6 July 1535 – Execution of Thomas More, former Lord Chancellor

Tower Hill plaque
Plaque from the Scaffold Memorial at Tower Hill

On 6th July 1535, Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s former friend and Lord Chancellor, was beheaded on Tower Hill as a traitor. He had been found guilty of high treason under the Treason Act of 1534 for denying the King’s supremacy and refusing to take the Oath of Succession.

Chronicler Edward Hall recorded More’s execution:

“Also the vi. day of Julye was sir Thomas More beheaded for the like treason before rehersed, which as you haue heard was for the deniyng of the kynges Maiesties supremitie. This manne was also coumpted learned, & as you haue heard before he was lorde Chauncelor of England, and in that tyme a great persecutor of suche as detested the supremacy of the bishop of Rome, whiche he himselfe so highly fauored that he stoode to it till he was brought to the Skaffolde on the Tower hill where on a blocke his head was striken from his shoulders and had no more harme.

I cannot tell whether I should call him a foolishe wyseman, or a wysefoolishman, for vndoubtedly he beside his learnyng, had a great witte, but it was so mingled with tauntyng and mockyng, that it semed to them that best
knew him, that he thought nothing to be wel spoken except he had ministered some mocke in the communcacion insomuche as at is commyng to the Tower, one of the officers demanded his vpper garment for his fee, meanyng his goune, and he answered, he should haue it, and tooke him his cappe, saiyng ii was the vppermoste garment that he had. Lyke-wise, euen goyng to his death at the Tower gate, a poore woman called vnto him and besought him to declare that he had certain euidences of hers in the tyme that he was in office (which after he was appreheded she could not come by) and that he would intreate she might haue themagayn, or els she was vndone. He answered, good woman haue pacience a litle while, for the kyng is so good vnto me that euen within this halfe houre he will discharge me of all busynesses, and helpe thee himselfe. Also when he went vp the stayer on the Skaffolde, he
desired one of the Shiriffes officers to geue him his hand to helpe him vp, and sayd, when I come doune againe, let me shift for my selfe aswell as I can. Also the bagman kneled doune to him askyng him forgiuenes of his death (as the maner is) to whom he sayd I forgeue thee, but I promise thee that thou shalt neuer haue honestie of the strykyng of my head, my necke is so short. Also euen when he shuld lay doune his head on the blocke, he hauyng a
great gray beard, striked out his beard and sayd to the hangman, I pray you let me lay my beard ouer the blocke least ye should cut it, thus with a mocke he ended his life.”

His body was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London but his head was rescued from London Bridge by his daughter Margaret and buried in the Roper Vault at St Dunstan’s Church, Canterbury.
Edward VI

Also on this day in history…

  • 1553 – The Death of Edward VI. Click here to read all about it.

Notes and Sources

  • Hall’s Chronicle, Edward Hall, p817-818

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