Margaret Roper

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Margaret Roper
Portrait of Margaret Roper, from a 1593 reproduction of a now-lost Hans Holbein portrait of all of the women of Thomas More's family.
Born Margaret More
Died 1544
Spouse(s) William Roper
Children Elizabeth
Parents Thomas More and Jane Colt

Margaret Roper (née More) (1505–1544) was an English writer and translator, probably the most learned woman of sixteenth century England. She was the daughter of Thomas More and Jane Colt, who probably died of childbirth. Margaret, "Meg" as her father used to call her, married William Roper. During More's imprisonment in the Tower of London, she was a frequent visitor to his cell.

Margaret married William Roper in 1521 in Eltham, Kent. They had five children together: Elizabeth (1523–60), Margaret (1526–88), Thomas (1533–98), Mary (d. 1572), and Anthony (1544-1597).

After Thomas More was beheaded in 1535 for refusing to accept the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Succession (1534) of Henry VIII of England and swear to Henry as head of the English Church, his head was displayed on a pike at London Bridge for a month. At the end of that period, Roper bribed the man whose business it was to throw the head into the river, to give it to her instead. She preserved it by pickling it in spices until her own death at the age of 39 in 1544. After her death, her husband William Roper took charge of the head, and it is buried with him.

William Roper ("son Roper," as he is referred to by Thomas More) produced the first biography of the statesman/martyr, but his homage to his father-in-law is not remembered as well as his wife's efforts at comforting and honoring More. In Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Dream of Fair Women, he invokes Margaret Roper ("who clasped in her last trance/ Her murdered father's head") as a paragon of loyalty and familial love.

Roper was the first non-royal woman to publish a book she had translated into English.[1] This was a translation of a Latin work Precatio Dominica by Erasmus, as A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster. In a letter her father mentions her poems, but none are extant.

In Robert Bolt's famous play A Man for All Seasons, both Ropers were major characters. In the 1966 film, she was portrayed by Susannah York.


William More
Sir John More
Johanna Joye
Saint Thomas More
Thomas Granger (or Grainger)
Agnes Graunger (or Grainger)
Margaret More
John Colt
Jane Colt
Elizabeth Elrington


  1. ^ "WWR Magazine". Margaret Roper and Erasmus: The Relationship of Translator and Source. CRC Humanities Computing Studio, located at the University of Alberta. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 

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