In 1534, More was called upon to swear to the Act of Succession, which replaced Princess Mary with Anne Boleyn’s daughter as heir. He refused to do so. He was arrested, charged with treason and imprisoned
At his interrogations, More relied upon silence and, through that, the legal principle that ‘he who is silent gives consent’. He refused to deny the King’s supremacy, but, at the same time, refused to swear the oath. He was brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to death.
His humour and pithy oratory did not desert him on the scaffold. His beard, grown in long captivity, should be shifted from the axe – after all, it had committed no treason; as for the struggle between temporal and spiritual power, the clash of which had led him to the scaffold, he died “the King’s good servant; but God’s first.”
More stands as one of England’s greatest thinkers, scholars and lawyers, and one of Europe’s great Renaissance humanists.