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Sir Thomas More, Lord High Chancellor of England

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Sir Thomas More and his Family

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Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)

Sir Thomas More was born in the City of London on 7th February 1478 and was the son of the prominent lawyer Sir John More and his wife Agnes. He was executed on Tower Hill in London on 6th July 1535 for being brave enough to oppose King Henry VIII.

Thomas More was a scholar and educated at St. Anthony's School in London's Threadneedle Street and later in the household of the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Morton. He then went on to study law in which he excelled. His performance and ability as a lawyer soon caught the attention of King Henry VIII and Thomas was invited to join the Privy Council. He rose to become Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523 and finally the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Thomas More quickly became friendly with the king who appreciated his wisdom and humour, and even started visiting his family home. He continued to impress the king and finally became Lord High Chancellor of England. However, it was not long afterwards that Thomas and the king started to disagree about certain issues. The first disagreement was about Henry desire to end his marriage to Queen Catherine and marry Anne Boleyn. The disagreements escalated and Henry finally took away the clergy's right to make church laws without reference to the king. Thomas More resigned his position as Lord High Chancellor and retired to private life.

King Henry VIII was not happy about being opposed, even quietly, by such an important man as Thomas so in 1534 he ordered Thomas to take the Oath of Supremacy which acknowledged the king as head of the English church. Sir Thomas More refused to do this and publicly refused to uphold Henry's annulment from Catherine, but did accept that any children of the king and Anne Boleyn would be legitimate heirs to the throne.

As a result of his refusal to take the oath and acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England and the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London and finally executed on Tower Hill on 6th July, 1535. Immediately before his death he proclaimed 'I die the King's good servant, and God's first'. He was made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1935.

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