More, John (1453?-1530) (DNB00)

MORE, Sir JOHN (1453?–1530), judge, and father of Sir Thomas More [q. v.], was son of John More. The origin of the chancellor's family has been much discussed, but no satisfactory pedigree is known. Richard Croke [q. v.] describes the chancellor in 1516 as ‘natalibus generosissimus’ in the dedication of his Latin version of Theodore Gaza's Greek grammar, but the chancellor himself described his family as ‘non Celebris sed honesta.’ About 1390 John More, a London mercer, held one knight's fee of Thomas, duke of Gloucester, in North Mimms, Hertfordshire property that undoubtedly descended to the chancellor's father (Clutterbuck, Hertfordshire, i. 449 sq.) According to the Ashmole MS. F 7, the mother of the judge's father was Joan, daughter of John Leycester, a country gentleman, and ‘Judge More’ is said to have borne ‘arms from his birth’ (Cresacre More, p. 11). The judge's father was in 1464 butler to the society of Lincoln's Inn, and was afterwards promoted to the superior office of seneschal or steward. In 1470, in consideration of his services to the inn, he was admitted a member, was afterwards called to the bar, was elected a bencher, and was twice appointed reader. He is not identical with the John More who died 25 April 1493, leaving a son John, aged 24 (Inquisitio post mortem 8 Hen. VII, No. 11; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. vii. 401).

The judge, who had two brothers, Richard and Christopher, passed in youth through similar experiences to his father. He began life as butler of Lincoln's Inn, to be subsequently elected a member of the society, and to be called to the bar. In November 1503 he was made a serjeant-at-law. Owing to the unconciliatory attitude in parliament of his famous son Thomas, he seems to have been imprisoned in the Tower next year, until he paid a fine of 100l. (Roper). Although no patent of his appointment as judge is known, he is mentioned as a judge of the common pleas in the ‘Accounts of Fines’ levied between Hilary term 1518 and Hilary term 1520. On 28 Nov. 1523 he is described as a judge of the king's bench in a list of judges liable for the subsidy of that year. A similar title is accorded him in the will that he made in February 1526. There is no official record of his transference from the common pleas to the king's bench, but it may have taken place in April 1520, when a new judge, Richard Broke, was appointed to the common pleas, to fill a vacancy, apparently caused by the removal of More to the king's bench. He is not known to have distinguished himself in judicial office. Thomas always treated him with the utmost filial tenderness, and is said when chancellor to have invariably visited his father's court to ask his blessing before taking his seat in his own court. In the epitaph which he wrote on himself in 1532 Sir Thomas described his father as ‘civilis, suavis, innocens, mitis, misericors, æquus, et integer,’ epithets which suggest incorruptibility in his public life, accompanied by more gentleness than strength. His promotions have been accounted for as concessions to his son's influence, or endeavours on the part of the crown to conciliate the chancellor. In his later years he resided with his son's family at Chelsea, and fully shared the simple delights of that united household. Like his son, he seems to have loved a jest, and he is credited with the remark that a man seeking a wife is like one putting his hand into a bag of snakes with one eel among them : he may light on the eel, but it is a hundred chances to one that ‘he shall be stung with a snake’ (Camden, Remains, p. 251; Cresacre More, Life of Sir T. More, ed. 1828, p. 10; More, English Works, p. 165, cf. p. 233). More's will was proved on 5 Dec. 1530. He was buried in the church of St. Lawrence Jewry. He figures in Holbein's sketch for his picture of the More family preserved at Basle, which was drawn near the year of his death. The inscription in his son's autograph gives his age as seventy-six. A crayon sketch by Holbein is at Windsor. Three paintings on panel are also attributed to Holbein (cf. Cat. First Nat. Portrait Exhibition, 1866, No. 89; Tudor Exhibition Cat. Nos. 70 and 100). The third picture, belonging to the Earl of Pembroke, is assigned to 1526, and was engraved by Lodge. A fourth painting by Holbein of More and his son, dated 1530, belongs to Sir Henry Vane (Tudor Exhibition Cat. No. 150). In the later pictures of the More family at Nostell Priory and at Cockthorpe Park Sir John fills a prominent place.

His first wife, according to his great-grandson Cresacre More, was Johanna, daughter of one Hancombe of Holywell, Bedfordshire, but entries in a contemporary manuscript (O. 2. 21) in the Gale collection in Trinity College Library, Cambridge (Notes and Queries, 4th ser. ii. 365), show that John More married, on 24 April 1474, when he was twenty-one, at St. Giles's Church, Cripplegate, Agnes, daughter of Thomas Graunger. It is possible that the latter belonged to the family of Hancombe, but that his branch of it adopted an alternative surname. Thomas Graunger was elected sheriff of London on 11 Nov. 1503, and died two days later at the Serjeants' feast held on the occasion when More was made a serjeant (Stow, Chron. ed. 1580, p. 877). More's second wife was Mrs. Bowes, a widow, whose maiden name was Burton; and his third was Alice Clarke, at one time widow of William Huntyngdon of Exeter, and daughter of John More of Loseley in Surrey (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1509-14, p. 292). He had issue only by his first wife. Two children seem to have died in infancy. Two sons, Thomas, the chancellor, and John, with two daughters, reached maturity. The younger son is noticed in Erasmus's correspondence as living in 1511, and as acting in the capacity of clerk to his distinguished brother (cf. Erasmi Epistolæ, ed. Le Clerc, Nos. 128, 139); Jane, born 11 March 1474-1475, married Richard Staffreton or Staidton; and Elizabeth, born 22 Sept. 1482, married John Rastell [q. v.] the printer, and was mother of Sir William Rastell [q. v.] the judge. More owned the manor of Gobyons in the parish of North Mimms in Hertfordshire, and left it to his wife for life, with remainder to his son. On Sir Thomas More's attainder in 1534 his stepmother was expelled from Gobions, and she died in 1544 at Northall in the same county. Gobions was restored to the widow of Sir John's grandson, John More, by Queen Mary.

[Foss's Lives of the Judges; Cresacre More's Life of Sir T. More, ed. 1828, pp. 1-14; Bridgett's Life of Sir T. More, 1891.]

S. L.