Fact file on Thomas More

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Thomas More (1478-1535)
Born: 7th February 1478, London.
Died: Executed on 6th July 1535.
Thomas More was the son of a very successful lawyer but as a boy he spent most
of his time in the household of John Morton, who was the Archbishop of
More studied at Oxford and qualified as a lawyer like his father! However he did
also think about coming a monk.
He was one of the two under-sheriffs of London from 1510-1518 and in 1517
entered the king's service. This meant he became one of Henry VIII's most trusted
servants, acting as his secretary, interpreter, speech-writer, chief diplomat,
advisor and confident.
In 1521 he was knighted, in 1523 he became the speaker of the House of
Commons and in 1525 the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
More also built a reputation as a scholar.
Thomas More was close to the radical catholic theologian Erasmus but wrote
against Martin Luther and the protestant reformation.
In 1515 he wrote `The History of Richard III'. This established that king's
reputation as a tyrant and has been described as the first masterpeice of English
More's most important work is `Utopia' which was published in 1516. This was a
description of an imaginary republic ruled by reason and intended to contrast with
the strife-ridden reality of contemporary European politics.
Thomas More remained a passionate defender of Catholic orthodoxy. He wrote
pamphlets against heresy and banned unorthodox books.
In 1529 Thomas More took the post of Lord Chancellor. This was just when Henry
had just become determined to get a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The
previous chancellor, which was Lord Wolsey, had failed to achieve this from
Thomas More resigned the chancellorship when Henry declared himself `supreme
head of the church in England' and established the Anglican church. This allowed
him to end his marriage.
Thomas More continuously argued against the king's divorce and the split with
In 1534 he was arrested after refusing to swear an oath of succession repudiating
the pope and accepting the annulment of the marriage. More was then tried for
treason at Westminster and was executed on Tower Hill on 6th July 1535.

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