5 July 1535 – Thomas More’s final letter to his daughter

Posted By on July 5, 2015

Thomas More (first on the left) and Mararet Roper (front right)

Thomas More (first on the left) and Mararet Roper (front right)

On this day in 1535, Sir Thomas More wrote his final letter. More had been imprisoned in the Tower of London since 17th April 1534 and had been found guilty of high treason on 1st July 1535. Knowing he was due to be executed the following day, More sat and wrote a letter to his beloved daughter, Margaret (Meg) Roper on 5th July. He wrote the letter in coal.

“Our Lord bless you good daughter and your good husband and your little boy and all yours and all my children and all my godchildren and all our friends. Recommend me when you may to my good daughter Cecilye, whom I beseech our Lord to comfort, and I send her my blessing and to all her children and pray her to pray for me. I send her an handekercher and God comfort my good son her husband. My good daughter Daunce hath the picture in parchment that you delivered me from my Lady Coniers; her name is on the back side. Show her that I heartily pray her that you may send it in my name again for a token from me to pray for me.

I like special well Dorothy Coly, I pray you be good unto her. I would wit whether this be she that you wrote me of. If not I pray you be good to the other as you may in her affliction and to my good daughter Joan Aleyn to give her I pray you some kind answer, for she sued hither to me this day to pray you be good to her.

I cumber you good Margaret much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, for it is Saint Thomas even, and the Vtas of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy.

Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.

I send now unto my good daughter Clement her algorism stone and I send her and my good son and all hers God’s blessing and mine.

I pray you at time convenient recommend me to my good son John More. I liked well his natural fashion. Our Lord bless him and his good wife my loving daughter, to whom I pray him be good, as he hath great cause, and that if the land of mine come to his hand, he break not my will concerning his sister Daunce. And our Lord bless Thomas and Austen and all that they shall have.”

You can see a photo of the letter at http://www.luminarium.org/renlit/moremargaret.jpg. The original is in the Arundel MS (ref 152).

You can find out more about Sir Thomas More on our Thomas More Bio page and also in Beth von Staats’s wonderful article on his life The Real Wolf Hall – Who was Thomas More.

Notes and Sources

  • The Last Letters of Thomas More, edited by Alvaro De Silva.

19 thoughts on “5 July 1535 – Thomas More’s final letter to his daughter”

  1. Carol Thomas says:

    Thank you for showing St Thomas Moore’s final letter. I enjoyed it very much. He was a model for us all and one of the greatest martyrs of the Church.

    1. Morgan says:

      Too bad he participated in burning innocent people. I’d prefer a GENTLE role model—like Jesus. I don’t believe he felt it necessary to burn anyone.

  2. TudorGirl says:

    This is, I think, the most poignant glimpse of More as a father, not only due to the letter’s contents and time of composition, but also because he wouldn’t let a withholding of ink prevent him from communicating with Margaret one last time.

  3. Banditqueen says:

    Blessed Thomas More, a real loving father, this beautiful letter gives a true l
    window into his heart and soul.

  4. Globerose says:

    Picking up Morgan’s comment about the gentle Jesus re Thomas More….the christian doctrine of everlasting punishment in fire is contentious and not all denominations adhere to it; but whatever way you interpret Matt.25:31, v 41, KJV Bible, Matthew has gentle Jesus warn us about damnation. Jesus either warns of punishment in fire which is a finite process as it is here on earth, in which the sinner is consumed in the lake of fire of which the ‘effect’ is permanent; or he warns us of an everlasting punishment in sulphur and fire, which is perpetual. But ‘burn’ we certainly will, all we sinners, all billion/s of us, according to Jesus. The gentle Thomas More, loving family man and loyal, witty, lovable man that he was, believed he was doing the work of Jesus. I very much liked Anton Lesser’s portrayal of Thomas in Wolf Hall because he captured the genial ease of the man and the inflexible hardness of his beliefs.

  5. Kathy says:

    Thomas More burned people in the name of god thinking he is doing the gods will. For his beliefs . Terrorists kill people in the name of god and saying they are doing gods work . For their beliefs. Andrea Yates drowned 5 of her children in the bathtub saying she was doing gods work. Isis killing people for their beliefs, another gods work. Bloody Mary burned 1000s of innocent in the name of god. And we condemn one and not the other when they all have the same result. When are we going to understand the true meaning of Bible and god ? I agree with Morgan, GENTLE SOUL ….not kill and torture in the name of god. There is no difference when you kill and you cant be martyr if you are a killer . In the name of god or otherwise.

    1. Banditqueen says:

      Thomas More did not burn anyone. As a magistrate it was both his duty and required that he try and question heretics. Although he did desire to stop heresy from abroad and conducted searches for condemned books, as well as following the normal practice of responding to denouement from the public to find known or suspected heretics he did nothing more than anyone else in authority in such circumstances. Most people questioned, not tortured, that is unsustainable Protestant propaganda, were either released without charge, given a fine or warning or occasional public flogging, a normal legal censor for many crimes. Heresy was regarded by everyone as a serious crime which disrupted family life and caused trouble in local communities. The most serious vrepeat offenders only faced being handed over to the secular authorities for sentences of either death or prison. Most heresy trials were conducted by the local parishes, the Bishop, some came before a magistrate. In total six repeated offenders were condemned, not by More personally, but in his jurisdiction. Three of them were not condemned by More, but had been questioned earlier, released and rearrested, all of these were executed after he stepped down from being Chancellor, two while he was in the Tower, one in another jurisdiction. He was wrongly accused of corporal punishment, the accusations were false and even Foxe, the martytologist states this. He had one servant beaten for lude behaviour, lifting women’s skirts, a normal practice with children and servants, and one other was caned for theft, abuse and heretical beliefs. He was tolerant of his future son in law, William Roper, and he released most people he questioned without any changes or harm. Compare this to the twelve Anibaptists burnt by Thomas Cromwell in one day, the thousands killed all over the continent on all sides, the hundreds killed by Elizabeth I, the 260 killed, mostly by local parishes and magistrates, NOT directly by Mary Tudor, the millions killed by atheists and Pol Pot, Stalin, by IS, who kill in their own name, NOT Gods, dozens of monks killed by Cromwell, hundreds more in the Pilgrimage of Grace, and many more on Henry’s orders due to the passing of the Six Articles, and may be you will get some perspective when it comes to Thomas More based on evidence and not uneducated nonsense, propaganda and bias.

      It is always wrong to kill for religious, political or any other point of view, but it is also wrong to put modern thinking onto the sixteenth century and to state things as fact when you have no evidence. Comparing a man like Thomas More to the monstrous mass MURDEROUS people who are evil terrorists, like IS and AL-QAEDA is ridiculous. You can think what More represented is wrong, but I personally find your post offensive, lacking in knowledge and bordering on religions hatred. Please get some perspective, read some balanced texts and thinkk before making such an outlandish and unsupportable post.

      1. Alexei says:

        Totally agree with you! Thorough, thoughtful viewpoint.

    2. Karen says:

      Good comment Kathy. I feel exactly the same

  6. Globerose says:

    Hi Kathy,

    A bit baffled by your response, that you agree with Morgan? Thomas More burnt heretics in the name of his god (Jesus). Jesus Christ is not a gentle god. My father, who was a hell-fire preacher of the old school and how, was just one such as Thomas, though a protestant, a very gentle gentleman. It was with deep regret that he had to tell you that, yes, Jesus was loving and forgiving and gentle but he was also terrible in his ‘divine justice’, mighty in his awful wrath, and he will insists he will divide the sheep from the goats, and yes the goats will burn forever and ever in his terrible fiery lake created for the Devil and his angels and you and me and all other unbelievers. There really isn’t anything ‘gentle’ about christianity’s bible. That’s why this is such an ongoing subject for christian apologetics.

  7. Selina says:

    Kathy made a good point, though. A lot of organizations kill others because of their belief, yet we condemn some and condone others. Why is Mary, who burned 284 Protestant heretics, called “Bloody Mary”, but Henry, who executed up to 72000, is known as “Bluff King Hal”. Why does it matter if Thomas More was a loving father? Does it give these people their lives back? I think not.

    1. Hannele says:

      I don’t think that there is much point to condemn people who lived many hundred years ago and had entirely different morality than us. There was no concept as religious freedom.

      One must remember that these people could usually have avoided death by giving up their beliefs which they evidently valued more than their life.

  8. Globerose says:

    Hi there,

    My point is just to show that Thomas More was a good man. I agree with these following quotes:

    Steven Weinberg:
    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    and

    Richard Dawkins:
    “Sincere people who are not ignorant, not stupid, and not wicked can be cruelly torn almost in two, between the massive evidence of science on the one hand, and the understanding of what their holy book tells them on the other. I think this is one of the truly bad things religion can do to a human mind. There is wickedness here, but it is the wickedness of the institution, and what it does to a believing victim, not wickedness on the part of the victim himself.”

    Thomas More was a humanist and a brilliant man, a loyal man, a loving man, a man of great wit and social character. And yet, he could stand placidly before another man, tied to a stake, and watch him burn slowly, agonisingly to death and think it a good thing. We should ask why. Don’t you think?

    1. Banditqueen says:

      I completely agree. Thomas More was complex, he had great whit and affection, he was a brilliant teacher and scholar, in some ways he was progressive, he was respected universally, but did not compromise his belief. Although it is not correct that he tortured vheretis, six were burned under his authority, three in his jurisdiction, two while he was in the Tower, one not in his jurisdiction, but had been questioned, released, then tried and executed later on. He was focused on stopping heresy, which was new and dangerous. In his own faith and stand, he could do no less, he was faithful to what he and the majority of Christians saw as the truth. In the end he was a Catholic martyr. His devotion to his family and the love he felt for Meg shines through his last letter. He is concerned about the welfare of all the family and grandchildren. His loyalty to Henry had never been questioned, he could not follow him now because More had a greater loyalty, to the truth and faith. What Henry asked was to More not rational, it went against the entire Catholic world, his Parliament could not decide to make Henry Viii Head of the Church, it was not competent. More used Magna Carta to back up his right to defend the independence of the Church against the Crowns abuse of power. Had Richard Rich not perjured himself he would have succeeded. Thomas More was a great statesmen, a great scholar and with all the information about him, I am still saddened that some people still come out with rubbish to besmearch his name, instead of sticking to the evidence. I find it particularly sad on this site, dedicated to a person who has also had so many untrue and unsubstantiated accusations made against her by historians and contemporaries alike. Anne Boleyn is not the only person falsely attacked, others deserve to be talked about in the light of reason and balanced evidence as well, including Thomas More.

    2. Hannele says:

      To Globerose

      I think that Weinberg is quite naive as he speaks of “good people” and “evil people”. All people are capable to do good and evil deeds. However, good intentions does not guarantee that the result is good and sometimes bad actions bring good results.

      Besides, religion is no different than nationalism or any ideology. Also science can bring bad results.

      As for Thomas More, maybe we should ask: if something we value most is in mortal danger, what we are willing to do? But we got the answer only if we we must make the choice in reality.

  9. Kat says:

    I do believe this man was no saint. He allowed the burning of innocent people, and in gods eyes is murder and a sin. He was no saint.

  10. Tina says:

    To spend precious last hours writing this letter to his daughter in coal is a true expression of love, that’s not an easy task!. He had to tell her how he loved & prayed for her before his death.

  11. Jen says:

    I think that if Henry VIII is your king, you’re in trouble no matter what you believe!!

  12. Maryann Pitman says:

    Notice he says nothing about his wife, only the children.

    The Bible is full of contradictions-Jesus says “Judge not lest ye be judged” but to this day Christians spend their days doing just that, one way and another…….and More was, after all, a judge…..as for being a saint, I am no judge of such things…..content to say he was a man of his time, and leave it at that.

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