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Autor: anton 03 March 2011
Words: 1119 | Pages: 5
Sir Thomas More: Scholar, Statesman, and Martyr
Instability remained a common theme throughout English history, especially in the years of 1400-1600. The King's reign of England would usually determine the stability of the realm. When wars broke out, taxes were increased and society became unstable. Those who appeased the King were placed above others, while those who dissatisfied him would meet the blade. That was well understood by the people in the realm of England. Sir Thomas More was an Englishman whom personified the instability of the time. Sir Thomas More was a popular scholar and statesman who towards the latter part of his life became a martyr for his beliefs. The following paper will explore the life and ideas of Sir Thomas More as well as his personality which led him to become a martyr during the reign of Henry VIII.
Sir Thomas More was born during a time of great instability in England. He was born on February 7, 1478 in the heart of London, Milk Street. More was baptized immediately after his birth. During this time in England, being born into a family of prestige would be a blessing for the child's future. Luckily for More that was the case. His father, John More and his mother, Agnes More, had inherited land from their fathers. "The world of More was one of status rather than of class, where the inheritance of feudalism and authoritarian religion pre-eminently demanded the virtues of loyalty and duty." More's father was in a well-off position by fifteenth century standards, for he later became a judge. John More and Agnes More were married in 1474 and had their second child Thomas four years later. "Thomas was the second of six children to be born to John and Agnes More: three girls and two other boys." During these years there were high infant mortality rates as well as the high possibility of the mother's death, which reflects in the inconclusive evidence of More's siblings life spans. However, it is accurate to say that "they young Thomas More was raised in a prosperous and comfortable household," but the realm of England was not as stable.
In 1485, Thomas More was about the age of seven when "his father enrolled him in the institution reputed to be one of London's finest schools for young students: Saint Anthony's." But, outside the classroom, the King's Monarchy was becoming unstable. The "Wars of the Roses" had ended with the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The battle turned the monarchy over to the victor, Henry Tudor who defeated Richard III. Although it "did not necessarily play any formative role in City trade and politics," it would lay the path for Thomas More to become a romanticized martyr. At Saint Anthony's school, More was required to learn and speak Latin, which would later prove successful in his own writings. There are not many accounts of More's childhood at Saint Anthony's, but many historians have made "well-informed guesses," saying he "was an exceptionally intelligent, as well as clever, man; as the adult, so the child." More's time at Saint Anthony's lasted for approximately five years. He had mastered Latin as well as English grammar. The mastery of Latin was of most important for a child who was destined for a career within the Church or the Courts.
At the age of thirteen, Thomas More took a distinguished course into the Church. He became a page in the house of John Morton. Morton was the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor of England. During the fifteenth century in England, it was customary for "children of gentle and even noble birth [More] be given the station of servants in a great household." Thomas More was fortunate to be placed in such a household. John Morton was one of the more influential men in the realm outside from the Monarch Henry VII. However, More was just a page and did basic page duties such as serving and waiting on the guests of Morton as well as Morton himself. But, Morton had seen something in More's abilities. More's personality was clever, he was a good orator and "acted his part" in the household of John Morton. More had admired Morton. Morton had seen promise in the young More and sponsored him in his education at Oxford University.
In 1492, the same years of Columbus' famous voyage, Thomas More began his studies at Oxford's Canterbury College. At Oxford University, More was taught Latin and Greek by a prestigious scholar, Thomas Linacre. They were quite strict in enforcing students to "communicate with one another and faculty in Latin-violators were fined," they also were "required to attend Mass daily, a habit that we know More observed the rest of his life." More's religious devotion was reinforced at Oxford University. But, More did not remain at the University for long. At the age of sixteen and two years after arriving at Oxford, he moved on to Lincoln's Inn, in London where he would focus on a legal career. Some historians believe that his father "insisted upon his son following a legal career like his own," which was common through out much of English history. Thomas More certainly had a great legal mind with a highly religious background and was in a position to use his education to further his career.
In 1499, around the time More turned twenty-one, he was well on his way in his scholarly studies. However, his mother died and "although there are no definitive statements by his early biographers as to precisely his reaction to the loss of his mother, we are justified in assuming it elicited deep emotions in the young man." It was not long after his mother's death that he contemplated what he should do with his life. More had thoughts of becoming a Priest. He participated in "spiritual exercises of the Carthusian monks of London's Charterhouse." His ambitions on becoming a Priest had been quite serious. More's life was "precisely regulated by pragyer and study." In 1504, More first entered Parliament "for the first time into the thickets of public affairs." More remained a layman and statesman rather than entering the clergy. Many historians have theorized the reasons for his choice. More's choice was made; he had realized he could fulfill his Christian beliefs as a statesman.
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