King Henry VIII was used to getting his own way and, on those rare occasions that he didn’t, he merely used a little persuasive pressure to bring those opposing him into line.
The issue of marriage was no exception and, on discovering that his wife, Catherine of Aragon, couldn’t conceive, he wanted to discard her and marry Anne Boleyn (Vanessa Redgrave) in order to produce heirs to the throne.
This wasn’t so straightforward in 16th century Catholic England, so Henry (Robert Shaw) ‘persuaded’ his bishops to split from the church in Rome and form their own Church of England, over which he himself would preside, thus becoming a law unto himself.
Only one man at court refused to openly accept the new church. Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) – a lawyer and scholar and devout Catholic – showed his disapproval through his silence, earning him the King’s disdain.
A Man For All Seasons charts the downfall of this great man who is prepared to give up everything he has worked for, in the name of his beliefs.
His conscience persuades him to leave his office, spelling the end of the lavish lifestyle he enjoys. But this self-removal from public life isn’t enough to assuage Henry’s anger and More must eventually offer up his life in order to preserve the values he holds most precious.
While those around him submitted to the King’s all-encompassing domination, More gave up everything he had, yet kept that which should be most precious to every human being – his integrity.
The skilful acting truly brings about a sense of the convictions of More and offers him up as the kind of person we all aspire to be.
The film cleaned up at the Academy Awards with Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Picture and several others.
King Henry VIII
Duke of Norfolk