Thomas Cranmer was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry VIII on this day in 1533. Believing himself subject to the King, Cranmer promptly granted Henry an annulment of his marriage.
Already leaning toward Protestantism, Cranmer became the chief architect of the English Reformation. He urged the King to place Bibles in England's churches and it was done. With the help of Martin Bucer, he wrote the first Book of Common Prayer. On his deathbed the king clung to Cranmer's hand. Under Edward VI, Henry’s young son and successor, Cranmer advanced Protestantism even more, helping draft doctrines which became the basis for the Church of England's Thirty Nine Articles.
Cranmer supported Lady Jane Gray to succeed Edward. It was not to be. Bloody Mary took the throne instead and charged him with treason and heresy. In face of death he recanted his Protestant opinions. When he learned he was to die anyway, he publicly renounced his recantation. "As for the pope, I refuse him, as Christ's enemy and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine." When the fire was lit, he held the hand that had signed the recantation into the flame, burning it off before the fire touched his body, saying, "This unworthy right hand." As death approached he repeated several times, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."