Last night, while reading The Life of Thomas More by Peter Ackroyd I came across a passage I wanted to share. Since content from that particular book is not yet available online, here are More's relevant words from another book on his life. For background purposes, Anne Boleyn was about to become Queen and some of the same Bishops who, along with More, had opposed Henry VIII's attempts to throw Catherine of Aragon to the curb in violation of the Church's teachings had now decided that they better play ball with King Henry by attending the coronation of the new Queen.
It fortuned not long before the coming of Queen Anne through the streets of London from the Tower to Westminster to her coronation, that he received a letter from the Bishops of Durham, Bath and Winchester, requesting him both to keep them company from the Tower to the coronation, and also to take twenty pounds, that by the bearer thereof they had sent him, to buy a gown withal ; which he thankfully receiving, and at home still tarrying, at their next meeting said merrily unto them:
" My lords, in the letters which you lately sent me you required two things of me : the one, sith I was so well content to grant you, the other therefore I thought I might be the bolder to deny you. And like as the one, because I took you for no beggars, and myself I knew to be no rich man, I thought I might the rather fulfill, so the other did put me in remembrance of an emperor who ordained a law that whosoever had committed a certain heinous offence (which I now remember not), except it were a virgin, should suffer the pains of death such a reverence had he to virginity.
Now so it happened that the first committer of that offence was indeed a virgin, whereof the emperor hearing was in no small perplexity, as he that by some example would fain have had that law put in execution. Whereupon when his council had sat long, solemnly debating this cause, suddenly rose there up one of his council, a good plain man, amongst them, and said, 'Why make you so much ado, my lords, about so small a matter? Let her first be deflowered, and then after may she be devoured.'
And so though your lordships have in the matter of the matrimony hitherto kept yourselves pure virgins, yet take good heed, my lords, that you keep your virginity still. For some there be that by procuring your lordships first at the coronation to be present, and next to preach for the setting forth of it, and finally to write books to all the world in defence thereof are desirous to deflower you, and- when they have deflowered you, then will they not fail soon after to devour you. Now, my Lords, quoth he, it lieth not in my power but that they may devour me, but God being my good Lord, I will so provide that they shall never deflower me."