Monday, 6 October 2014

Margaret Roper's legacy

Margaret More (1505-44) was the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) and his first wife Joanna Colt (1488-1511). Thomas More was a Humanist who believed in giving his children the best education he possibly could, educating girls the same as boys; a revolutionary idea for its time. Thomas More's children were taught, by himself as well as by tutors; Latin, Greek, Theology, Philosophy, Mathematics and Astronomy.

Thomas More
Margaret More was the first non-royal woman in England to have her work published; in October 1524 her translation from Latin of Erasmus' 'A devout treatise upon the paternoster' was published. The education of all of Thomas More's children was well known by the leading minds of the time, such as Juan Luis Vives, who had been the tutor to Princess Mary Tudor. Margaret More became a figure for admiration as she combined education with the tradition position of women as a wife and mother; Erasmus dedicated his commentary on 'Christmas Hymn' by Prudentius to Margaret in 1523 upon the birth of her first child; "will give the offspring of your marriage a happy outcome and be the true Apollo of all your reading, whose praises you will be able to sing to your lyre instead of nursery rhymes to please your little ones".

Margaret Roper, nee More
Margaret More married on the 2nd July 1521 to William Roper (1498-1578), and as Thomas More could not afford the £200 dower for Margaret, it was agreed that the couple would reside for free at Thomas More's house for five years and that the dowry would be paid at a later date.
William Roper wrote an extensive biography of his beloved father-in-law, Thomas More, however it was not published until 1626.
Margaret followed her father's example and educated her children to the highest standards she could, teaching them the classical languages of Latin and Greek. Margaret asked the scholar Roger Ascham to join her household as tutor to her children, however he could not be induced to leave his post at Cambridge University.

William Roper
The children of Margaret and William Roper were;
+ Elizabeth (1523-60) m1. John Stephenson
                                    m2. Edward Bray
                                      + Reginald m. Elizabeth Covert

+ Margaret (1526-78) m. William Dawtrey (d.1591)
                                     + William (1548-89) m. Dorothy Stoneley
                                     + John
                                     + Anthony
                                     + Jane m. Mr Parker
Margaret's son William became a lawyer and worked in the chambers of his grandfather William Roper, with his uncles Thomas and Anthony Roper.

+ Mary (1530-72) m1. Stephen Clarke (d.1554)
                              m2. James Bassett (1526-58)
                                + Philip (b.1557) m. Miss Verney
                                + Charles (1559-84)
It would appear that of all her children, it was Mary who inherited her mother Margaret's love and skill for education and translation. Mary served as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber to Queen Mary I. Mary spoke Latin and Greek expertly; she translated the entirety of Eusebius' 'Ecclesiastical History' from Greek, which she dedicated to Queen Mary. In 1557 Mary's brother-in-law published 'The Workes of Thomas More' which included Mary's translation of her grandfather's final work 'Of the sorrowe of Christ before hys taking' which he wrote while imprisoned in the Tower. In 1554 the scholar Roger Ascham wrote to Mary offering his services as tutor to Mary, possibly as a way to make amends for his refusal years earlier to her mother Margaret. At that time Mary was being taught by two tutors; Henry Cole and John Christopherson (d.1558), who had been her childhood tutors and were still with her. John Morwen had been the Roper children's Greek tutor, but had left the household by 1554.
Mary's eldest son was named after King Philip who also stood as the baby's godfather and gave a gift at the christening. Philip Basset became a lawyer of Lincoln's Inn, like his grandfather, uncles and cousin. Charles was born after his father's death. He inherited the passion for his Catholic faith that his grandfather Thomas More had felt, and became a Jesuit.

+ Thomas (1533-98) m. Lucy Browne (d.1606)
                                   + William (1555-1628) m. Catherine Browne
                                   + Anthony
                                   + Henry
                                   + Francis
                                   + Charles
                                   + Thomas
                                   + Philip
                                   + Mary
                                   + Frances
                                   + Elizabeth m. Thomas Hadd
                                   + Martha m. Thomas Watton
                                   + Catherine m. Edward Bently
                                   + Mabel
                                   + Lucy
Thomas attended firstly Louvain University in 1547, then like his father William before him, Thomas was educated in law at Lincoln's Inn in 1552 and went on to become MP for New Shoreham (1553) and Newport (1558). As his father had been, Thomas became Chief Clerk of the King's Bench. Thomas' eldest son William was knighted in 1603.

+ Anthony (1544-97) m. Anne Cotton (d.1607)
                                    + Anthony
                                    + John
                                    + Henry (b.1577) m. Philippa Zouch
                                    + Isabel (d.1622) m. Thomas Wiseman
                                    + Jane
Like his father and elder brother, Anthony became a lawyer at Lincoln's Inn in 1565, and was a founder of The Roper Charity. Anthony's son Henry attended Cambridge University in 1595.

The legacy which Thomas More had begun with his own children, had been nurtured and continued by his beloved eldest daughter Margaret, who ensured the education of her own children, and in turn also her grandchildren.

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