Sir Thomas More (7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535) was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important counselor to Henry VIII and Lord Chancellor from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. More opposed the Protestant Reformation and the King's separation from the Catholic Church, and refused to accept him as Supreme Head of the Church of England. Tried for treason, More was convicted on perjured testimony and beheaded. Pope Pius XI canonized More in 1935 as a martyr.
Born in Milk Street in London, on 7 February 1478, Thomas More was the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later judge, and his wife Agnes (née Graunger). More married Jane Colt in 1505. She was nearly ten years younger. The couple had four children before Jane died in 1511: Margaret, Elizabeth, Cicely, and John. Within thirty days More had married the rich widow Alice Middleton as his second wife. More had no children from his second marriage, although he raised Alice's daughter from her previous marriage as his own.
He was elected to Parliament in 1504, eventually rising to the position of Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523. More was knighted by Henry the VIII in 1521. He became a Sub-Treasurer to the King that same year. Sir Thomas More was appointed the Lord Chancellor of England in 1529. He held this post until 1532 when he resigned due to differences with the King.
In 1533, More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. He was charged with high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Supremacy. The Act of Supremacy stated that the divorce of Catherine of Aragon was legal and, contrary to the law of God, the marriage to Anne Boleyn is confirmed. The act also required persons of all stations take an oath swearing to maintain this act of succession. Thomas More refused to take the oath. On 1 July 1535, More was tried before a panel of judges that included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn's father, brother, and uncle. He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors who were not the nobility), but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation. The execution took place on 6 July 1535 at the Tower of London.
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Categories: Lord Chancellors of England | Catholic Martyrs of the English Reformation | Saints | Catholics | People Executed by the Tudors | Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster | Members of Parliament, City of London | Members of Parliament, Middlesex | Members of Parliament, England 1504 | Members of Parliament, England 1510 | Members of Parliament, England 1523 | Field of the Cloth of Gold