80 Facts About Thomas More


Sir Thomas More, venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, judge, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist.


Thomas More wrote Utopia, published in 1516, which describes the political system of an imaginary island state.


Thomas More opposed Henry VIII'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.


Thomas More was educated at St Anthony's School, then considered one of London's best schools.


From 1490 to 1492, Thomas More served John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, as a household page.


Thomas More began his studies at Oxford in 1492, and received a classical education.


In 1496, Thomas 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.


Between 1503 and 1504 Thomas More lived near the Carthusian monastery outside the walls of London and joined in the monks' spiritual exercises.


Thomas More continued ascetic practices for the rest of his life, such as wearing a hair shirt next to his skin and occasionally engaging in self-flagellation.


Erasmus reported that Thomas More wanted to give his young wife a better education than she had previously received at home, and tutored her in music and literature.


Thomas More chose Alice Middleton, a widow, to head his household and care for his small children.


The speed of the marriage was so unusual that Thomas More had to get a dispensation from the banns of marriage, which, due to his good public reputation, he easily obtained.


Thomas More had no children from his second marriage, although he raised Alice's daughter from her previous marriage as his own.


Thomas More became the guardian of two young girls: Anne Cresacre who would eventually marry his son, John Thomas More; and Margaret Giggs who was the only member of his family to witness his execution.


An affectionate father, Thomas More wrote letters to his children whenever he was away on legal or government business, and encouraged them to write to him often.


Thomas More insisted upon giving his daughters the same classical education as his son, an unusual attitude at the time.


Thomas More's grandson commissioned a copy, of which two versions survive.


In 1504 Thomas More was elected to Parliament to represent Great Yarmouth, and in 1510 began representing London.


From 1510, Thomas 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.


Thomas More became Master of Requests in 1514, the same year in which he was appointed as a Privy Counsellor.


Thomas More later served as High Steward for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.


In 1523 Thomas More was elected as knight of the shire for Middlesex and, on Wolsey's recommendation, the House of Commons elected Thomas More its Speaker.


In 1525 Thomas More became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with executive and judicial responsibilities over much of northern England.


Thomas More supported the Catholic Church and saw the Protestant Reformation as heresy, a threat to the unity of both church and society.


Additionally, Thomas More vigorously suppressed Tyndale's English translation of the New Testament.


Many accounts circulated during and after Thomas More's lifetime regarding persecution of the Protestant "heretics" during his time as Lord Chancellor.


The popular sixteenth-century English Protestant historian John Foxe was instrumental in publicising accusations of torture in his Book of Martyrs, claiming that Thomas More had often personally used violence or torture while interrogating heretics.


Moynahan argued that Thomas More was influential in the burning of Tyndale, as Thomas More's agents had long pursued him, even though this took place over a year after his own death.


Thomas More instead claimed in his "Apology" 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 the mass by raising women's skirts over their heads at the moment of consecration.


Marius maintains that Thomas More did everything in his power to bring about the extermination of the Protestant "heretics".


In 1980, Thomas 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.


In 1530, Thomas 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 quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws.


Thomas More continued to refuse to sign the Oath of Supremacy and did not agree to support the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine.


In 1533, Thomas More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England.


Technically, this was not an act of treason, as Thomas More had written to Henry seemingly acknowledging Anne's queenship and expressing his desire for the King's happiness and the new Queen's health.


Shortly thereafter, Thomas More was charged with accepting bribes, but the charges had to be dismissed for lack of any evidence.


Thomas More was called before a committee of the Privy Council to answer these charges of treason, and after his respectful answers the matter seemed to have been dropped.


Thomas More accepted Parliament's right to declare Anne Boleyn the legitimate Queen of England, though he refused "the spiritual validity of the king's second marriage", and, holding fast to the teaching of papal supremacy, he steadfastly refused to take the oath of supremacy of the Crown in the relationship between the kingdom and the church in England.


Thomas More's enemies had enough evidence to have the King arrest him on treason.


Four days later, Henry had Thomas More imprisoned in the Tower of London.


The charges of high treason related to Thomas More's violating the statutes as to the King's supremacy and conspiring with Bishop John Fisher in this respect and, according to some sources, included asserting that Parliament did not have the right to proclaim the King's Supremacy over the English Church.


Thomas More responded that, although he had not taken the oath, he had never spoken out against it either and that his silence could be accepted as his "ratification and confirmation" of the new statutes.


Thomas Cromwell, at the time the most powerful of the King's advisors, brought forth Solicitor General Richard Rich to testify that More had, in his presence, denied that the King was the legitimate head of the Church.


Thomas More was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation.


Thomas More was the only member of his family to witness his execution.


Thomas More was buried at the Tower of London, in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in an unmarked grave.


Thomas More's head was fixed upon a pike over London Bridge for a month, according to the normal custom for traitors.


Between 1512 and 1519 Thomas More worked on a History of King Richard III, which he never finished but which was published after his death.


Clements Markham asserts that the actual author of the chronicle was, in large part, Archbishop Morton himself and that Thomas More was simply copying, or perhaps translating, Morton's original material.


Thomas More's best known and most controversial work, Utopia, is a frame narrative written in Latin.


Thomas More completed and theologian Erasmus published the book in Leuven in 1516, but it was only translated into English and published in his native land in 1551, and the 1684 translation became the most commonly cited.


At the king's request, Thomas More composed a rebuttal: the Responsio ad Lutherum was published at the end of 1523.


Thomas More's saying is followed with a kind of apology to his readers, while Luther possibly never apologized for his sayings.


Thomas More thereafter avoided any hint of criticism of Church authority.


In 1528, Thomas More published another religious polemic, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, that asserted the Catholic Church was the one true church, established by Christ and the Apostles, and affirmed the validity of its authority, traditions and practices.


In 1529, the circulation of Simon Fish's Supplication for the Beggars prompted Thomas More to respond with the Supplycatyon of Soulys.


Thomas More responded with a half million words: the Confutation of Tyndale's Answer.


Thomas More, who valued structure, tradition and order in society as safeguards against tyranny and error, vehemently believed that Lutheranism and the Protestant Reformation in general were dangerous, not only to the Catholic faith but to the stability of society as a whole.


Thomas More engaged in controversies, most notably with the French poet Germain de Brie, which culminated in the publication of de Brie's Antimorus.


Thomas More handwrote the last in the Tower of London while awaiting his execution.


Thomas More is the patron of the German Catholic youth organisation Katholische Junge Gemeinde.


The steadfastness and courage with which Thomas More maintained his religious convictions, and his dignity during his imprisonment, trial, and execution, contributed much to Thomas More's posthumous reputation, particularly among Roman Catholics.


Jonathan Swift, an Anglican, wrote that Thomas More was "a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced".


Roman Catholic scholars maintain that Thomas More used irony in Utopia, and that he remained an orthodox Christian.


Marxist theoreticians such as Karl Kautsky considered the book a critique of economic and social exploitation in pre-modern Europe and Thomas More is claimed to have influenced the development of socialist ideas.


In 2002, Thomas More was placed at number 37 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


William Roper's biography of Thomas More was one of the first biographies in Modern English.


Sir Thomas More is a play written circa 1592 in collaboration between Henry Chettle, Anthony Munday, William Shakespeare, and others.


In 1941, the 20th-century British author Elizabeth Goudge wrote a short story, "The King's Servant", based on the last few years of Thomas More's life, seen through his family, and especially his adopted daughter, Anne Cresacre More.


Thomas More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning.


Zelman is undecided as to whether Thomas More was being ironic in his book or was genuinely advocating a police state.


Thomas More is the focus of the Al Stewart song "A Man For All Seasons" from the 1978 album Time Passages, and of the Far song "Sir", featured on the limited editions and 2008 re-release of their 1994 album Quick.


Thomas More is depicted by Andrew Buchan in the television series The Spanish Princess.


In 2008, Thomas More was portrayed on stage in Hong Kong as an allegorical symbol of the pan-democracy camp resisting the Chinese Communist Party in a translated and modified version of Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons.


The building, which houses Parliament, would have been well known to Thomas More, who served several terms as a member and became Speaker of the House of Commons before his appointment as England's Lord Chancellor.


Across a small park and Old Church Street from Crosby Hall is Chelsea Old Church, an Anglican church whose southern chapel Thomas More commissioned and in which he sang with the parish choir.


When Thomas More served Mass, he would leave by the door just to the left of it.


Thomas More is commemorated by a stone plaque near St Katharine Docks, just east of the Tower where he was executed.


St Dunstan's Church, an Anglican parish church in Canterbury, possesses Thomas More's head, rescued by his daughter Margaret Roper, whose family lived in Canterbury down and across the street from their parish church.


The last archaeological investigation revealed that the suspected head of Thomas More rests in a niche separate from the other bodies, possibly from later interference.