
1503 (during)
Thomas attended Jesus College, Cambridge.
1509 (21st April)
King Henry VII died of tuberculosis at Richmond Palace. He was succeeded by his son, Henry who took the throne as King Henry VIII.
1511 (during)
Cranmer gained a Bachelor of Arts degree. It had taken him 8 years to gain his qualification.
1509 (11th June)
King Henry VIII married his brother’s widow, Catherine of Aragon at the Church of Observant Friars.
1514 (during)
Thomas Cranmer gained a Masters degree.
1515 (during)
Cranmer was elected a Fellow of Jesus College.
1515 (late)
Thomas married a lady named Joan who worked in The Dolphin inn. As a result of the marriage he was forced to give up his fellowship and his residence at Jesus College. He took employment as a reader at Buckingham Hall to support himself and his wife.
1516 (around)
Thomas Cranmer’s wife died in childbirth.
1517 (during)
Jesus College reinstated Cranmer’s fellowship and he began to study theology.
1520 (around)
Cranmer began to meet regularly with a group of like-minded scholars to discuss the teachings of Martin Luther and the changes in religion that had taken place in Germany. The group included William Tyndale, Robert Barnes and Thomas Bilney.
1520 (during)
Cranmer was ordained as a priest.
1526 (during)
Thomas Cranmer gained a Doctor of Divinity degree.
1527 (during)
Thomas Cranmer joined Edward Lee, Archbishop of York, on a diplomatic mission to emperor Charles V in Spain.
1527 (Spring)
Divorce Crisis
King Henry began to have serious doubts about the validity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He believed his lack of a male heir was a punishment from God because he had married his brother’s widow.
1527 (during)
Thomas Cranmer was interviewed by King Henry VIII. He worked with Thomas Wolsey to try to effect an annulment of the King’s marriage.
1529 (Summer)
Thomas left Cambridge to avoid an outbreak of plague. He stayed with relatives in Waltham Holy Cross. Stephen Gardiner and Edward Foxe, who were also at Cambridge, joined him and together they discussed the King’s divorce.
1529 (2nd August)
Cranmer’s suggestion that the question of the legality of the King’s marriage should be decided by leading university theologians in Europe rather than by Rome was put to King Henry VIII by Gardiner and Foxe. Henry VIII was impressed and liked the idea.
1529 (17th October)
Henry VIII removed Cardinal Wolsey from the post of Chancellor due to his failure to secure his divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
1530 (February)
Thomas Cranmer and Stephen Gardiner began discussing the King’s marriage with theologians from Cambridge University. They found that many were against a divorce and hand to hand-pick those that they questioned in order to get the decision Henry wanted.
1530 (February)
Despite strong opposition, Cranmer and Gardiner managed to get Oxford University to decide in favour of the King and pronounce the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon invalid.
1530 (29th November)
Thomas Wolsey died en route to London to be tried for treason.
1531 (during)
Thomas Cranmer was part of a team that was sent across Europe to gather opinions on the King’s marriage.
1531 (summer)
Cranmer met the humanist, Simon Grynaeus while travelling across Europe. The two men became friends.
1532 (January)
Thomas Cranmer was sent to the court of Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, as ambassador. As a member of the Emperor’s court he travelled throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In Nuremberg, Cranmer was able to see the effects of the Reformation.
1532 (18th March)
Supplication Against Ordinaries
This was a list of grievances against the Church and included questions regarding the right of the Church to make its own laws and the legality of ecclesiastical courts. Henry VIII was proclaimed Head of the Church in England.
1532 (Summer)
Cranmer met Andreas Osiander, the man who had been responsible for the Reformation in Nuremberg. The two became friends.
1532 (July)
Thomas Cranmer married Margarete Hetzel, the niece of Osiander’s wife.
1532 (1st October)
Thomas Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and was ordered to return to England. He was not happy about the appointment and delayed his return hoping that the King would appoint someone else.
1532 (19th November)
Cranmer reluctantly began his return journey to England to take up his post as Archbishop of Canterbury. He had to keep his marriage secret.
1532 (December)
Thomas Cranmer was appointed Royal Chaplain.
1533 (January)
Anne Boleyn announced she was pregnant.
1533 (25th January)
King Henry VIII secretly married Anne Boleyn in the private chapel at Whitehall Palace.
1533 (February)
Cranmer returned to England and having learned of the King’s secret marriage, he worked tirelessly to establish a precedence whereby Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon could be judged by the senior clergy.
1533 (30th March)
Cranmer was consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury in St Stephen’s Church, Westminster, London.
1533 (10th May)
Thomas Cranmer opened the court which would try the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII chose Stephen Gardiner to represent him. Catherine of Aragon ignored the court completely.
1533 (23rd May)
Thomas Cranmer proclaimed that the marriage of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was against God’s law.
1533 (28th May)
Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury declared that the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn was valid.
1533 (1st June)
Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England by Thomas Cranmer in Westminster Abbey.
1533 (June)
The reformer John Frith was charged with heresy for denying the presence of Christ in the bread and wine. Cranmer tried to persuade him to recant and change his views but without success and Cranmer had no choice but to sentence him to be burnt at the stake.
1533 (11th July)
Pope Clement VII was furious with King Henry VIII and excommunicated him and his council.
1533 (Summer)
Thomas Cranmer requested that the nun Elizabeth Barton be brought to him. Barton had preached publicly against the marriage of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
1533 (11th August)
Elizabeth Barton was questioned by Cranmer but was not charged.
1533 (7th September)
A daughter, Elizabeth was born to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
1533 (8th September)
Thomas Cranmer officiated at the christening of Princess Elizabeth. He was also one of her godparents.
1534 (during)
Cranmer supported the break with Rome and when making new appointments he chose men who supported new ideas. He soon found himself opposed by those who favoured a more conservative approach possibly maintaining a link with Rome.
1534 (23rd March)
The Act of Succession settled the succession on the children of Henry and Anne Boleyn. There was also a requirement for all of the king’s subjects to swear an oath to uphold the act.
1534 (17th April)
Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London for refusing to swear the Oath of Succession.
3rd November 1534
The Act of Supremacy declared that Henry VIII was Head of the Church in England. The reigning monarch has held the title ever since.
1535 (during)
The conservative faction at court continued to oppose Cranmer and even argued that the Act of Supremacy left him without a role.
1535 (during)
Thomas Cromwell was appointed Viceregent for spiritual matters. This appointment significantly reduced Cranmer’s power.
1535 (22nd June)
Bishop John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill for refusing to sign the Act of Succession and accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church in England.
1535 (6th July)
Sir Thomas More was executed by beheading for refusing to sign the Act of Succession and accept Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church in England.
1536 (during)
A daughter, Margaret, was born to Thomas Cranmer and Margarete Hetzel.
1536 (29th January)
Anne Boleyn miscarried a son. King Henry VIII began to doubt the legality of his marriage to Anne Boleyn.
1536 (2nd May)
Anne Boleyn was sent to the Tower of London. Cranmer expressed his belief that the Queen was innocent of the charges brought against her.
1536 (16th May)
Cranmer visited Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London and heard her confession.
1536 (18th May)
Thomas Cranmer announced that the marriage of King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn was null and void.
1536 (19th May)
Anne Boleyn was beheaded by sword on Tower Green. Her remains were buried in St Peter ad Vincula.
1536 (8th June)
Dissolution of the monasteries began. Over the course of three years more than 500 monasteries were closed.
1536 (11th July)
The Ten Articles formalised the new Anglican religion.
1536 (13th October)
The Pilgrimage of Grace began. It was a rebellion against the English Reformation and the closure of the monasteries led by Robert Aske.
1537 (February)
Work began on a new book ‘The Institution of a Christian Man’ designed to set out the new religion.
1537 (July)
‘The Institution of a Christian Man’ was published.
1537 (12th October)
A son, Edward, was born to King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.
1537 (25th October)
Jane Seymour died possibly of complications following the birth of Edward.
1537 (12th November)
Jane Seymour was buried.
1537 (late November)
King Henry VIII began work on the ‘Bishop’s Book’. In many respects Cranmer disagreed with the King and voiced his opinion.
1538 (during)
A son, Thomas, was born to Thomas Cranmer and Margarete Hetzel.
1538 (27th May)
A number of delegates from the Schmalkaldic League arrived in England with an aim of forming an alliance. They met with King Henry VIII, Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. However, negotiators failed to reach complete agreement.
1538 (4th August)
Cranmer approved an English version of the Bible by Miles Coverdale and requested that it be shown to the King and if he was favourable to have it available throughout the country.
1538 (30th September)
King Henry VIII authorised the use of the Coverdale Great Bible.
1539 (16th May)
Statute of Six Articles
This statute was forced through a reluctant parliament and listed six cardinal doctrines of Catholic belief which Henry wished to preserve in the English church:
1. Transubstantiation was not to be denied
2. There was to be communion of one kind for the laity
3. Members of the clergy were to remain celibate
4. Religious vows were to be permanent
5. Private masses were to be made available
6. Auricular confession was to be used
Those refusing to comply with the new doctrine would face loss of property and liberty for a first offence and death for a second.
The passing of the Six Articles was a blow for Cranmer and Cromwell who had hoped for more radical church reform.
1539 (late May)
Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, sent his wife and children abroad for their safety.
1540 (6th January)
Despite the fact that he did not like his bride, Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves at Greenwich Palace.
1540 (9th July)
The marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was annulled. As a gift for agreeing to the annulment of the marriage, Anne was given Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, a pension for life and was made an honorary sister to the King.
1540 (28th July)
Henry VIII married Kathryn Howard at Oatlands Palace.
1541 (12th November)
Kathryn Howard was arrested and charged with treason for committing adultery.
1542 (13th February)
Kathryn Howard was executed by beheading for treason.
1543 (12th July)
Henry VIII married Katherine Parr at Hampton Court Palace.
1545 (Summer)
Cranmer became aware that the conservative faction had convinced the King that he was guilty of heresy. Cranmer immediately went to see Henry and told him that he was being taken advantage of. Henry believed Cranmer and gave him a ring to present when he was arrested. Cranmer presented the ring to his accusers and Henry backed Cranmer and stated he was innocent.
1547 (28th January)
King Henry VIII died at Whitehall Palace. He was succeeded by his son, Edward who became King Edward VI of England, Ireland and Wales.
1547 (onwards)
King Edward VI and his regent, Somerset were committed Protestants and approved of church reform.
1548 (during)
Thomas Cranmer changed the celebration of Mass to the celebration of Communion in the Anglican Church.
1549 (15th January)
The Act of Uniformity introduced the Protestant Book of Common Prayer. All other prayer books were forbidden as was the Catholic mass.
1549 (late)
Despite the support of Thomas Cranmer, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, lost the support of the nobility.
1550 (14th January)
Edward Seymour was formally removed from his position as Lord Protector and was sent to the Tower of London.
1552 (22nd January)
Edward Seymour was executed for treason.
1552 (late January)
The conservative faction tried to bring about the fall of Cranmer and John Dudley, who had taken over as Protector, but they failed.
1553 (10th July)
Edward VI died. As directed by Edward, Lady Jane Grey became Queen.
1553 (10th July)
On hearing that Jane had taken the throne, Mary Tudor raised her standard at Kenninghall. People flocked to her banner believing her to be the rightful queen as directed by the terms of King Henry VIII’s will.
1553 (19th July)
Henry VIII’s daughter Mary became Queen Mary I of England, Wales and Ireland. She vowed to restore Catholicism to Britain. Jane Grey was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1553 (5th September)
Cranmer was summoned before commissioners at St Paul’s and questioned about his role in making Jane Grey Queen. He had been one of those that had signed the document that make her queen.
1553 (14th September)
Thomas Cranmer was sent to the Tower of London.
1554 (12th February)
Lady Jane Grey was executed by beheading on Tower Green, London.
1555 (14th February)
Cranmer was stripped of his church offices.
1555 (12th September)
Thomas Cranmer was tried for heresy at St Mary’s Church Oxford. He was questioned about his two marriages. He was found guilty.
1555 (16th October)
Cranmer’s friends Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burnt at the stake for heresy.
1556 (28th January)
Thomas Cranmer signed the first of four submissions to Catholicism.
1556 (24th February)
After being informed that he was to be burnt at the stake, Cranmer signed a statement recanting his Protestant faith. However, Queen Mary refused to pardon him.
1556 (21st March)
Thomas Cranmer was executed by burning outside St Mary’s Church in Oxford.


Published Jan 25, 2020 @ 4:35 pm – Updated -[last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1489 – 1556 Last accessed [date]


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