England · Executions · Political · Religion

Execution of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, for speaking against Henry VIII and the pope

March 21, 1556
Oxford, England
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer is burned at the stake for heresy

After tension between Cranmer, Pope Clement VII, and King Henry VIII, Cranmer was to be executed for speaking against the Pope and King. He wrote a recantation, nullifying his previous speeches against the King and Pope, and was to read a scripted version to the public. Partway through, however, he deviated and recanted his recantation, stating “And as for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy, and Antichrist with all his false doctrine.” He also stated his regrets for writing his recantation and promised when he would burn at the stake the hand he wrote the letter would be the first to burn in penance.

Cranmer was burned in the same area fellow Bishops Latimer and Ridley had been burnt at the stake six months before. As promised, he held his right hand out allowing it to be burned first, calling it “that unworthy hand.” His last words were “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit… I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

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