TRIAL OF SIR THOMAS MORE: Letter to Henry VIII
(March 5, 1534)
It may like your Highness to call to your gracious remembrance, that at such time as of that great weighty room and office of your Chancellor (with which so far above my merits or qualities able and meet therefor, your Highness had of your incomparable goodness honored and exalted me), ye were so good and gracious unto me, as at my poor humble suit to discharge and disburden me, giving me license with your gracious favor to bestow the residue of my life in mine age now to come, about the provision for my soul in the service of God, and to be your Grace's beadsman and pray for you. It pleased your Highness further to say unto me, that for the service which I before had done you (which it then liked your goodness far above my deserving to commend) that in any suit that I should after have unto your Highness, which either should concern mine honor (that word it liked your Highness to use unto me) or that should pertain unto my profit, I should find your Highness good and gracious lord unto me. So is it now gracious Sovereign, that worldly honor is the thing, whereof I have resigned both the possession and the desire, in the resignation of your most honorable office; and worldly profit, I trust experience proveth, and daily more and more shall prove, that I never was very greedy thereon.
But now is my most humble suit unto your excellent Highness, partly to beseech the same, somewhat to tender my poor honesty, but principally that your accustomed goodness, no sinister information move your noble Grace to have any more distrust of my truth and devotion toward you than I have, or shall during my life give the cause. For in this matter of the wicked woman of Canterbury I have unto your trusty Counselor Master Thomas Cromwell, by my writing, as plainly declared the truth as I possibly can, which my declaration, of his duty toward your Grace and his goodness toward me, he hath, I understand, declared unto your Grace. In any part of all which my dealing, whether any other man may peradventure put any doubt or move any scruple of suspicion, that can I neither tell, nor lieth in mine hand to let, but unto myself is it not possible any part of my said demeanor to seem evil, the very clearness of mine own conscience knoweth in all the matter my mind and intent so good.
Wherefore most gracious Sovereign, I neither will, nor well it can become me, with your Highness to reason and argue the matter, but in my most humble manner, prostrate at your gracious feet, I only beseech your Majesty with your own high prudence and your accustomed goodness consider and weigh the matter. And then, if in your so doing, your own virtuous mind shall give you, that notwithstanding the manifold excellent goodness that your gracious Highness hath by so many manner ways used unto me, I be a wretch of such monstrous ingratitude, as could with any of them all, or with any other person living, digress from my bounden duty of allegiance toward your Grace, then desire I no further favor at your gracious hand, than the loss of all that ever I may lose in this world, goods, lands, and liberty and finally my life withal. Whereof the keeping of any part unto myself could never do me pennyworth of pleasure, but only should then my recomfort be, that after my short life and your long, which with continual prosperity to God's pleasure our Lord for his mercy send you, I should once meet with your Grace again in heaven, and there be merry with you, where among mine other pleasures this should yet be one, that your Grace should surely see there then, that (howsoever you take me) I am your true beadsman now and ever have been, and will be till I die, howsoever your pleasure be to do by me.
Howbeit, if in the considering of my cause, your high wisdom and gracious goodness perceive (as I verily trust in God you shall) that I none otherwise have demeaned? myself than well may stand with my bounden duty of faithfulness toward your royal Majesty, then in my most humble wise I beseech your most noble Grace that the knowledge of your true gracious persuasion in that behalf may relieve the torment of my present heaviness, conceived of the dread and fear (by that I hear such grievous bill put by your learned Council into your high Court of Parliament against me) lest your Grace might by some sinister information be moved anything to think the contrary, which if your Highness do not (as I trust in God and your great goodness the matter by your own high prudence examined and considered, you will not) then, in my most humble manner, I beseech your Highness further (albeit that in respect of my former request this other thing is very slight) yet sith your Highness hath here before of your mere abundant goodness heaped and accumulated upon me (though I was thereto very far unworthy) from time to time both worship and great honor, too, and sith I now have left off all such things, and nothing seek or desire but the life to come, and in the meanwhile pray for your Grace, it may like your Highness of your accustomed benignity somewhat to tender my poor honesty and never suffer, by the mean of such a bill pur forth against me, any man to take occasion hereafter against the truth to slander me; which thing should yet by the peril of their own souls do them self more hurt than me, which shall, I trust, settle mine heart, with your gracious favor, to depend upon the comfort of the truth and hope of heaven, and not upon the fallible opinion or soon spoken words of light and soon changeable people.
And thus, most dread and most dear sovereign Lord,
I beseech the blessed Trinity preserve your most noble Grace, both in
soul, and all that are your well willers, and amend all the contrary,
whom if ever I be or ever have been one, then pray I God that he may
open shame and destruction declare it. At my poor house in
Your most humble and most heavy faithful subject and beadsman,