Sir Thomas More (1478-1535)
Thomas More was born in London on February 7, 1478, son of judge Sir John More. He studied at Oxford University and later studied law at New Inn. One of his first works was a translation of a Latin biography of Pico della Mirandola, published in 1510.
At the age of 26 More was elected to Parliament; at 27 he married Jane Colt and fathered four children in the next five years. Jane died when More was 33, leaving him with four young children during the height of his career as a lawyer. Despite his deep sorrow, he married again within one month for the sake of his children. With his gifts of intellectual genius and endearing wit plus his reputation for virtue, More was much sought after as a lawyer and diplomat. At the age of 32, he began his work as a judge, a position that made him well-known and loved among the general London citizenry.
Once in the King’s service, More commanded Henry VIII’s friendship and trust, serving primarily as his personal secretary, but with some administrative and diplomatic responsibilities. He rose steadily over the next ten years, finally becoming Chancellor in 1529, at the age of fifty-one. More was Chancellor for only thirty-one months. He resigned on May 16, 1532, the day after Henry VIII and Cromwell manipulated the Parliament to take away the traditional freedom of the Church, a freedom that had been written into English law since the Magna Carta.
Imprisoned in the Tower of London for fifteen months before his execution, More was heavily pressured by his family and friends to sign the oath accepting Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church in England. More steadfastly refused but never expressed animosity towards those who complied. During this time, he wrote a number of devotional and exegetical works, including A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, A Treatise on the Passion, and The Sadness of Christ.
More was executed on July 6, 1535, and canonized on May 19, 1935. He has become a symbol of professional integrity, famous for the balanced judgment, ever-present humor, and undaunted courage.