Fact of the day: 16th May

On this day in 1532 Sir Thomas More resigned as Lord Chancellor of England.

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.

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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, and also quarreled 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 forced 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.”

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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.

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