Sir Thomas was beheaded in 1535. He had enraged Henry VIII by refusing to acknowledge that the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was legal. More’s head was taken from the scaffold and parboiled, stuck on a pole and exhibited on London Bridge. His devoted daughter, Margaret Roper, bribed the bridge-keeper to knock it down and she smuggled it home. She preserved the head in spices but was betrayed by spies and imprisoned, but was soon released. Margaret died in 1544 and Sir Thomas’ head was buried with her. In 1824 her vault was opened and More’s head was put on public view in St. Dunstan’s Church in Canterbury for many years.
The skull is believed to rest in the Roper Vault of St. Dunstan’s Church, Canterbury, though some researchers have claimed it might be within the tomb he erected for himself in Chelsea Old Church (see below). The evidence, however, seems to be in favour of its placement in St. Dunstan’s, with the remains of his daughter, Margaret Roper, and her husband’s family, whose vault it was. Margaret would have treasured this relic of her adored father, and legend is that she wished to be buried herself with his head in her arms.