Synopsis: Sir Thomas More continues to reject the oath despite his family’s pleas for he firmly believes that swearing it will subject his soul to eternal damnation. Bishop Fisher too refuses to take the oath. He is found guilty and is sentenced to death. Anne Boleyn flaunts his pregnancy only to miscarry disappointing the King and her father who fears for their status with the King. She begins to become paranoid, fearing that the King will change his mind about the Act of Succession and make Lady Mary the Queen of England.
Episode Summaries: Archbishop Thomas Cranmer apprises King Henry VIII the great success of having his subjects swear the oath. Regrettably, neither Bishop Fisher nor Sir Thomas More has agreed to swear the oath. He, however, informs King Henry that Sir Thomas has no misgivings about the Act of Succession. Nevertheless, King Henry VIII insists that everyone must swear to all the contents of the oath most especially Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas for allowing those two reputable men to swear only to parts of it will set a precedent for others to follow.
Thomas Cromwell hands King Henry a letter from Dame Alice More, the wife of Sir Thomas, a letter that annoys King Henry that he does not bother to read it. Cromwell apprises him of its contents instead. The woman pleads mercy in behalf of her husband who seeks no harm, but acts only on his conscience. King Henry VIII would hear nothing of it for he believes Sir Thomas, who had sworn to live privately and to speak nothing of his great matter, has broken his promise. He found him writing about his great matter, visiting the former Queen, and raising support for Catherine of Aragon. It is, therefore, his belief that Sir Thomas must accept the consequences of his actions.
Dame Alice along with her daughter Margaret visits Sir Thomas in his prison cell to beg him to swear the oath. She informs her husband that his entire family has sworn the oath and pleads him to do so for his family who will face destitution because of his refusal for the penalty is death and forfeiture of his property to the Crown. Sir Thomas remains hopeful that King Henry will keep his promise that he will not force him to act against his conscience and that Sir Thomas must look first unto God and only after unto the King. Sir Thomas begs his wife not to be angry with him for his stubbornness and learns that she is not, but she is frightened for her husband. There is reason for her fright. Bishop Fisher sends John, his servant, to ask Sir Thomas if he contemplates swearing the oath. The servant also informs Sir Thomas that the bishop despite his frailty remains unbroken. As to the inquiry, Sir Thomas answers with certainty that he will never take the oath for doing so will subject his soul to eternal damnation. Cromwell pays Bishop Fisher a visit to deliver him news that the Pope has made him a cardinal and that Parliament decreed that the malicious denial of the King’s supremacy is treason, which is punishable by death. Cromwell asks Bishop Fisher one last time if he will swear the oath and accept the King as the Supreme Head of the Church. Bishop Fisher continues to reject the oath. Cromwell then produces an intercepted letter from Cardinal Fisher to the Emperor whose contents ask the Emperor to invade England and asks him to restore Catherine of Aragon as Queen of England. Cardinal Fisher neither denies nor concurs his authorship of the treacherous letter. News of his impending, disconsolate fate reaches Catherine of Aragon. Ambassador Chapuys is saddened to see the once powerful Queen unwell. He learns that the Earl of Wiltshire, Sir Thomas Boleyn, visited her and threatened her life after she refused to take the oath.
Queen Anne Boleyn is again with child and parades her pregnancy around the court very pleased with herself. Unfortunately, she miscarries disappointing the King once again and driving her into depression. Her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, visits her and offers no consolation. In fact, he blames her for the miscarriage. He warns that they must all be careful not to lose the King’s love. True enough, King Henry VIII comes across William Webbe and his beautiful wife Bess as they are passing through the forest. Bess catches the King’s interest and she willingly leaves her husband to lay with the King. News of Anne Boleyn’s miscarriage and the King’s infidelity reaches the Pope, delighting him. Cardinal Campeggio, however, is not amused for he fears for Catherine of Aragon, Lady Mary, and Cardinal Fisher. The Pope can only offer prayers and adds to envy Cardinal Fisher for the opportunity to die for Christ.
The troubles of the Boleyns grow as Mary Boleyn arrives at court carrying the child of a soldier in Calais, William Stafford. Her news brings ire to both father and sister for her decision to marry a man without standing and fortune. Sir Thomas Boleyn disowns Mary despite her argument of being fortunate for finding an honest man for a husband in spite of her reputation as the great prostitute. Mary begs her sister to have mercy on her. Although Anne feels pity for Mary, she decides to banish her sister and her husband from court.
Cromwell, recently appointed vice-regent in spiritual matters, obeys the King’s order to obtain Sir Thomas More’s reasons for rejecting the oath. Sir Thomas continues to refuse to state his reasons and to reject the oath despite the knowledge of having to pay the ultimate price. Margaret More comes to court to petition Mr. Secretary Cromwell in behalf of her family. The Mores have become impoverished following Sir Thomas More’s imprisonment. Ambassador Chapuys, who has great respect for the Mores, finds sympathy for the injustice the family received. He adds that he pities England for there the good suffers and the wicked prospers. This may not be for so long. Anne Boleyn appears to be out of sorts following her miscarriage. She begins to show signs of paranoia believing that Lady Mary and Catherine of Aragon remain impending threats to her throne. Her brother, Sir George Boleyn, appeases Anne by reminding her that the Act of Succession ensures that Elizabeth will be the heir to the throne. Anne, however, argues that the oath the King forced everyone to take gives him absolute power allowing him to do whatever he pleases including repealing the Act of Succession. It is for this reason that she believes that the King can still crown Mary the Queen of England instead of her daughter, Elizabeth.
Sir Thomas learns from John that Cardinal Fisher was found guilty. Cardinal Fisher will be punished by death the next day. Sir Thomas knows that he will suffer the same fate soon after. Although death does bring fear, both men look forward to meeting each other in heaven. Cardinal Fisher steps up the stage where he will be beheaded. He addresses the crowd to ask them to love and obey the King whom he finds good in nature despite the punishment he has ordered for him. He informs them that his condemnation to death is due to his determination to uphold the honor of God and the Holy See. He, however, confesses to be frightened of death and asks the crowd to help him have courage to face it. The crowd blesses Cardinal Fisher as he lays his head on the chopping block and waits for the executioner to strike. He is beheaded with one blow of an axe. Cardinal Campeggio relays the news to the Pope, who seems to be more interested to peak at Michelangelo’s depiction of The Last Judgment than to hear of Cardinal Fisher’s beheading. Meanwhile, Margaret visits her father again only to find his situation worse than before. Sir Thomas asserts not to fear death, but confesses to fear the torture that will be used upon him to force him to swear the oath. His fear stems from his doubt in his courage to endure the physical suffering. Margaret begs her father to take the oath in order to save his body, but Sir Thomas firmly believes that saving his flesh will be at the expense of his soul even though none of his family believes it. Little did they know that King Henry VIII fears having to execute Sir Thomas More for his conscience tells him not to do so. He continues to love Sir Thomas even though he hates him for having the will of spirit to deny him of the acceptance he seeks. Cromwell sends Sir Richard Rich to collect the books and papers from Sir Thomas’ cell in order to deprive him the little luxury he has. Sir Richard Rich poses a hypothetical question to Sir Thomas asking him if he will swear an oath to a bill that names Sir Richard Rich the King of England. Sir Thomas quickly answers yes, but asks Sir Richard if he would swear an oath to a bill that declares that God was not God. Sir Richard quickly answers no and adds that no such bill can be passed for Parliament has no competence to decide on that matter. Following the same reason, Sir Thomas argues that Parliament has no authority to make the King supreme head of the Church.
Sir Thomas More arrives at Westminster for his arraignment on charges of high treason. Sir Thomas denies maliciously opposing the King’s marriage to Anne Boleyn and maliciously rejecting the Act of Supremacy for he argues that he had kept silent on both matters. The commission argues that his silence can be construed as an action to which he counters that his silence precludes the charges laid upon him for he who is silent is taken to agree. The commission accuses him of conspiring with Cardinal Fisher in prison, but he refutes their accusation without denying corresponding with Cardinal Fisher through his servant. Finding no evidence to support the accusation of conspiring with a known and punished traitor, the commission returns to Sir Thomas’ claim of silence towards the Act of Supremacy and calls Sir Richard Rich as their witness. Sir Thomas comes to a realization of the true motive of Sir Richard’s last visit. Sir Richard relays his conversation with Sir Thomas and quotes him at his statement that Parliament cannot make the King supreme head of the Church. His statement is found a malicious denial of the King’s authority. With Sir Richard Rich’s testimony, the commission finds Sir Thomas More guilty of high treason. Sir Thomas asks the court to allow him to speak before the commission passes judgment, as was the custom when he was practicing law. The commission allows him to do so and Sir Thomas declares that his indictment is grounded upon an act of Parliament that is directly repugnant to the laws of God and His Holy Church. Sir Thomas More at last breaks his silence on the great matters and declares that no temporal prince may presume the governance of the Church for it belongs by right to the See of Rome to St. Peter and his successors as per God’s order when He was on Earth. He adds that the realm cannot make any law that contradicts the general laws of Christ’s universal Catholic Church. The commission continues to find his assertions malicious and Sir Thomas More continues to deny the maliciousness of his words. He merely is stating his opinion and even asks God that He preserves and defends the King’s Majesty. He also wishes that the King would find good counsel. The commission sentences Sir Thomas More with a torturous and shameful death. He will be drawn in a hurdle from London to Tyburn where he will be hanged until he is half-dead after which he will be beheaded. His bowels will then be extracted and burned before his body that will later be quartered. The crowd clamor as Sir Thomas More is escorted out of Westminster, his children especially Margaret fights through the crowd and the guards to hug her father one last time. Cromwell upon the urging of King Henry VIII informs him that Sir Thomas More will be executed tomorrow, July 6 at ten in the morning. It is news that brings the King despair, a stark contrast to the Boleyns who seem to delight at the verdict. King Henry VIII commutes the sentence to a beheading. Sir Thomas More addresses the large crowd that has come to attend his execution. He asks that they bear witness to his death in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church. He begs them to pray for the King and to tell him that he died his good servant, but God’s first. The crowd is so moved that even his executioner asks Sir Thomas his blessing. Sir Thomas More says his last prayer and lays his head on the chopping block, opens his eyes and stretches his arms. The axe soon after strikes his head cutting it from his body. King Henry VIII wails in agony at having ordered the execution of his dear friend, mentor, and loyal servant, Sir Thomas More.
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