Some minor problems with Thomas More’s account.

King Edward, of that name the fourth, after that he had lived fifty and three years, seven months, and six days, and thereof reigned two and twenty years, one month, and eight days, died at Westminster the ninth day of April.

King Edward was born 28 April 1442 and died 9 April 1483. He was therefore 40 at death, not 53. Still only 13 years out!

He (Gloucester) slew with his own hands King Henry VI, being prisoner in the Tower, as men constantly say; and that without commandment or knowledge of the King, which would undoubtedly, if he had intended that thing, have appointed that butcherly office to some other than his own born brother.

This allegation is palpable nonsense. There can be little doubt that Edward IV ordered the death of Henry VI. That Richard personally performed the deed is most unlikely, to put it mildly. It would be extremely demeaning for a gentleman, let alone a man of Richard’s status, to act in the despised role of executioner. Is More seriously suggesting that Edward IV intended no harm to King Henry, but that his younger brother overrode his wishes? That beggars belief.


Then said the Protector: “You shall all see in what way that sorceress and that other witch of her counsel, Shore’s wife, with their affinity, have by their sorcery and witchcraft wasted my body.” And therewith, he plucked up his doublet sleeve to his elbow upon his left arm, where he showed a shriveled, withered and small arm – as if it were ever otherwise.

We know from the inspection of Richard’s remains that he did not have a withered arm. This is just a fact. We might also wonder about the probability of a famous warrior — such as Richard was, by all accounts — achieving such status with only one functional arm.

Certain is it also, that in the riding toward the Tower, the same morning in which he was beheaded, his horse twice or thrice stumbled with him almost to the falling, which thing, although each man knows well daily happens to them to whom no such mischance is aimed, yet has it been of an old rite and custom observed as a token oftentimes notably foregoing some great misfortune.

Really? This is adduced as evidence? Arrant nonsense and superstition.

“Thou would say so,” said he, “if thou knew as much as I know, which few know else as yet, and more shall shortly.” By that meant he the lords of the Queen’s kindred that were taken before and should that day be beheaded at Pomfret, which he well knew, but was nothing aware that the axe hang over his own head. “In faith, man,” said he, “I was never so sorry, nor never stood in so great dread in my life, as I did when thou and I met here. And lo how the world is turned; now stand mine enemies in that danger (as thou may by chance hear more hereafter) and I never in my life so merry, nor never in so great safety.”

Rivers was executed on 25 June 1483. Hastings on 13 June 1483. Some have claimed Hastings died a week later. Be that as it may, Hastings died before Rivers, not on the same day as presented here. More is, at best, being dramatic, not factual.

But to me seems the change so much the more worthy to be remembered, in how much she is now in the more beggarly condition – without friends and worn out of acquaintance – after good substance, after great favor with the Prince, after great suit and seeking to by all those that those days had business to speed, as many other men were in their times, who be now famous only by the infamy of their ill deeds. Her doings were not much less, although they be much less remembered because they were not so evil. For men use, if they have an evil turn, to write it in marble; and whosoever does us a good turn, we write it in dust, which is not worst proved by her, for at this day she begs of many at this day living, that at this day had begged if she had not been.

More writes here of Mistress Shore and at the least implies she was reduced to beggary. However, she married Thomas Lynom. She died in 1527 at the age of 82 and is buried in Hinxworth Church, Hertfordshire. There is evidence she had at least one child and perhaps two.

The Duchess (of York) with these words nothing appeased, and seeing the King so set thereon that she could not pull him back, so highly she disdained it that under pretext of her duty to God, she devised to disturb this marriage, and rather to help that he should marry one Dame Elizabeth Lucy, whom the King had also not long before gotten with child. Wherefore the King’s mother objected openly against his marriage, as it were in discharge of her conscience, that the King was betrothed to Dame Elizabeth Lucy, and her husband before God.

We know for a fact that the lady involved was Eleanor Talbot-Butler, not Elizabeth Lucy. So here More is stating a plain untruth. That he states the Duchess of York was involved in the matter is of interest. Is there a fossilised fact preserved in the untruth? Who can say?

the King, with great feast and honorable solemnity, married Dame Elizabeth Gray and her crowned queen that was his enemy’s wife, who many times had prayed full heartily for his loss. In which God loved her better than to grant her petition.

Here again is a plain, unadorned untruth. Edward IV did not marry Elizabeth ‘with great feast and honorable solemnity.’ Had he done so, the subsequent invalidation of the marriage could not have happened. Unless Eleanor Talbot had stood up during the ‘honorable solemnity’ and objected. She did not, because she could not. That was the problem with irregular marriages conducted in secret and why the Church objected to them. More would have been fully aware of this.

After which once ended, the preacher got himself home and never after dared look out for shame, but kept himself out of sight like an owl. And when he once asked one that had been his old friend what the people talked of him, although his own conscience well showed him that they talked no good, yet when the other answered him that there was in every man’s mouth spoken of him much shame, it so struck him to the heart that within few days after, he withered and consumed away.

Ralph Shaa is said to have died in 1484. So clearly he lived more than a ‘few days’ after his sermon.

Sir,” said his page, “there lies one outside in your bedchambers who, I dare well say, to do your Grace pleasure, the thing were right hard that he would refuse,” meaning by this Sir James Tyrell, who was a man of right goodly personage and for nature’s gifts, worthy to have served a much better prince, if he had well served God and by grace obtained as much truth and good will as he had strength and wit. The man had a high heart and sore longed upward, not rising yet so fast as he had hoped, being hindered and kept under by the means of Sir Richard Radcliff and Sir William Catesby, who, longing for no more partners of the Prince’s favor, and namely, none for him, whose pride they knew would bear no peer, kept him by secret plans out of all secret trust. Which thing this page well had marked and known. Because this occasion offered very special friendship with the King, the page took this time to put him forward and, by such a way, do him such good that all the enemies he had, except the devil, could never have done him so much harm.

This is arrant nonsense. King Richard had no need of any random page to introduce him to Sir James Tyrell who had been long in his service. He fought at Tewkesbury. Richard deployed him to bring Anne, Countess of Warwick, from Beaulieu to Yorkshire. He was Richard’s Sheriff of Glamorgan, a key position, from 1477. In November 1482 he served as one of Richard’s deputies in the role of Vice-Constable of England. While he received many further offices under Richard III, he was trusted by Henry VII and given many offices under him too. The idea that he was some obscure fellow desperate for advancement at any price is ludicrous.

Who, upon the sight of them, caused those murderers to bury them at the stair-foot, suitably deep in the ground, under a great heap of stones. The young king and his brother murdered. Then rode Sir James in great haste to King Richard and showed him all the manner of the murder, who gave him great thanks and, as some say, there made him knight. But he allowed not, as I have heard, the burying in so vile a corner, saying that he would have them buried in a better place because they were a king’s sons. Lo, the honorable nature of a king! Whereupon they say that a priest of Sir Robert Brakenbury took up the bodies again and secretly buried them in a place that only he knew and that, by the occasion of his death, could never since come to light.

So, by this account, the bones found ten feet deep under the stairs cannot be the boys as they were exhumed by a priest and (presumably) moved to a more sacred location. We are asked to believe that a priest, alone, dismantled the staircase, exhumed the bodies, and moved them to a new location without any help and without anyone knowing where. A likely tale! It is scarcely necessary to add that Tyrell was knighted long before 1483.

Very truth is it, and well known, that at such time as Sir James Tyrell was in the Tower – for treason committed against the most famous prince, King Henry the Seventh – both Dighton and he were examined and confessed the murder in manner above written, but to where the bodies were removed, they could nothing tell.

Shortly after this More states that Dighton is still alive and free (at the time of writing.) So Henry VII released a confessed regicide unpunished? Really?

Where he went abroad, his eyes whirled about; his body, secretly defended; his hand, ever on his dagger; his countenance and manner, like one always ready to strike again. He took ill rest at nights, lay long waking and musing, sore wearied with care and watch, rather slumbered than slept, troubled with fearful dreams – suddenly at times he would start up, leap out of his bed, and run about the chamber; so was his restless heart continually tossed and tumbled with the troubling impression and stormy remembrance of his abominable deed. Now had he outward no long time in rest.

Richard III’s condition after this event, according to More. Hmmm?

Some I have heard say that the Duke (of Buckingham) – a little before the coronation, among other things – required of the Protector the Duke of Hereford’s lands, to which he pretended himself just inheritor. And forasmuch as the title that he claimed by inheritance was somewhat interlaced with the title to the crown by the line of King Henry VI, before deprived, the Protector conceived such indignation that he rejected the Duke’s request with many spiteful and threatening words, which so wounded his heart with hatred and mistrust that he never after could endure to look aright on King Richard, but ever feared his own life, so far forth that when the Protector rode through London toward his coronation, he feigned himself sick because he would not ride with him.

We know that Richard granted Bucky the Bohun lands, and he certainly attended Richard’s Coronation, in which he took a prominent part. So he can’t have been that scared, can he? This looks like total claptrap.


  1. The Sainted More as Josephine Tey would call him. Sorry. I just today finished rereading The Daughter of Time. Thank you for your research and excellent analysis.

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  2. I won’t torture you with more carping about Tom More, we all know what a hack he was – certainly for most of his career. Instead I have a question that possibly the community can answer, one that More probably never even considered – we know Richard was Constable for most of his adult life under Edward. What I recently discovered was late in 1482 Edward was reorganizing the office of Constable, literally. Probably with an eye on necessity – Richard was about to resume not only the Scottish campaign come spring 1483 but also full on take everything in the “Debateable Lands’ that he could, which very probably would not have been difficult. Gloucester had already scoured them during the raids of 1481 and 1482 and there was not much left as regards resistance – no one was living in those lands along the borders by Carlisle anyway. He wanted a buffer and had already made sure that he had one.

    So reorganizing the Constable office, at least in November 1482 meant Edward appointed three men, James Tyrell, William Parr and James Harrington as the key commissioners and 6 civic lawyers (Anne Sutton provides their names but I didn’t recognize any of them, perhaps they were established lawyers with Edward?)

    Now, this is what I do not know, IF Edward has created a panel (Tyrell-Parr-Harrington) in Nov 1482 and is dead by April 1483 WHO is the Constable at that point? Would it have reverted back to Richard or was this panel/commission still in effect? it does make a huge difference. An very big difference. Is it possible that the panel had not yet been authorized? Does anyone know about this?

    As for More, his entire premise is easily shot down, like this: WHICH More are we talking about, the man who asserted in his writings that Martin Luther had sex with a pig (ie. oral sex with a menstruating pig thank you very much) OR the More who spewed all that nonsense about Richard that Sighthound6 just listed for us? If we believe the More version of the pig is genuine (and surely we must, would he lie?) then of course everything he wrote about Richard is the truth.

    But if More lied about Luther and the pig – for his master, for literary effect – then he also lied about Richard – for his master, and for literary effect. Some say More used Luther’s obscene language to drive home what an atrocity Martin Luther was – but nowhere does More defend the content of what he said about Luther, only HOW he framed what he said – so – I give you:
    Falsus in uno,
    falsus in omnibus!

    ps. happy new year, and don’t fear that fraud, Tom More!

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  3. Whilst I respect the diligence and effort that has gone into writing this engaging piece, it came across to me – a neutral – as a Ricardian polemic against ‘the sainted More’. I have no quarrel with its main thrust that More’s ‘History of King Richard the Third’ is useless as an accurate historical record, being littered with bias and inexcusable errors. However, I do think the tone betrays a wider Ricardian animus towards the messenger rather than the message that warrants some comment. I start from the premise that More, as a lawyer, judge and Lord Chancellor, had spent his entire professional career using evidence to build or to demolish a case. He also understood the need for objectivity. Richard Sylvester argues that he was neither pro-Tudor nor anti-Plantagenet. For example, he took the opportunity, in a celebratory poem for Henry VIII’s accession, to criticise the ‘oppressive acts and devious dealings’ of Henry VII. He makes a similar point, albeit obliquely, in the HISTORY: “…all things in later days were so covertly managed, one thing pretended another meant, that there was nothing so plain and openly proved but that for common custom of close and covert dealings men had it ever inwardly suspect…” More is not here just referring to the reign of Richard III but also to the reign of Henry VII during the period when Perkin Warbeck was a threat to the Tudor hegemony. In Sylvester’s opinion, More has depicted Richard as a cacodemon because that is what his oral and written authorities told him. He accepted their narrative not because he was biased but because he trusted them.

    Chief among these authorities was John Morton, Richard’s nemesis and an eyewitness to some events in1483. There is much in More’s History that could not possibly have come from him or the clique of Lancastrian dissidents who shared Richmond’s exile and (no doubt) dined with the archbishop at Lambeth Palace. Morton was not, for example, present at Stony Stratford when the Duke of Gloucester arrested the King’s uncle and stepbrother. Neither was he present when the Queen was persuaded to allow her youngest son, Richard duke of York, to leave the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. Furthermore, Morton is not an eyewitness to the alleged murders of Edward V and his brother. Though, he might well be the instigator of a rumour that they had been murdered.

    More’s other oral sources included but were not limited to: Sir John More (his father and staunch supporter of Edward IV), John Roper, Richard Fitzjames, Sir Thomas Lovell (fought for Richmond at Bosworth), Christopher Urswick (priest and Tudor spy in 1483), Bishop Fox of Winchester (in exile with Richmond), Roger Lupton (Mayor of London) and Sir John Heron (an early adherent to Richmond). When he cites one of these ‘authorities’ or others who occupied similar positions, he usually refers to them in the phrase ‘men say’. The opinion of these ‘wise’ men was much valued by More. He relied on them when balancing different interpretations against each other. Generally, More is not too concerned about the accuracy of dates, names and places since these could be checked later (but never were). What is notable, however, is that he never spoke to anyone at Henry’ VII’s court who had served King Richard or who could even be said to have liked the dead king.

    In addition to his oral authorities, More had a number of written works available for consultation. Some of these pre-date the HISTORY, whilst others are contemporary with it. Pietro Carmeliano was a court scholar during the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII who wrote the ‘Life of St Catherine of Egypt’. He extolled Richard’s princely virtues when he was alive and denounced him as a tyrant when he was dead. Bernard André’ was Henry VII’s official biographer. He wrote ‘Vita Henrici’, in which he to portrayed king Henry as angelic and king Richard as demonic. The sycophant John Rous wrote ‘Historia Regum Angliae’, during the reign of Henry VII. He denounced king Richard as the anti-Christ having previously acclaimed him for his nobility and virtues. Whether or not More used the Chronicles of Robert Fabyan, Polydor Vergil’s ‘Anglica Historia’ or Dominic Mancini’s ‘De Occupations Regni Anglie Per Ricardum Tercium Libellus’ is a matter of pure conjecture. Some of More’s factual inaccuracies suggest that either he did not know of the Second Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle or he had not read it. Even so, it is safe to say that he would hardly have credited a less defamatory portrait of king Richard than the one he describes in the HISTORY. In early Tudor England there was hardly a voice raised in defence of the last Plantagenet king. The official records such as Titular Regius and Richard’s signet letters were almost certainly not available to More. Although his portrait of Richard accurately reflects the opinion current in the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII and some details can be corroborated by independent records (e.g. the allegation that Edward V was bastardized due to his parents bigamous marriage), there are some notable errors and for which there is no excuse. However, what More’s critic overlook is that he never claimed it was anything other than a reflection of public opinion in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. Neither did he claim to be more authoritative than his sources. “He asks us not to credit that ‘what men say’ happened, did happen, but that they really said it did happen”.


    1. I think you wrote a good summary there! Thanks for that. I could see that what Thomas More wrote was erroneous, but I never really thought about why that was so.

      I only read it once before, and to me it seemed like satire of some kind. Now I can see that he might have been more serious, but only had the words of certain other people to rely on (as we all do, to varying degrees…).


    2. Not to be tedious but the problems with More are numerous, and not just his sources or what the intention was in writing the HISTORY. Those two issues may be the least of it.
      1) More never bothered to finish his HISTORY, ever. He left it not just unfinished but abandoned. One could say he simply was overwhelmed with more important business, career and court; plus, Morton was dead, and IF he was writing to please Morton, well, what was the point, really? Possibly to please the nephew, Robert Morton? And did the nephew have what influence to advance More’s legal and political career?
      It was ALSO not More’s family which dragged it out of mothballs to finish, but of all people, Reginald Pole! He wanted the works of Thomas More published, angling for a sainthood here for Thomas More during Mary I’s reign, and had specific assistants to make it happen – the unfinished HISTORY was thrown into the mix to plump up the ‘massive’ output of the great man – such a wide variety of works! Look, even a History! How can sainthood be far behind? (Imagine if Reginald had worked as hard to save his own kin from the Tower and execution).
      2) Next, the anonymity of the HISTORY. As Annette Carson once wrote Thomas More was not one to ‘forget’ works he had written, he was as vain and as self-promoting as any other ‘great mind’ – was he in competition with Erasmus? Did he ever feel the pangs of inadequacy when he compared himself with that intellectual and literary titan? Could be, possibly, wouldn’t surprise me, although Erasmus was too ‘enlightened’ to ever rub More’s nose in the reality of the grubby world (and court) that More lived in and served. But More also never referred to or listed his HISTORY either, not once in passing – so either it was because it was unfinished or it was because as an anonymous work he would not deign to attach his (LATER) highly respectable name to such (rubbish) – well let’s just say to such unverifiable material.
      3) John Morton. Heaven help us if that was his source. Can we even call it a ‘source’? Over here in the US that would be like having John Wilkes Booth provide source material for the History of the assassination of President Lincoln! (“Now, listen well, I am only telling you this once, he threw newspapermen like you in jail! “Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment!”) To me bias is a poison, toxic, and Morton, whatever he may have ‘helped’ More with was literally contaminated.
      Anyone who knew Richard, his brother Edward, the THREE nephews well enough to discourse on them were all dead or smart enough not to say anything. As late as Henry’s illness (I believe around 1500?) he got word from his spies in Calais that men in charge over there were discussing if H7 died who should replace him – well, it wasn’t either of his sons that was suggested but Edward Stafford (3rd duke of Buckingham) or worse, Edmund de la Pole! How strange that both men would find themselves executed, no?
      IF we want to discuss his motivation for writing the HISTORY (or whatever that exercise was) it may have been nothing more than at Morton’s suggestion, and no, he would NOT have had access to the Crowland continuator’s material, nor the Regius (Henry had them all destroyed), certainly not Mancini’s report (which was probably not even written by Mancini but the royal clerics at Cato’s palace at Beaugency, preparing it for reference (if even that) in the upcoming Estates General meeting in January-February 1484 which Anne de Beaujeu was going to use to basically demolish her rival, and cousin, Louis d’Orleans for the regency of little brother – the hammer to be used was the supreme perfection of French royal history compared to the barbarity of the English kings with their endless slaughter of each other through the ages – they pulled out of PR retirement material written in the 1450’s that had catalogued such atrocities by English kings and just added de Beaujeu’s allegations about Richard. Tidy – and her reason not to hand over the country to d’Orleans (a rash 20 yr old who despised the Valois like herself and had a number of French provinces all lined up to support him and boot her out of the Regency – de Beaujeu, btw, was at most 22 yrs old herself at the time!)


  4. genuine question; why is thomas moore bound to be ‘objective’ just because he is a lawyer? lawyers argue from a perspective (that of their client) and the law is used to try and achieve a desired outcome. moore may have been critical of a variety of people – but that reflects his own attitudes and values doesnt it not some unique gift of impartiality?

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    1. Judging by your question, I think you may have conflated two different sentences to arrive at the wrong conclusion. I did not assert that More was objective, much less that ‘he was bound to be objective because he was a lawyer’, nor could this be reasonably inferred from my comments. In point of fact, there were two sides to More’s legal-professional character. He earned the respect and affection of the City for his fair and quick decisions, sitting as one of two Under-Sheriffs, hearing trials in the Sherriff’s Court, Guildhall and acting as official counsel to various City bodies. William Roper, his son-in-law and first biographer described him as possessed of all the qualities of a perfect lawyer, skilful and objective, cautious yet theatrical, persuasive and practical: ‘the apotheosis of the clever and practical man’: what today we might call a ‘clever-dick lawyer’. There is, however, another side to More’s legal character, which is revealed by his involvement in the ‘Hunne Case’ (1515). This controversial and notorious litigation involved a direct attack on the authority of the Catholic Church. If what Ackroyd’s tells us about this case is right, More’s apparent loss of objectivity in the legal advice he gave the King went beyond putting a positive spin on a weak case. He allowed his personal feelings to cloud his legal judgement and perpetuated an injustice. By his own admission More did not shrink from mendaciolum (a small lie), which suggests how difficult and tricky he could be.

      I had hoped that my summary of More’s oral and written sources, illustrated my personal opinion that he well knew that the material he gathered was worthless as historical ‘evidence’, being hearsay and in some cases mere tittle-tattle. And that he also knew from personal experience, having been for some years in the service of John Morton, that his sources were biased against the late King Richard. He knew what he was doing. If that is correct, it raises a serious question mark against whether his HISTORY was ever intended to be an accurate, factual record of events in 1483. Prof Kendall suggests that he used his sources to fashion a version of events that satisfied his humanist leanings. “A dramatic boldly performed narrative soaring beyond actualities into art and seek psychological verisimilitude rather than factual accuracy.” Writing from a purely literary perspective, professor EMW Tillyard also believed that the HISTORY was intentionally creative rather than historically accurate. “More’s History transcends the sorting of evidence and abides as a classic record of fundamental human nature”. Tillyard also detects elements of dramatic tragedy and farce in the HISTORY.

      Even though More’s reason for writing the History is now unfathomable, post-Tudor scholars have repeatedly question his motives and what he actually thought he was writing. For example, Kendall writes that he ‘undoubtedly set about his History for the same reason that according to Falstaff the earl of Worcester rebelled — ‘it lay in his way and he found it’.” Whereas, Horace Walpole writing in 1768 believed that “[More] wrote his History to amuse his leisure and exercise his fancy.” These seemingly flippant reasons might be closer to the mark than we think. For instance, Peter Ackroyd in his biography of More raises the intriguing possibility that both the English and the Latin versions of the HISTORY were written as a rhetorical and grammatical exercise for Oxford students. The supporting evidence for this theory is both circumstantial and cryptic; yet, it does exist. First, there is More’s mysterious reference to a ‘schoolmaster of Poles’ (St Paul’s?): second, there is the fact that one of the extant manuscripts of this work is endorsed with the preface that it was written exercitationis gratia (‘for the sake of practice’). Finally, there is the fact that both the Latin and the English versions comply with More’s own methods of composition and revision.

      As Ackroyd notes, More’s humanism had a practical purpose, and as a successful lawyer he was more interested in the practice and usage of advocacy than its theory. It is possible, therefore, that the long and complex debates on the merits and abuses of sanctuary and on King Richard’s royal title, which dominate the HISTORY, are humanist lessons in the art of disputation similar to those experienced by More during his own education. The speechmaking is certainly more reminiscent of an exposition of the law than a record of what was actually said by those present in 1483. It is equally possible that More’s interest in history and in ‘kingship’, and his contact with Morton and the men who had fought King Richard, fuelled a ‘boyish interest’ in the dead king.

      It is more likely, however, that he wrote the HISTORY for a substantial reason other than mere interest. He may have intended it to be a metaphor for his own doubts and his fear of Henry VIII’s instinct for despotism, which was already apparent by the time he was writing the HISTORY. He could not make his thoughts plain on pain of death, so his message is more oblique and very cleverly constructed. Nothing in More’s History could be mistaken as applying to Henry VIII. Read literally, it coruscates King Richard’s tyranny whilst justifying the Henrician Tudors as the opponents of tyranny. More’s philosophical and psychological interest in tyranny and government is evidenced by his poems and other written works: especially Utopia. The HISTORY may have been an attack on the real-politick of his day. He may even have regarded it as a worked example wherein a ‘good’ monarch would benefit from its powerful depiction of monstrous tyranny.

      Whatever More’s reason for writing the HISTORY may have been, he put down his quill sometime between 1518 and 1520. He never returned to his manuscripts, which remained unfinished and unrevised. Clearly, it was not meant for publication. The reasons for this have troubled Scholars almost as much as More’s reason for picking-up his quill in the first place. There are many different theories, two of which, bear testament to More’s concerns about the Henry VIII tyrannical tendencies. Sylvester postulates that he might have been troubled by the possibility that it would become a kind of ‘manual’ for Henry if he wished to exercise his will unfettered. More could not take that risk and so the HISTORY remained unfinished. Professor Kendall notes that the HISTORY stops just as Richmond was about to enter the narrative. At which point (Kendall postulates) it became too dangerous for More to write about Henry VII’s oppression even by analogy. And so, the History remained unfinished and unpublished in More’s lifetime. The third theory is more mundane but equally credible. It is possible that he simply lost interest in the project, particularly if it really was nothing more than a student exercise. Compared to the existential threat to the established Church posed by Luther’s heretical doctrine, the HISTORY was a self-indulgent trifle. Apologies for the inordinate length of this comment: I’ll shut-up now.


      1. no reason to ‘shut up’ – discussion is never a negative even if the content often is. With Yorkist/ Ricardian topics it is usually cast as a negative, so, nothing new.
        two points for you, More was aware as early as H7’s death in 1509 that it was a relief for the country H7 had died and with him his dependence on informers and the chilling effects they had not only on government but the social fabric as well, remarking that now the ‘informers will have only each other to inform on’ (or to that effect) – that More (foolishly or naively) thought H8 was some vast improvement over the father is to us, in hindsight, curious. Then again he wouldn’t have known about the old king’s directive to his son to kill cousin and prisoner in the Tower Edmund de la Pole as soon as was expedient. First of many cousins to go under the axe.

        second point, of all the many examples of ‘tyranny’ that More could have found to amuse himself and his students (if we can believe that was the purpose for the History) why one that so clearly was injurious to the current Queen and HER family? Was it not embarrassing enough that her family were essentially under suspicion (!!!) – especially half-brother Dorset, her sisters and female cousins, aunts all carefully married in what I would call marital confinement to safe Tudor approved males (like Jasper, easily 30+ years older than Aunt Katherine Wydville, the young widow of the duke of Buckingham, her sons removed from her after Bosworth and handed over to Margaret Beaufort, and while the elder claimed later to have such great affection for MB it did him little good when he flew too high and H8 axed his wings early in the 1520’s) – and embarrassed why? Without Eliz of York H7 would have been gone in a NY minute, the thought that the Yorkist majorities would suffer him and a handful of retread Lancastrians running Westminster is eye popping ludicrous.

        More chose the most sensitive ‘tyranny’ to jab at a (we are told) beloved Queen, sticking the knife in as it were every time one of them ran off into exile before H7’s informers delivered enough rumor to earn their wage and they found themselves ‘investigated’ – think on this – why was Warbeck never brought before Eof Y to identify as a fraud? She could have so easily quashed his claim, and without H7 forcing a ‘confession’ from him via the rack (Warbeck was married by this point, with an infant son, two major reasons to ‘confess’ to anything H wanted, we know the wife Katherine Gordon did survive but no one to my knowledge has indicated what became of the young son) – why did H7 prevent this easy out to end the ‘farce’ of Warbeck? Did he not trust his wife?

        Or, more to the point, did he trust her enough to know she would betray herself even if she said nothing and then, when she recognized her younger brother, what does he do then? It is one thing to have a ‘fraud’ executed, but one’s wife as well? That would be his beloved son’s line of work, bluff king Hal.

        More could and should have chosen someone like King John if it was merely a intellectual or legal exercise, someone that wouldn’t be so sensitive to those still quite alive, many in the Tower, many trapped through no fault of their own, trapped by a very real Tudor paranoia, born of inadequacy. That More had taken a fancy to the old king, Richard, and the moral of his wicked life, is an interesting one, but I guess More was just as uninterested in the laws that king passed in his only Parliament. Curious, no?


  5. so – to summarize – thomas moore – for reasons known only to himself wrote a load of nonsense which was never intended to be published. but published it was and has been treated as ‘factual history’ – and still is in some quarters. so why is it proving so difficult to consign it to the rubbish bin of history. there has obviously been a lot of academic discourse attempting to establish context /intent etc – but these arguments havent discredited the work – perhaps because they are intellectual excercises which theorize about the purpose without ever being able to definatively prove anything. so perhaps the best strategy to convince the unenlightened is to concentrate on highligting the factual errors which identify it as a work of fiction. . (imho) although anything which helps discredit moore is fine by me!


    1. lol let’s put it this way, had More accepted the oath of supremacy acknowledging that H8 was head of the Church in England AND head of the government and anything else the tyrant wanted to claim More would have disappeared into obscurity, a life spent after 1532 probably in minor functions, if not Chancellor. A footnote in H8’s messy life, certainly not executed, with sainthood in his future, and no one but specialists would have ever known he had written anything besides the 1523 diatribes against Luther (1523), Utopia in 1516 … right now even in Wikipedia the “History of R3” isn’t even listed among the “Notable Work”!


      1. hurrah for wikipedia !! that is good news to start the year! any chance of him being’unsainted’ aswell? (is that a good way of damaging someones credibility – or might it be reverse pschychology?)
        hny everyone!


    2. You are quite right, the best way to enlighten the unenlightened is to highlight More’s inaccuracies. However, as you also point out, intellectual reasoning alone cannot disprove his allegations: hard evidence is also required. And this article, which despite its merits is based on reason and not evidence, appeals only to committed Ricardians (confirmation bias?). It will not enlighten the unenlightened neutral observer imho.


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