Last letter of Sir Thomas More to Henry VIII

Description

Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor on 16 May 1532 and King Henry VIII had allowed him to live as a private citizen. 

However, in 1533 More incurred the enmity of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII by refusing to attend Anne’s coronation and by publishing The Apology of Sir Thomas More, a defence of the old Catholic order in which he advised every good Christian to stand firm to the old faith. 

Attempting to win More’s compliance to his second marriage and to the belief that he was Head of the Church of England, Henry grew increasingly impassioned and vindictive as he realised he was likely to fail. In late February 1534, he decided to add More’s name to the Bill for the Attainder (for treason) of Elizabeth Barton. 

In this, the last of his six extant letters to Henry, More began by giving an account of his resignation, saying that Henry, then, had promised ‘that for the service which I byfore had done you (which it than lyked your goodnes far above my deserving to commend) that in eny suit that I should after have un to your Highnes… I should fynd your Highnes good and graciouse lord unto me’.

Now, taking Henry up on his offer, More accordingly petitioned the King not to listen to such ‘sinistre information’ as might have been given against him. He protested his honesty and sincerity in Barton’s case, and urged that, if the King, after reconsidering the matter, still suspects him to be ‘a wreche of such a monstrouse ingratitude’, then his only comfort would be that ‘I shold onys mete with your Grace agayn in hevyn, and there be mery with you.’

Full title:
Papers relating to the Reformation
Format:
Illuminated manuscript
Copyright:
© British Library
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Cotton MS Cleopatra E VI, f. 177v

Full catalogue details

Related articles

The Reformation in Shakespeare

Article by:
Brian Cummings
Themes:
Shakespeare’s life and world, Power, politics and religion

Brian Cummings explores the radical religious reforms enacted in Shakespeare's lifetime, and the traces of religion that exist in his plays from Measure to Measure to Hamlet.

‘Wretched strangers’: Shakespeare’s plea for tolerance towards immigrants in Sir Thomas More

Article by:
Andrew Dickson
Themes:
Ethnicity and identity, Power, politics and religion

‘The Book of Sir Thomas More’ is the only surviving literary manuscript in Shakespeare’s hand. Here Andrew Dickson describes how the scene Shakespeare wrote for the play contains a moving plea for the plight of immigrants.

Related collection items