Roper, Margaret More (1505–1544)

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Roper, Margaret More (1505–1544)

English scholar. Born in 1505; died on December 25, 1544; buried at St. Dunstan's Church, in Canterbury, with her father's head in her arms; eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More (1478–1535, English scholar and statesman who was slain for his opposition to detaching England from the spiritual authority of the Roman Catholic Church) and Jane Colt More (c. 1488–1511); had one brother John More (who married Anne Cresacre in 1529), and two sisters, Elizabeth More Daunce or Dancy (b. around 1506, who married William Daunce on September 29, 1521, the same day Margaret married), and Cecily More Heron (b. around 1507, who married Giles Heron in 1522); tutored by her father and other scholars; married William Roper, of Wellhall in the Parish of Eltham, in Kent, in 1521; children: five, including Mary Roper Basset , English writer and translator (fl. 1544–1572).


English translation of Erasmus' A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster (1523); letters to Thomas More, April 1534–July 1535.

Margaret More Roper was born in 1505, the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas More and Jane Colt More . Thomas, a famous classical scholar, believed that women should be equally educated with men. Thus, Margaret and her sisters, Elizabeth More Daunce and Cecily More Heron , received the same classical education—in Latin, Greek, logic, philosophy, and religion—that their brother John More did. The children were tutored by other scholars as well as by their father and were much admired for their intellectual capabilities.

Roper stood out the most and, notably, won great praise for her intelligence and modesty from the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus, who was also a family friend; he called her "the flower of all the learned matrons in England." Roper devoted a great deal of time to study, particularly to philosophy, but all that remains of her work are letters to her father and a translation of Erasmus' A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster, published in 1523.

Margaret had five children with her husband, William Roper, after they married in 1521. Though her early life was very happy, she was greatly distressed by the execution of her father, who had refused to take the Oath of Supremacy that recognized Henry VIII as head of the Church of England. Margaret's still extant letters are to Thomas More from the period during which he was held in the Tower of London. He was executed in 1535. Roper saved her father's books and papers; she also rescued his head from a stake on London Bridge after 14 days, preserving it in a leaden box until there was an opportunity for its inclusion in the family vault in St. Dunstan's, Canterbury. For this she was questioned by the King's Council but never prosecuted.


Buck, Claire, ed. Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall, 1992.

Kersey, Ethel M. Women Philosophers: a Bio-critical Source Book. NY: Greenwood Press, 1989.

Catherine Hundleby , M.A. Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada