"I die the King's good servant, but God's servant first"
Saint, Lord Chancellor of England, knight, author and martyr, born in London on Februrary 7, 1478 and executed at Tower Hill on July 6, 1535.
As a child, Thomas More's merry character and brilliant intellect attracted much attention. He was sent to Oxford, where he studied Greek, French, History and Mathematics. He also learned to play the flute and violin and later, studied Law and was admitted to the bar, where his great abilities saw him appointed 'reader' or lecturer on law.
Thomas More wrote poetry in both Latin and English. He cultivated the acquaintance of scholars and learned men, including the great Renaissance humanist, Erasmus.
At an early stage in his life, he deliberated on the priesthood as a vocation but, after some time of prayer and consideration, he chose 'to be a chaste husband rather than an impure priest'.
Erasmus, his friend, wrote this of Thomas More:
"....in stature he is not tall, though not remarkably short.....His complexion is white, his face rather pale and though by no means ruddy, a faint flush of pink appears beneath the whiteness of his skin. His hair is dark brown or brownish black. The eyes are grayish blue, with some spots, a kind which betokens singular talent, and among the English is considered attractive. It is said that none are so free of vice. His countenance is in harmony with his character, being always expressive of an amiable joyfulness, and even an incipient laughter and, to speak candidly, it is better framed for gladness than for gravity or dignity, though without any approach to folly or buffoonery. He....is a most faithful and enduring friend.......when he finds anyone sincere and according to his heart, he so delights in their society and conversation as to place in it the principal charm of life......in a word, if you want a perfect model of friendship, you will find it in no better than in More......no one is less led ny the opinions of the crowd, yet no one departs less from common sense....."
In 1501 he was elected a Member of Parliament and married Jane Colte. The marriage proved a supremely happy one; of it were born three daughters, Margaret, Elizabeth and Cecilia, and a son, John; and then in 1511 Jane More died.
Thomas More married again very soon after his first wife's death, his choice being a widow, Alice Middleton. She was older than he by seven years, and was devoted to the care of the young children.
Thomas More's fame as a lawyer was now very great and he enjoyed the King's favour in appointments. In 1523 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons and in October 1529 he succeeded Wolsey as Chancellor of England, a post never held by a layman.
A few months later, came the royal proclamation ordering the clergy to acknowledge Henry VIII as "Supreme head of the Church as far as the law of God will permit" and Thomas More at once proffered his resignation of the chancellorship, which was not accepted. His firm opposition to King Henry's designs in regard to the divorce, the papal supremacy, and the laws against heretics, speedily lost him the royal favour, and in May 1532, he resigned his post of Lord Chancellor after holding it less than three years.
For the next eighteen months, Thomas More lived in seclusion and gave much time to writing. In March, 1534, the Act of Succession was passed which required all who should be called upon to take an oath acknowledging any children of King Henry and Anne Boleyn as legitimate heirs to the throne. On April 14, Thomas More was summoned by the King to Lambeth to take the oath and, upon his refusal, was committed to the Tower of London.
On July 1, Thomas More was indicted for high treason at Westminster Hall. More denied the chief charges. The jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn, but some days later this was changed by King Henry to beheading on Tower Hill.
The execution took place on Tower Hill on July 6.
St Thomas More was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.
Thomas More College proudly bears the name of this great man. As a community, we honor his life, and celebrate especially his qualities of:
- Love of Beauty
- Love of Family
- Equality of all before God
We try to live these in our own lives, and we take as our motto, the last part of Thomas More's final words, uttered as he was led to the scaffold: