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February 28, 1556 – Burial of Stephen Gardiner at Winchester Cathedral

Stephen Gardiner by a 16th century artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Stephen Gardiner by a 16th century artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Stephen Gardiner was an important English cleric and politician during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I (his strongly Catholic leanings sent him to the Tower during the reign of the Protestant Edward VI…). He served as Bishop of Winchester from 1531-1555 (with two years “off” during his imprisonment).

Although he supported Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Gardiner spent the rest of Henry’s reign promoting Catholic interests. At Henry’s death, he was in a period of disfavor, so he was not named as an executor of the will or part of the regency council – which left the field more open for Edward Seymour to have him further marginalized. Of course, when Edward VI died and Mary I acceded the throne, Gardiner was restored to his bishopric and named Lord Chancellor. He was the one who placed the crown on Mary’s head at her coronation, as well as the cleric who performed her marriage to Philip II.

Because of his position of prominence during Mary’s reign, it is often assumed that he was largely responsible for the policies that earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary,” though some people defend him by arguing that no one was punished for heresy in his own diocese until after he died. I have to admit, I’m in the “don’t like him much” camp because of the way he tried to bring down Cranmer and Katherine Parr during Henry’s reign (he actually got Henry to sign a warrant to have her questioned, but she found out about it and had the chance to explain herself to Henry before the arrest could take place…)

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Published inOn This Day

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