Tag Archives: Heretic

On this day in 1588 – Thomas Hobbes was born

Thomas Hobbes was born on 5th April 1588 in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. It was rumoured he was born early due to the incoming Spanish Armada.

Hobbes studied at Oxford and it took him nearly five years to complete his degree but upon graduating he was quickly recommended to become the tutor of William Cavendish. Hobbes and Cavendish became firm companions and in 1610 travelled Europe together; here he saw the scholars and philosophers at work. His companion and employer died in 1628 and Hobbes found himself unemployed but quickly gained another tutor position for Gervase Clifton. This short lived role only lasted two years as he was reemployed by the Cavendish family for the son of his former master.

During this period of time tutoring the youngest Cavendish Hobbes also expanded his own knowledge of philosophy and after 1636 he was a regular debater in Paris philosophic groups and he began considering himself as a philosopher as well as a scholar.

Hobbes began working and studying areas from physical momentum to bodily motions involved in sensation, knowledge and passions.

Hobbes returned to England in 1637, after the end of the Tudor reign. Within the next three years Hobbes wrote a paper called The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic. This was never officially published a copy did make its way to the public 10 years later and it was clear that the document showed hints of the political crisis that was to come.

When civil war broke out in England Hobbes was already in self imposed exile in Paris where he continued his philosophical studies. In 1647 Hobbes became the maths tutor to Prince Charles, whilst he was also in exile.

Hobbes also published work under the title Leviathan which set out a doctrine for the foundation of states and legitimate governments. This was written during the civil war era. After the civil war and England returned to a monarchy a bill was passed against atheism, which Hobbes had been accused of in the past. Due to his connection as former tutor to the new King Charles II he was somewhat protected. A committee believed that Hobbes’ Leviathan showed atheist tendencies, this led to Hobbes burning some of his more compromising books for fear of being labelled a heretic. With the bill passed Hobbes was unable to publish any more of his work in England he could not even respond to his critics. Hobbes continued publishing his work abroad and gained a great reputation.

Hobbes died on 4th December 1679 and was buried in St. John the Baptist Church in Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire.

Thomas Hobbes

On this day in 1556 – Archbishop Cranmer was burned at the stake

On 21st March 1556 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake for treason and being a heretic on orders of Queen Mary I.

Cranmer’s problems began on the death of King Edward VI in 1553. In the months leading up to his death the council were working hard to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne and secure the Reformation. Edward VI’s will was signed on 17th June 1553 and contradicted the Third Act of Succession which would see the Catholic Mary placed on the throne.

Upon Edward’s death Lady Jane Grey took the throne for a mere nine days before Mary was proclaimed the true queen of England. Many supporters of Lady Jane were imprisoned but for now Cranmer was safe and so he led the funeral for the late King. Cranmer advised many other Reformers to flee England and Mary’s persecution of any Protestants.

Cranmer was ordered to stand in front of the council on 14th September 1553 where he was sent straight to the Tower of London to join others who had been arrested. On 13th November 1553 Cranmer and four others stood on trial and found guilty of treason, they were all condemned to death. However, death would not come quickly for Cranmer as on 8th March 1554 the Privy Council Cranmer and others were transferred to an Oxford prison to awaiting another trial on the grounds on heresy. The trial finally began over a year later on 12th September 1555 where the final judgement fell to the Pope and Rome. Although Cranmer denied all the charges he faced and was taken to the Tower to await his fate whilst his co-accused was instantly executed.

Cranmer was stripped of his archbishopric by Rome as his punishment. Cranmer began to recant and was sent to the Dean of Christ Church. Free from prison Cranmer found himself within an academic community and was able to debate freely. He recognised the Pope as the head of church and submitted himself to the rule of Queen Mary I. After just two months of freedom Cranmer was sent back to Oxford and on 24th February a writ was issued to the mayor of Oxford to set the date for Cranmer’s execution on 7th March. Just two days later Cranmer recanted again, for a fifth time, where he repudiated all Lutheran theology and fully accepted Catholic theology and Papal supremacy. Under normal circumstances Cranmer would have been absolved and pardoned, however Mary I was unwilling to absolve Cranmer and set about making an example of him.

Cranmer was informed he could make one final recantation at a service at the University Church, Oxford. He never got to say it in public as it was published after his death. This was because at the service he held he opened with a prayer and exhortation to obey the king and queen but then went with a sermon that was not his prepared recantation. Cranmer renounced his previous recantations and that he would be punished by being burnt. He also refused Papal supremacy. Cranmer was dragged from the pulpit and taken straight to be burnt.

Cranmer’s vision for a religion free from Rome and the Pope was finally recognised after his death with the ascension of Elizabeth I when she restored the Church of England and became independent from Rome.

Why did Mary I make such a public exhibition of Cranmer was it to exert her authority on the Protestant religion or did she simply have a personal vendetta against Cranmer for being the man responsible for declaring her parent’s marriage null and void and therefore making her illegitimate?

Cranmer burnt at the stake