Sir Thomas More Life, Facts, Timeline: Lawyer, Humanist and Saint
Sir Thomas More is famous for his stand against signing the Act of Supremacy, which made Henry VIII the head of the Church instead of the Pope. He is also famous for his belief that girls should be educated the same as boys which he applied to his own household. His daughters were educated in Greek, Latin and theology an idea that was unheard of in those times.
Thomas More's father, John More was a butler who was later knighted, and became a judge and finally on the King's bench.
More was educated at St. Anthony's school and in the household of Thomas Morton who was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. He attended Oxford about 1492, Canterbury college and Christ Church. He studied law at New Inn in 1494 and Lincoln Inn in Feb 1496. Appointed reader at Furnival's Inn, More became pensioner and butler of Lincoln's Inn in 1507. He studied Latin, Greek, literature and theology. More lived for 4 years at the London Charterhouse with monks however he never took any vows.
Thomas More was a lawyer and a MP (member of Parliament). He supported and contributed to the development of freedom of speech in Parliament. More was a commoner and was the first layman to hold office as Lord Chancellor however he had no vote in the house of Lords. More brought the indictment against Wolsey before Parliament on March 1531.
As Chancellor More, preferred converting heretics and/or protestants rather than burning them. At this time, Protestants were burned as heretics.
Thomas More was Lord Chancellor in 1529 following Wolsey. He resigned in 1532 on pretext of ill health however the real reason is he did not want anything to do with Henry VIII divorce from Catharine of Aragon.
In 1505, he married Jane Colt and had four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily and John. More's wife, Jane, died in 1511. He remarried Alice Middleton and adopted her daughter, Alice. Family portraits were painted by Hans Holbein.
location of family home of Sir/St. Thomas More of England
Thomas More made his home at Chelsea after 1525. There was a chapel, library and a gallery for devotion and study. He allowed no gaming nor idleness.
Religion: Devotion: Prayer: Meditation
St. Thomas More was known to wear a hair shirt inside out so the rough part of the shirt would scrap his skin. He thought he did not suffer enough on earth compared to the sufferings of Christ. He ate sparingly. Slept 5 hours a day and spent many hours in prayer and meditation.
Prisoner of the Tower: Death
St. Thomas More refused to take the Oath of Succession which declared the Kings marriage to Catherine of Aragon null and void and the Kings marriage to Anne Boleyn to be valid. He was called to Lambeth to confirm the oath of succession March 1534. He was willing to confirm this but since the act entailed a repudiation of Papal supremacy he could not. (Recall the Pope had issued a declaration saying that the marriage of Catharine and Henry's brother Author was not valid in order for Henry to marry Catharine in the first place) On April 17, More was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He refused to affirm the King's supremacy and denied that Parliament could make the king head of the Church (Act of Supremacy). During his trial, the attorney general objected that loyalty required a subject to freely confirm the law. Moore replied that silence implies consent. However, the arguments were not accepted. More was condemned and beheaded on Tower hill July 16, 1535.
When Thomas More was a prisoner in the tower of London awaiting execution, his wife, Alice More said to him, quote: "I marvel that you, that have always hitherto taken for so wise a man, will now so play the fool as to lie here in this close and filthy prison and be content to be shut up among mice and rats, when you might be abroad at your liberty". During the same time period, More said these words to his daughter, quote: "I believe Meg, that they that have put me here think they have done me a high displeasure. But .... if it had not been for my wife and you that be my children, whom I account the chief part of my charge. I would not have failed long ere this to have closed myself in as straight a room and straighter too ...."
On the way to the scaffold, he put aside a cup of wine and said quote: "My master had vinegar not wine given him to drink" end of quote.
More's famous last words were: "Died the King's good servant but God's first.
Thomas More's body is buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London. His head was placed on London Bridge as was all traitor's. It may have fallen off into the river but later it was thought it was bought by his daughter Margaret Roper and buried with her.
Quote: "We may not look at our pleasure to go to heaven in feather beds. It is not the way. For our Lord himself went thither with great pain and by many tribulations. The servant may not look to be in better case than his master"
He wrote theological writings and the book, Utopia which is considered a fine example of humanist thinking. He also wrote many ant heretical writings.
Canonized a Saint 400 years after his death in 1935. Every Saint has a Feast day, Thomas More's feast day is July 9.
A excellent movie about Thomas More is A Man for all Seasons and available in DVD.
St Thomas More Portrait
The Bell Tower inside the Tower of London
Thomas More was imprisoned in the lower room of the Bell Tower for 15 months. He was finally convicted of Treason and beheaded on Tower Hill.
Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula where Thomas More is buried