July 6th – On this day in 1535, the former Lord Chancellor, also lawyer, humanist, social philosopher, author (of “Utopia”) and “Man for All Seasons” Sir, now Saint, Thomas More was beheaded in the Tower of London for High Treason, for refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy, an oath acknowledging the King, Henry VIII, rather than the Pope, as the Supreme Head of the Church. With his last words he declared himself to be “the king’s good servant, but God’s first”.
More’s headless corpse was buried in an unmarked grave in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. His head was put on a pike on London Bridge, from where it was retrieved, and buried in the Roper family vault in the church of St Dunstan in Canterbury, by his daughter Meg Roper.
There are plaques in the City marking the sites of his birthplace on Milk Street and of his execution in the Tower of London.
|Plaque in Milk Street|
|Site of Death by Execution of Thomas More, Tower of London|
There are also statues of him to the west of the City, one on Carey Street just off Chancery Lane, and another outside Chelsea Old Church, the eastern chapel of which was commissioned by him.
|Statue of Thomas More, Carey Street|
|Statue of Thomas More, Chelsea Old Church|
Crosby Hall, where More lived between 1523-4, was moved from its past location in Bishopsgate to its present one opposite Chelsea Old Church in 1910.
The Tower of London is visited, although not entered, on our Friday morning walk “London Wall – A Story of Survival” and Friday afternoon walk “Tower to Temple – The Heart of the City”.
Also on this day, in 1551, one Henry Machyn noted that “a swet [sweating sickness, possibly caused by a hantavirus] began in London … which carried off many people both noble and commoners”. Henry and Charles Brandon, the Second and Third Dukes of Suffolk, died within an hour of one another on July 14th.
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