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The Tudor Tournament

Thomas Cranmer vs. Jane Grey

Yesterday, Mary Tudor, Queen of France soundly took down Nicholas Throckmorton. Today, however, we have two contestants with strong fan bases, who were both charged and condemned to death on November 13, 1553. Who will you choose in a battle between Jane Grey, the Nine Days Queen, and Thomas Cranmer, architect of the English Reformation?

Debate surrounds a number of paintings that are purportedly of Jane Grey. This particular image, however, was finished in 1833.

Jane Grey, “The Nine Days Queen”

Date: 1536/7 – February 12, 1554

Quick blurb: Jane Grey was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, the granddaughter of Mary Tudor, Queen of France and Charles Brandon, and the daughter of Henry Grey and Frances Brandon. As a child, she was schooled in humanist thought, read and spoke a number of languages, and was well-versed in the classics and the Christian Bible. For a time, her name was bandied about as a marriage candidate for her first-cousin-once removed, Edward VI. In 1553, she was married to Guildford Dudley, son of John Dudley. That same year, her father-in-law possibly persuaded a mortally ill Edward to name Jane as the next in line to the throne.

Strengths: Jane was told that Edward died on July 9, 1553, three days after his death. She was also subsequently told that she was then queen. Instead of bowing to pressure and naming her husband king, she insisted that he only be allowed to take the title of Duke of Clarence.

Weaknesses: Jane did not have enough support to keep her on the throne. Mary Tudor gathered her forces as soon as she learned of Edward’s death, and the Privy Council named Mary queen on July 19th. Jane was placed under arrest in the very Tower she had occupied for defense, along with her husband. Her father-in-law was executed soon afterward. Jane might have survived had Wyatt’s Rebellion not occurred. On February 12, 1554, she was beheaded on the Tower Green.

Manner of death: Beheaded

An image of Cranmer being burned at the stake (hand first, of course). From a woodcut used in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury

Date: July 2, 1489 – March 21, 1556

Quick blurb: As a younger son in his family, Thomas was unable to inherit his father’s property, and thus pursued a life in the Church. He studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, and was chosen by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey to serve the English crown in Spain as a minor diplomat. In June of 1527, Cranmer personally met Henry VIII. It was that same year that he began to assist the king in seeking an annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. In 1532, he served as an ambassador at the court of Charles V. As a complete surprise to Cranmer, he was named Archbishop of Canterbury in that same year. His rise came at the urging of the Boleyns, and was also due to his support of the Royal Supremacy. On May 23, 1533, he declared Henry’s marriage to Catherine invalid, and on May 28, 1533, he proclaimed the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn to be lawful.

Strengths: Cranmer proved to be a man of action. He tremendously altered religious life in England after Henry VIII’s death. Under Edward VI, the Book of Common Prayer was released in 1549, and new official stances on the Eucharist, the role of saints and images, and the celibacy of priests were taken (Cranmer himself had married long before this particular bit of religious position was altered).When challenged by the Prayer Book Rebellion, Cranmer held his ground.

Weaknesses: Upon Edward’s death, Cranmer supported Jane Grey’s claim to the throne. When Mary took the throne, things did not look well for Cranmer. Not only was this a man who supported Jane Grey’s claim, but one who had declared the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon to be unlawful. On November 13, 1554, Cranmer, along with Jane, was condemned to death. Cranmer recanted his reformist beliefs a number of times, and was to be allowed a final, public recantation at Oxford. Instead of sticking with the speech he had submitted for approval, however, Cranmer ended by renouncing his recantations. He proclaimed that he wished for his right hand to burn first, as it was the hand that had signed the recantations. On March 21st, 1556, he did just that, and died at the stake.

Manner of Death: Burned

Now, vote!




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