Margaret More Roper was born in 1505 as the oldest of five children to Thomas More, who was Lord High Chancellor and councillor to King Henry VII. Thomas More believed in education for everyone, including women. He showed this by teaching Margaret Greek, Latin, rhetoric, math, and philosophy. Margaret showed much zeal in her studies and quickly became her father’s favorite. In 1521 at age sixteen, she married Mr. William Roper, the son of one of her father’s students. She was a skilled writer and translator, but little of her work survived. She became the first non-royal woman to publish a book translated into English.
In 1534 Thomas More bravely refused to sign the Act of Supremacy acknowledging King Henry VII as head of the English Church and was arrested. Margaret, being very close to her father, was allowed to visit him in the Tower of London, becoming his only line of communication to the outside world, which was a privilege revoked when Thomas More was sentenced to death. Her last visit was on May 4, 1535. Thomas More was decapitated on July 6, 1535.
Thomas Stapleton, who was a biographer of Thomas More, believed that More’s head was placed on a spike on London Bridge and was taken down after one month in order to make room for other heads. It would have been thrown into the river had not Margaret Roper been diligently watching and waiting for this opportunity to bribe the executioner, whose job it was to take down the heads and replace them with new heads. She was then able to attain this sacred relic. It is believed she possibly preserved it with pickling spices until her death in 1544 at the age of 39. Early scholars believed that it was buried with her. Later scholars believed it was interred with her when her body was moved to St. Dunstan’s in Canterbury, England. These actions proved that she was a devoted daughter till the very end.