St. Thomas More rejects his wife’s pleas to abandon the Faith

March 24, 2014

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More

Thomas More was Lord High Chancellor of England in the reign of King Henry VIII. He was a fervent Catholic, and although zealous in the service of his King, was still more so in the service of God.

When Henry rebelled against the Church, he put into prison, and sometimes even condemned to death, those who would not acknowledge him to be head of the Church in England.

When he informed Sir Thomas More of this law which he had made, requiring his subjects to submit to his authority in spiritual things, Sir Thomas at once replied that he for one would never obey it, “because,” he said, “it is against the law of God.”

St. Thomas More Defending the Liberty of the House of Commons, painting by Vivian Forbes, 1927, St. Stephen's Hall, English Parliament, London.

St. Thomas More Defending the Liberty of the House of Commons, painting by Vivian Forbes, 1927, St. Stephen’s Hall, English Parliament, London.

The King was very much grieved at Thomas’s refusal, not only because he himself had a great esteem for him, but also because he knew the great influence his example would have over others. So he tried, first by promises, and then by threats, to make him submit.

But it was all in vain, for the faithful servant of the King of Heaven firmly declared that he would sooner die than neglect his duty to God.

This answer put the King into a great passion, and he ordered him to be immediately put into prison. “You shall see,” he said, “that I am your master, and that you must do what I wish.”

“You have, indeed, power over my life, and over everything I have that passes away with life,” replied the intrepid Thomas, “but more than that you have no power over.”

Lady Alice Middleton More

Lady Alice Middleton More

The King condemned him to death. But wishing to give him yet an opportunity of saving his life, he went to Lady Alice, his wife, and persuaded her to go to her husband and to try and influence him by those endearing motives which have most effect upon the human heart.

“O my husband,” she said to him, “do obey the command of the King as others have done, and your life will be spared.”

“And how long, my dear wife,” he answered, “how long do you think I shall live if I do what you ask me?”

“For at least twenty years,” she said.

Sir Thomas More family's vault in St Dunstan's Church. Photo by Liondartois

Sir Thomas More family’s vault in St Dunstan’s Church. Photo by Liondartois

“Well, if you had said twenty thousand years, that would have been something; but it would, indeed, be a very poor thing to live even that number of years, and run the risk of losing my God in eternity! Oh no, dear wife, I thought you would have spoken more wisely to me than that. I will never consent to disobey my God in that way; I promised Him over and over again that I would serve Him faithfully all my days, and love Him with my whole heart, and by His grace I will do it.”

Sir Thomas More died on the scaffold on the sixth day of July, 1535.


Rev. D. Chisholm, The Catechism in Examples (London: R & T Washbourne, Ltd., 1919), 406-7.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 370


Also of interest:

June 22 – He Confronted the Mandate

June 22 – St. John Fisher

June 19 – Execution of second group of those who believed in the religious exemption, but only at first

June 15 – Magna Carta

April 16 – Martyred in the name of Equality

February 8 – Mary Queen of Scots


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