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More's Last Words

For his refusal to recognize the Act of Supremacy (stipulating Henry VIII's authority over the pope), Sir Thomas More was imprisoned in the Tower of London, tried for high treason, and promptly executed. As he ascended the scaffold More, greatly weakened from the ordeal, merrily turned to the executioner's assistant: "I pray you, I pray you Mr. Lieutenant see me safe up," he declared, "and for my coming down let me shift for myself."

["Then desired he all the people to pray for him, and to bear witness with him, that he should suffer death, in, and for the Faith of the Holy Catholic Church, a faithful servant both of God and the King. Which done, he kneeled down, and after his prayers ended, he turned to the executioner, and with a cheerful countenance, said, 'Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not afraid to do thine office. My neck is very short, take heed therefore thou strike not awry for saving thine honesty.' Then laying his head upon the block he had the executioner stay until he had removed aside his beard, saying that that had never committed any treason. So with much cheerfulness he received the fatal blow of the axe, which at once severed his head from his body." (More's last words have also been recorded as, "This hath not offended the king," and -- in the 1966 film, A Man for All Seasons -- as "I die the king's good servant, but God's first.")]

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