Sir Thomas More wrote his own epitaph for the tomb in Chelsea Old Church. The original is in Latin
"Thomas More, a Londoner born, of no noble family, but of an honest stock, somewhat brought up in learning; after that in his young days he had been a pleader in the laws of this hall certain years, being one of the under-sheriffs of London, was of noble King Henry the Eight (which alone of all kings worthily deserved both with sword and pen to be called the Defender of the Faith, a glory afore not heard of) called into the court, and chose one of the Council and made knight; then made first under-treasurer of England, after that chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and last of all, with great favour of his prince, lord chancellor of England.
But in the mean season, he was chosen speaker of the parliament, and besides was divers times in divers places the king's ambassador, and last of all at Cambray, joined fellow and companion with Cuthbert Tunstal, chief of that embassy, then Bishop of London, and within a while after Bishop of Durham, who so excelleth in learning, wit and virtue, that the whole world scant hath at this day any more learned, wiser or better; where he both joyfully saw and was present ambassador when the leagues between the chief princes of Christendom were renewed again, and peace so long looked for restored to Christendom, which peace Our Lord stablish and make perpetual.
When he had thus gone through this course of offices or honours, that neither that gracious prince could disallow his doings, nor he was odious to the nobility nor unpleasant to the people, but yet to thieves, murderers and heretics grievous, at last John More, his father, knight, and chosen of the prince to be one of the justices of the King's Bench, a civil man, pleasant, harmless, gentle, pitiful, just and uncorrupted, in years old, but in body more than for his years lusty, after that he perceived his life so long lengthened, that he saw his son lord chancellor of England, thinking himself now to have lived long enough, gladly departed to God. His son then, his father being dead, to whom as long as he lived being compared was wont both to be called young and himself so thought too, missing now his father departed, and seeing four children of his own, and of their offspring eleven, began in his own conceit to wax old; and this affection of his was increased by a certain sickly disposition of his breast, even by and by following, as a sign or token of age creeping upon him.
He, therefore, irked and weary of worldly business, giving up his promotions, obtained at last by the incomparable benefit of his most gentle prince, if it please God to favour his enterprise, the thing which from a child in a manner always he wished and desired: that he might have some years of his life free, in which he little and little withdrawing himself from the business of this life, might continually remember the immortality of the life to come. And he hath caused this tomb to be made for himself, his first wife's bones hither too, that might every day put him in memory of death that never ceases to creep on him. And that this tomb made for him in his life-time be not in vain, nor that he fear death coming upon him, but that he may willingly, for the desire of Christ, die and find death not utterly death to him, but the gate of a wealthier life, help him, I beseech you, good reader, now with your prayers while he liveth, and when he is dead also".
The epitaph concludes with some Latin verses, which I give in the very literal translation of Archdeacon Wrangham:
Within this tomb Jane, wife of More, reclines; This More for Alice and himself designs. The first, dear object of my youthful vow, Gave me three daughters and a son to know; The next ah! virtue in a stepdame rare! Nursed my sweet infants with a mother's care. With both my years so happily have past, Which most my love, I know not first or last. Oh! had religion destiny allowed, How smoothly mixed had our three fortunes flowed! But, be we in the tomb, in heaven allied, So kinder death shall grant what life denied.
A Godly Instruction, 1534
On How to Treat Those Who Wrong Us. Reflections written in the Tower
Bear no malice nor ill-will to any man living; for, either the man is good, or naught: if he be good, and I hate him, then am I naught; if he be naught, either he shall amend, and die good, and go to God; or abide naught, and die naught, and so be lost. If he be saved, he shall not fail, if I be saved too, as I trust to be, to love me very heartily, and I shall then love him likewise. And why, then, should I now hate one, who shall hereafter love me for evermore? and why should I now be an enemy to him, with whom I shall, in time coming, be coupled in eternal frendship?
On the other side, if he shall continue naught and be lost, that is so terrible and eternal a sorrow to him, that I should think myself a cruel wretch, if I did not now rather pity his pain, than malign his person. Should any one say, that we may, with a good conscience, wish an evil man harm, lest he should do harm to such as are innocent and good, I will not now dispute upon that point, for the matter requires to be more considered than I can now conveniently write, having no other pen than a coal. But, verily, thus will I say that I will give counsel to every good friend of mine, if he be put in such a room as to punish an evil man, who lieth in his charge by reason of his office, at all events, to leave the desire of punishing unto God, and unto such folk as are so grounded in charity and cleave so fast to God, that no secret shrewd cruel affection, under the cloak of just and virtuous zeal, can creep in, and undermine them. But let us that are no better than men of a mean sort ever pray for such merciful amendment in others, as our conscience sheweth us we have need of in ourselves.
A Godly Meditation, 1534
Written in the Tower
Give me Thy grace, good Lord, to set the world at naught; to set my mind fast upon Thee; and not to hang upon the blast of men's mouths. To be content to be solitary; not to long for worldly company; little and little utterly to cast off the world, and rid my mind of all the business thereof; not to long to hear of any worldly things, but that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me displeasant. Gladly to be thinking of God; piteously to call for His help; to lean unto the comfort of God; busily to labour to love Him. To know mine own vility and wretchedness; to humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God. To bewail my sins past; for the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity; gladly to bear my purgatory here; to be joyful of tribulations; to walk the narrow way that leadeth to life. To bear the cross with Christ; to have the last things in remembrance; to have ever afore mine eye my death that is ever at hand; to make death no stranger to me; to foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell; to pray for pardon before the Judge come. To have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me; for His benefits uncessantly to give Him thanks. To buy the time again, that I before have lost; to abstain from vain confabulations; to eschew light, foolish mirth; and gladness; recreations not necessary to cut off; of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss at right nought for the winning of Christ. To think my most enemies my best friends; for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good with their love and favour as they did him with their malice and hatred. These minds are more to be desired of every man than all the treasure of all the princes and kings, Christian and heathen, were it gathered and laid together all upon one heap.
A Devout Prayer, 1535
Composed after being condemned to death
Pater Noster. Ave Maria. Credo. O Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, three equal and coeternal Persons and one Almighty God, have mercy on me, vile, abject, abominable, sinful wretch, meekly knowledging before Thine High Majesty my long-continued sinful life, even from my very childhood hitherto. In my childhood (in this point and that point). After my childhood (in this point and that point, and so forth by every age). Now, good gracious Lord, as Thou givest me Thy grace to knowledge them, so give me Thy grace not only in word but in heart also, with very sorrowful contrition to repent them and utterly to forsake them. And forgive me those sins also in which, by mine own default, through evil affections and evil custom, my reason is with sensuality so blinded that I cannot discern them for sin. And illumine, good Lord, mine heart, and give me Thy grace to know them and to knowledge them, and forgive me my sins negligently forgotten, and bring them to my mind with grace to be purely confessed of them. Glorious God, give me from henceforth Thy grace, with little respect unto the world, so to set and fix firmly mine heart upon Thee, that I may say with Thy blessed apostle St. Paul: "Mundus mihi crucifixus est et ego mundo.1 Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum.2 Cupio dissolvi et esse cum Christo.3" Give me Thy grace to amend my life and to have an eye to mine end without grudge of death, which to them that die in Thee, good Lord, in the gate of a wealthy life. Almighty God, Doce me facere voluntatem Tuam.4 Fac me currere in odore unguentorum tuorum.5 Apprehende manum meam dexteram et deduc me in via recta propter inimicos meos.6 Trahe me post te.7 In chamo et freno maxillas meas constringe, quum non approximo ad te.8
O glorious God, all sinful fear, all sinful sorrow and pensiveness, all sinful hope, all sinful mirth and gladness take from me. And on the other side, concerning such fear, such sorrow, such heaviness, such comfort, consolation, and gladness as shall be profitable for my soul: Fac mecum secundum magnam bonitatem tuam Domine.9 Good Lord, give me the grace, in all my fear and agony, to have recourse to that great fear and wonderful agony that Thou, my sweet Saviour, hadst at the Mount of Olivet before Thy most bitter passion, and in the meditation thereof to conceive ghostly comfort and consolation profitable for my soul. Almighty God, take from me all vain-glorious minds, all appetites of mine own praise, all envy, covetise, gluttony, sloth, and lechery, all wrathful affections, all appetite of revenging, all desire or delight of other folk's harm, all pleasure in provoking any person to wrath and anger, all delight of exprobation or insultation against any person in their affliction and calamity. And give me, good Lord, an humble, lowly, quiet, peaceable, patient, charitable, kind, tender, and pitiful mind with all my works, and all my words, and all my thoughts, to have a taste of Thy holy, blessed Spirit.
Give me, good Lord, a full faith, a firm hope, and a fervent charity, a love to the good Lord incomparable above the love to myself; and that I love nothing to Thy displeasure, but everything in an order to Thee. Give me, good Lord, a longing to be with Thee, not for the avoiding of the calamities of this wretched world, nor so much for the avoiding of the pains of purgatory, nor of the pains of hell neither, nor so much for the attaining of the joys of heaven in respect of mine own commodity, as even, for a very love to Thee. And bear me, good Lord, Thy love and favour, which thing my love to Thee-ward, were it never so great, could not, but of Thy great goodness deserve. And pardon me, good Lord, that I am so bold to ask so high petitions, being so vile a sinful wretch, and so unworthy to attain the lowest. But yet, good Lord, such they be as I am bounden to wish, and should be nearer the effectual desire of them if my manifold sins were not the let. From which, O glorious Trinity, vouchsafe, of Thy goodness to wash me with that blessed blood that issued out of Thy tender body, O sweet Saviour Christ, in the divers torments of Thy most bitter passion. Take from me, good Lord, this lukewarm fashion, or rather key-cold manner of meditation, and this dulness in praying unto Thee.
And give me warmth, delight, and quickness in thinking upon Thee. And give me Thy grace to long for Thine holy sacraments, and specially to rejoice in the presence of Thy very blessed body, sweet Saviour Christ, in the holy sacrament of the altar, and duly to thank Thee for Thy gracious visitation therewith, and at that high memorial with tender compassion to remember and consider Thy most bitter passion. Make us all, good Lord, virtually participant of that holy sacrament this day, and every day. Make us all lively members, sweet Saviour Christ, of Thine holy mystical body, Thy Catholic Church. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.10 Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.11 In te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in æternum.12 R. Ora pro nobis, sancta Dei genitrix.13 V. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.14
Pro amicis.15 Almighty God, have mercy on N. and N. (with special meditation and consideration of every friend, as godly affections and occasion requireth).
Pro inimicis.16 Almighty God, have mercy on N. and N., and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as Thine infinite wisdom best can devise, vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with Thee and Thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Saviour Christ. Amen. God, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to Thine, that I may truly say: "Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in coelo et in terra".17 The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me Thy grace to labour for. Amen.
world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal 6,14).
2. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1,21).
3. "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ" (Phil 1,23).
4. "Teach me to do thy will" (Psalm 143:10)
5. "Make me run in the scent of your ointments" (Song of Solomon 1,3).
6. "Take me by my right hand and direct me on the path of righteousness, on account of my enemies" (Psalm 73,23).
7. "Draw me after thee" (Song of Solomon 1,4).
8. "With bit and bridle constrain my jaws, when I come not near thee" (Psalm 32,9)
9. "Do unto me according to thy great goodness, Lord" (Psalm 118,29; Psalm 145,7-8).
10. "Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. O Lord, have mercy upon us , have mercy upon us." From the Te Deum. Translation from the Book of Common Prayer.
11. "O Lord, let thy mercy be upon us, as our trust is in thee." From the Te Deum.
12. "O Lord, in thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded." From the Te Deum.
13. "Pray for us, holy mother of God".
14. "That we may become worthy of the promises of Christ".
15. "For friends".
16. "For enemies".
17. "Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven".
For Humble Obedience, 1534
O glorious Blessed Trinity,
whose justice has damned to perpetual pain many proud rebellious angels, whom
your goodness had created to be partners of your eternal glory: because of your
tender mercy, plant in my heart such meekness that I may by your grace so follow
the motion of my good angel and so resist the proud
suggestions of those spiteful spirits who fell that I may, through the merits of your bitter Passion, be partner of your bliss with those holy spirits who stood and who now, confirmed by Your grace, shall stand in glory for ever.
For Resistance to Temptation
Almighty God, who of your infinite goodness did create our first parents in the state of innocence, with present wealth and hope of heaven to come till through the devil’s deceit their folly fell by sin to wretchedness: by Your tender pity of that Passion that was paid for their and our redemption, assist me with Your gracious help so that to the subtle suggestions of the serpent I never so incline the ears of my heart but that my reason may resist them and master my sensuality and keep me from them.
For Devotion to the Passion
O holy blessed Savior Jesus Christ, who willingly did determine to die for man’s sake: mollify my hard heart and supple it so by grace that, through tender compassion of Thy bitter Passion, I may be partner of Your holy redemption.
For Ready Response to the Gospel of the Passion
Good Lord, give us Your grace not to read or hear this Gospel of Your bitter Passion with our eyes and our ears in manner of a pastime, but that it may with compassion so sink into our hearts that it may stretch to the everlasting profit of our souls.
For Devotion to the Eucharist
Good Lord, who upon the
sacrifice of the Paschal lamb did so clearly destroy the first-begotten children
of the Egyptians that Pharaoh was thereby forced to let the children of Israel
depart out of his bondage: I beseech You, give me the grace in such faithful
wise to receive the very sweet Paschal lamb, the very blessed Body of
our sweet Savior, Your Son, that with the first suggestions of sin killed in my heart by Your power, I may safe depart out of the danger of the most cruel Pharaoh, the devil.
For a Happy Death
Good Lord, give me the grace so to spend my life that when the day of my death shall come, though I feel pain in my body, I may feel comfort in soul and – with faithful hope of Your mercy, in due love towards You and charity towards the world I may, through Your grace, depart hence into Your glory.
To Resist Wicked Counsel
Gracious God, give me Your grace so to consider the punishment of that false great council that gathered together against You that I never to Your displeasure be partner, nor give my assent to follow the sinful device of any wicked counsel.
To Resist Greed
O my sweet Savior Christ – whom Your own wicked disciple, entangled with the devil through vile wretched covetousness, betrayed: inspire, I beseech You, the marvel of Your majesty with the love of Your goodness, so deep into my heart that, in respect to the least point of Your pleasure, my mind may set always this whole wretched world at naught.
For Fervent Love of Christ
O my sweet Savior Christ, who in Your undeserved love towards mankind so kindly would suffer the painful death of the cross: suffer not me to be cold or lukewarm in love again towards You.
Almighty Jesus Christ, who would for our example observe the law that You came to change and, being Maker of the whole earth, would have yet no dwelling-house therein: give us Your grace so to keep Your holy law and so to reckon ourselves for no dwellers but for pilgrims upon earth that we may long and make haste, walking with faith in the way of virtuous works, to come to the glorious country wherein You have bought us inheritance forever with Your own precious blood.
For the Humility to Serve
Almighty Jesus, my sweet
Savior Christ, who would deign with Your own almighty hands to wash the feet of
Your twelve apostles, not only of the good but of the very traitor too: deign,
good Lord, of Your excellent goodness, in such wise to wash the foul feet of my
affections that I, with meekness and charity for the love of
You, never have such pride enter into my heart as to disdain either in friend or foe to defile my hands with washing of their feet.
For Devotion to the Eucharist
Our most dear Savior Christ, who after finishing the old Paschal sacrifice instituted the new sacrament of Your own Blessed Body and Blood for a memorial of Your bitter Passion: give us such true faith therein and such fervent devotion thereto that our souls may take fruitful spiritual food thereby.
Speech at his Trial, 1535
If I were a man, my lords, that did not regard an oath, I need not, as it is well known, in this place, at this time, nor in this case to stand as an accused person. And if this oath of yours, Master Rich, be true, then pray I that I may never see God in the face, which I would not say, were it otherwise to win the whole world.
In good faith, Master Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury than for mine own peril, and you shall understand that neither I nor any man else to my knowledge ever took you to be a man of such credit in any matter of importance I or any other would at any time vouchsafe to communicate with you. And I, as you know, of no small while have been acquainted with you and your conversation, who have known you from your youth hitherto, for we long dwelled together in one parish. Whereas yourself can tell (I am sorry you compel me to say) you were esteemed very light of tongue, a great dicer, and of no commendable fame. And so in your house at the Temple, where hath been your chief bringing up, were you likewise accounted. Can it therefore seem likely to your honorable lordships, that I would, in so weighty a cause, so unadvisedly overshoot myself as to trust Master Rich, a man of me always reputed for one of little truth, as your lordships have heard, so far above my sovereign lord the king, or any of his noble counselors, that I would unto him utter the secrets of my conscience touching the king's supremacy, the special point and only mark at my hands so long sought for?
A thing which I never did, nor ever would, after the statute thereof made, reveal unto the King's Highness himself or to any of his honorable counselors, as it is not unknown to your honors, at sundry and several times, sent from His Grace's own person unto the Tower unto me for none other purpose. Can this in your judgment, my lords, seem likely to be true? And if I had so done, indeed, my lords, as Master Rich hath sworn, seeing it was spoken but in familiar, secret talk, nothing affirming, and only in putting of cases, without other displeasant circumstances, it cannot justly be taken to be spoken maliciously; and where there is no malice there can be no offense. And over this I can never think, my lords, that so many worthy bishops, so many noble personages, and many other worshipful, virtuous, wise, and well-learned men as at the making of the law were in Parliament assembled, ever meant to have any man punished by death in whom there could be found no malice, taking malitia pro malevolentia: for if malitia be generally taken for sin, no man is there that can excuse himself. Quia si dixerimus quod peccatum non habemus, nosmetipsos seducimus, et veritas in nobis non est. [If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.] And only this word, "maliciously" is in the statute material, as this term "forcibly" is in the statute of forcible entries, by which statute if a man enter peaceably, and put not his adversary out "forcibly," it is no offense, but if he put him out "forcibly," then by that statute it is an offense, and so shall be punished by this term, "forcibly."
Besides this, the manifold goodness of the King's Highness himself, that hath been so many ways my singular good lord and gracious sovereign, and that hath so dearly loved and trusted me, even at my first coming into his noble service, with the dignity of his honorable privy council, vouchsafing to admit me; and finally with the weighty room of His Grace's higher chancellor, the like whereof he never did to temporal man before, next to his own royal person the highest office in this whole realm, so far above my qualities or merits and meet therefor of his own incomparable benignity honored and exalted me, by the space of twenty years or more, showing his continual favors towards me, and (until, at mine own poor suit it pleased His Highness, giving me license with His Majesty's favor to bestow the residue of my life wholly for the provision of my soul in the service of God, and of his special goodness thereof to discharge and unburden me) most benignly heaped honors continually more and more upon me; all this His Highness's goodness, I say, so long thus bountifully extended towards me, were in my mind, my lords, matter sufficient to convince this slanderous surmise by this man so wrongfully imagined against me....
Forasmuch, my lord, as this indictment is grounded upon an act of Parliament directly oppugnant to the laws of God and his holy church, the supreme government of which, or of any part thereof, may no temporal prince presume by any law to take upon him, as rightfully belonging to the See of Rome, a spiritual preeminence by the mouth of our Savior himself, personally present upon the earth, to Saint Peter and his successors, bishops of the same see, by special prerogative granted; it is therefore in law amongst Christian men, insufficient to charge any Christian man...
More have I not to say, my lords, but that like as the blessed apostle Saint Paul, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, was present and consented to the death of Saint Stephen, and kept their clothes that stoned him to death, and yet be they now twain holy saints in heaven, and shall continue there friends forever: so I verily trust and shall therefore right heartily pray, that though your lordships have now in earth been judges to my condemnation, we may yet hereafter in heaven merrily all meet together to our everlasting salvation.