In 1534, Henry VIII of England locked John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Sir Thomas More, former Chancellor of England, in the Tower of London for their opposition to his seizure of control over the Church in England. After 14 months of imprisonment, Fisher knelt down for the last time -- not before the tabernacle, but before the executioner's block on Tower Hill, Tyburn. Pope Paul III had created Fisher a cardinal during his imprisonment in the hope that Henry would deal leniently with him. But this time, the red had that symbolizes a cardinal's willingness to undergo martyrdom was more than a symbol: Henry forbade the hat to to be brought into England, undertaking instead to send Fisher's head to Rome. The head fell on June 22, 1535. Two weeks later, Sir Thomas followed his friend to the block. Exactly four centuries elapsed before the pair was raised to the altar by Pope Pius XI, with a shared feast day.
In his Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, set in Hungary on the eve of the Turkish invasion, and written in the Tower of London, St. Thomas More has this to say on the subject of martyrdom, for which he himself had not long to wait:
When we feel ourselves too bold, let us remember our own feebleness, and when we feel ourselves too faint, let us remember Christ's strength. In our fear, let us remember Christ's painful agony -- that agony which for our encouragement He suffered before His Passion, to the intent that no fear should make us despair -- and let us ever call for His help, such as He Himself is pleased to send us. Then we need never doubt but that either He will keep us from that painful death, or else He will not fail so to strengthen us in it that He will joyously bring us to heaven by it -- in which case He does much more for us than if He kept us from it. God did, after all, do more for poor Lazarus by helping him to die patiently of hunger at the rich man's door than if He had brought to him at the door all the rich glutton's dinner. So though He is gracious to a person whom He delivers out of painful trouble, He ye does much more for a person if through a right painful death He delivers them from this wretched world into eternal bliss....I think, indeed, that almost every good Christian would be very glad today to have been cruelly killed yesterday for Christ's faith -- and glad simply for desire of heaven, even if there were no hell. The problem is the fear while the pain is coming; that's what really holds us back. But if we would at that time remember the hell pain that lies on the other side, that pain into which we would fall by fleeing from this one, then this short pain would be no hindrance at all. And if we were full of faith, we would be spurred on even more by a deep consideration of the joys of heaven. As Saint Paul says, "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" [Romans 8:18].