Thomas More for Children
"No famous family, but of honest stock." These words chosen by Thomas More himself, to be placed on his tomb, should tell you about the "honest" quality of one of the greatest statesmen who ever lived in England. His only problem was that he did not buckle down to the demands of his King. His last words were "I die the king's servant but God's first."
Thomas More was born on February 7, 1478 in London. Of "honest stock," his father was a famous judge and barrister, Sir Thomas More. He was educated in the best school of London at that time, St. Anthony's school. The young Thomas went to Oxford, because he wanted to study Greek. But the aristocrats of that time thought that anybody studying Greek would start thinking for himself and that was supposedly dangerous.
So papa said, "No learning Greek for you, boy-o, you are going to be much better off studying law." Thomas became a lawyer, but he kept up his interest in Greek. (Tough luck, Papa!)
Thomas' intellectual powers were seen when he was elected to parliament at the age of 26! (1504). It was in 1515, that Thomas wrote a book named Utopia, where he imagined a city with 100,000 citizens. The citizens were supposed to report to each other and there was no money. People bartered for the goods they needed in the market, instead of buying them with money.
By this time, Henry VIII had come to the throne. He read Utopia and decided that Thomas More was one of the far thinking lads who would be an asset to his court.
To tell you very frankly, Thomas did not like Henry much. But Henry persisted upon trying to befriend this sensible young man, even going so far as to put his arm around Thomas in public.
Thomas was not deceived by such a show of friendship. He told his son-in-law that his King was so unreliable that if he wanted something and Thomas came in the way of it, Thomas' head would not fail to roll! The truth was he was intelligent enough to know all about the bloodthirsty Tudor blood, which was ambitious enough to let no one stand in their way, when they decided to do something.
Unfortunately, Thomas was right about his King.
Henry VIII started out as a good king. But as he grew older, he began to suffer from health problems, which made tyrannical, bad tempered and autocratic. He divorced his wife, the Princess Catherine of Aragon, and married Ann Boleyn, her ambitious lady in waiting.
Henry was a Catholic, and the church definitely did not accept this marriage. Thomas More was a Catholic and he definitely did not believe that this marriage was legal, sacred or sanctioned in the eyes of God.
More who had already been given the post of Lord Chancellor by Henry VIII had now reached the stage when it was his job to tell the King that he was not doing right, either in the sight of God or man. Besides, he was the master of equity law in England. This was the most powerful law office in England. So when he knew that King Henry was going to marry Anne Boleyn, who was Thomas' enemy, Thomas resigned on the grounds of ill health, in 1532,
But Henry did not want to leave him alone. He invited his friend Thomas to his wedding with Anne. Thomas did not attend and that was the excuse which made the King's hangers on say, "Your Majesty, Thomas More does not obey your orders! He considers the church more powerful than you!"
Henry decided that he was the king and did not need to have anything to do with the church in Rome. So he declared himself the head of the church in England." Of course not," said Thomas More and that was enough for this bad King to throw his once best friend into the Tower of London.
On May 7, 1535, Thomas More, great statesman of England, was beheaded by his King, on charge of treason. And so died one who had faith in his belief of what was right and died for it.
What happened to Anne Boleyn? The moment King Henry heard about Thomas More's death, he told his new wife, "You are the cause of this man's death." He had his new queen beheaded 11 months later, because he wanted to marry her lady-in-waiting Jane Seymour. But then, during his reign, 120 people were beheaded every month!
Thomas More was named Saint Thomas More, in 1935.
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