More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes, and sometime of as sad gravity. A man for all seasons.
Robert Whittington, 1520
Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King’s command make it round? And if it is round, will the King’s command flatten it? No, I will not sign.
Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons
Something for the weekend. The majestic opening music for A Man of All Seasons (1966).
Realpolitik meets conscience. It is a superb scene and our sympathies are enlisted, as they should be, on the side of Saint Thomas More as opposed to that ultimate player of power politics, Cardinal Wolsey. As was said about another Cardinal, Richelieu, by Pope Urban VIII upon the death of Richelieu, the same might also have been said about most of the life of Wolsey: “If God exists, Cardinal Richelieu will have to answer for many things. If not…, then yes, he will have done well in life” (Si Dieu existe, le cardinal de Richelieu devra répondre de beaucoup de choses. Sinon […] ma foi, il aura bien réussi dans la vie).”
Compared to such an ecclesiastical politician, Saint Thomas More represents the startling clarity of a brilliant mind allied with a warm Catholic faith. One might wish however, that along with the innocence of doves, defenders of the Church in England during the time of Saint Thomas More had also possessed a bit more of the cunning of serpents.
“The resistance of More and Fisher to the royal supremacy in Church government was a heroic stand. They realised the defects of the existing Catholic system, but they hated and feared the aggressive nationalism which was destroying the unity of Christendom. They saw that the break with Rome carried with it the risk of a despotism freed from every fetter. More stood forth as the defender of all that was finest in the medieval outlook. He represents to history its universality, its belief in spiritual values, and its instinctive sense of otherworldliness. Henry VIII with cruel axe decapitated not only a wise and gifted counselor, but a system which, though it had failed to live up to its ideals in practice, had for long furnished mankind with its brightest dreams.”
Sir Winston Churchill