A King and his Chancellor, Henry VIII and Thomas More - their collision is a story that I have been taken by for decades now - I saw "A Man for All Seasons" as a teenager, and just now finished "The King's Confidante" (previously issued as "St. Thomas' Eve") bye the Mistress, Jean Plaidy.
She has taken the far famed homestead at Chelsea and made it into a sort of utopia, with all living in harmony with animals and plant life, from the bustling Dame Alice, More's second wife (who acts as a foil with her worldliness set against his erudition), to itinerants who find a place at their table. It is a wondrous microcosm centered on More and his children, both natural and adopted, and their spouses, humble and ambitious.
More serves his sovereign reluctantly, ghosting Henry's tract against Martin Luther, pointing out constellations to the King and Queen Catherine, all the while regretting his time away from his family as the children grow up happy in his regard. He for a time fills a need of Henry's to have intellectuals around him, and ultimately can't fulfill Henry's need for his approval of what he did to ensure the succession, that is turning the English Church to his rule as it's head. No, Thomas could not come out in favor of the divorce. His silence had to be shown to be assent.
Anne Boleyn has a background part and Thomas More is empathetic, realizing that her hold on life is as tenuous as his. It is enjoyable to read enough Plaidy to have characters walk out of one book into another.
Thomas More was a huge hero of mine in my teenage years. Now I know his story had not that simple purity of explanation. He was a heretic hating zealot, and did wrestle with Will Roper, his son-in-law in a way over Will's beliefs that seems unreasonable to me, with his dear daughter Meg torn between them. Dame Alice spoke of his pride in refusing to approve the divorce, and the more I think of it, the more I see her point. It is justice vs expediency, martyrdom vs the middle road. Perhaps his family would not have loved him as deeply as they did had he taken that middle road. In the end, he had no choice, really, as so many victims of Henry VIII found.