John Morton by Cresacre More

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Quotes

While researching something else I recently came across Cresacre More’s biography of his great-grandfather Thomas More.  His Life of Sir Thomas More was probably first published in 1631.  This is what he has to say about his ancestor’s mentor, John Morton, who was Bishop of Ely during the reign of Richard III:

… the most worthy prelate that then lived in England, both for wisdom, learning and virtue, whose like the world scarce had, Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury, and lord high chancellor of England, whose grave countenance and carriage was such that he easily allured all men to honour and love him: a man, as Sir Thomas More describes him in his Utopia, of incomparable judgment, a memory more than credible, eloquent in speech, and, which is more to be wished in clergymen, of singular wisdom and virtue; so that the king and the commonwealth relied chiefly on this man’s counsel, as he by whose policy king Henry the seventh both got the crown of England from Richard the usurper, and also most happily procured the two houses of Lancaster and York to be united by marriage.

This glowing report is a masterpiece in what is being left out.  When we are told that John Morton’s “grave countenance and carriage … easily allured all men to honour and love him”, I can think of several people, who have taken me in by their air of seriousness and reason which hid a very calculating mind.  It can be a very useful tool in getting other people to do what you want.  Interesting that Richard of Gloucester did not fall for the “allure” and did not trust Morton.

Morton was certainly “eloquent in speech”, as he is usually credited with talking Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, into taking part in the 1483 rebellion.

No doubt “the king and the commonwealth relied chiefly on this man’s counsel”, when it came to devising ways of increasing tax revenue.  And we never doubted that he was had something to do with getting the crown for the usurper Henry Tudor.


Cresacre More, The Life of Sir Thomas More with a Biographical Preface, Notes and other Illustrations by the Rev. Joseph Hunter.   William Pickering, London, 1828

At Google Books:  http://books.google.com.au/books?id=I6YEAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Life+of+Sir+Thomas+More&hl=en&ei=PtvlTMG-FoLSuwOG2KjCCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

Information on Cresacre More:  Andrei Volgin, Dictionary of National Biography: Volume 38. Milman – More.  Adamant Media Corporation, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-1402170652, p.448


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