CRANMER’S LETTER TO MARY I (1553-1558)

It may please your majesty to pardon my presumption, that I dare be so bold to write to your highness; but very necessity constraineth me, that your majesty may know my mind rather by mine own writing, than by other men's reports. So it is that upon Saturday, being the seventh day of this month, I was cited to appear at Rome the eightieth day after, there to make answer to such matters as should be objected against me upon the behalf of the king and your most excellent majesty which matters the Thursday following were objected against me by Dr. Martin and Dr. Storie, your majesty's proctors, before the bishop of Gloucester, sitting in judgment by commission from Rome.

But forasmuch as in the time of the prince of most famous memory, king Henry the Eighth, your grace's father, I was sworn never to consent that the bishop of Rome should have or exercise any authority or jurisdiction in this realm of England; therefore, lest I should allow his authority contrary to mine oath, I refused to make answer to the bishop of Gloucester, sitting here in judgment by the pope's authority, lest I should run into perjury. . . .

Another cause why I refused the pope's authority is this, that his authority, as he claimeth it, repugneth to the crown imperial of this realm, and to the laws of the same, which every true subject is bounden to defend. First, for that the pope saith, that all manner of power, as well temporal as spiritual, is given first to him of God; and that the temporal power he giveth unto emperors and kings, to use it under him, but so as it be always at his commandment and beck. But contrary to this claim, the imperial crown and jurisdiction temporal of this realm is taken immediately from God, to be used under him only, and is subject unto none but to God alone.

Moreover, the imperial laws and customs of this realm, the king in his coronation, and all justices when they receive their offices, be sworn, and all the whole realm is bounden, to defend and maintain. But contrary hereunto, the pope by his authority maketh void, and commandeth to blot out of our books all laws and customs, being repugnant to his laws; and declareth accursed all rulers and govenors, all the makers, writers, and executors if such laws or customs: as it appeareth by many of the pope's laws, whereof one or two I shall rehearse. In the Decrees, Dist. 10. is written thus, . . . "The constitutions or statutes enacted against the canons and decrees of the bishops of Rome or their good customs are of none effect." . . .

Now by these laws, if the bishop of Rome's authority, which he claimeth by God be lawful, all your grace's laws and customs of your realm, being contrary to the pope's laws, be naught: and as well your majesty, as your judges, justices, and all other executors of the same, stand accursed among heretics; which God forbid! And yet this curse can never be avoided, if the pope have such power as he claimeth, until such times as the laws and customs of this realm, being contrary to his laws, be taken away and blotted out of the law-books. And although there be many laws of this realm contrary to the laws of Rome, yet I named but a few; as to convict a clerk before any temporal judge of this realm for debt, felony, murder, or for any other crime; which clerks by the pope's laws be so exempt from the king's laws, that they can be no where sued but before their ordinary.

Also the pope by his laws may give all bishopricks and benefices spiritual, which by the laws of this realm can be given but only by the king and other patrons of the same, except they fall into the lapse. . . .

Another cause I alleged, why I could not allow the authority of the pope . . . [is] that whereas by God's laws all christian people be bounden diligently to learn his word, that they may know how to believe and live accordingly, for that purpose he ordained holy days, when they ought, leaving apart all other business, to give themselves wholly to know and serve God. Therefore God's will and commandment is, that when the people be gathered together, ministers should use such language as the people may understand and take profit thereby, or else hold their peace. . . .

And again I said, whereas our Saviour Christ ordained the sacrament of his most precious body and blood to be received of all christian people under the forms of both bread and wine, and said of the cup. ''Drink ye all of this;'' the pope giveth a clean contrary commandment, that no lay-man shall drink of the cup of their salvation; as though the cup of salvation by the blood if Christ pertained not to lay-men. . . . So that if I should obey the pope in these things, I must needs disobey my Saviour Christ. . . .

Moreover, as the pope taketh upon him to give the temporal sword, or royal and imperial power to kings and princes; so doth he likewise take upon him to depose them from their imperial states, if they be disobedient to him, and commandeth the subjects to disobey their princes, assoiling the subjects as well of their obedience as of their lawful oaths made unto their true kings and princes, directly contrary to God's commandment, who commandeth all subjects to obey their kings, or their ruler under them. . . .

The bishop of Rome exalteth himself not only above all bishops, but also above all kings and emperors, and above all the whole world, taking upon him to give and take away, to set up and put down, as he shall think good. . . to such as will fall down and worship him and kiss his feet. . . .

Wherefore, seeing the pope thus (to overthrow both God's laws and man's laws) taketh upon him to make emperors and kings to be vassals and subjects unto him, and specially the crown of this realm, with the laws and customs of the same; I see no mean how I may consent to admit his usurped power within this realm, contrary to mine oath, mine obedience to God's law, mine allegiance and duty to your majesty, and my love and affection to this realm.