15/35, Needed More Restriction

A king is, in theory, the figurehead for the kingdom he rules over. In him, outsiders can see the values the country he resides in and upholds. During times of conflict, he is a man who does not dwell in the safety of his castle, rather he fights with his knights on the front lines. In peace, he is a man of the people, always open to their suggestions and willing to negotiate, never resorting to using force or fear in order to control them. The king is righteous, justice incarnate, and a God-fearing warrior. He does not command respect; rather, he earns it.[1] These values were championed by Thomas More in his definition of a good king, though they would lead to his demise as Henry VIII reshaped those very definitions to suit his own goals. Continue reading

England’s Empire

The word “empire” commonly holds the connotation of territorial expansion. In early modern Europe, England’s case for empire was unique because Henry VIII established England as an empire, and then further expanded his territory. Henry VIII used Parliamentary statute, the Act in Restraint of Appeals and the Act of Supremacy to make England an empire and to make himself, for all intents and purposes, emperor. Though the way in which England developed into an empire was quite unique, with a strong, centralized government and close relationship between king and Parliament, the English empire grew to be influential in Europe. Henry’s empire demonstrated how the term “empire” evoked both a consistent governmental stronghold as well as territorial sovereignty. It was only after this empire was first established did Henry then expand his imperium with the incorporation of Ireland and Wales. Continue reading

“Qui tacet consentire videtur”: Sir Thomas More, the Act of Supremacy, and the Defining Trial of Tudor England

The day the ax fell on the neck of Sir Thomas More, July 6, 1535, was the day that the approach to the practice of law and the enumerated powers of the English monarch were forever changed and consummated. More, who had served as Lord Chancellor of England from 1529 through 1532 for Henry VIII, was charged with treason upon refusing to assent to the Act of Supremacy. His legal battle between 1534-35 is marked with brilliant moments of legal nuance that More had long employed as a lawyer, yet it proved insufficient to save his life. Sources, both among More’s contemporaries and those of today, look to More as a hallowed being: a saint and martyr in the Roman Catholic Church, a historical precursor to the modern concept of the conscientious objector, and a man dedicated to a sense of civil servitude that is intrinsically intertwined with one’s own conscience. While each of these claims are justified in their own right, it still begs the question as to whether or not what happened to More was just; whether his imprisonment, trial, and execution were all legal processes and extensions under the law of Tudor England? It is easier for the contemporary corpora of thought to condemn the actions of Henry’s government, yet legal procedure during the sixteenth century and the powers of the monarch and Parliament that condemned More were in a state of flux. Was Sir Thomas More, scholar and martyr, proven to be justifiably wrong? Continue reading