One of just three autographs of his offered in the past three decades.
More was the quintessential "Renaissance man"- a writer, scholar, statesman, diplomat, political theorist and patron of the arts. He was the most respected Englishman of the era, being recognized throughout Europe. In 1516, while he traveled on the Continent as an embassador protecting the interests of English merchants, he made the first...
More was the quintessential "Renaissance man"- a writer, scholar, statesman, diplomat, political theorist and patron of the arts. He was the most respected Englishman of the era, being recognized throughout Europe. In 1516, while he traveled on the Continent as an embassador protecting the interests of English merchants, he made the first sketch of his famous book, which was published under the title On the Best Form of a State, and on the New Island of Utopia. More’s book was an extraordinary act of political imagination, and the first philosophical work of its kind since Plato. It portrayed something radically new, a just, egalitarian society [a Utopia] set far away in the just-discovered lands that More had read about in Amerigo Vespucci’s account of his travels, attained through what amounted to a moral revolution. In doing this, More put forward a searching and detailed analysis of social and political injustice in the real world in which he and his contemporaries lived. He described his ideal state, moreover, not as created by Providence or revelation but as designed by a single human founder, Utopus.
From his time onward, utopias were usually depicted as the creations of men, not God or gods: they were the product of a Promethean human power. That year More became a privy councillor to King Henry VIII, and soon became completely attached to the Court. In June 1520, he attended the King during the summit with French King Francis I, known as "The Field of the Cloth of Gold". His rise from there was rapid; he was first knighted and made sub-treasurer. In 1523 he was elected Speaker of the House of Commons and then appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a post which gave him control over the rental monies of a substantial amount of property (more than enough to guarantee his wealth).
In 1529, More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor of England, a post never before held by a layman. Then the world was turned upside down by the Reformation. His firm opposition to the King’s desire to divorce his wife over papal objection, and his upholding of the Catholic faith, speedily lost him the royal favor, and he resigned his posts. His beliefs had cost him his fortune, and would soon cost him his life. In March 1534, the Act of Succession was passed which required that all who should be called upon would be required to take an oath acknowledging the issue of Henry and his new wife, Anne Bolyn, as legitimate heirs to the throne, and to this was added a clause repudiating "any foreign authority, prince or potentate".
This constituted an acknowledgment that Henry was the head of the Church in England, that Parliament had the power to confer ecclesiastical supremacy on Henry, and that the Pope had no authority in England. More was summoned to take the oath and, on his refusal, was taken to the Tower and charged with treason. At any time, he could have recanted or simply moderated his principals and been released. However, he refused, considering his beliefs much more important than his earthly life. More was convicted and beheaded on Tower Hill in 1535.
For upholding his convictions and the teachings of the Catholic Church to the point of maryrdom, he was later canonized. On October 31, 2000, Saint Thomas More was declared "The heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians" by Pope John Paul II.
Document Signed as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (and concerning its properties), large folio with pendant seals, London, July 2, 1527, with 36 lines in a secretarial hand on vellum. It records the award of title to four premises in the Parish of St. Bride in the City of London, formerly the property of Andrew Wyndsore, to Stephen Punchon, in return for an annuity (which would have benefited More as Chancellor).
The former tenant, who has also signed, was very likely Andrew Windsor, Baron of Windsor (1467-1543). He was a Knight of the Bath, a member of Parliament, and like More, was with the King on "The Field of the Cloth of Gold". Formerly part of the noted Spiro Collection, a search of auction records indicates that this is one of just three autographs of More to be offered in the past 30 years. There are some areas of poor legibility within the text, but the document is overall in very good condition.
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