Thomas More was born in London on February 7, 1478, to John and Agnes More. The second of four surviving children, it is believed that More studied at St. Anthony's School in London, which was well known for producing scholars. He excelled in his studies, learning Latin grammar, logic, and debating skills. In 1490, his father sent him to study under John Morton, the archbishop of Canterbury and soon-to-be cardinal, who likely influenced the young man's decision to study at Oxford, where he enrolled in 1492. More spent only two years at oxford, supposedly being pulled out of his studies and away from the "liberal university life" by his father, who wanted him to become a lawyer. More studied at the Inns of Court, and by 1501 he was a barrister.
In 1504, More married Jane Colt, the daughter of a family friend, with whom he had four children (Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily, and John) before her death in 1511. He then married a widow, Alice Middleton, a mere month later. Scholars attribute his haste in remarrying to his desire that his children have a mother.
Aside from having a private law practice, More began writing patriotic epigrams and epigraphs as support for Henry Vlll's wars. He served as undersheriff of London between 1510 and 1518 and undertook a number of royal diplomatic commissions as well. During this time, it is believed that More began work on his unfinished historiography, History of King Richard III, which was William Shakespeare's main source of inspiration for his play on the controversial king. It is also believed that while visiting Bruges in 1515, More finished what would become part two of Utopia, his treatise on a perfect society and how such a place would be governed. Enlisting the help of his friend Desiridius Erasmus, More finished the book, and Utopia was published in 1516. While the book was not particularly successful during More's lifetime, it is now recognized as undeniably influential in its sardonic
(utopia in Greek literally means "no place"), markedly humanist description of the ideal society and the politics, laws, religion, and daily lives of its citizens.
During the last years of his life, More served as lord chancellor under Henry VIII; however, he resigned the position in May 1532, in disagreement with Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and separation from the Roman Catholic Church. When More refused to swear an oath upholding Henry's marriage to Anne Boleyn and, later, to support the Act of Supremacy, Henry had him imprisoned in the Tower of London. On July 6, 1535, Sir Thomas More was beheaded for high treason. His steadfast adherence to the tenets of his religion, even when facing certain death, earned him canonization in 1935.
Though not particularly well known as a poet, More did try his hand at Latin verse, such as "Quis optimus Reipublicae Status," and "De principe bono et malo." The majority of his verse relied on the couplet and revolved around political interests, as did most of his adult life.
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