It was March 21, 1554, and the weather wasn’t particularly good. The sermon the Archbishop was about to hear would have been preached outdoors, but instead it would be preached in Great St. Mary’s, the University Church. The scene is depicted in a famous etching in John Foxe’s book Acts and Monuments, published in 1563.
Dr. Henry Cole, the Provost of Eaton, was the preacher for the occasion, and his message revolved around the theme of repentance and judgment. Cole pointed out that although King David had greatly sinned, and repented, he still needed punishment.
The Archbishop listened carefully to the sermon, with considerable solemnity. After all, he was the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was, furthermore, a very learned scholar and a man who, for nearly thirty years, had spearheaded a major reform within the Church of England. Thomas Cranmer was his name, and he was not in particularly good health at this point. In fact, he was emotionally exhausted from months of questioning by various papal scholars and bishops who did not share his Reformational views. He had spent time in the Tower of London, and then he had been imprisoned in Oxford for several months, most of it in solitary confinement.