“Historia Richardi Tertii…” Saint Thomas More — 7 February, 1478 to 6 July 1535

July 6, 2014 in Beth von Staats (REVELATION), Tudor Y Writer's Group, Wars of the Roses by Beth von Staats

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Richard III

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Men use, if they have an evil turn, to write it in marble; and who so doth us a good turn, we write it in dust.

— Saint Thomas More, History of King Richard III 

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Sir Thomas More

Here at Chelsea, I find my refuge. Now resigned from His Grace’s service, I find my peace. This evening I entertain my dear friend, Bishop John Fisher. I need to be near men of like mind, like conscience, and like values. The stench of court is overwhelming, the corruption raised to the very right and left of the King, the devilry all around him, like a thick, dense fog. I raise my goblet in toast and smile. “Fortune changes with character, dear friend. Fortune often changes with character.”

The Bishop nods back with a smile. I pause and reflect a moment. “So what do you think? I wrote that years ago, and yet only my dear Erasmus and now you have laid eyes upon it. My heart bleeds infinitely as although unfinished, it foretells our sorry state.”

Bishop John Fisher

Sir Thomas More, such a learned man, such a wise man, such a Godly man. I fear we will martyr together, along with my dearest Maid of Kent, yet I pray if God’s will, it be done to celebrate His glory, to celebrate our beloved Bishop of Rome, for in this realm Satan curses them both. Here at Chelsea, with this man’s gentle wisdom and his loving family, I feel our Virgin Mary close, so close my heart fills with love for her. I hold up the parchments along with my goblet of ale. “Thomas, Historia Richardi Tertii is magnificent, though damning… and aye, yes, much vision it provides. I trust the words on the parchment were written with divine intervention.”

Sir Thomas More:

I look to the fire, my mind full. Free finally to speak my conscience with a man I trust, I venture, “Your Grace, you are too kind.”

I decide to lighten the mood. God knows we both need it. “Did you hear Cardinal Pole’s latest missive?” The Bishop shakes his head no. “He declares Cromwell the ‘Emissary of Satan’. His Eminence speaks truth.”

We both laugh lightly, and I say in all seriousness as I point to the parchments, “Can you imagine what the King’s Secretary would do with that retelling of the sinfulness of the child killer, the monster King Richard the Third and the corrupt men around him? The man would crucify me, nail me straight to the cross. Cromwell is so full of himself, the man would think this all be an allegory of dear Harry, the sinful Archbishop and him.”

Bishop John Fisher

I snicker and nod in agreement. “Yes, I fear so. Best this be well hidden, good man. Your commentary on the failures of kingship, the corruption inherent in nobles and the clergy to gain advantage, your profession that the people need reign in truth by Parliament, is damning. Power corrupts, and absolute power especially so, I dare say.”

I point to the parchments. “You lay that bare here. ‘The lamb is given to the wolf’.”

I lay the parchments down on my lap and sigh deep. “I will never take the oaths, Thomas. A king supreme over God’s clergy as if God himself? Never. ‘Tis devilry personified.”

Sir Thomas More

I rise and stoke the fire, speaking as I do. “Me either, Your Grace, but it best we comment on our opinions not. Then by law we should be safe, but we will not I do fear. His Majesty and Cromwell make the laws or change the laws to suit their purpose. What be law today be treason tomorrow.”

I turn, look at Bishop Fisher, anxiety suddenly filling me whole. “Cromwell and the Archbishop, they are like King Richard’s secret second council, but spinning their evil web for all to see, His Majesty stuck within it, like an angry wasp. We will be stung, and stung deep, either by their attacks on the Holy Maid of Kent, God keep her — or their insistence all take an oath that the King is now God Himself.”

I take a deep breath, and rest back into my favorite chair, worn thin. “I am ready to martyr if need be, but my family suffers at the thought of it, my Alice wailing at every turn. Only my dear Margaret understands me, Lord God bless her. It is with she I will trust those parchments, no one else. If there ever be a day it is safe to promulgate, my Margaret knows to do so.”

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King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

King Edward V of England and Richard, Duke of York

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Bishop John Fisher

“I will pray for you all, dear friend. I have no family I need so worry, just my conscience.  Though God’s will is clear, you suffer more. May the Virgin Mary protect you all through these days of misery.”

I draw a deep breath and drink some ale, my throat parched. “Thomas do listen. The Archbishop, he knows how close I am with the Holy Maid of Kent, how I revere her and the priests that so take charge of her care, but you have been more cautious in your dealings. I suggest you keep quiet. What Lord God knows, they need not know.”

Sir Thomas More

I smile awkwardly, my full truth known but to me, the Maid and God. “Aye, the Archbishop is a two headed serpent, good man. As he burned the heretic Frith for denying the presence, a sin even obvious to him, so Canterbury will burn our beloved Maid. Anyone who oversteps his arbitrary mark, heretic or God’s messenger, is doomed.”

Bishop John Fisher

I drink some ale and ponder his words of Canterbury. “As I read of Queen Elizabeth on these parchments, may she rest with the angels, I wondered why she did so allow the Cardinal with the care of her sons? Was she too trusting? Did she lack judgment? Was she blinded somehow, leading to a poor twist of fate? A quandary, yes, a quandary.”

I pause, and then continue. “And, was His Eminence King Richard’s unwitting dupe? Or as Archbishop Cranmer is for King Henry, his knowing accomplice?” I sigh. “You leave many questions unanswered, dear friend, but this much of our current plight is clear. The Archbishop’s treatment of our rightful Queen Catherine and the Princess Mary is of Satan. May his heresy be laid bare and burnt out from him.”

I cross myself, and dearest Thomas does likewise. “God make it so.”

Sir Thomas More

I nod and rub my the crucifix around my neck, so long there ’tis worn thin. “Yes, God make it so. Burn the heresy out, I do pray.”

I say pointedly, “The Archbishop, the Lord Chancellor, Wiltshire, and Cromwell — they are fools, more so than the bonny Will Somers. As I wrote to you, ‘If the lion knew his own strength, hard were it for any man to rule him.’ Your Grace, the lion now roars. So long as he keeps the love of the people, Harry will stomp his way across this blessed realm, killing all we know as dear. I blame the heretics for turning him, the pretend queen, the Archbishop and Cromwell most pointedly — a whorish concubine, a chaplain of Luther, and a low born rogue — all Satan’s clergy.”

Bishop John Fisher

“Your speak truth, dear man. Satan’s clergy indeed.”

I attempt to rise, my gout aching to my bones as I do. Thomas rushes to me, guiding me to my feet. I place my hand on his shoulder to steady myself and speak plain.”Thomas, I grow frail. Perhaps the Saints will intercede, God calling me home before the henchman, eh?”

He nods, and rests his head for a moment on my shoulder, as a son to his father. “I do need your help to find my courage. Pray for me, Thomas. I fear I will waver. I wish to die in my bed, truth be told.”

Sir Thomas More

I place my hands on the shoulders of this dear and holy man of God. “May we find the simple and innocent grace of children, the simple and innocent grace of the boy King and the blessed imp Duke — and with all humility, may we move forward, as God’s lesson in conscience, God’s lesson in His ultimate truth.”

—– Fade To Black —–

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This video focusing on the life and martyrdom of Saint Thomas More is part of a video series from Wordonfire.org. Father Robert Barron comments on subjects from modern day culture from a Roman Catholic perspective. For more information and videos visit http://www.wordonfire.org/

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NOTE:  The History of King Richard III, though unfinished, is widely considered to highlight Saint Thomas More’s veiled views of the perils of excessive power and political corruption. More “historical fiction” than “accurate history”, this work greatly influenced the writing of William Shakespeare. To read “Historia Richardi Tertii” click here: http://www.thomasmorestudies.org/docs/Richard.pdf

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