Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Margaret Roper, Scholar and Heroine

From Susan Abernethy:
Thomas More was living in his home called The Barge at Bucklersbury, off the east end of Cheapside about 500 yards north of the Thames. His first wife was named Joanna Colt and their first child Margaret was born at home sometime between August and October of 1505. She was baptized and turned over to a close neighbor, Mistress Giggs who was her wet nurse and had just had a child of her own, another Margaret. Mistress Giggs died shortly after giving Margaret back to her parents and Margaret Giggs was adopted by Thomas and Joanna and became Margaret More’s closest friend.

Joanna Colt was to have three more children, Elizabeth, Cecily and John before she died in 1511. Thomas married a wealthy widow, Alice Harper within a month of Joanna’s death. In the early days before he went to work for King Henry VIII, More was to teach his own children. Thomas believed strongly in education for everyone, including women. This education consisted of languages, history, philosophy and rhetoric. Margaret was taught reading at the age of three, studying Aesop’s Fables as her father had when he was a child. When Thomas couldn’t teach his children due to his duties, he hired William Gonnell to tutor his children full time. The school of children tutored by Gonnell included the two older Margarets, Margaret’s siblings and Alice Harper’s daughter Alice.

Margaret progressed well in her studies and soon became her father’s favorite. She was fascinated by geography and astronomy and became proficient in Latin. More relied on her to keep him updated about family news when he was abroad working for the King. Despite all of Margaret’s studies and learning, she was still expected to marry. By 1521, talks were initiated between the More family and the Roper family to marry Margaret to the eldest Roper son, William.

Margaret’s expected dowry would be about 200 pounds. Her father didn’t have the money so a contract was worked out where Margaret and William would receive free room and board for five years and the dowry would be paid at a later date. They were married in 1521. They did not have any children until 1533. Margaret was to have five children, the last one being born in 1544. In 1524, Thomas More decided to move his family from Bucklersbury to a new manor house in Chelsea, just down the river. Margaret and William moved with him. Margaret refused to leave her father’s house and always lived in his home or very nearby until his death. (Read entire post.)

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