Thomas More

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Sir Thomas More (February 7, 1477-78; executed at the Tower of London, July 6, 1535) was Lord Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII and had a European reputation as a humanist author. His most famous work was the Utopia in which he created an imaginary island-kingdom in which some modern scholars have seen an idealized opposite of More's contemporary Europe and in which other modern scholars have seen a wicked satire of the same Europe. Desiderius Erasmus dedicated his The Praise of Folly to More - the word "folly" is moria in Greek .

More was attached to Henry's court by 1520 and knighted in 1521.

  • Henry VIII's Divorce

Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop of York, failed to bring about the divorce and annulment Henry had sought, and was forced to resign in 1529. More was appointed in his place, Henry evidently not realizing More's resistance to the matter. Being well-educated in canon law as well as deeply religious, More knew that the annulment of sacramental marriage was a case resolved to the Papacy, and the position of Pope Clement VII was clearly set against the divorce.

Henry's reaction was to put himself in charge of the church in England. Only the clergy was required to take the intial Oath of Supremacy declaring the sovereign to be the head of the church. More as a layman would not have been subject to this oath; however, he resigned his chancellorship in 1532 rather than serve the regime.

More escaped an initial attempt to connect him with a treasonous matter, but in 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Succession, which included an oath (1) acknowledging the legitimacy of any children born to Henry and Anne Boleyn and (2) repudiating 'any foreign authority, prince, or potentate.' Like the Oath of Supremacy, this was not required of all people, but only those specifically summoned to take it, in other words, those in public office and those under suspicion of not supporting Henry. More was called to take this oath in April of 1535, and on his refusal imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was executed July 6th. His head was displayed on London Bridge for a month, then retrieved (after the payment of a bribe) by his daughter, Margaret Roper.

More is a saint of the Catholic Church, canonized in 1935.