The last letter of Sir Thomas More was written to his daughter, Margaret, on July 5, 1535–the day before his execution. The words must have been the most difficult the prolific writer had ever written, made even more so by the dreary conditions in the Tower of London. His pens and ink had been confiscated by order of the King, so he was forced to write with a stick of coal. But the letter is no less eloquent because of the medium. This part especially breaks my heart:
Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.
In particular, the line, “I thank you for your great cost.” Thomas More was acutely aware that, while he suffered greatly in his Tower cell, his family–most especially Margaret– suffered as well. He knew that while death would free him from imprisonment, it would leave his family to face persecution, loss of lands, income and position.
I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, for it is Saint Thomas’ Even and the Vtas of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy.
Sir Thomas certainly knew that he would not see Margaret or any of his family again before his execution. But it is clear that he is at peace with his fate and confident of God’s mercy. It is also touching that he mentions the last meeting where Margaret rushed passed armed guards to embrace her father after he was found guilty of treason. Her support and love had buoyed him throughout his almost 14-month imprisonment.
A number of Sir Thomas More’s letters were saved (thanks to the determination of Margaret, the protagonist of my novel) and they are the foundation for my book.
You can find the whole letter HERE