Thomas More


Sir Thomas More was a talented statesmen and scholar, with considerable personal charm. As a judge he had an exemplary reputation; he was known all over Europe for his scholarship and had author several important books. Henry VIII himself sought his favor and friendship, appointed him as a personal advisor, and promoted him to high positions within his realm, including the Chancellorship. He was promoted, unfortunately during the time when Henry was strongly under the influence of Anne Boleyn. He was not resolutely set against the King's divorce, if he could obtain one from the pope, but he opposed breaking the Church of England's ties with Rome. As Henry's administration was headed in this direction, More became increasingly uncomfortable in his service. Eventually he resigned his position as Chancellor and attempted to disengage himself from Henry's government.

More's efforts to avoid shipwreck, however, proved futile. Henry VIII counted him as a personal friend and was terrifically offended by his failure to openly support his marriage and condone his annulment. Shortly after Henry's marriage, More was imprisoned on trumped up charges. Henry's purpose was not to execute him, but rather to persuade him to change his position. When this failed, More was put on trial and executed. Less than a year later, the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn broke down, largely because Henry himself began to fear that it was in fact "cursed".

Key events during the life of Saint Thomas More:

Thomas More born, son of a barrister.
Married his first wife, Jane Colt.
On death of Jane, remarried Alice Middleton.
Wrote Utopia, a satirical novel which depicts a 'perfect' totalitarian state.
Made secretary and personal advisor to Henry VIII.
Made treasurer by Henry VIII.
Speaker of the House of Commons
Appointed Lord Chancellor of England
Resigned from office as lord Chancellor.
Failed to attend the Coronation of Anne Boleyn.
Imprisoned in the tower of London
Put on trial for treason and executed.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Great Chancellor  in  Stories From English History, Part Second  by  Alfred J. Church
More, 1478-1535  in  Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages  by  George Hodges
Conscience or King?  in  Red Book of Heroes  by  Mrs. Andrew Lang
Death of Sir Thomas More  in  English Literature for Boys and Girls  by  H. E. Marshall
Thomas Cromwell and Destruction of the Monasteries  in  The Tudors and the Stuarts  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Sir Thomas More in Prison
 in  The Story of the English

St. Thomas More
 in Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages

Erasmus was astonished to notice More present Prince Henry with a roll.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Sir Thomas sat silent.
 in Red Book of Heroes

What now, Mother Eve?' he answered.
 in Red Book of Heroes

Sir Thomas More on his way to the tower after being sentenced to death.
 in The Tudors and the Stuarts

Short Biography
Henry VIII King of England famous for marrying and dispensing with six wives.
Anne Boleyn Second wife of Henry VIII. Executed when she fell from grace.
Thomas Wolsey Rose from humble beginnings to become Chancellor of England. Stalled on Henry VIII's divorce.
Thomas Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII. Broke with Rome. Founded Anglican Church.
Desiderius Erasmus Humanist Philosopher and theologian. Befriended Luther, but did not break from the church.