by Lydia R., age 17
Margaret More Roper was born in London in 1505 as the eldest of five children. Thomas More, who was her father, became the Lord High Chancellor to Henry VIII. Being ahead of his time, More believed education was important for all, including women. More rigorously taught subjects such as language, logic, math, and philosophy. In 1521 Margaret turned sixteen and married William Roper. Margaret’s writing and translating was magnificent, but unfortunately most of her work did not survive. Remarkably, Margaret became the first non-royal woman to have a book translated in English.
When Thomas More refused to accept the Act of Supremacy in 1534, he was devastatingly arrested. More, who was quite close with his daughter, received numerous visits from her informing him of happenings of the outside world. The privilege of visitation was revoked when More was sentenced to death. Margaret visited him a final time on May 4, 1535. He was grotesquely decapitated on July 6.
Thomas More’s head was disgustingly displayed on a stake in London until it was taken down after a month, which helped make room to display more decapitated heads. Margaret patiently waited for her father’s head to be removed from the stake. While the executioner was removing the head, Margaret bribed the executioner to bequeath the head to her so she could preserve it with pickling spices. Margaret kept her father’s head until her death in 1544. Scholars believe that the preserved and decapitated head, which was an odd form of expressing love and adornment, was buried along with Margaret and not interred.