Margaret (More) Roper

Margaret (More) Roper (1505 - 1544)

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Margaret Roper formerly More
Born in London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Daughter of and
Wife of — married 2 Jul 1521 in Eltham, Kent, Englandmap
Descendants descendants
Died [location unknown]
Profile last modified 11 Feb 2019 | Created 18 May 2013
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Margaret More, daughter of Sir Thomas More and Joan Colt, was probably born in October of 1505, the eldest of four children. [1] She spent her early years in "The Barge," the family mansion in Bucklersbury, in the city of London. She was baptised in the parish church of St Stephen Walbrook within eight days of her birth. [2] Sir Thomas More was a devout Catholic who believed in education for all his children, regardless of gender. Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecily and John were encouraged from a young age to, "take virtue and learning for their meat, and play for their sauce." [3]

Margaret's mother died when she was only six years old. Her father re-married very quickly afterwards. These events quite possibly contributed to Margaret's serious nature, and the cloud of sadness that covered her life. [1]

With the arrival of Margaret's new step-mother, Alice Harpur, came two other additions to the family: a step-sister, Alice Middleton, and an adopted sister, Margaret Giggs. Giggs was about the same age as Margaret, and would go on to become a close friend. More set up a school for the children that, "boasted distinguished tutors, and a curriculum that was rare enough for Tudor boys and exceedingly rare for girls." [1]

On 2 Jul 1521, aged just sixteen, Margaret married William Roper, a lawyer from Kent, who was seven years her senior. [1] Roper was interested in the writings of Martin Luther, which caused him to clash with Margaret's father who is reported to have said that, "heretics were at work in every tavern and ale house in the city, and that young lawyers were "wont to resort to their readings in a chamber at midnight." [4]

Two years later, in 1523, Margaret and William's first child, Elizabeth, was born. The following year the Roper and More families moved to Chelsea. [1] There were continued clashes between More and Roper. Roper was had up on charges of heresy for his beliefs and brought before Wolsey. Mercifully, Wolsey was lenient towards Roper. By 1526, Margaret had slowly won her husband back to the Catholic faith. However, whether this was principally due to spiritual conviction or a desire for advancement in Tudor society is unclear. [2] Margaret became very ill with the sweating sickness during an outbreak in the spring of 1528,. It is reported that she was cured as much by her father's prayers as by any form of medicine. [1]

On Monday, 25 October 1529, Margaret's father was "handed the great seal of England" by Henry VIII and made Lord Chancellor, a position he had not sought, and was hesitant to take up. Despite the fact that his predecessor, Wolsey, had been publicly disgraced, before being condemned he had spoken of More to Henry VIII as being "the aptest and fittest man in the realm." Clearly Henry had valued this reference. [2]

Some time between the birth of Elizabeth, and the birth in 1530 of their third child, Margaret, their daughter Mary was born. [5] Their first son, Thomas was born in 1533. The large house and ample grounds in Chelsea, going down to the river, made this an excellent location for a school for Margaret's children and their cousins "not unlike that of The Barge." [1]

Sir Thomas' More's fall from power in the Tudor court came about when Henry VIII divorced Katherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn, going against the decision of the then pope Clement VII. More refused to acknowledge Henry as the Head of the Church and was arrested and taken to the Tower. He was tried and found guilty and sentenced to death. As he was taken back to the Tower, his children, Margaret and John, broke through the crowd to embrace him, Margaret in particular more than once. [1]

Throughout her life, Margaret, lovingly referred to by her father as "Meg," was encouraged by him to write letters. Many of these survive and can be found in a collection at the National Archives in Kew, London. Perhaps the most famous letter to pass between them was that written by More in the Tower of London the day before his execution on 6 July 1535 in which he wrote:

I never liked your manner toward me better than when you kissed me last : for I love when daughterly love and dear charity hath no leisure to look to worldly courtesy. Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you and all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven.[6]

After her father's execution, Margaret bribed the watchman on Tower Bridge, in charge of the severed heads of traitors which were displayed there on spikes, to give her her father's head, which she is said to have kept with her until her death. [7]

Not much is known about Margaret's remaining years. What is indisputable however is that she was an eminent scholar and a pioneer for the age, whilst at the same time raising and ensuring the education of her children. Her last child, Anthony, was born in 1544 and Margaret died that same year, most probably giving birth to him. She was buried, according to her husband, "in Chelsea parish church - possibly with her father's head in her hands." [8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Bowker, Margaret. (2017) 'Roper (née More), Margaret.' In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press : accessed 1 February 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Guy, John. (2008) A Daughter’s Love : Thomas & Margaret More. London: Fourth Estate.
  3. Roper, William. (1626) Life of Sir Thomas More, Knt. Reprint 1905. London: Burns & Oates. p.7. : accessed 12 Jan 2018.
  4. Ridley, Jasper. (2002) Bloody Mary's Martyrs London: Constable. p.7.
  5. Bowden, Caroline M.K. (2008) 'Bassett (née Roper), Mary.' In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press : accessed 1 February 2018.
  6. Roper, William. (1626) Life of Sir Thomas More, Knt. Reprint 1905. London: Burns & Oates. p.176. : accessed 1 February 2018.
  7. Ackroyd, Peter (2013) Tudors (The History of England) London: Pan.
  8. Ridley, Jasper (1985) The Statesman and the Fanatic London: Constable.

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