|February 7, 1477
More is born in London to John and Agnes More.
Tudor, Prince of Wales and the brother of future king Henry Tudor,
marries Catherine of Aragon. Arthur dies four months later.
Henry VII dies and Henry VIII, only eighteen at the time, becomes king.
receiving clearance from the Pope that the marriage would not violate a
command in Leviticus about not taking a brother's wife, Henry VIII
marries Catherine of Aragon.
is elected to Parliament.
marries Alice Middleton.
serving as Undersheriff of London, More publishes his most famous work,
joins the King's service, taking a job as Master of Requests.
is knighted; becomes ambassador to Bruges and Calais.
becomes Speaker of the House of Commons. He moves to Chelsea.
appointed to the four-member King's Council. King Henry VIII
begins to take an interest in Anne Boleyn.
VIII decides that his marriage to Catherine violates the injunction of
Leviticus. (He might also be concerned that Catherine is past the
age of child-bearing and has not given birth to a son.) He asks
Cardinal Wolsey to help secretly secure an annulment of his
marriage. More, meanwhile, negotiates a treaty with France.
private legatine court investigating the question of annulment of the
King's marriage adjourns without taking any action. The
troops of Emperor Charles V wreak havoc in Rome, raping women and
killing children and dragging the corpse of Pope Julius II (taken from
its tomb) through the streets.
tells Catherine that they have been unlawfully married for the past
eighteen years. More becomes aware of the king's interpretation
travels with Cardinal Wolsey to France to ratify the new treaty with
the French king.
|Late September 1527
VIII approaches More about his "great matter" (the legality of his
marriage). More tells Henry that he thinks his marriage is
lawful; the King asks him to give the matter more thought. (Later
in the year, this time at More's home in Chelsea, the king walks
through More's garden, arm around More's neck, discussing his desires
concerning the annulment of his marriage.)
|Summer of 1528
Pope dispatches Cardinal Campeggio from Rome to convene a legatine
court in London to decide the question of the king's annulment.
England experiences outbreaks of the plague and sweating sickness
leading the suspension of the courts at Westminster. More
occupies himself aggressively pursuing heretics, which he views as the
primary threat to England's well-being.
|May 31, 1529
legatine court called by the Pope formally opens in the parliament
chamber of Blackfriars.
|June 21, 1529
and Catherine (along with Cardinal Wolsey) appear before the legatine
court. Catherine kneels before the king and begs for "pity and
compassion" and declared that she was a virgin when she married
him. Henry VIII delivers a speech outlining his scruples about
again on the continent, helps negotiate a general peace between all the
major players in Europe. The peace will hold for fifteen
VIII, unhappy that his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, had failed in
his "great matter," has Wolsey arrested for treason. Henry
chooses Thomas More as Wolsey's successor as Lord Chancellor, the
highest appointed office in England. Despite his sympathies for
Catherine, More accepts the post because it will allow him to defend
his Church. (During his tenure as Lord Chancellor, More will lead
a campaign against heretics that includes banning heretical texts and
searching out and prosecuting--and even burning--heretics.)
Cranmer, at Henry's request, prepares a lengthy report demonstrating
the unlawfulness of the king's marriage. The report is submitted
to England's universities, which declare that the king's scruples are
convenes a meeting of lords and prelates to sign a letter to Pope
Clement asking that he grant the king's request for an annulment of his
marriage. More does not sign the document.
issues a proclamation preventing enforcement of any papal bull
inconsistent with his own view concerning the unlawfulness of his
present marriage. More openly expresses his disagreement with
Henry's action, believing it to be a direct attack on the authority of
Cromwell, who will become More's chief nemesis, becomes a member of the
King's inner council. A lawyer named Christopher St. German
publishes an influential argument that the law of the realm should
preempt ecclesiastical law.
angry King Henry summons the clergy to Westminster, where he demands
reimbursement for the costs of sending a delegation to Rome after it
failed to achieve its goal of securing an annulment of his
marriage. Henry also demands that he be recognized as the "sole
protector and supreme head of the English Church and clergy." In
the Parliament, John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, expresses strong
disagreement with giving this new title to Henry.
tells the House of Lords that Henry is seeking annulment of his
marriage not "out of love for some lady," but for reasons of conscience.
|Late May, 1531
group of royal councilors meets with Catherine and unsuccessfully
urges her to drop her opposition to the annulment of her marriage to
|July 11, 1531
separates from Catherine.
Cromwell, a bill is presented to Parliament that would deny payment to
Rome (in the form of "annates" by new bishops) in an attempt to put
pressure on the Pope to grant the annulment.
acting on behalf of the king, moves to limit the authority of the
Church (and More) to punish heretics.
|Early May 1532
prepares a bill to transfer powers of the Church to Parliament.
Cromwell also asks that the bishops be denied their longstanding
authority to arrest heretics--an action that More cannot stomach.
|May 15, 1532
accord with king's demands, the clergy submits, thus accepting that all
ecclesiastical law required royal consent. The submission
effectively makes Henry the head of the Church of England.
|May 16, 1532
returns to Henry a pouch containing the Great Seal of England, thereby
resigning from his position as Lord Chancellor of England. Henry
tells More, "For your service you have done me, you will find me a good
and gracious lord..."
Cranmer is chosen to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury.
secretly marries a pregnant Anne Boleyn.
presents to Parliament a proposed bill that declares England owes no
allegiance to "foreign princes or potentates" (including the Pope).
Parliament declares Henry's marriage to Catherine to have been
invalid. On April 12, Anne Boleyn is officially proclaimed
"Queene at Greenewych." The new queen is coronated at Westminster
Abbey. Thomas More, still serving as king's councilor, does not
attend the festivities, angering Henry. Bishop John Fisher, an
opponent of the king's marriage and his new role as head of the Church
of England, is arrested for unlawful preaching.
Cromwell begins an investigation into the activities of Thomas More.
Barton, a nun accused of treason who claimed to have visions about a
dire future for England because of Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn,
confesses on the scaffold that her revelations were fraudulent.
More had visited Barton and the king's men were aware of their
|January 15, 1534
reconvenes. Almost immediately it takes up a number of bills
proposed by Cromwell for the king.
enacts the Act of Annates, which provides that bishops in England will
be selected by the king. Parliament also indicts Elizabeth Barton
for treason by a Bill of Attainder. A bill drafted by Cromwell
identifies Bishop Fisher and Thomas More as among her
accomplices. Cromwell requests More visit him for an informal
meeting on the issues of the king's marriage annulment and papal
supremacy. More reaffirms his belief in papal supremacy based, he
claims, on a writing of Henry himself. He adheres to a policy of
silence on the matter of the king's marriage.
|March 5, 1534
writes letters to Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell stating his loyalty to
the king, denying any conspiracy with Barton, and expressing his desire
to see the king's interests furthered.
is called to appear before the king's commissioners. The
commissioners threaten More, and call him a "villainous" servant, but
depart without taking action against him.
|March 30, 1534
gives assent to an act of Parliament called the Act of
Succession. The Act declares the marriage of Henry and Catherine
void, and establishes a line of succession through the children of
Queen Anne. The Act also specifies various offenses, such as
"derogating" the royal family, to be treasonous. Most
significantly for More, the Act also requires all of the king's
subjects to take an oath promising to maintain "the whole effects and
contents of the present Act."
|April 12, 1534
leaving church, More is handed a summons to appear before the king's
commissioners at Lambeth Palace and take the oath of succession.
|April 13, 1534
leaves Chelsea for Lambeth after telling his family he will likely be
imprisoned. At Lambeth, More, when asked to take the oath,
requests to see both it and the Act of Succession. More tells the
commissioners that although he will deny nothing contained in the oath,
he would not swear to it. Asked a second time to take the oath
after being threatened with imprisonment, More again refuses to do
so--and also refuses to explain why he refuses to take the oath.
More is turned over to the Abbot of Westminster, who keeps him for
|April 17, 1534
More is imprisoned in the Tower of London.
imprisoned in the Tower, More writes a lengthy book entitled A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation.
He also writes letters to his daughter, Margaret Roper, explaining his
decision to not take the oath.
|Nov. 1534- Early 1535
bill is introduced, and later enacted, called the Act of Supremacy,
which declares Henry to be the supreme head of the Church of
England. Also, Parliament considers, and eventually enacts, the
Treason Act which makes it a capital offense to "maliciously wish,
will, or desire, by words or writing" to deny to members of the royal
family their "dignity, title, or name of their royal estates."
Parliament also targets More with an Act of Attainder for "intending
to sow sedition" by his refusal to take the oath.
|May 2, 1535
meets with Cromwell and four others in a room at the Tower. He
was told that Henry VIII demanded his opinion on the recently enacted
Act of Supremacy. More said that he refused to "meddle" in such
affairs. Although told that the king would be merciful if he
consented to the Act, More says that his whole concern now is for his
living the best possible Christian life.
|Late May 1535
is angered to learn that the Pope has made Bishop Fisher, an outspoken
opponent of his marriage to Anne Boleyn, a cardinal.
|June 3, 1535
appears for a third interrogation before Cromwell and other councilors
of the king. He is asked to give an oath to the supremacy of
Henry as head of the Church of England, but he remains silent.
Richard Rich visits More's cell and takes away his books and writing
materials. Rich later will testify that during the course of his
visit, More, in responding to a hypothetical question, suggested that
Parliament had no more power to enact the Act of Supremacy than it did
to pass a law declaring God not to be God. More's statement, if
actually made, would violate the Treason Act because it denied the
king's title as the supreme head of the Church. (More later
denies ever making any such statement to Rich.) Two days later,
More is questioned by official investigators--a sort of preliminary
hearing for his trial.
|June 22, 1535
days after being convicted of treason, John Fisher is beheaded on Tower
|June 26, 1535
special commission is established to hear the case of Thomas More
|June 28, 1535
2000-word indictment accusing More of treason is presented to the
|July 1, 1535
More is tried for treason in Westminster Hall. More pleads "not
guilty," and argues that he has never shown malice to the king or
violated the terms of the Treason Act. The king's attorney
contends that More's silence is evidence of "a corrupt and
perverse nature" and itself a violation of the Act. More replies
that under the law, silence should be taken as consent, not
disagreement. He also denies violating the Treason Act in letters
to Fisher or in his conversation with Richard Rich, who he calls a
liar. Rich testifies, however, that More in a conversation did
deny that Henry was the supreme head of the Church of England.
Two other witnesses present in the cell testify that they heard nothing
of the conversation in question. After one hour of deliberation,
the jury of twelve men finds More guilty. He is sentenced to be
hanged until "half dead," disemboweled, and burned.
|July 5, 1535
wife, Alice, visits her husband in the Tower. He gives her a
letter composed in charcoal for his daughter Margaret. By this
time, he also knows that his sentence had been commuted by Henry from
disembowelment to beheading.
|July 6, 1535
bit before 9:00 a.m., More is led from his cell on the 200-yard trip to
Tower Hill. A large crowd is waiting at the execution site.
More asks the crowd to pray for him in this world, and he would pray
for them in the next. He says he was "the King's good servant,
but God's first." He knelt down on the block, then rose to kiss
his executioner. He knelt down again, his face was covered with a
cloth and his neck on the block, and was killed with a single stroke of
the axe. His head was boiled and impaled on a pole by London