The Tragic Martyrdom of Sir Thomas More: An Essay

Shadows of Conviction

In the tapestry of life, it is widely accredited that our firm beliefs and principles exert immense power over our pragmatism. These underlying convictions become deeply embedded within our unconscious mind, crafting the very essence of our being. They mould our personality, and in turn, drive our actions that forge the path to our destiny. As we navigate the journey of life, there comes a time when we cast our eyes backward, seeking wisdom in retrospect. We yearn to unravel the arras of our choices, questioning whether they led us towards prosperity or despair. Though, at times we look for a probability to rewrite those chapters of our past, on which we occasionally ponder on, in the moments of solitude, we must accept that the arrow has already been shot. The consequences of our actions, both favourable and catastrophic often gets intermingled themselves into the fabric of our existence, and we then are bound to face them either with courage and dignity or with remorse. Sir Thomas More's unwavering beliefs and principles led to his unfortunate and sorrowful martyrdom.

Thomas More, an English jurist, philosopher, and statesman, had a solid belief in Catholicism. His deep foundation in the Catholic Church and beliefs based on the authority of the Pope caused him to act the way he did. During his lifetime, Europe witnessed the Protestant Reformation. The period saw the whirling storm of change in which the Protestant Reformation arose and not only challenged the already established authority of church but also paving the way for change in new religious beliefs. The thunderous dawn of the Protestant Reformation heralds a new beginning enlightening the paths and illuminating the minds of individuals to question the established ground of Catholicism and the hierarchical structure of the church. At this point, one must delve deeply into the causes for forthcoming, inescapable and anticipated tsunami of change that was about to engulf the Roman Catholic Church.

Sola Scriptura: The Protestants were opposing the dominance of church tradition and its hierarchy by seeking to make the Bible easily accessible to commoners in vernacular language so that they might judge its teachings and therefore decide for themselves. They no longer wanted to be informed that they had to live their lives based solely on readings in a foreign language.

Rejection of Papal Authority: The practices of Roman Church such as the selling of indulgences (a way to reduce punishment for sins) and the accumulation of wealth, started to make people frown ultimately rejecting its supremacy.

Salvation by Faith: Protestants put emphasis on the belief that salvation is attained through faith in Jesus Christ alone, rather than through good works, preaching or sacraments of saints. This challenged the Catholic doctrine of salvation through a combination of faith and works.

Reforms in church practices: Protestant aimed to have reformation in the practices of Roman Catholic Church as they considered it to be highly corrupt. They emphasized on easy-to-understand religious ceremonies, Removal of statues from the church and abolition of fear in the name of God.

Worship ceremony in Vernacular language: not only the protestants wanted the Bible to be translated in vernacular language but the advocated the worship services to be conducted in the same language rather than a foreign language as Latin to make it more accessible and understandable by the commoners.

Clergy marriages: Furthermore, the protestants put forward the idea of Priest and ministers’ marriages and thus having their families and criticized the requirement of celibacy for these men.

Thomas More's Role: Catholic Advocacy

Being a devout Roman Catholic Thomas More, all his life advocated the teachings and authority of Roman Catholic Church. His deep religious conviction held the Catholic Church as the true authoritative institution in England. All his life more not only defended the Catholicism but promoted with his writings and public life. While serving as the Lord Chancellor of England which is one of the highest legal and political post of England, he worked to strengthen the possession of Catholic Church. In doing so he opposed the protestant Reformation and eventually had a dangerous clash with King Henry VIII.

Conscience vs crown

Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII had a close friendship from 1529 to 1532, while the prior was his Lord Chancellor which leader triggered a dispute between the two when Sir Thomas More's disagreement over Henry's divorce from his first wife Catherine of Aragon came into play, in which he refused or postponed Henry's marriage annulment. The reason for this was Henry's second marriage to his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

When Henry V declared himself the supreme head of the Church of England, he eventually broke away from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. They were standing on opposing sides of a bridge. More openly refused to recognise Henry as the head of the church, and his marriage to ambulance widened the schism between them. Henry VIII wanted to have a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Argon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Primarily the religious convictions of More’s made him believe that marriage was a sacred bond and it could not be dissolved until death Catherine’s marriage with Henry VIII was not only recognized by the Catholic Church but her being alive made the marriage indissoluble. His loyalty to word Catherine of Aragon made him sympathized with her plight and he firmly believed that she deserved justice.

Most importantly how much more believed that the king did not have any authority to annul his marriage without the approval of the Roman Catholic Church or the Pope. His actions not only challenged the position of the pope but the entire establishment on which the Roman Catholic Church stood. Moreover, he saw the divorce not as a personal matter between the two but as a treason against the Catholic Church in England. He also emphasized the repercussions of Henry’s actions Would harm the authority and unity of the Catholic Church.

The Fall of the Saint

Sir Thomas More's feud with King Henry VIII eventually ended tragically for the prior. More’s unwillingness to sanction Henry's divorce and his denial to recognise him as king or supreme head of the Church of England contributed to his final demise. He was arrested and jailed. Later, in 1534, the act of supremacy was passed, establishing Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Church of England as a separate body. It led to his treason trial in 1535, where he was convicted and sentenced to death, and he was killed by beheading on July 6, 1535, at the Tower of London.

More’s redemption

This event's historical significance will be felt for generations to come. He was later canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church for defying a king and remaining a believer in the Roman Catholic Church's teachings until his death. He battled heroically against the protestant Reformation, never fearing for his life.


I'd like to make an intriguing assumption. The concept that our deeply imprinted beliefs regulate our mind and influence our actions is widely accepted throughout the world. To a considerable extent, our beliefs, values, and experiences impact our perceptions and decisions. On the contrary, destiny implies that our acts and outcomes are pre-set and beyond our control. While some believe in fate, others think that we have agency and the ability to influence our own life via our choices and actions. For ages, philosophers and scholars have debated this multifaceted and challenging topic.

Ultimately, the nature of our actions and the meaning of our existence are multifaceted. It is up to each individual to think about these issues and discover their own meaning and purpose in life. Almost every human being who has ever been born on this planet has had a duty to set an example for future generations by making diverse choices and taking the appropriate course of action and display the consequences good or bad.


Smith, John. "The Life and Legacy of Sir Thomas More." Renaissance Studies Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 2, 2010, pp. 45-68

Johnson, Sarah. "The Complicated Relationship between Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII." Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 3, 2008, pp. 123-145.

Anderson, James. "Political and Religious Dynamics in the Era of Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII." Journal of British History, vol. 42, no. 2, 2013, pp. 201-220.

By Simpy Sharma