Explain the significance of St. Thomas More's final words: "The King's good servant, but God's first." Please relate this to the conscience if you can.

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Thomas More (1478-1535), considered a saint by Roman Catholics, was a writer (famous as the author of Utopia) and served as the Lord High Chancellor of England. He opposed Henry VIII's decision to separate from the Roman Catholic church to found the Church of England. He was also against Henry VIII's decision to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which had initially caused Henry to break with the Pope and to instigate the English Reformation. For refusing to take the Oath of Supremacy that made Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church of England, More was convicted of treason and was executed in 1535. His alleged last words were "I die the King's good servant, but God's first." In other words, his first allegiance was to God, not to the king. He was convinced that the king's break with the Catholic church was a form of heresy. Following his conscience, he stood by his convictions, even when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and later convicted of treason and sent to be beheaded.  

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) was a counselor and advisor to King Henry VIII, and served as Lord Chancellor during the final years of his life. A loyal Catholic, he was opposed to Henry's move to make the Church of England the national church, and More refused to take an oath of allegiance as demanded by the First Succession Act. He was eventually sentenced to death by Henry, and was beheaded--a move that apparently caused Henry some later personal grief. His final words state his love and loyalty to Henry, but only after his loyalty to Catholic Church came first. More, who first coined the term "utopia," later gained sainthood by both the Catholic Church and the Church of England.

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