Thomas More rose from humble origins to achieve the highest political and judicial office of England, second only to that of the king. He was recognized throughout early sixteenth-century Europe as one of the great lawyers, Christian humanists, and classical scholars of his day. ,Even at a very early age, More gave clear evidence of his uncommon gifts. Because of this, a family friend successfully persuaded his father to allow him to attend Oxford University. More so enjoyed his studies there that his father became alarmed. Two years into the program, he decided that his son should learn something useful. Under what seems to have been considerable coercion, Thomas returned to London to study law at New Inn. Although this law program was among the best and most demanding in London, More found time to continue his study of Greek, philosophy, literature, and theology with such world-renowned teachers as Linacre, Grocyn, and Colet, as well as with the pious and learned Carthusians.
Meanwhile, More excelled at his legal studies at the New Inn. Once finished, he read through the law again at Lincoln's Inn for two more years, after which he was chosen as reader at Furnivall's Inn and reappointed for three successive years - a considerable honor for such a young man. During these years of studying and teaching, More continued an intense life of prayer, during which time he sought to discern his vocation in life. By the age of 25, More was convinced that his place was with city and family, not monastery and cell. At 26 he was elected to Parliament; at 27 he married Jane Colt and fathered four children in the next five years. Jane died when More was 33, leaving him with four young children during the height of his career as a lawyer. Despite his deep sorrow, he married again within one month for the sake of his children. He married the best woman he knew, Alice Middleton, who had neither his interests nor his playful temperament and who was six or seven years his senior. As Erasmus recounts, she was "neither a pearl nor a girl ... but a shrewd and careful housewife."He marvels that More's" life with her is as pleasant and agreeable as if she had all the charm of youth, and with his buoyant gaiety he wins her to more compliance than he could by severity."
With his gifts of intellectual genius and endearing wit plus his reputation for virtue, More was much sought after as a lawyer and diplomat. He was chosen, for example, by the London merchants to represent them on three major embassies to foreign countries. At the age of 32, he began his work as a judge, a position that made him well-known and loved among the general London citizenry.