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Facsimile of More's manuscript letter to King Henry VIII in 1534, concerning the Nun of Kent.

Sir Thomas More to King Henry VIII
(Original in the British Museum)

5 March 1534

        Yit may lyke yor highnes to call to yor graciouse remembraunce that at such tyme, as of that great weighty (care?) and office of your chancellor with which so far above my meritis or qualitees able and mete therfore yor highnes had of yor incomparable goodnes honored and exalted me ye were so good and graciouse un to me as at my pore humble suit to discharge and disburden me geving me licence with yor gracious favor to bestow the residew of my life in myn age now to come, abowt the provision for my soule in the service of god, and to be yor gracys bedisman and pray for you it pleased yor highnes ferther to say unto me, that for the service which I byfore hadd done you, (which it than lyked yor goodnes far above my deserving to commend) that in eny suit that I should after have un to yor highnes, which either should concerne myn honor (that word it lyked yor highnes to use un to me) or that should perteyne un to my profit I should fynd yor highnes good and gracious lord unto me.

So is it now graciouse soverayn, that worldely honor ys the thing whereof I have resigned both the possession and the desire in the resignation of yor moost honorable office. And worldely profit I trust experience proveth and dayly more and more shall prove, that I never was very gredy theron. But now ys my most humble suit un to yor excellent highnes, partely to beseche the same, some what to tendre my pore honestie, but principally that of yor accustomed goodnis no sinistre information move yor noble grace, to have eny more distruste of my trouth and devotion toward you than I have or shall duryng my life geve the cause.

For in this mater of the wykked woman of canterbery1 I have un to yor trus[t]y counsaylour Mr Thomas Cromwell by my writing as playnly declared the trouth as I possibly can, which my declaration, of his dutie toward yor grace, and his goodnes toward me so hath I understand declared un to yor grace, in eny parte of all which my dealing, whither eny other man may peradventure put eny dowte, or move eny scrupule of suspition, that can I neither tell, nor lyeth in my hand to lett, but un to my selfe is it not possible eny parte of my said demeanure to seme evil, the very clerenes of myn owne conscience knoweth in all the mater my mynde and entent so good.

Wherfore moste gracious soverayn I neither will nor well it can bycome me, wt yor highnes to reason and argue the mater, but in my moost humble maner prostrate at yor gracious fete I onely byseche yor maiestie wt yor owne high prudence and your accustumede goodnes that yor gracious highnes hath by so many maner ways used un to me, I be a wreche of such a monstrouse ingratitude as could wt eny of theym all, or with eny other person living, digresse fro my bounden dutie of allegaunce toward yor good grace, than desire I no ferther favor at yor graciouse hand, than the losse of all that ever I may best (value or esteem?) in this world, goods, lands, and libertie, and finally my life wt all, wherof the keping of eny parte un to my selfe, could never do me penyworth of pleasure, but onely shold then my recomforte be, that after my short life and yor long (which wt continuall prosperite to goddys pleasure our lord for his mercy send you) I shold onys mete wt yor grace agayn in hevyn, and there be mery with you. Where among myn other pleasuris this shold yet be one, that yor grace shold surely se there than, that (how so ever you take me) I am yor trew bedeman now and ever have bene, and will be till I dye, how so ever yor pleasure be to do by me.

How be it if in the considering of my cause, yor high wysdome and gracious goodnis perceve (as I veryly trust in god you shall) that I none otherwise have demeaned my selfe, than well may stand wt my bounden dutie of faithfullnes toward yor roiall maiestie, than in my moste humble wise I bysech yor most noble grace, that the knowledge of yor trew graciouse persuasion in that byhalfe, may releve the (burden?)of my present hevynesse, conceived of the drede and fere (by that I here such a grevouse bill put by yor learned counseile in to yo high court of parleament agaynst me) lest yor grace myght by some sinistre information be moved eny thyng to thinke the contrary. Which if yor highnes do not (as I trust in god and yor great goodnes the mater by yor awne high prudence examined and considered you will not) then in my moost humble manr I besech yor highnes ferther (albe it that in respecte of my formar requeste this other thing ys very sleight) yit sith yor highnes hath here byfore of yor more habundunt goodnes heped and accumulated uppon me (though I was therto very far unwurthy) fro tyme to tyme both wurshuppe and great honor to, and sith I now have lefte of all such things, and no thing seke or desire but the life to come, and in the meane while pray for yor grace, it may lyke yor highnes of yor accustumed benignite somewhat to tendre my pore honestie and never suffre by the meane of such a bill put forth agaynst me eny man to take occasion here after agaynst the treuth to slawndre me.

Which thyng shold yit by the perill of theire owne soulys do theym selfe more hurt than me which shall I trust settle myn harte with yor graciouse favor to depend uppon the comforte of the trouth and hope of hevyn, and not uppon the fallible opinion of sour spoken words, of light and sour changeale peple. And thus moste dredde and moste dere soverayn lord, I beseche the blessed trinite preserve yor moost noble grace both in body and soule, and all that are yor well willers, and amend all the contrary, among whome if ever I be or ever have been one, than pray I god that he may with myn open shame and destruction declare it.

At my pore howse in Chelchith the fifeth day of march by the knowed rude hand of — yor moste humble and moste hevy faithfull subguett and bedeman


1. See Elizabeth Barton, "the Nun of Kent"

      Hogg, James. Titan. Vol XXIII.
Edinburgh: James Hogg, 1856. 543-544.

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