Monday, December 25, 2017

Margaret More Roper, RIP

Margaret More Roper was around 39 years old when she died at Christmas time in 1544 of an unknown illness. In his great study of Margaret's relationship with her father,  A Daughter's Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg, John Guy suggests that the shock of new actions against her family may have led to her death. Her husband, William Roper, was arrested on suspicion of plotting against Thomas Cranmer, Henry's Archbishop of Canterbury--her brother John was also arrested, taken to the Tower, questioned, and was told to take the oath his father had refused to swear--or be charged with Treason. John swore the oath, William paid a fine, and they all came home. Her sister Elizabeth's husband, William Daunce, had also been arrested and imprisoned.

Since Giles Heron, one of her father's wards and her sister Cecily's husband, had already been attainted for treason and hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn in 1540, Margaret faced grave danger: she might lose her brother, her husband, and another brother-in-law. William Roper was held in solitary confinement for four months. As John Guy says, "Margaret, who must have been terrified by the swoop, fell mortally ill before the year was out. . . . Carried the short distance to Chelsea Parish Church in a winding sheet through the freezing snow, her body was interred in the family tomb where her father 'did mind to be buried' [according to Margery Hillary, one of Margaret's friends], his skull resting beside her. A candle-lit requiem followed, but must have been the bleakest of occasions." (p. 270)

The Center for Thomas More Studies cites the day of her death as December 25, 1544. When William Roper died in 1578, he was buried in the vault of the Roper Chapel in St. Dunstan's, Canterbury. Thomas Roper arranged to have his mother's remains--and his grandfather's skull--moved to the Roper Chapel.

Her daughter Mary inherited some her skill in translation and worked with Margaret Giggs, another of St. Thomas More's wards, and William Rastell to collect and publish More's works--including that poignant and loving last letter More wrote to Margaret--thus fulfilling her great project in April, 1557.

So on this Christmas Day in 2017, I hope and pray that on Christmas Day in 1544 Thomas More and his dearest Meg met merrily in Heaven. And may we all do so some day.

Merry Christmas!

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