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Engraving of the burning of Thomas Cranmer

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Engraving of the burning of Thomas Cranmer

John Foxe

On 21 March 1556 Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was burned at the stake in Oxford. One of the architects of the reformed English church during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, Cranmer was condemned to a heretic's death as Queen Mary restored Catholicism. John, Baron Williams of Thame, was ordered to attend the burning to help maintain public order. This engraving, from John Foxe's Book of Martyrs, depicts the moment when Cranmer defiantly stretches out the hand which signed the recantation of his faith to be burnt first. According to Foxe, this so disturbed the Spanish Friar John, seen on the left of the engraving, that he "ranne to the L. Williams of Tame, crying that the Archb. was vexed in mind, and died in great desperation. But he which was not ignorant of the Archbisshopes constancy, being vnknowen to the Spaniards, smiled only, and (as it were) by silence rebuked the Friers folly" (Foxe, Actes and Monuments, book 11, p. 1888).

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