In the preface to a study of Thomas More published in 2000, John Guy roundly declared: ‘I no longer believe that a truly historical biography of Thomas More can be written.’ That was because ‘the sources are too problematic’. Many of the details of More’s life come to us from the lives written in the sixteenth century by William Roper (his son-in-law), Nicholas Harpsfield and Thomas Stapleton. They wrote long after More had been executed in 1535 for refusing to swear the oath of succession imposed by Henry VIII: an oath that would have committed him to accepting not just Henry’s divorce but also the break with Rome. And since they wrote to vindicate his stand, they cannot be treated as straightforwardly accurate sources. For that reason Guy arranged his earlier book by themes, each chapter title followed by a question mark (for example, ‘Heresy Hunter?’, ‘Politician?’, ‘Acquiescence or Resistance?’).
Now Guy returns to Thomas More, but on this occasion he attempts to do what he then thought impossible, namely to tell the story of his life. He does so with a distinctive twist, indicated by his title. More’s daughter, Margaret, was a remarkable woman, a beneficiary of his insistence