To appreciate Thomas Cranmer we need to understand his world. He was born in Nottinghamshire in 1489 at a time when almost all Europe followed a single religion: a Catholic Christianity controlled by the Pope with Latin as its language of worship. It was a faith in which a genuine trust in Christ was mixed with unhelpful rituals and rules. The church also wielded enormous political power which meant that it controlled almost every aspect of life. Yet beginning with Martin Luther’s protest in 1517, the Reformation saw the thousand-year-old dominance of the mediaeval church shaken, with consequences that have shaped Europe to this day. The way in which the reformation affected Britain is largely due to one man: Thomas Cranmer.
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Growing up in obscurity, Cranmer was educated at Cambridge University where he seemed destined for an academic career. He was ordained in 1520 and was an ordinary ‘medieval churchman’.
King Henry VIII was demanding that his first marriage should be annulled and Cranmer fou