Sir Thomas More

1478-1535. English lord chancellor. Of a prominent London burgess family, he was educated at Oxford, at one time thought of becoming a priest, but eventually turned to law, although at all times he sought to live a very ascetic life. In 1504 he entered Parliament and subsequently rose to the position of chancellor after the fall of Wolsey in 1529. He was knighted in 1521. Although a devout Roman Catholic, he was very much taken with the humanism of the time, as indicated by his large circle of friends such as Dean Colet, Erasmus, Holbein, and others who were prominent in literary and artistic circles.

Noted for his fairness and clemency as a judge, More also became greatly interested in social reform. Out of this concern came his book Utopia, in which he sought to describe an ideal state where there was no private property or money, but all things were in common. Religious freedom, with a few exceptions, was also maintained. Yet, his advocacy of religious toleration and his close connection with many of the Renaissance humanists notwithstanding, he was no Protestant, and he wrote a number of books against William Tyndale and Martin Luther. He may also have helped Henry VIII* write his defense of the seven sacraments. Because of his strong Roman Catholic beliefs he came into conflict with Henry over the latter's desire to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled-and because of his refusal to take the oath renouncing the authority of the pope. As a result he was executed. He was beatified by Leo XIII in 1886.