Essay on Sir Thomas More
Brandon Olson 28 September 2011 Mr. Dufloth Period 7 AP European History Sir Thomas More Thomas More was an influential politician and a defender of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a friend of Erasmus and of King Henry VIII, and a very religious man, once seriously considering joining a monastery. However, he eventually decided on law school. He married Jane Colt, fathering four children with her: Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely, and John. Then, Jane died and he re-married, this time to Alice More.
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Although he did not actually have kids with her, he loved her daughter as his own, and later becoming the guardian of a young lady named Anne Cresacre, bringing the number of kids in his household to six. Although one of his other friends called his wife a “hook-nosed harpy”, Erasmus insisted that Thomas was happy in his marriage. More believed that educating women was just as important as educating men, and he served as the tutor to his own daughters, giving them the same classical education as his son John.
Margaret, in particular, mastered Greek and Latin, once having a letter of hers shown to the Bishop of Exeter, who could not help but admire it for its correct Latin spelling and grammar. Because he was so moved by the letter, he sent her a gold coin from Portugal as a gift. They usually didn’t do that in those days. At the start of his political career, More was one of the two undersheriffs in London. Later he became Master of Requests, and then a Privy Councilor, serving under the king. More was knighted after he went on a diplomatic visit to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.
After becoming the secretary and personal adviser to King Henry VIII, Thomas began to welcome foreign diplomats, draft official documents, and serve as the link between Henry and the Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey. Two years after he was knighted, he was elected as Speaker of the House of Commons and later as High Steward for Oxford and Cambridge universities. Another two years after his election, he became chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which included a lot of northern England. Throughout all of these duties and positions, he was proven to be an honest and effective leader, becoming a friend of King Henry VIII.
He was also esteemed a man of great intellect, most notably by Erasmus. Sir Thomas More’s greatest work, Utopia, contrasts shows what he believes to be perfectly logical social arrangements in the country Utopia. There, there is no private property, everyone is educated to the same degree, and virtually every religion is tolerated. The only belief which is not tolerated is atheism. His logic was that if a man has no higher power, then he cannot be held accountable for his promises, big or small. If he cannot be held accountable, then he can do whatever he wants without fear of being punished for breaking his promise.
If he can do whatever he wants without consequence, then he is not to be trusted. If you cannot trust him, then what is the sense of trusting him? His friendship with the king lasted until the king’s marriage with Anne Boleyn and separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church. He refused to attend her coronation as Queen of England, although he did send a letter displaying his wishes for the king and the new queen to be happy together and live long in their new life, probably already thinking that she wouldn’t last too long, just like the others.
After all, the king’s previous five wives were all either executed or disappeared under “mysterious circumstances”, didn’t they? Perhaps he could wait this out and then the king would return to the Catholic Church and everything would be fine. Apparently, she lasted long enough to have her father, brother, and uncle on the jury, along with the new Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley, Thomas’ successor, that was trying him for treason. The charges were not actually based on his dislike of Queen Boleyn, in fact he actually accepted Parliament’s right to name Anne Boleyn queen of England.
The charges were based on his refusal to say that the king was supreme in the relationship between Church and State and his refusal to acknowledge the king’s divorce. In reality, the only evidence they could bring up against him was a testimony about how he had told someone who was an enemy of his that he didn’t acknowledge the king as Supreme Head of the Church, and was very, shall we say, suspicious. However, the jury was prejudiced against him, so they sentenced him to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, however he was able to get that reduced to beheading.
A curious fact about that was that he angled his head so that the sword would not cut his beard, claiming that his beard didn’t deserve his punishment. His body was buried at an unmarked grave at the Tower of London, and his head was put on a stake overlooking the river, but his daughter Margaret Roper rescued it from being thrown into the river like most traitors’ skulls. It now resides in the Roper Vault under the alter of St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury.