St. Thomas More

Lord Chancellor of England


February 7, 1478
July 6, 1535
Related topics
Great Britain, Biography, Christian martyrs, England, History,


Sir Thomas More; 7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), also known by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and, for three years toward the end of his life, Lord Chancellor. He is recognized as a saint within the Catholic Church and is commemorated by the Church of England as a "Reformation martyr". He was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation and in particular of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.

More coined the word "utopia" – a name he gave to the ideal and imaginary island nation, the political system of which he described in Utopia published in 1516. He opposed the King's separation from the Catholic Church and refused to accept the King as Supreme Head of the Church of England, a title which had been given by parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged papal power and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535, he was tried for treason, convicted on perjured testimony and beheaded.

Intellectuals and statesmen across Europe were stunned by More's execution. Erasmus saluted him as one "whose soul was more pure than any snow, whose genius was such that England never had and never again will have its like". Two centuries later Jonathan Swift said he was "the person of the greatest virtue this kingdom ever produced" (Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, v. 13, Oxford UP, 1959, p. 123), a sentiment with which Samuel Johnson agreed. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper said in 1977 that More was "the first great Englishman whom we feel that we know, the most saintly of humanists, the most human of saints, the universal man of our cool northern renaissance." The Catholic Church proclaimed him a saint in 1935. The Franciscan order has the tradition that he was a member of the Third Order of St. Francis and venerates his memory as a member of the order.

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Works By St. Thomas More

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