He lived from: 1478 – 1535 A.D.
Feast Day: 22nd June
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Sir Thomas More lived during a time of political corruption and unease in England. Despite very testing times, he resolutely committed himself to the principles of the Catholic faith. For several years Henry VIII and Thomas had been great friends. On several occasions, Henry would sail along the River Thames to visit Thomas at his home in Chelsea. In 1529 Thomas succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor. He was devoted to his family and ensured that his daughters were well-educated which was seen as being very progressive at the time. Complete devotion to God took precedence over all that he accomplished.
Over time, his friendship with Henry deteriorated. On several occasions he met with Thomas to try and persuade him to agree that he should be able to divorce his first wife Catherine of Aragon. He explained that the marriage was not a happy one and that she had not been able to give birth to an heir to the throne. His intent was to end the marriage and marry Anne Boleyn. Thomas would not agree to this as it went against the teachings of the Catholic faith. Henry appealed to the Pope for the marriage to be declared null and void, but the Pope would not agree. Increasingly frustrated, Henry insisted that Thomas and the English clergy acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the Church of England. In other words, that he, Henry, held higher authority than the Pope. Henry thought that by breaking away from Rome and the Catholic faith, he would be able to secure the divorce from Catherine. This action was the last straw for Thomas who felt that the king’s stance was unacceptable. Subsequently, he resigned as Lord Chancellor.
Despite the Pope’s verdict that the marriage to Catherine was still valid, Henry went against him and married Anne Boleyn. He wanted his subjects to accept any children that they would have as being legitimate heirs to the throne. He also demanded recognition that his earlier marriage to Catherine was not valid. Thomas refused all of these requests so Henry accused him of being guilty of high treason. Thomas was sent to the Tower of London where he spent the next 15 months. All of his lands were confiscated and his family were forced into poverty.
At a show trial in Westminster Hall Thomas was sentenced to death by beheading.
He became a saint in 1935. Pope Pius XI in his Testimonial wrote that Thomas had traced a luminous path across a dark period of history. Thomas is recognised as having given his own life in order to protect the Catholic faith.
Film Recommendation: A Man For All Seasons starring Paul Schofield as Sir Thomas More.
COAT OF ARMS
Sir Thomas More’s Coat of Arms By Peter Drummond-Murray, Slains Pursuivant of Arms
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