More was born in 1478 in London. His mother died when he was young. After an excellent education, he seriously considered joining a religious order, but realized that he could not renounce marriage and family life. In 1505 he married Jane Colt, 10 years his junior. The marriage was a happy one, cut short by Jane’s death at 22.
Left a widower with four small children, More quickly married Alice Middleton, a silk merchant. Known for her sharp tongue, Alice faced the tough task of raising her stepchildren—she and More had no children of their own—and running the household. One biographer observed: “In this marriage—whatever may have been lacking in beauty—there was at no time a lack of mutual respect or of a clear understanding as to the competence of each spouse.”
More paid close attention to the religious upbringing of us children, and well as their general education. He made sure that his three daughters received as fine an education as his son, at a time when few girls were educated.
Thomas More was a lawyer, writer (“Utopia”) and statesman. He is best known for his clash with King Henry VIII over the king’s decision to divorce his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. He refused to take an oath that declared the king’s first marriage invalid and that recognized Henry as head of the Church of England. He was convicted of treason on the basis of perjured testimony and beheaded on July 6, 1535.
More was canonized in 1935. He shares his feast day, June 22, with another English martyr, St. John Fisher.
Defending the institution of marriage publicly takes courage, but it also takes courage to meet the challenges that all marriages face. Dealing patiently with the smaller annoyances of marital life can prepare couples to face the bigger challenges.