Feast Day: 22 June
St Thomas More is known as one of the more famous martyrs of Henry VIII’s reign. The popular image is of a man – principled, steadfast, courageous – who placed his own conscience above his king’s demands.
Thomas More was an English statesman and writer of the early 16th century. Thomas More was born on 7 February 1478 in Milk Street in London. (At that time London was a bustling town of perhaps 60,000 or 70,000 people). His father, John More was a lawyer and the family was comfortably off.
More was an educated man. He studied at Oxford and qualified as a lawyer. He soon rose in society and in 1504 More was elected to parliament. In 1510 More became under-sheriff of London. Then in 1517 Thomas More entered the king’s service. More was knighted in 1521 and in 1523 More was made the speaker of the House of Commons. In 1525 More was given the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which gave him considerable powers in the North of England.
Meanwhile, in 1505 Thomas More married a woman named Jane Colt. They had four children, three daughters, and a son. However, Jane died in 1511. More then married a widow called Alice Middleton. Alice had a daughter, also called Alice. Thomas More adopted her. In 1520 More and his family moved to Chelsea.
In the 1510s Thomas More wrote a very biased account of King Richard III (1483-1485), which helped to establish Richard’s reputation as a tyrant. Meanwhile, in 1516 he wrote his famous book Utopia. It was a fantasy about an ideal republic.
Then in 1517 the Protestant Reformation began in Germany when a monk named Martin Luther nailed a document to a church door. In England Thomas, More was a Catholic and he strongly opposed the Protestant Reformation that was sweeping Europe. He wrote against the teachings of Martin Luther.
The Chancellor n In 1529 Thomas More became chancellor of England. Afterward More persecuted Protestants. During his time as chancellor of England, several Protestants were burned to death. In 1530 a man named Thomas Hitton was burned at Maidstone, Kent. Thomas More called him ‘the Devil’s stinking martyr’. However More resigned in 1532.
Then in 1534 King Henry VIII became head of the Church of England. Thomas More refused to swear an oath recognizing Henry as head of the English Church. So he was tried for treason and he was found guilty. Thomas More was beheaded on 6 July 1535.