Friday, July 5, 2019

St. Thomas More to his Daughter Margaret

Margaret More Roper received this letter from her father, written on July 5, 1535 before his execution:

Our Lord bless you good daughter and your good husband and your little boy and all yours and all my children and all my godchildren and all our friends. Recommend me when you may to my good daughter Cecily whom I beseech our Lord to comfort, and I send her my blessing and to all her children and pray her to pray for me. I send her an handkercher and God comfort my good son her husband. My good daughter Daunce hath the picture in parchment that you delivered me from my Lady Conyers, her name is on the back side. Shew her that I heartily pray her that you may send it in my name to her again for a token from me to pray for me.

I like special well Dorothy Colly, I pray you be good unto her. I would wit whether this be she that you wrote me of. If not, I pray you be good to the other as you may in her affliction, and to my good daughter Joan Aleyn to give her I pray you some kind answer, for she sued hither to me this day to pray you be good to her.

I cumber you, good Margaret, much, but I would be sorry, if it should be any longer than tomorrow, 
for it is Saint Thomas' Even and the Utas [Octave] of Saint Peter and therefore tomorrow long I to go to God, it were a day very meet and convenient for me. I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy.

Fare well my dear child and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends that we may merrily meet in heaven. I thank you for your great cost.

I send now unto my good daughter Clement her algorism stone and I send her and my good son and all hers God's blessing and mine.

I pray you at time convenient recommend me to my good son John More. I liked well his natural fashion. Our Lord bless him and his good wife my loving daughter, to whom I pray him be good, as he hath great cause, and that if the land of mine come to his hand, he break not my will concerning his sister Daunce. And our Lord bless Thomas and Austin and all that they shall have.

The little boy More refers to is Thomas Roper, who was born in 1533. Cecily More was his third daughter by Jane Colt, married to Giles Heron. His "good daughter Daunce" was Elizabeth, who was married to William Daunce. Dorothy Colly or Colley was Margaret's maid; Joan Aleyn attended the school More had for his daughters and son at Chelsea. "St. Thomas's Even" refers to the vigil of the feast of the transfer of St. Thomas a Becket's body to Canterbury Cathedral; the feast of Saint Peter was on June 29, so July 26 was the last day of the Octave of that feast. Margaret Giggs Clement was another of the wards Thomas More educated; she would witness his execution. John More, his only son, was 26 years old.

When he writes "I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath not leisure to look to worldly courtesy", More is referring to how Margaret embraced him as he was going back to the Tower of London after being condemned--she forced through the guards, kissed him, and held on to him. 

What a letter to receive from your father the night before he died!

There are varying accounts of how the family received St. Thomas More's hair shirt before he died: some that he sent it to Margaret with this letter, some that Margaret Giggs Clement received it from him. We do know for certain that the family took the hair shirt with them into exile into what is now Belgium, in Mechelen and Louvain. As this blog explains:

In any case, the hair shirt ultimately passed to Giggs Clements’ youngest daughter, Prioress Margaret Clement (1539–1612), a nun of the English convent of St Monica’s, founded in Louvain during the period when it was illegal to practice Catholicism in England. The nuns of St Monica’s claim to be More’s spiritual heirs through Margaret Giggs and her daughter Margaret Clement.

The hair shirt remained in Prioress Clement’s community and the communities descended from St Monica’s up until the 1980s, by which time most of the exiled English convents had returned to England.

St. Thomas More's hair shirt is publicly displayed in a side chapel--of the Holy Cross--at Buckfast Abbey!

St. Thomas More, pray for us!

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