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More's very prominence cost him his life. A lesser man would have gone unnoticed, but More had, by that time, become one of the most important men in Europe and his sanctioning of not only Henry's second marriage, but to his becoming the head of the Church of England would have boosted Henry in the public eye. More would not compromise and refused to take the oath of allegiance.
There are many stories told of More in the Tower. Dame Alice, who had always berated him on his lack of ambition, used to visit him in the Tower and leave in tears, not understanding the man she had married so long ago. More's composure baffled her, but not his daughter Margaret, who understood her father's serenity. When More was being led to the scaffold, the people were in tears. He was not allowed to give the usual last speech of a condemned man. Because of his popularity, Henry's ministers feared an open revolt. His last act was to remove his beard from the scaffold with the wry comment that it was a pity to cut the beard since it had not committed treason. Even his executioner is said to have asked for his forgiveness.
After More's death, his head was placed on the walls of the Tower as was customary with traitors. His daughter Margaret, however, with great courage, removed it, saying that her father was no traitor. Henry, who secretly agreed with her, condoned the act.
More's writings offer a very inconsistent view of the man himself. His great asset (or curse, as some people have seen it) was his sense of humor and great irony. His comic vision was expressed through his superb irony. His writings are full of contradictions. In real life he was a devoted father and husband. Yet he wrote a tract defending the common sharing of wives. He was a successful lawyer and Lord Chancellor who exiled lawyers from his ideal country. He was the bosom companion of Henry VIII who later ordered his execution for treason. More wrote vituperative theological tracts and is said to have tortured heretics; yet he was open to radical ideas. All these contradictions baffle critics. But, in the end, More was the man who died in defense of freedom of the conscience. He is a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church. In short, he was "a man for all seasons."