Thomas More


Thomas More : biography

07 February 1478 – 06 July 1535

At the king’s court

In 1510-s More attracted attention of king Henry VIII. In 1515 he was sent to Flanders with embassy which led negotiations concerning trade of English wool. (The famous “Utopia” started with the reference to this embassy). In 1517 he helped to quiet London which revolted against foreigners. In 1518 More became a member of the privy council. In 1520 he was in Henry VIII suite during his meeting with the king of France Francisco I near the town Calais. In 1521 Thomas More’s name was added with “Sir” – he was knighted for “services for the king and England”.

Apparently, it was More who was an author of a famous manifesto “Defence of the Seven Sacraments”, the answer of Henry VIII to Martin Luther. Pope Leo X conferred a title “Defender of Faith” for this manifesto (it is interesting that for a long time after England broke off with Catholic Church, English monks continued to have this title and on English coins letters D.F. still remain). Thomas More also wrote an answer to Luther signed with his own name.

A conflict with the king. Arrest and execution.

The situation with Henry’s divorce deserves special attention – it led More to elevation, then to fall and finally to death. Cardinal Thoms Wolsey, the archbishop of York and the Lord Chancellor of England couldn’t assure Henry VIII and queen Catherine of Aragon’s divorce, as a result in 1529 he was made to retire. Thomas More became the next Lord Chancellor, by that time he was the chancellor of Lancaster duchy ad the speaker of the House of Commons. Unfortunately for everybody Henry VIII didn’t understand who was More. Thomas More was a deeply religious man and brilliantly educated in the field of canonical law, he firmly stood his ground: only the Roman Pope could dissolve sanctified by the church marriage. Clement VII was against this divorce – Carl V Spanish, a nephew of queen Catherine was putting pressure on him. In 1532 More retired from his post of the Lord Chancellor referred to his week health. The true reason of his retirement was Henry’s rupture with Rome and establishing of the Anglican Church, More was against it. Besides Thomas More was so indignant at England’s breaking with “true faith” that he didn’t come to the coronation of the king’s new wife – Anne Bolleyn. Naturally, Henry VIII noticed it. In 1534 Elisabeth Burton, a nun from Kent, dared to condemn the breaking with Catholic Church in public. It turned out that the foolhardy nun was in correspondence with Thomas More who had similar views and if he wasn’t under defense of the House of Lords he would be arrested. In that year the Parliament accepted “Acts of Supremacy” which made the king the Supreme Head of the church and “Acts of succession to the throne” which had an oath – all representatives of English knighthood must take the oath. A person who took the oath recognized all children of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, refused to recognize any other power – the power of secular lords or princes of church, except the power of kings from the Tudor dynasty. Thomas More, as the Rochester bishop John Fisher, was administered the oath but he refused to say it as it contradicted his views. On the 17th of 1535 he was arrested and put in the Tower, he was called guilty according to the “Act of treason” and on the 6th of July in 1535 he was executed. For the loyalty to the Catholic Church More was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Pius XI in 1935.


“The story of Richard III”

Till nowadays specialists argue about Thomas More’s work “The Story of Richard III” – if it is a historic work or work of art. Nevertheless in the main plot lines this work agrees with the majority of chronicles and historic research, particularly with “New chronicle of England and France” of Fabian, Mancini’s notes, Vergilius’ works. Chroniclers and writers’ narrations differed from the story of Thomas More only in details. “The Story of Richard III” reveals the author’s character, in many cases there was appraisal of historic events happened in 1483. For example, the historian wrote about Richard’s election as a king: “it was nothing more than royal performance, but it was played not on the stage but on scaffolds”.