Sir Thomas More (/ˈmɔr/; 7 February 1478 - 6 July 1535), venerated by Catholics as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and noted Renaissance humanist. He was also a councillor to Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor from October 1529 to 16 May 1532.
Born in Milk Street in London, on 7 February 1478, Thomas More was the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and later judge, and his wife Agnes (née Graunger). More was educated at St Anthony's School, then considered one of London's finest schools. From 1490 to 1492, More served John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England, as a household page. :xvi Morton enthusiastically supported the "New Learning" (now called the Renaissance), and thought highly of the young More. Believing that More had great potential, Morton nominated him for a place at Oxford University (either in St. Mary's Hall or Canterbury College, both now gone). :38
More began his studies at Oxford in 1492, and received a classical education. Studying under Thomas Linacre and William Grocyn, he became proficient in both Latin and Greek. More left Oxford after only two years-at his father's insistence-to begin legal training in London at New Inn, one of the Inns of Chancery. :xvii In 1496, More became a student at Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court, where he remained until 1502, when he was called to the Bar. :xvii
According to his friend, theologian Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, More once seriously contemplated abandoning his legal career to become a monk. Between 1503 and 1504 More lived near the Carthusian monastery outside the walls of London and joined in the monks' spiritual exercises. Although he deeply admired their piety, More ultimately decided to remain a layman, standing for election to Parliament in 1504 and marrying the following year. :xxi
In spite of his choice to pursue a secular career, More continued ascetical practices for the rest of his life, such as wearing a hair shirt next to his skin and occasionally engaging in flagellation. :xxi A tradition of the Third Order of St. Francis honors More as a member of that Order on their calendar of saints.
Early Political Career
In 1504 More was elected to Parliament to represent Great Yarmouth, and in 1510 began representing London.
From 1510, More served as one of the two undersheriffs of the City of London, a position of considerable responsibility in which he earned a reputation as an honest and effective public servant. More became Master of Requests in 1514, the same year in which he was appointed as a Privy Councillor.  After undertaking a diplomatic mission to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, accompanying Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York, to Calais and Bruges, More was knighted and made under-treasurer of the Exchequer in 1521. 
As secretary and personal adviser to King Henry VIII, More became increasingly influential: welcoming foreign diplomats, drafting official documents, and serving as a liaison between the King and Lord Chancellor Wolsey. More later served as High Steward for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In 1523 More was elected as knight of the shire (MP) for Middlesex and, on Wolsey's recommendation, the House of Commons elected More its Speaker.  In 1525 More became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with executive and judicial responsibilities over much of northern England. 
Chancellorship and Resignation
After Wolsey fell, More succeeded to the office of Chancellor in 1529. He dispatched cases with unprecedented rapidity. Fully devoted to Henry and the royal prerogative, More initially co-operated with the King's new policy, denouncing Wolsey in Parliament and joining the opinion of the theologians at Oxford and Cambridge that the marriage of Henry to Catherine had been unlawful. But as Henry began to deny Papal Authority, More's qualms grew.
As the conflict over supremacy between the Papacy and the King reached its apogee, More continued to remain steadfast in supporting the supremacy of the Pope as Successor of Peter over that of the King of England. In 1530, More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats asking Pope Clement VII to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine of Aragon, and also quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws. In 1531, Henry had isolated More by purging most clergy who supported the papal stance from senior positions in the church. In addition, Henry had solidified his denial of the Papacy's control of England by passing the Statute of Praemunire which forbade appeals to the Roman Curia from England. Realizing his isolated position, More attempted to resign after being required to take an oath declaring the King the Supreme Head of the English Church, pursuant to Parliament's Act of Supremacy of 1534. He tried to limit the oath "as far as the law of Christ allows." Furthermore, the Statute of Praemunire made it a crime to support in public or office the claims of the Papacy. Thus, he refused to take the oath in the form in which it would renounce all claims of jurisdiction over the Church except the sovereign's. Nonetheless, the reputation and influence of More as well as his long relationship with Henry kept his life secure for the time being and he was not relieved of office. However, with his supporters in court quickly disappearing, in 1532 he asked the King again to relieve him of his office, claiming that he was ill and suffering from sharp chest pains. This time Henry granted his request.
Trial and Execution
In 1533, More refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. Technically, this was not an act of treason, as More had written to Henry acknowledging Anne's queenship and expressing his desire for the King's happiness and the new Queen's health. Despite this, his refusal to attend was widely interpreted as a snub against Anne, and Henry took action against him.
Shortly thereafter, More was charged with accepting bribes, but the charges had to be dismissed for lack of any evidence. In early 1534, More was accused of conspiring with the "Holy Maid of Kent," Elizabeth Barton, a nun who had prophesied against the king's annulment, but More was able to produce a letter in which he had instructed Barton not to interfere with state matters.
On 13 April 1534, More was asked to appear before a commission and swear his allegiance to the parliamentary Act of Succession. More accepted Parliament's right to declare Anne Boleyn the legitimate Queen of England, but he steadfastly refused to take the oath of supremacy of the Crown in the relationship between the kingdom and the church in England. Holding fast to the teaching of papal supremacy, More refused to take the oath and furthermore publicly refused to uphold Henry's annulment from Catherine. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, refused the oath along with More. The oath reads:
...By reason whereof the Bishop of Rome and See Apostolic, contrary to the great and inviolable grants of jurisdictions given by God immediately to emperors, kings and princes in succession to their heirs, hath presumed in times past to invest who should please them to inherit in other men's kingdoms and dominions, which thing we your most humble subjects, both spiritual and temporal, do most abhor and detest...
With his refusal to support the King's annulment, More's enemies had enough evidence to have the King arrest him on treason. Four days later, Henry had More imprisoned in the Tower of London. There More prepared a devotional Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation. While More was imprisoned in the Tower, Thomas Cromwell made several visits, urging More to take the oath, which More continued to refuse.
On 1 July 1535, More was tried before a panel of judges that included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn's father, brother, and uncle. He was charged with high treason for denying the validity of the Act of Supremacy and was tried under the Treason Act 1534.
More, relying on legal precedent and the maxim "qui tacet consentire videtur" (literally, who (is) silent is seen to consent), understood that he could not be convicted as long as he did not explicitly deny that the King was Supreme Head of the Church, and he therefore refused to answer all questions regarding his opinions on the subject.
Thomas Cromwell, at the time the most powerful of the King's advisors, brought forth the Solicitor General, Richard Rich, to testify that More had, in his presence, denied that the King was the legitimate head of the church. This testimony was characterised by More as being extremely dubious.
The jury took only fifteen minutes, however, to find More guilty.
After the jury's verdict was delivered and before his sentencing, More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality". He was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered (the usual punishment for traitors who were not the nobility), but the King commuted this to execution by decapitation. The execution took place on 6 July 1535. When he came to mount the steps to the scaffold, he is widely quoted as saying (to the officials): "I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself"; while on the scaffold he declared that he died "the king's good servant, but God's first."
Pope Leo XIII beatified Thomas More, John Fisher and 52 other English Martyrs on 29 December 1886. Pope Pius XI canonised More and Fisher on 19 May 1935, and More's feast day was established as 9 July. Since 1970 the General Roman Calendar has celebrated More with St John Fisher on 22 June (the date of Fisher's execution). In 2000, Pope John Paul II declared More "the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians". 
Church of England
In 1980, despite their opposing the English Reformation, More and Fisher were jointly added as martyrs of the reformation to the Church of England's calendar of "Saints and Heroes of the Christian Church", to be commemorated every 6 July (the date of More's execution) as "Thomas More, Scholar, and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Reformation Martyrs, 1535". 
Content supplied courtesy of Wikipedia.