Neoplatonism Through the Renaissance

Renaissance Humanism

How did Sir Thomas More become a martyr?

More (1478–1535) was a lawyer by training, and beginning in 1517 he served King Henry VIII, who appointed him Lord Chancellor. In 1534 the British Parliament passed the Act of Succession, making the heirs to the English crown the children of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, which resulted in Henry VIII’s children from earlier marriages (including Elizabeth, who was to become Queen Elizabeth I) being declared bastards.

More refused to swear to the Act of Supremacy, which affirmed the Act of Succession, and so he was committed to the Tower of London, charged with treason, and beheaded. More had always stuck to his own principles while in high office, and his refusal has been generally interpreted as an expression of his belief that Henry VIII had overstepped his royal prerogatives, first in declaring himself Head of the Church of England, so that he could seize Church lands and marry Anne Boleyn, and then in interfering with the royal succession. More’s last words were: “The King’s good servant, but God’s First.” More was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1886 and canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XI in 1935.


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