Saturday, July 5, 2014

St. Thomas More to His Daughter Meg

Beyond his martyrdom and his status as a patron saint, Thomas More provides us with such examples of humanity that tear the veil between us and the past. On July 5, 1535, the day before his execution, he wrote to his daughter Margaret, commenting on their last meeting as he left Westminster Hall for the Tower of London:

Our Lord bless you good daughter and your good husband and your little boy and all yours and all my children and all my godchildren and all our friends. Recommend me when you may to my good daughter Cecily whom I beseech our Lord to comfort, and I send her my blessing and to all her children and pray her to pray for me. I send her an handkercher and God comfort my good son her husband. My good daughter Daunce hath the picture in parchment that you delivered me from my Lady Conyers, her name is on the back side. Shew her that I heartily pray her that you may send it in my name to her again for a token from me to pray for me.

I like special well Dorothy Colly, I pray you be good unto her. I would wit whether this be she that you wrote me of. If not, I pray you be good to the other as you may in her affliction, and to my good daughter Joan Aleyn to give her I pray you some kind answer, for she sued hither to me this day to pray you be good to her. 

I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, for it is Saint Thomas' Even and the Octave of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner to­ward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy. 

Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.

I send now unto my good daughter Clement her algorism stone and I send her and my good son and all hers God's blessing and mine.

I pray you at time convenient recommend me to my good son John More. I liked well his natural fashion. Our Lord bless him and his good wife my loving daughter, to whom I pray him be good, as he hath great cause, and that if the land of mine come to his hand, he break not my will concerning his sister Daunce. And our Lord bless Thomas and Austin and all that they shall have. 

He enclosed his hair shirt with this letter, written in charcoal. June 29 was, at that time, the Feast of St. Peter (now the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul) and July 7, the Feast of the Translation of St. Thomas a Becket's relics! Thus, St. Thomas More remembered two martyrs before he died--and they were two martyrs with tremendous significance for the English Reformation era. St. Peter because Henry VIII was tearing England away from the successor of St. Peter as Pope, and had ended the long English tradition of St. Peter's Pence (in 1533/4); St. Thomas a Becket because Henry VIII would destroy (in 1538) the very shrine to which St. Thomas a Becket's relics were translated in 1220. 

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