- NAME: Thomas More
- OCCUPATION: Philosopher, Lawyer, Political Leader, Saint, Journalist
- BIRTH DATE: February 07, 1478
- DEATH DATE: July 06, 1535
- EDUCATION: St. Anthony's School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: London, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: London, England, United Kingdom
- AKA: Saint Thomas More
- Full Name: Sir Thomas More
- AKA: St. Thomas More
Best Known For
Thomas More is known for his 1516 book Utopia and for his untimely death in 1535, after refusing to acknowledge King Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. He was canonized by the Catholic Church as a saint in 1935.
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In 1516, More published Utopia, a work of fiction primarily depicting a pagan and communist island on which social and political customs are entirely governed by reason. The description of the island of Utopia comes from a mysterious traveler to support his position that communism is the only cure for the egoism found in both private and public life—a direct jab at Christian Europe,
which was seen by More as divided by self-interest and greed.
Utopia covered such far-reaching topics as theories of punishment, state-controlled education, multi-religion societies, divorce, euthanasia and women's rights, and the resulting display of learning and skill established More as a foremost humanist. Utopia also became the forerunner of a new literary genre: the utopian romance.
In 1520, reformer Martin Luther published three works setting out his doctrine of salvation, which, according to Luther, could be attained through grace alone; the series rejected certain Catholic practices and attacked others. In 1521, King Henry VIII responded to Luther with the assistance of More, in his Defence of the Seven Sacraments. By this time, More had become treasurer of England's exchequer, but he also served as "Henry's intellectual courtier," secretary and confidant, and, in 1523, he was elected speaker of the House of Commons.
More's fate would begin to turn when, in the summer of 1527, King Henry tried to use the Bible to prove to More that Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to produce a male heir, was void. More tried to share the king's viewpoint, but it was in vain, and More could not sign off on Henry's plan for divorce.
In 1532, More resigned from the House of Commons, citing poor health. The real reason, however, was probably his disapproval of Henry's recent disregard of the laws of the church and his divorce of Catherine. More did not attend the subsequent coronation of Anne Boleyn in June 1533, and the king did not view this in a very kind light, and his vengeance was imminent.
In 1534, More was accused of being complicit with Elizabeth Barton, who opposed Henry's break with Rome, but he was protected from further indictment from certain Lords in the House of Commons. In April 1534, the final straw came when More refused to swear to Henry's Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy, essentially refusing to accept the king as head of the Church of England, which More believed would disparage the power of the pope. More was sent to the Tower of London on April 17, 1534, and was found guilty of treason.
Thomas More was beheaded on July 6, 1535. He left behind the final words: "The king's good servant, but God's first." More was beatified in 1886 and canonized by the Catholic Church as a saint in 1935. He has also been deemed a "Reformation martyr" by the Church of England.
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