On May 3, 1536, Thomas Cranmer weighed in on the news of Anne Boleyn’s arrest. Because of his close ties to the Boleyn family, Cranmer was in an awkward position: he owed her his support, but was also at risk of being brought down with her. You can see that split in the letter, in which he starts out incredulous at the possibility of her guilt but then backs off completely (“I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the Queen, as I heard of their relation. But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject.”). Still, the man deserves credit as one of the only people around the King to try to defend her.
Pleaseth it your most noble Grace to be advertised, that at your Grace’s commandment by Mr. Secretary’s letters, written in your Grace’s name, I came to Lambeth yesterday, and do there remain to know your Grace’s farther pleasure. And forsomuch as, without your Grace’s commandment, I dare not, contrary to the contents of the said letters, presume to come unto your Grace’s presence; nevertheless, of my most bounden duty, I can do no less than most humbly to desire your Grace, by your great wisdom, and by the assistance of God’s help, somewhat to suppress the deep sorrow of your Grace’s heart, and to take all adversities of God’s hand both patiently and thankfully. I cannot deny but your Grace hath great causes many ways of lamentable heaviness: and also that, in the wrongful estimation of the world, your Grace’s honour of every part is highly touched (whether the things that commonly be spoken of be true or not), that I remember not that ever Almighty God sent unto your Grace any like occasion to try your Grace’s constancy throughout, whether your Highness can be content to take of God’s hand, as well things displeasant as pleasant. And if he find in your most noble heart such an obedience unto his will, that your Grace without murmuration and overmuch heaviness, do accept all adversities, not less thanking him than when all things succeed after your Grace’s will and pleasure, nor less procuring his glory and honour; then I suppose your Grace did never thing more acceptable unto him, since your first governance of this your realm. And moreover, your Grace shall give unto him occasion to multiply and increase his graces and benefits unto your highness, as he did unto his most faithful servant Job; unto whom, after his great calamities and heaviness, for his obedient heart, and willing acceptation of God’s scourge and rod, addidit ei Dominus cuncta duplicia.
And if it be true, that is openly reported of the Queen’s Grace, if men had a right estimation of things, they should not esteem any part of your Grace’s honour to be touched thereby, but her honour only to be clearly disparaged. And I am in such a perplexity, that my mind is clean amazed: for I never had better opinion in woman than I had in her; which maketh me to think that she should not be culpable. And again, I think your highness would not have gone so far, except she had surely been culpable. Now I think that your Grace best knoweth, that, next unto your Grace, I was most bound unto her of all creatures living. Wherefore, I most humbly beseech your Grace, to suffer me in that, which both God’s law, nature, and also her kindness bindeth me unto; that is, that I may with your Grace’s favour, wish and pray for her, that she may declare herself inculpable and innocent. And if she be found culpable, considering your Grace’s goodness towards her, and from what condition your Grace of your only mere goodness took her, and set the crown upon her head; I repute him not your Grace’s faithful servant and subject, nor true unto the realm, that would not desire the offence without mercy to be punished, to the example of all other. And as I loved her not a little, for the love which I judged her to bear towards God and his gospel; so, if she be proved culpable, there is not one that loveth God and his gospel that ever will favour her, but must hate her above all other; and the more they favour the gospel, the more they will hate her: for then there was never creature in our time that so much slandered the gospel. And God hath sent her this punishment, for that she feignedly hath professed his gospel in her mouth, and not in heart and deed. And though she have offended so, that she hath deserved never to be reconciled unto your Grace’s favour; yet Almighty God hath manifoldly declared his goodness towards your Grace, and never offended you. But your Grace, I am sure, acknowledgeth that you have offended him. Wherefore, I trust that your Grace will bear no less entire favour unto the truth of the gospel than you did before: forsomuch as your Grace’s favour to the gospel was not led by affection unto her, but by zeal unto the truth. And thus I beseech Almighty God, whose gospel he hath ordained your Grace to be defender of, ever to preserve your Grace from all evil, and give you at the end the promise of his gospel. From Lambeth, the 3d day of May.
After I had written this letter unto your Grace, my Lord Chancellor, my Lord Oxford, my Lord of Sussex, and my Lord Chamberlain of your Grace’s house, sent for me to come unto the Star-Chamber; and there declared unto me such things as your Grace’s pleasure was they should make me privy unto. For the which I am most bounden unto your Grace. And what communication we had together, I doubt not but they will make the true report thereof unto your Grace. I am exceedingly sorry that such faults can be proved by the Queen, as I heard of their relation. But I am, and ever shall be, your faithful subject.
Humble subject and chaplain,