Sir Thomas More ( 7 February 1478 – 6 July 1535), known to Catholics as Saint Thomas More since 1935, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He was an important councillor to Henry VIII of England and was Lord Chancellor from October 1529 to 16 May 1532. He was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935. He is commemorated by the Church of England as a as a “Reformation martyr”. He was an opponent of the Protestant Reformation and in particular of Martin Luther and William Tyndale.
More coined the word “utopia” – a name he gave to the ideal and imaginary island nation, the political system of which he described in Utopia, published in 1516. He opposed the King’s separation from the Catholic Church and refused to accept the king as Supreme Head of the Church of England, a title which had been given by parliament through the Act of Supremacy of 1534. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his refusal to take the oath required by the First Succession Act, because the act disparaged papal power and Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1535, he was tried for treason, convicted on perjured testimony, and beheaded.