Thomas Garrard was born in 1498. At the age of nineteen he was admitted to Corpus Christi College. He graduated from Oxford University in 1518 and the following year he became a fellow of Magdalen College. It is claimed that he influenced several students including Francis Bigod. (1)
As Geoffrey Moorhouse has pointed out: "Thomas Garrard, whose energies were spent on preaching the new gospel from the pulpit and distributing theological volumes wherever he could find a ready market for them. Bigod very soon became enamoured of a doctrine which asserted that any man might preach the word of God, that no temporal or spiritual law could stipulate anything that contradicted this. He emerged from Oxford not only with a much better education than the landed gentry of England normally acquired, but with a deep need to proselytise on behalf of the new religion." (2)
In 1526 he became curate of All Hallows in London. He became associated with the reformist movement that included Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Nicholas Shaxton, Robert Barnes, Thomas Bilney, William Tyndale, Simon Fish, Miles Coverdale, John Rogers, Richard Bayfield and Matthew Parker. Their main objective was to have an English Bible imported and distributed. In February 1528 Garrard was arrested for distributing copies of Tyndale's illicit New Testament. He managed to escape and attempted to flee to Germany. Garrard was captured at Bedminster. He was examined by Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall and "retracted his belief in justification by faith alone, with other Lutheran tenets". (3)
Another issue the reformers like Garrard felt strongly about was the doctrine of transubstantiation, whereby the bread and wine became in actual fact the body and blood of Christ. The Catholic Church believed because it is impossible, it is proof of the overwhelming power of God. Martin Luther believed in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, but denied that he was there "in substance". Luther believed in what became known as consubstantiation or sacramental union, whereby the integrity of the bread and wine remain even while being transformed by the body and blood of Christ. (4)
Thomas Cromwell told Henry VIII that reformist preachers could be helpful in helping obtain a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Cromwell contacted Barnes who was living in exile and invited him to travel to London. Robert Barnes was granted a private audience with the king. As David Loades, the author of Thomas Cromwell (2013) has pointed out: "Although his supplication was offensive to the monarch in the sense that it advocated justification by faith alone, it also explained a number of Lutheran tenents in terms which were acceptable to his sovereign. The king would have been looking for some endorsement of his position on his marriage, and over that it is likely that Barnes was non-committal." (5)
In September 1535, Hugh Latimer, the leader of the reformers, was appointed as Bishop of Worcester. The following year he appointed Thomas Garrard as his chaplain. (6) Once established in his diocese Bishop Latimer embarked upon a programme of dismantling images and promoting new standards of preaching. He stripped the statue of the Virgin that stood in Worcester Cathedral. He also removed the renowned relic of Christ's blood from Hailes Abbey. (7) In June 1536 Latimer was chosen to preach before the senior clergy assembled at St Paul's Cathedral where he attacked the activities of Pope Paul III (8) John Foxe claimed that his reforms were limited: "He wasn't able to rid his diocese of superstitions but did what he could within the Catholic Church, helping his parishioners exclude as much superstition as possible from their lives and worship. Even then, he continued to be harassed by other members of the clergy." (9)
In June 1539 he became rector of Hartlebury, near Kidderminster. He also became chaplain to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. As Susan Wabuda has pointed out: "Garrard contributed to contentious divisions in the diocese. Latimer's promotion of evangelical reforms pitted his friends among the local gentry against conservative gentlemen and long-time diocesan officials. Latimer's opponents claimed that he kept none but ‘heretic knaves’ in his service, and Garrard was particularly marked as one of the most pernicious examples of the new bishop's intrusive influence. These years were the busiest period of Garrard's life, as his duties required him to take part in investigations to protect Latimer, as well as to make extensive preaching tours throughout the diocese and across southern England." (10)
Later that year Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, managed to get the Six Articles passed by Parliament. It was soon clear that it had the support of Henry VIII. Although the word "transubstantiation" was not used, the real presence of Christ's very body and blood in the bread and wine was endorsed. So also was the idea of purgatory. The six articles presented a serious problem for Bishop Latimer and other religious reformers. Latimer had argued against transubstantiation and purgatory for many years. Latimer now faced a choice between obeying the king as supreme head of the church and standing by the doctrine he had had a key role in developing and promoting for the past decade. (11)
Bishop Hugh Latimer and Bishop Nicholas Shaxton both spoke against the Six Articles in the House of Lords. Thomas Cromwell was unable to come to their aid and in July they were both forced to resign their bishoprics. For a time it was thought that Henry would order their execution as heretics. He eventually decided against this measure and instead they were ordered to retire from preaching.
Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the leading religious conservative in England, made an attack on Lutheran opinions on 15th February, 1540. (12) In the following weeks Thomas Garrard, Robert Barnes and William Jerome attacked Gardiner's views. On 3rd April, Henry VIII gave orders for the three men to be sent to the Tower of London. Cromwell got them released but he was arrested on 10th June and Garrard, Barnes, were once again taken into custody. (13)
On 22nd July, 1540, Garrard, Barnes and Jerome, were attainted as heretics, a procedure which denied them the chance to defend themselves in court, and sentenced to death; their heresies were not specified. At the stake, on 30th July, Garrard and his fellows maintained that they did not know why they were being burnt, and that they died guiltless. Richard Hilles, who observed the executions, commented that the men "remained in the fire without crying out, but were as quiet and patient as though they felt no pain". The men were burnt at the same time that three Catholics, Thomas Abell, Edward Powell, and Richard Fetherstone, were hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason. (14)
David Loades, the author of Thomas Cromwell (2013), has argued: "None of these men was guilty of the radical heresies with which they were charged, but it was deemed necessary as part of the campaign against Cromwell to represent him as the controlling force behind a dangerous heretical conspiracy - and these were the other conspirators, or some of them. Like him they were condemned by Act of Attainder, and Barnes at least proclaimed his innocence in his last speech to the crowd. He had never preached sedition or disobedience, and had used his learning against the Anabaptists. He did not know why he was condemned to die, but the true answer lay not in his own doings or beliefs, but in his association with Thomas Cromwell." (15)
Cromwell could afford to protect Latimer and his men until the king turned his back on limited doctrinal experimentation, endorsing the six articles in 1539, which invested new confidence in traditional tenets, including transubstantiation and masses for the dead. At issue was the ultimate control of the English church, and whether further reforms would be pursued. Protestant reformers were losing their influence over the king (especially in his eventual repudiation of his marriage to Anne of Cleves) while conservative bishops, led by Stephen Gardiner of Winchester, pressed their advantages. When Latimer refused to work for the passage of the act in parliament, he was forced to resign his see. Ever watchful of his old enemy, Longland complained of Garrard's disrespectful breaking of a holy fast in Oxfordshire in the summer of 1539.
During Easter week the three men made highly equivocal recantations at the preaching cross at St Mary Spital, mouthing prepared retractions while convincing onlookers that, in reality, they maintained their old opinions. On 3 April they were admitted to the Tower at Henry's command, but only briefly, for Cromwell regained the upper hand over his enemies in the tumultuous weeks that followed. But on 10 June came the ultimate defeat with Cromwell's arrest. Charged with heretical opinions and licensing known heretics to preach, as well as with treason, he was beheaded on 28 July.
Barnes, Garrard, and Jerome were exempted from a general pardon and had no trial. On 30 July 1540 they were drawn from the Tower through London and burnt in one fire at Smithfield, while three long-time prisoners, Thomas Abell, Richard Fetherstone, and Edward Powell (Catholic priests who had been supporters of Katherine of Aragon) were hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors. At the stake, Garrard and his fellows maintained that they did not know why they were being burnt, and that they died guiltless....
Although Garrard and his companions deliberately created the impression that they were yielding their lives as martyrs, their execution marked a critical juncture in defining the late Henrician church as conservative in doctrine yet estranged from Rome, dependent upon a mercurial supreme head who was the final arbitrator of matters of faith in his realm. Garrard and the others perished in 1540 in a ruthless demonstration of King Henry's religious even-handedness.
None of these men was guilty of the radical heresies with which they were charged, but it was deemed necessary as part of the campaign against Cromwell to represent him as the controlling force behind a dangerous heretical conspiracy - and these were the other conspirators, or some of them. Like him they were condemned by Act of Attainder, and Barnes at least proclaimed his innocence in his last speech to the crowd. He had never preached sedition or disobedience, and had used his learning against the Anabaptists. He did not know why he was condemned to die, but the true answer lay not in his own doings or beliefs, but in his association with Thomas Cromwell.
(1) Susan Wabuda, Thomas Garrard : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(2) Geoffrey Moorhouse, The Pilgrimage of Grace (2002) page 244
(3) Susan Wabuda, Thomas Garrard : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(4) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 141
(5) David Loades, Thomas Cromwell (2013) page 67
(6) Susan Wabuda, Thomas Garrard : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(7) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(8) Peter Ackroyd, Tudors (2012) page 101
(9) John Foxe, Book of Martyrs (1563) page 83 of 2014 edition.
(10) Susan Wabuda, Thomas Garrard : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(11) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(12) C. D. C. Armstrong, Stephan Gardiner : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(13) Susan Wabuda, Hugh Latimer : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(14) Carl R. Trueman, Robert Barnes : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)
(15) David Loades, Thomas Cromwell (2013) page 237