Skip to main content
Select Source:

Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More

The life of the English humanist and statesman Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) exemplifies the political and spiritual upheaval of the Reformation. The author of "Utopia," he was beheaded for opposing the religious policy of Henry VIII.

Thomas More was born in London on Feb. 6, 1478, to parents whose families were connected with the city's legal community. His education began at a prominent London school, St. Anthony's. In 1490 Thomas entered the household of Archbishop John Morton, Henry VII's closest adviser. Service to Morton brought experience of the world, then preferment in 1492 to Oxford, where More first encountered Greek studies. Two years later he returned to London, where legal and political careers were forged. By 1498 More had gained membership in Lincoln's Inn, an influential lawyers' fraternity.

Christian Humanism

A broader perspective then opened. The impact of humanism in England was greatly intensified about 1500, partly by Erasmus's first visit. His biblical interests spurred the work of Englishmen recently back from Italy; they had studied Greek intensively and thus were eager for fresh scrutiny of the Gospel texts and the writings of the early Church Fathers. John Colet's Oxford lectures on the Pauline epistles, and his move in 1504 to London as dean of St. Paul's Cathedral and founder of its famous humanist school, epitomized this reformist, educational activity among English churchmen. Lay patronage of the movement quickly made Cambridge, where Erasmus periodically taught, a focus of biblical scholarship and made London a favored meeting ground for Europe's men of letters.

England thus shed its cultural provincialism, and More, while pursuing his legal career and entering Parliament in 1504, was drawn to the Christian humanist circle. He spent his mid-20s in close touch with London's austere Carthusian monks and almost adopted their vocation. His thinking at this stage is represented by his interest in the Italian philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, who had also become increasingly pious when approaching the age of 30 a decade before; More's 1505 translation of Pico's first biography stressed that development.

But More then decided that he could fulfill a Christian vocation while remaining a layman. Both his subsequent family life and public career document the humanist persuasion that Christian service could be done, indeed should be pursued, in the world at large. He first married Jane Colt, who bore three sons and a daughter before dying in 1511, and then Alice Middleton. His household at Bucklersbury, London, until 1524 and then at Chelsea teemed with visitors, such as his great friend Erasmus, and formed a model educational community for the children and servants; More corresponded with his daughters in Latin. His legal career flourished and led to appointment as London's undersheriff in 1511. This meant additional work and revenue as civic counsel at Henry VIII's court and as negotiator with foreign merchants.

More's first official trip abroad, on embassy at Antwerp in 1515, gave him leisure time in which he began his greatest work, Utopia. Modeled on Plato's Republic, written in Latin, finished and published in 1516, it describes an imaginary land, purged of the ostentation, greed, and violence of the English and European scenes that More surveyed. Interpretations of Utopia vary greatly. The dialogue form of book I and Utopia's continual irony suggest More's deliberate ambiguity about his intent. Whatever vision More really professed, Utopia persists and delights as the model for an important literary genre.

Service under Henry VIII

Utopia book I and More's history of Richard III, written during the same period, contain reflections about politics and the problems of counseling princes. They represent More's uncertainty about how to handle frequent invitations to serve Henry VIII, whose policies included many facets distasteful to the humanists. More had written in Utopia: "So it is in the deliberations of monarchs. If you cannot pluck up wrongheaded opinions by the root … yet you must not on that account desert the commonwealth. You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds." He finally accepted Henry's fee late in 1517 and fashioned a solid career in diplomacy, legal service, and finance, crowned in 1529 by succession to Cardinal Wolsey as chancellor of England.

More's early doubts, however, proved justified. Under Wolsey's direction More as Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523 promoted a war levy so unpopular that its collection was discontinued. In European negotiations Henry's belligerence and Wolsey's ambition frustrated More's desire to stop the wars of Christendom so that its faith and culture could be preserved.

By the time that Wolsey's inability to obtain the annulment of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon had raised More to highest office and placed him in the increasingly distressing role of Henry's chief agent in the maneuvering that began to sever England from Rome, More was deeply engaged in writings against Lutherans, defending the fundamental tenets of the Church whose serious flaws he knew. More cannot justly be held responsible for the increased number of Protestants burned during his last months in office, but this was the gloomiest phase of his career. The polemics, in English after 1528, including the Dialogue Concernynge Heresyes (1529) and Apologye (1533), were his bulkiest works but not his best, for they were defensive in nature and required detailed rebuttal of specific charges, not the light and allusive touch of the humanist imagination. He continued writing until a year after his resignation from office, tendered May 16, 1532, and caused by illness and distress over England's course of separation from the Catholic Church.

Break with the King

More recognized the dangers that his Catholic apologetics entailed in the upside-down world of Henry's break with Rome and tried to avoid political controversy. But Henry pressed him for a public acknowledgment of the succession to the throne established in 1534. More refused the accompanying oath that repudiated papal jurisdiction in England, and the Christian unity thereby manifest, in favor of royal supremacy.

More's last dramatic year—from the first summons for interrogation on April 12, 1534, through imprisonment, trial for treason, defiance of his perjured accusers, and finally execution on July 6, 1535—should not be allowed to overshadow his entire life's experience. Its significance extends beyond the realm of English history. For many of Europe's most critical years, More worked to revitalize Christendom. He attacked those who most clearly threatened its unity; once convinced that Henry VIII was among their number, More withdrew his service and resisted to his death the effort to extract his allegiance. His life, like Utopia, offers fundamental insights about private virtues and their relationship to the politics of human community.

Further Reading

Preeminent More scholars are now contributing to the Yale Edition of his complete works under the direction of Louis Martz. Thus far published are The History of King Richard III, edited by Richard S. Sylvister (1963), and Utopia, edited by Edward Surtz and Jack H. Hexter (1965). A convenient edition of Utopia, with critical appraisals, is by Ligeia Gallagher, More's Utopia and Its Critics (1964); and a recent study is by R. Schoeck, Utopia and Humanism (1969).

The classic biography is by More's son-in-law, William Roper, The Life of Sir Thomas More, translated by Ralph Robynson and edited with introduction, notes, glossary, and index of names by J. Rawson Lumby (1952). Other good biographies are the Reverend Thomas E. Bridgett, The Life and Writings of Blessed Thomas More (1913), and Raymond Wilson Chambers, Thomas More (1935). For historical background see Stanley T. Bindoff, Tudor England (1954), and Myron Piper Gilmore, The World of Humanism, 1453-1517 (1962). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sir Thomas More." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sir Thomas More." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-thomas-more

"Sir Thomas More." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-thomas-more

More, Thomas (1478–1535)

MORE, THOMAS (14781535)

MORE, THOMAS (14781535), English humanist scholar, author, and statesman. Thomas More was born in London on 7 February 1478 and executed there for high treason on 6 July 1535. His father, John More (died 1530), secured an appointment for his twelve-year-old son as page to John Morton, archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor under Henry VII (ruled 14851509). Grateful for the training in diplomacy, More paid tribute to Morton, a canonist who had helped to overthrow Richard III in favor of Henry VII, in both his Utopia (1515) and his History of Richard III (c. 1513, published 1543). Under Morton's influence More attended Canterbury College, Oxford, where he met such humanists as John Colet, William Grocyn, and Thomas Linacre. Under parental pressure, he left Oxford in 1494 for the study of law at New Inn, and later at Lincoln's Inn. While studying law he became deeply attached to the Carthusians of the Charterhouse and carefully discerned a religious vocation. But once he determined that he should seek God in the world rather than in ascetical retirement from it, he married Jane Colt, who bore him four children before her death in 1511. Six weeks later the widower married the widow Alice Middleton to provide his young children with a good stepmother.

The center of a group of humanists at London, More in 1499 first met Desiderius Erasmus, who honored his friend in the Latin title of his famous Praise of Folly (Encomium Moriae). More's earliest literary works date from this period, but legal work and a series of public offices increasingly consumed his time. He began to compose Utopia during a trade mission to the Low Countries in 1515, and in 1518 he formally entered the service of Henry VIII (ruled 15091547) as a royal counselor. Mindful of the vagaries of political life, More dramatized the arguments for and against royal service in the first book of Utopia. While the philosophical seafarer Raphael Hathloday (whose account of Utopia fills the second book) refuses even to consider advising a European prince, lest he be sullied by contact with unprincipled courtiers intent on money, territory, or power, the character More takes a guardedly optimistic tone by arguing that politics is the art of the possible and that one need not necessarily be seduced or compromised if one is clear on certain nonnegotiable moral principles. While the second book has been interpreted in ways as widely different as heralding an ideal Platonic polis and prophetically anticipating a Marxist paradise, it may well be an ironical humanistic exploration of what a society would look like if it systematically abandoned the principles of political philosophy associated with Augustine's City of God, on which More had lectured as early as 1504 and to which he frequently returned in later political writings and in his own practice.

From 1518 to 1529 More proved himself an able member of the king's council, especially as a liaison between Henry VIII and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475?1530), then Lord Chancellor, who was laboring to secure a general European peace. More was knighted in 1521 and chosen as the speaker of the House of Commons in 1523. By that year he had joined the campaign against the Lutheran literature then beginning to flood England and wrote controversial works, some on the king's behalf and others in his own name, against Luther and against William Tyndale, Simon Fish, and others. At this time also Henry began to consult More on his proposed divorce from Catherine of Aragón. When More informed the king that after long study he could not support his case, Henry chose other officials to pursue his "great matter" and sent More off to France for the negotiations that eventually resulted in the Treaty of Cambrai (1529).

When Wolsey had to resign from office after proving unable to dissolve Henry's marriage during the 1529 trial, Henry named More as the first nonclerical Lord Chancellor on 25 October 1529. While Henry's policies veered toward a breech with Rome over the question of the divorce, they showed little inclination to any doctrinal changes of the sort that More considered heretical and that he had long opposed both by the controlled use of civil law and by his writings. In the business of the chancery he garnered a reputation for impartiality and promptness in handling a vast docket of cases, but his direct influence with Henry VIII waned as it became increasingly obvious that the king was willing to break with Rome in order to marry Anne Boleyn. More resigned his office on 16 May 1532, the day after the bishops capitulated to the king on certain questions that More considered non-negotiable.

For over a year he lived modestly in retirement at Chelsea. His ongoing efforts to inform the king's conscience took the form of pseudonymous works such as The Debellation of Salem and Bizance, a story about the Turkish invasion of Christian Hungary in which one need not look terribly deep to find applications for the controversies between Protestant and Catholic religion in England. More managed to evade the various efforts of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's principal secretary and chief minister, to implicate him in treasonable activities, but he began to prepare himself for the inevitable by beginning to compose his Treatise on the Passion. He finished the work during his imprisonment for refusing to swear to the Oath of Supremacy when summoned to Lambeth Palace on 12 April 1534. Alert to various traps and ruses, he refused to reveal his conscience on the matter to anyone, even the much-loved members of his family. After confinement to the Tower of London for over a year, he was convicted of treason on 1 July 1535 on the basis of perjured evidence by Sir Richard Rich, one of Cromwell's lackeys. Only after the delivery of the verdict did he break his self-imposed silence about the reasons for his refusal to swear the oath when he delivered a great speech, claiming to have all the councils of Christendom in support of his conscience. After merrily joking with the executioner and insisting that he was "the king's good servant, but God's first," he died on the scaffold on 6 July 1535.

See also Cromwell, Thomas ; Erasmus, Desiderius ; Henry VII (England) ; Henry VIII (England) ; Humanists and Humanism ; Utopia .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

More, Thomas. The Complete Works of St. Thomas More. New Haven, 1963.

. Saint Thomas More: Selected Writings. Edited by John F. Thornton. New York, 2003.

. Selected Letters. Edited by Elizabeth Frances Rogers. New Haven, 1961.

Secondary Sources

Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. New York and London, 1998.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More: A Biography. New York, 1984.

Martz, Louis L. Thomas More: The Search for the Inner Man. New Haven, 1990.

Joseph W. Koterski

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Thomas (1478–1535)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Thomas (1478–1535)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-thomas-1478-1535

"More, Thomas (1478–1535)." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-thomas-1478-1535

More, Thomas

Thomas More

Born: February 6, 1478
London, England
Died: July 6, 1535
London, England

English statesman and humanist

The life of the English humanist (one who studies human nature, interests, and values) and statesman (political leader) Sir Thomas More represents the political and spiritual disorder of the Reformation (the time of religious change in the sixteenth century that moved away from Roman Catholic tradition toward Protestantism). The author of Utopia, he was beheaded for being against the religious policy of Henry VIII (14911547).

Early life

Thomas More was born in London on February 6, 1478, to John and Agnes More, whose families were connected with the city's legal community. His father, John More, was the butler at the lawyer's club, Lincoln's Inn, as his father was before him. John very much wanted to be a lawyer himself. That opportunity came when he married Agnes Granger, the wealthy daughter of a local merchant. In marriage she shared some of that wealth with John. He was well-liked at Lincoln's Inn and was voted to be a member and then was admitted to the bar (a group of practicing lawyers). Agnes and John had four other children besides Thomas but three died very young.

Thomas' education began at a prominent London school, St. Anthony's. In 1490 Thomas entered the household of Archbishop John Morton, Henry VII's closest adviser. His mother and father's connections made this possible. Service to Morton brought experience of the world. In 1492 More transferred to Oxford, where he first started Greek studies. Two years later he returned to London, where legal and political careers blossomed. By 1498 More had gained membership in Lincoln's Inn.

Christian humanism

More, while pursuing his legal career and entering Parliament in 1504, was drawn to the Christian humanist circle. This philosophy (the study of knowledge) coupled the study of Greek with the study of the gospel in seeking a more direct message. He spent his mid-twenties in close touch with London's strict Carthusian monks and almost became one. But More then decided that he could fulfill a Christian call to ministry while remaining a layman (non-clergy).

More first married Jane Colt, who bore three sons and a daughter before dying in 1511. He then married Alice Middleton. His legal career grew and led to an appointment as London's undersheriff in 1511. This meant additional work and income as public lawyer at Henry VIII's court and as court representative with foreign merchants.

More's first official trip abroad, at an embassy at Antwerp in 1515, gave him leisure time in which he began his greatest work, Utopia. Modeled after Plato's (c. 427c. 347 b.c.e.) Republic and finished and published in 1516, it describes an imaginary land, free of the prideful greed and violence of the English scenes that More had witnessed.

Service under Henry VIII

In Utopia More discusses the difficulties of counseling (as a lawyer) princes. This awareness kept him from accepting frequent invitations to serve Henry VIII, whose policies were often quite opposite to the humanist's philosophy. He finally accepted Henry's fee late in 1517 and had a solid career in diplomacy (the conduct in dealing with other nations), legal service, and finance. In 1529 he was chosen as the successor to Cardinal Wolsey as chancellor (secretary of the king) of England.

More's early doubts, however, proved justified. Under Wolsey's direction More, as Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523, promoted a war tax so unpopular that its collection was discontinued.

Wolsey's inability to obtain the annulment (to make invalid) of Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon (14851536) had raised More to highest office, and had placed him in the increasingly distressing role of Henry's chief agent in the strategies that began to sever England from Rome. More was deeply engaged in writings against Lutherans, defending the fundamental (essential) rules of the Roman Catholic Church, whose serious defects he knew. More cannot justly be held responsible for the increased number of Protestants killed during his last months in office, but this was the gloomiest phase of his career. He continued writing until a year after his resignation from office, given on May 16, 1532, which was caused by illness and distress over England's separation from the Catholic Church.

Break with the king

More recognized the dangers that his Catholic writings might bring in the upside-down world of Henry's break with Rome. So he tried to avoid political controversy (open to dispute). But Henry pressed him for a public acknowledgment of the country's break from Rome in 1534. More refused to take the accompanying oath that denied the pope's power in England.

More's last dramatic yearfrom the first summons for questioning on April 12, 1534, through imprisonment, trial for treason (the act of betraying one's country), defiance of his lying accusers, and finally execution (a death sentence carried out legally) on July 6, 1535should not be allowed to overshadow his entire life's experience. Its significance extends beyond the realm of English history. For many of Europe's most critical years, More worked to revitalize the Christian world. He attacked those who most clearly threatened its unity; once convinced that Henry VIII was among their number, More withdrew his service and resisted to his death the effort to remove his loyalty.

For More Information

Ackroyd, Peter. The Life of Thomas More. New York: Nan A. Talese, 1998.

Gallagher, Ligeia. More's Utopia and It's Critics. Chicago: Scott, Foresman, 1964.

Marius, Richard. Thomas More: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1984.

Monti, James. The King's Good Servant But God's First: The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Thomas." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Thomas." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-thomas

"More, Thomas." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-thomas

More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535)

More, Sir Thomas (14781535)

An English statesman, author, and renowned Renaissance humanist who ran afoul of King Henry VIII's break with the Catholic Church, Thomas More paid for his stand with his life. His father, Sir John More, was persecuted by Henry VII, the first Tudor king. He was Lord Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532. In 1510 he became an undersheriff of London. He became a counselor to the king in 1517 and was sent as a diplomat to Emperor Charles V. His success in this mission earned him a knighthood, attaining the title of undertreasurer in 1521. More served the king as adviser and go-between with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the leading representative of the pope in England.

In 1516 More completed Utopia, a book describing an ideal political and economic system in which religious tolerance and the common ownership of property bring about a peaceful and orderly society. More was inspired by ideal societies described by classical Greek authors such as Plato and Aristotle; his name of Utopia is derived from the Greek phrase eutopos, or no place.

In 1523 More was named speaker of the House of Commons and in 1525 chancellor of Lancaster, a key post in northern England. In the meantime he wrote several tracts against the Protestant reformers who were gaining a following on the continent of Europe. His Defence of the Seven Sacraments, written for Henry VIII, earned the king a commendation as Defender of the Faith from Pope Leo X. At the same time, however, Henry was growing strongly disenchanted with his wife of twenty years, Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to provide him with a male heir. In 1527 he asked Cardinal Wolsey to petition Pope Clement VII to have his marriage annulled. The pope refused to cooperate; Henry reacted by forcing Wolsey from his post and, in 1529, replacing him with More. Henry's argument that the pope had no authority in England was opposed by More, who saw the Protestant movement as a deadly threat to the survival of Christianity. He ordered the imprisonment and execution of many Protestants in England.

More did not support Henry's efforts to divorce Catherine of Aragon, however, and to protest the king's actions he asked to resign his post. Although the king granted this request in 1532, he was deeply angered by More's refusal to take an oath acknowledging Henry as the head of the Church of England. When Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn, was crowned the new queen of England in 1533, More avoided the ceremony. This snub and his continuing friendship with Catherine of Aragon made him a marked man. In 1534 he was arrested for refusing to take another oath, one that would acknowledge an Act of Succession denying the ultimate authority of the pope in matters of religion. He was brought to trial; unwilling to recant his belief that a king could not replace a pope, he was found guilty and sentenced to be drawn and quartereda severely cruel punishment. Henry spared him this ordeal, ordering him instead to be beheaded, which took place on July 6, 1535. More became a martyr for the Catholic Church in its efforts to halt the spread of Protestantism in Europe.

See Also: Boleyn, Anne; Erasmus, Desiderius; Henry VIII

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535)." The Renaissance. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535)." The Renaissance. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/arts-construction-medicine-science-and-technology-magazines/more-sir-thomas-1478-1535

"More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535)." The Renaissance. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/arts-construction-medicine-science-and-technology-magazines/more-sir-thomas-1478-1535

More, Sir Thomas

Sir Thomas More (Saint Thomas More), 1478–1535, English statesman and author of Utopia, celebrated as a martyr in the Roman Catholic Church. He received a Latin education in the household of Cardinal Morton and at Oxford. Through his contact with the new learning and his friendships with Colet, Lyly, and Erasmus, More became an ardent humanist. As a successful London lawyer, he attracted the attention of Henry VIII, served him on diplomatic missions, entered the king's service in 1518, and was knighted in 1521. More held important government offices and, despite his disapproval of Henry's divorce from Katharine of Aragón, he was made lord chancellor at the fall of Wolsey (1529). He resigned in 1532 because of ill health and probably because of increasing disagreement with Henry's policies. Because of his refusal to subscribe to the Act of Supremacy, which impugned the pope's authority and made Henry the head of the English Church, he was imprisoned (1534) in the Tower and finally beheaded on a charge of treason.

A man of noble character and deep, resolute religious conviction, More had great personal charm, unfailing good humor, piercing wit, and a fearlessness that enabled him to jest even on the scaffold. His Utopia (published in Latin, 1516; tr. 1551) is a picture of an ideal state founded entirely on reason. Among his other works in Latin and English are a translation of The Life of John Picus, Earl of Mirandula (1510); a History of Richard III, upon which Shakespeare based his play; a number of polemical tracts against the Lutherans (1528–33); devotional works including A Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation (1534) and a Treatise on the Passion (1534); poems; meditations; and prayers. More was beatified (1886) by a decree of Pope Leo XIII, canonized (1935) by Pius XI, and proclaimed (2000) the patron saint of politicians by John Paul II.

See his complete works (16 vol., 1963–85) and his correspondence, ed. by E. F. Rogers (1947), which contains all his letters except those to Erasmus. The biography of More by his son-in-law William Roper (ed. by E. V. Hitchcock, 1935) has been the principal source of later biographies, particularly the standard modern biography by R. W. Chambers (1935). See also biographies by R. Marius (1985) and P. Ackroyd (1998); studies by R. Pineas (1968), R. Johnson (1969), E. E. Reynolds (1965 and 1969); G. M. Logan (1983), and A. Fox (1985).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Sir Thomas." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Sir Thomas." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas

"More, Sir Thomas." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas

More, Sir Thomas

More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535). More, lawyer, humanist, and amateur theologian, held great intellectual and moral ascendancy over Henrician England, until his defence of the Roman catholic cause brought about his downfall. He practised common law in the 1500s, and married in 1505 despite previous plans to take holy orders. His legal and political career prospered in the 1510s and 1520s: he became under-sheriff of London (1510), master of requests (1518), and Speaker of the Commons (1523). He was knighted in 1521, and succeeded Wolsey as lord chancellor in 1529. Meanwhile, More became a celebrated enthusiast of humanism, and friend not only of other English scholars but also of Desiderius Erasmus. His Utopia, which described an imaginary land whose inhabitants shaped their lives by natural reason, made his literary reputation, though scholarship has never been able to agree on the book's real intention. More's later religious writings had no ambiguities. He advised on Henry VIII's The Assertion of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther and rebutted Luther's refutation (1523). Licensed from 1528 to read heretical books and refute them, he wrote long, fervent catholic ripostes against William Tyndale and Simon Fish. The king's first marriage-crisis placed More in a quandary. He tried to persuade Henry to take Catherine back, and to persecute heretics, until failure forced his resignation from office in May 1532. When required to swear an oath to the new royal succession in 1534, More refused, but claimed that his silence over his reasons could not be construed as ‘malicious’ denial of royal claims. He was imprisoned and interrogated until one witness, Richard Rich, convinced himself that More had really denied the royal supremacy. Swiftly tried and condemned on perjured evidence (as he claimed), More finally spoke out in defence of the papacy, and was executed on 6 July 1535. He was canonized in 1935.

Euan Cameron

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Sir Thomas." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Sir Thomas." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas

"More, Sir Thomas." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas

More, Sir Thomas

More, Sir Thomas (1478–1535) English statesman, humanist scholar, and writer of Utopia (1516). Henry VIII knighted More in 1521. Despite his opposition to Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon, More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor in 1529. He resigned in 1532, following policy disagreements with Henry. More's principled refusal to sign the Act of Supremacy (1534), which made Henry head of the English Church, led to his imprisonment and execution for treason. Utopia portrays an ideal state founded on reason.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"More, Sir Thomas." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"More, Sir Thomas." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas

"More, Sir Thomas." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/more-sir-thomas