Note: Socrates // Emblem of the Papacy SE // JohnDunsScotus – full
Note: Socrates // Emblem of the Papacy SE // JohnDunsScotus – full
|The Right Honourable|
Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More,
by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527
October 1529 – May 1532
|Preceded by||Thomas Wolsey|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Audley|
|Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster|
31 December 1525 – 3 November 1529
|Preceded by||Richard Wingfield|
|Succeeded by||William FitzWilliam|
|Speaker of the House of Commons|
16 April 1523 – 13 August 1523
|Preceded by||Thomas Nevill|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Audley|
7 February 1478|
6 July 1535 57) (aged|
|Cause of death||Decapitation|
Church of St Peter ad Vincula, London, England|
51°30′31″N 0°04′37″W / 51.508611°N 0.076944°W
Jane Colt (m. 1505)|
Alice Harpur (m. 1511)
University of Oxford|
Sir Thomas More (//; 7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary ideal island nation.
More opposed the Protestant Reformation, in particular the theology of Martin Luther and William Tyndale. More also opposed the King's separation from the Catholic Church, refusing to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. After refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, he was convicted of treason and beheaded. Of his execution, he was reported to have said: "I die the King's good servant, and God's first."
Pope Pius XI canonised More in 1935 as a martyr. Pope John Paul II in 2000 declared him the "heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians." Since 1980, the Church of England has remembered More liturgically as a Reformation martyr. The Soviet Union honoured him for the supposedly communist attitude toward property rights expressed in Utopia.
|Saint Thomas More|
Medallion of Thomas More
|Venerated in||Catholic Church; Church of England; some other churches of the Anglican Communion|
|Beatified||29 December 1886, Florence, Kingdom of Italy, by Pope Leo XIII|
|Canonized||19 May 1935, Vatican City, by Pope Pius XI|
22 June (Catholic Church)|
6 July (Church of England)
|Attributes||dressed in the robe of the Chancellor and wearing the Collar of Esses; axe|
|Patronage||Adopted children; civil servants; court clerks; difficult marriages; large families; lawyers, politicians, and statesmen; stepparents; widowers; Ateneo de Manila Law School; Diocese of Arlington; Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee; Kerala Catholic Youth Movement; University of Malta; University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters|
|Notable work||Utopia (1516)|
|Part of a series on|
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Born in Milk Street in London, on 7 February 1478, Thomas More was the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later judge, and his wife Agnes (née Graunger). He was the second of six children. More was educated at St Anthony's School, then considered one of London's finest schools. From 1490 to 1492, More served John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, as a household page.:xvi Morton enthusiastically supported the "New Learning" (scholarship which was later known as “humanism” or “London humanism”), and thought highly of the young More. Believing that More had great potential, Morton nominated him for a place at the University of Oxford (either in St. Mary's Hall or Canterbury College, both now gone).:38
More began his studies at Oxford in 1492, and received a classical education. Studying under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn, he became proficient in both Latin and Greek. More left Oxford after only two years—at his father's insistence—to begin legal training in London at New Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery.:xvii In 1496, More became a student at Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court, where he remained until 1502, when he was called to the Bar.:xvii
According to his friend, theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, More once seriously contemplated abandoning his legal career to become a monk. Between 1503 and 1504 More lived near the Carthusian monastery outside the walls of London and joined in the monks' spiritual exercises. Although he deeply admired their piety, More ultimately decided to remain a layman, standing for election to Parliament in 1504 and marrying the following year.:xxi
In spite of his choice to pursue a secular career, More continued ascetic practices for the rest of his life, such as wearing a hair shirt next to his skin and occasionally engaging in flagellation.:xxi A tradition of the Third Order of Saint Francis honours More as a member of that Order on their calendar of saints.
More married Jane Colt in 1505.:118 She was five years younger than her husband, quiet and good-natured.:119 Erasmus reported that More wanted to give his young wife a better education than she had previously received at home, and tutored her in music and literature.:119 The couple had four children before Jane died in 1511: Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely, and John.:132
Going "against friends' advice and common custom," within thirty days More had married one of the many eligible women among his wide circle of friends. He certainly expected a mother to take care of his little children and, as the view of his time considered marriage as an "economic union", he chose a rich widow, Alice Harpur Middleton. More was not viewed as being in haste to remarry for the gratification of sexual pleasure, as Alice was older than he, and their marriage was possibly not consummated. The speed of the marriage was so unusual that More had to get a dispensation of the banns, which, due to his good public reputation, he easily obtained. Alice More lacked Jane's docility; More's friend Andrew Ammonius derided Alice as a "hook-nosed harpy." Erasmus, however, called their marriage happy.:144
More had no children from his second marriage, although he raised Alice's daughter from her previous marriage as his own. More also became the guardian of two young girls: Anne Cresacre would eventually marry his son, John More;:146 and Margaret Giggs (later Clement) would be the only member of his family to witness his execution (she died on the 35th anniversary of that execution, and her daughter married More's nephew William Rastell). An affectionate father, More wrote letters to his children whenever he was away on legal or government business, and encouraged them to write to him often.:150:xiv
More insisted upon giving his daughters the same classical education as his son, a highly unusual attitude at the time.:146–47 His eldest daughter, Margaret, attracted much admiration for her erudition, especially her fluency in Greek and Latin.:147 More told his daughter of his pride in her academic accomplishment in September 1522, after he showed the bishop a letter she had written:
When he saw from the signature that it was the letter of a lady, his surprise led him to read it more eagerly … he said he would never have believed it to be your work unless I had assured him of the fact, and he began to praise it in the highest terms … for its pure Latinity, its correctness, its erudition, and its expressions of tender affection. He took out at once from his pocket a portague [A Portuguese gold coin] … to send to you as a pledge and token of his good will towards you.:152
More's decision to educate his daughters set an example for other noble families. Even Erasmus became much more favourable once he witnessed their accomplishments.:149
A portrait of More and his family was painted by Holbein, but it was lost in a fire in the 18th century. More's grandson commissioned a copy, of which two versions survive.
From 1510, More served as one of the two undersheriffs of the City of London, a position of considerable responsibility in which he earned a reputation as an honest and effective public servant. More became Master of Requests in 1514, the same year in which he was appointed as a Privy Counsellor. After undertaking a diplomatic mission to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, accompanying Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York, to Calais and Bruges, More was knighted and made under-treasurer of the Exchequer in 1521.
As secretary and personal adviser to King Henry VIII, More became increasingly influential: welcoming foreign diplomats, drafting official documents, and serving as a liaison between the King and Lord Chancellor Wolsey. More later served as High Steward for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In 1523 More was elected as knight of the shire (MP) for Middlesex and, on Wolsey's recommendation, the House of Commons elected More its Speaker. In 1525 More became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with executive and judicial responsibilities over much of northern England.
More supported the Catholic Church and saw the Protestant Reformation as heresy, a threat to the unity of both church and society. More believed in the theology, polemics, and ecclesiastical laws of the church, and "heard Luther's call to destroy the Catholic Church as a call to war."
His early actions against the Reformation included aiding Wolsey in preventing Lutheran books from being imported into England, spying on and investigating suspected Protestants, especially publishers, and arresting anyone holding in his possession, transporting, or selling the books of the Protestant Reformation. More vigorously suppressed the Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament.
The Tyndale bible controversial translations of certain words that More considered heretical and seditious; for example, it used "senior" and "elder" rather than "priest" for the Greek "presbyteros", and used the term congregation instead of church; he also pointed out that some of the marginal glosses challenged Catholic doctrine. It was during this time that most of his literary polemics appeared.
Rumours circulated during and after More's lifetime regarding ill-treatment of heretics during his time as Lord Chancellor. The popular anti-Catholic polemicist John Foxe, who "placed Protestant sufferings against the background of... the Antichrist", was instrumental in publicising accusations of torture in his famous Book of Martyrs, claiming that More had often personally used violence or torture while interrogating heretics. Later authors such as Brian Moynahan and Michael Farris cite Foxe when repeating these allegations. More himself denied these allegations:
Stories of a similar nature were current even in More's lifetime and he denied them forcefully. He admitted that he did imprison heretics in his house – 'theyr sure kepynge' – he called it – but he utterly rejected claims of torture and whipping... 'as help me God.':298–299
More, however, writes in his "Apology" (1533) that he only applied corporal punishment to two heretics: a child who was caned in front of his family for heresy regarding the Eucharist, and a "feeble-minded" man who was whipped for disrupting prayers.:404 During More's chancellorship, six people were burned at the stake for heresy; they were Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbery, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham.:299–306 Moynahan has argued that More was influential in the burning of Tyndale, as More's agents had long pursued him, even though this took place over a year after his own death. Burning at the stake had long been a standard punishment for heresy; about thirty burnings had taken place in the century before More's elevation to Chancellor, and burning continued to be used by both Catholics and Protestants during the religious upheaval of the following decades. His biographer Peter Ackroyd notes that More explicitly "approved of burning".:298 Ackroyd adds that More tied heretics to a tree and whipped them, watched men put on the rack and tortured until they confessed and was "personally responsible for the burning of 'brethren' at Smithfield". Another biographer, Richard Marius, maintains that More did everything in his power to bring about the extermination of heretics but not that More was personally active in burning them.
John Tewkesbury was a London leather seller found guilty by Bishop of London John Stokesley of harbouring banned books; he was sentenced to burning for refusing to recant. More declared: he "burned as there was neuer wretche I wene better worthy." After Richard Bayfield was executed for selling heretical books, More commented that he was "well and worthely burned".
Modern commentators are divided over More's religious actions as Chancellor. Some biographers, including Ackroyd, have taken a relatively tolerant view of More's campaign against Protestantism by placing his actions within the turbulent religious climate of the time. Others have been more critical, such as Richard Marius, an American scholar of the Reformation, believing that persecutions were a betrayal of More's earlier humanist convictions, including More's zealous and well-documented advocacy of extermination for Protestants.:386–406
Some Protestants take a different view. In 1980, More was added to the Church of England's calendar of Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church, despite being a fierce opponent of the English Reformation that created the Church of England. He was added jointly with John Fisher, to be commemorated every 6 July (the date of More's execution) as "Thomas More, Scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Reformation Martyrs, 1535". Pope John Paul II honoured him by making him patron saint of statesmen and politicians in October 2000, stating: "It can be said that he demonstrated in a singular way the value of a moral conscience... even if, in his actions against heretics, he reflected the limits of the culture of his time".
As the conflict over supremacy between the Papacy and the King reached its apogee, More continued to remain steadfast in supporting the supremacy of the Pope as Successor of Peter over that of the King of England. Parliament's reinstatement of the charge of praemunire in 1529 had made it a crime to support in public or office the claim of any authority outside the realm (such as the Papacy) to have a legal jurisdiction superior to the King's.
In 1530, More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws. In 1531, a royal decree required the clergy to take an oath acknowledging the King as "Supreme Head" of the Church in England. The bishops at the Convocation of Canterbury in 1532 agreed to sign the Oath but only under threat of praemunire and only after these words were added: "as far as Christ law allows". This was considered to be the final Submission of the Clergy. Cardinal John Fisher and some other clergy refused to sign. Henry purged most clergy who supported the papal stance from senior positions in the church. More continued to refuse to sign the Oath of Supremacy and did not agree support the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine. In truth, More did not openly reject the King's right to invalidate the marriage; he simply refused to openly condone it, remaining silent on the issue.
On 16 May 1532, the day after the Convocation, More resigned from his role as Chancellor but remained in Henry's favour in spite of his refusal.