"Thomas More Escapes" by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present the twenty-first story from Jeff
Provine's excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On July 6th 1535,
mere hours before his execution, Catholic loyalists managed to sneak Sir
Thomas More, once a favorite of Henry VIII and now a nemesis for his
dedication to the Pope, from his prison in the Tower of London. Henry
declared a nationwide search, but More was able to escape from England and
into France under the guise of a book-trader.
In France, he shed his disguise and began to journey to Rome. Catholic
supporters surrounded and protected him despite the impressive bounty
offered on his head by Henry. Narrowly dodging two assassinations, More
caught word that Henry himself was plotting war to capture the treasonous
statesman by any means possible. He claimed no fear of the king or for his
life, but he feared for bloodshed and sin resulting from war, and so he
disappeared, falling in with Alpine monks under an assumed name.
While Henry's rage never ceased, his life did, and his son Edward VI
assumed the throne. Moving away from Catholicism, Edward and Thomas
Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, imposed Protestantism and the
infamous Book of Common Prayer. Upon his death at only 15, crisis followed
with Lady Jane Grey's attempt at the throne, but Edward's half-sister Mary
I managed to lay successful claim.
Less than a month after her crowning, an elderly monk presented himself as
the septuagenarian Thomas More. With his political craft as well as the
advice of Cardinal Pole (replacement for Cranmer, whom Mary had burned at
the stake), the queen was able to heal England's separation from Rome,
albeit under a fairly reformed condition. Priests retained their right to
marriage, but the Book of Common Prayer was destroyed alongside any
editions of Tyndale's English Bible. The Marian Persecutions raged,
chasing Protestants out of England and executing those who remained.
Mary died in 1558, succumbing to what medical historians would later
determine a hormonal disorder brought on by tumors. The aged More lived
only a few months more, seeing the succession pass safely to the Catholic
Mary, Queen of the Scots, as Mary I's sister Elizabeth had died at
Hatfield House in a fire often found suspicious. England continued
Catholic, despite the Protestant Rebellion of Oliver Cromwell in the
However, Henry VIII's short-lived separation from Rome always left its
mark on the land and people, so much so that after the revolution of the
American colonies led to the United States, the first amendment in their
Bill of Rights read in 1789, “Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
While England called for a new Crusade against such unorthodoxy, the
Enlightenment had shifted the interests of Europe, and Rome had lost much
of its power. Humanism and material philosophy had made moot a question
which, only a few centuries before, had nearly torn Europe apart.
says in reality, Henry VIII successfully executed Thomas More, who would
be canonized by the Catholic Church in 1935. England began its precarious
march to Protestantism, which aided in the bloody separation of northern
Europe from southern along religious lines, helping to spark altercations
such as the Thirty Years War and English Civil War.
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Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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