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June 15, 1540 – Cranmer’s Letter to Henry VIII Defending Cromwell

On June 15, 1540, Thomas Cranmer wrote a heartfelt letter in support of his friend, Thomas Cromwell. "Who shall Your Grace trust hereafter if you may not trust him?" Read it on
Thomas Cranmer, by Gerlach Flicke (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The arrest of Thomas Cromwell was a real shock. The idea that Cromwell could be accused of treason – Cromwell, who had done so much to further Henry VIII’s every desire. Henry wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon? Cromwell created the Church of England. Henry was broke? Cromwell formulated a plan for him to access the entire wealth of the Catholic Church in England. Henry wanted to rid himself of Anne Boleyn? Cromwell  put together a legal case that justified her execution.

Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, were friends and allies. When Cromwell was arrested, Cranmer went as far as he could in his defense without endangering himself in the process.  [W]ho shall your Grace trust hereafter, if you might not trust him? It is a real shame that only a fragment of the actual letter survives (though it is summarized in Letters and Papers, the wonderful British History Online’s file)

I heard yesterday in your Grace’s Council, that he [Cromwell] is a traitor, yet who cannot be sorrowful and amazed that he should be a traitor against your Majesty, he that was so advanced by your Majesty; he whose surety was only by your Majesty; he who loved your Majesty, as I ever thought, no less than God; he who studied always to set forwards whatsoever was your Majesty’s will and pleasure; he that cared for no man’s displeasure to serve your Majesty; he that was such a servant in my judgment, in wisdom, diligence, faithfulness, and experience, as no prince in this realm ever had; he that was so vigilant to preserve your Majesty from all treasons, that few could be so secretly conceived, but he detected the same in the beginning? If the noble princes of memory, King John, Henry the Second, and Richard II had had such a counselor about them, I suppose that they should never have been so traitorously abandoned, and overthrown as those good princes were: …….. I loved him as my friend, for so I took him to be; but I chiefly loved him for the love which I thought I saw him bear ever towards your Grace, singularly above all other. But now, if he be a traitor, I am sorry that ever I loved him or trusted him, and I am very glad that his treason is discovered in time; but yet again I am very sorrowful; for who shall your Grace trust hereafter, if you might not trust him? Alas! I bewail and lament your Grace’s chance herein, I wot not whom your Grace may trust. But I pray God continually night and day, to send such a counselor in his place whom your Grace may trust, and who for all his qualities can and will serve your Grace like to him, and that will have so much solicitude and care to preserve your Grace from all dangers as I ever thought he had…….. 


Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature

British History Online – Letters and Papers of Henry VIII 


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Published inInteresting Letters and Speeches

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