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Thomas More's Trial by Jury

Thomas More's Trial by Jury: A Procedural and Legal Review with a Collection of Documents

Henry Ansgar Kelly
Louis W. Karlin
Gerard B. Wegemer
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.cttn347d
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  • Book Info
    Thomas More's Trial by Jury
    Book Description:

    Thomas More's treason trial in 1535 is one of history's most famous court cases, yet never before have all the major documents been collected, translated, and analyzed by a team of legal and Tudor scholars. This edition serves as an important sourcebook and concludes with a 'docudrama' reconstructing the course of the trial based on these documents. Legal experts H. A. Kelly and R. H. Helmholz take different approaches to the legalities of this trial, and four experienced judges [including Justice of the Queen's Bench Sir Michael Tugendhat] discuss the trial with some disagreements - notably on the meaning and requirement of 'malice' called for in the Parliamentary Act of Supremacy. More's own accounts of his interrogations in prison are analyzed, and the trial's procedures are compared to and contrasted with 16th-century concepts of natural law and also modern judicial practices and principles. The book is a 'must read' not only for students of law and Tudor history but also for all concerned with justice and due process. As a whole, the book challenges Duncan Derrett's conclusions that the trial was conducted in accord with contemporary legal norms and that More was convicted only on the single charge of denying Parliament the power to declare Henry VIII Supreme Head of the English Church [testified to by Richard Rich] - a position that has been uniformly accepted by historians since 1964. HENRY ANSGAR KELLY is past Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA. LOUIS W. KARLIN is an attorney with the California Court of Appeal and Fellow of the Center for Thomas More Studies, University of Dallas. GERARD B. WEGEMER is Director of the Center for Thomas More Studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-985-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xviii)
  6. Chronology
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. 1 A Procedural Review of Thomas More’s Trial
    (pp. 1-52)
    Henry Ansgar Kelly

    From the very beginning the trial of Thomas More, like that of Queen Anne Boleyn, was widely condemned as a travesty of justice, and this characterization lasted into the twentieth century; it was a kangaroo court organized by the unscrupulous secretary of the tyrant Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell.

    It cannot be denied that the king considered the outcome of the trial to be a foregone conclusion. As James Gairdner, in calendaring the state papers of Henry VIII’s reign, pointed out long ago, the king issued a circular letter on June 25, 1535 ordering the treasons of Bishop John Fisher and...

  8. 2 Natural Law and the Trial of Thomas More
    (pp. 53-70)
    R. H. Helmholz

    Political motives stood behind the decision to put Thomas More on trial for treason. Who can doubt it? In the circumstances of the times, they often did. Even today, politically motivated prosecutions have not been wholly banished from the criminal law. Accepting this as an unfortunate fact of life, deciding whether the person being prosecuted has been given a fair trial is always a separate question. A judgment about the fairness of the proceedings is not determined by the government’s motives. The trials themselves – the procedures they use and the ways they are conducted – are what matter most in deciding...

  9. 3 A Guide to Thomas More’s Trial for Modern Lawyers
    (pp. 71-93)
    Louis W. Karlin and David R. Oakley

    The trial of Sir Thomas More is a touchstone for examining our sense of injustice, whether understood in terms of legalistic notions of due process or in the most fundamental sense of human rights. Until very recently, however, such examinations were conducted without a sound historical basis either as to the legal background of the time or the events of the trial itself. That has changed, thanks to the pioneering work of twentieth-century scholars such as J. H. Baker,¹ John G. Bellamy,² and J. Duncan M. Derrett.³ Further implications of the law of sixteenth-century England for the trial are developed...

  10. 4 Thomas More’s Three Prison Letters Reporting on His Interrogations
    (pp. 94-110)
    Elizabeth McCutcheon

    Among the thirteen extant letters that More wrote between mid-April 1534 and July 5, 1535 are three important letters about an interrogation at Lambeth in 1534 and two later interrogations at the Tower of London in the spring of 1535 that he sent to his daughter, Margaret Roper:¹

    1 Letter of c. April 17, 1534 (no. 200 [6]).

    2 Letter of May 2 or 3, 1535 (no. 214 [20]) (Doc. 4) .

    3 Letter of June 3, 1535 (no. 216 [22]) (Doc. 6).

    They are, in some sense, personal letters, and it was important for both More’s sake and his...

  11. 5 Judicial Commentary on Thomas More’s Trial
    (pp. 111-136)
    Michael Tugendhat

    The term “maliciously”

    What did the word “maliciously” mean in a criminal statute in the sixteenth century?

    The noun “malice,” and its adverb, “maliciously,” have long been used as terms of art in legal English (as in “malice aforethought”). According to the OED,¹ these words are derived from Latin and French. The example given for Latin is the word malitia(as in malitia praecogitata”), and for French is the word malice(as in “malice prepensé”). Examples given in the dictionary from English sources show that, in English by the fourteenth century, the word malice had acquired the meaning “ill will,” which it...

  12. Appendix 1: Documents
    (pp. 137-209)
  13. Appendix 2: Thomas More’s Trial: Docudrama
    (pp. 210-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-232)
  15. Index
    (pp. 233-240)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)