The accusing conversation of St. Thomas More by Richard Rich

August 31, 2021 • 3 min

From Life of Sir Thomas More, page 82

Not long after came to him the Lord Chancellor, the Dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk, with Master Secretary, and certain other of the privy council, at two several times by all policies possible procuring him either precisely to confess the Supremacy, or precisely to deny it, whereunto, as appeareth by his examinations in the said great book, they could never bring him.

Shortly thereupon Master Rich, afterward Lord Rich, then newly made the King’s Solicitor, Sir Richard Southwell, and one Master Palmer, servant to the Secretary, were sent to Sir Thomas More into the Tower to fetch away his books from him.

And while Sir Richard Southwell and Mr. Palmer were busy in the trussing up of his books, Mr. Rich, pretending friendly talk with him, among other things of a set course, as it seemed, said thus unto him: “Forasmuch as it is well known, Master More, that you are a man both wise and well learned as well in the laws of the realm as otherwise, I pray you therefore, Sir, let me be so bold, as of good will, to put unto you this case. Admit there were, Sir,” quoth he, “an act of parliament that the realm should take me for king, would not you, Mr. More, take me for king?”

“Yes, Sir,” quoth Sir Thomas More, “that would I.”

“I put the case further,” quoth Mr. Rich, “that there were an act of parliament that all the realm should take me for pope, would you not then, Master More, take me for pope?”

“For answer, Sir,” quoth Sir Thomas More, “to your first case, the parliament may well, Master Rich, meddle with the state of temporal princes, but to make answer to your other case, I will put you this case: suppose the parliament would make a law that God should not be God, would you then, Master Rich, say that God were not God?”

“No, Sir,” quoth he, "that would I not, sith no parliament may make any such law.’

“No more,” said Sir Thomas More (as Master Rich reported him), “could the parliament make the king supreme head of the church.”

Upon whose only report was Sir Thomas More indicted of high treason on the Statute to deny the king to be Supreme Head of the Church, into which indictment were put these heinous words, maliciously, traitorously and diabolically.

Note: St. Thomas More did not necessarily say the words in the final quote, but Richard Rich said under oath that this is what St. Thomas More said, which the Saint then denied under oath having said. What St. Thomas More said in court that they actually said in the jail during this situation has not been recorded.

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