British Politician, Jurist, Author. A staunch Catholic, his career reflected the upheavals of England's Reformation period and its aftermath. His book "The Life and Death of Sir Thomas More" (c.1555, published in 1626) is a classic study of his famous father-in-law, and a primary source on the subject's personal life. Roper was born in Canterbury into an old and respected Kentish family. He probably studied at Oxford, was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1518 and called to the bar in 1525. His father John Roper was onetime Attorney General for Henry VIII and Prothonotary of the King's Bench, a post he passed on to his son in 1524; he would keep it for 50 years. In 1526 he became a Justice of the Peace for Kent. By then Roper was already living in the More household, having married More's favorite daughter Margaret in 1521. Erasmus described him as a young man "who is wealthy, of excellent and modest character and not unacquainted with literature". He also had an early sympathy for Lutheranism and frequently quarreled with his father-in-law, who was naturally perturbed at having a "heretic" in his own home. Roper was outspoken enough to be summoned by Cardinal Wolsey who, out of deference to More, let him off with a friendly warning. More finally told Margaret that arguing with him was useless and that he would "give him over to God" and pray for him. Roper believed these prayers were responsible for bringing him back to the Catholic Church. Between 1523 and 1558 he sat in eight and possibly 12 Parliaments, including the historic "Long Parliament" (1529 to 1536) that legalized England's break from Vatican authority. Siding with the Catholic opposition, he did what he could to fight the Reformation in the House of Commons, to no avail. More's downfall and execution for treason in 1535 had little effect on Roper's career; he returned to Parliament in 1539 and was made a Justice of the Peace for Middlesex (as well as for Kent) in 1543. But his religious activities were driven underground. He was known to give financial aid to English Catholic exiles on the Continent, and in 1543 he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and fined £100 for involvement in the Prebendaries' Plot to remove Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury. Margaret Roper died in 1544, leaving him five children, and thereafter he remained a widower. The re-establishment of Catholicism during the reign of Mary I (1553 to 1558) brought a revival of Roper's fortunes. He sat in all five of Mary's Parliaments, was named a Governor of Lincoln's Inn (1553 to 1570), and served as Sheriff of Kent (1554 to 1555), along with numerous other positions in local government. As a member of the Catholic Commissions for the Suppression of Heresy in Canterbury (1556) and the Home Counties (1557) Roper would have played a role in the Marian Persecutions, during which some 300 Protestants (including Cranmer) were burned at the stake. When the Protestant Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, Roper was promptly removed from the Kent and Middlesex benches and never reappeared in Parliament, though otherwise he was treated with leniency. The Privy Council took no action when in 1568 Roper was accused of sponsoring exiles who published books against the Queen's supremacy; the following year he was allowed to pay a bond guaranteeing good behavior rather than sign the Act of Uniformity as required of all English justices. In his will (dated January 1577) he expressed the wish to be reunited with Margaret in her tomb at Chelsea, "where my father-in-law Sir Thomas More (whose soul Jesus bless) did mind to be buried" - and where More's skull rested, allegedly in his daughter's arms. At Roper's death the following year this request was denied, and instead the remains of Margaret and More were reinterred with him in the Roper Vault at St. Dunstan's in Canterbury. Roper penned his short, hagiographic account of More in the mid-1550s for circulation in manuscript; its sharp criticisms of King Henry, Anne Boleyn, and the still-living Baron Rich might have brought him trouble had he published it, even during Mary's reign. Nevertheless it was a significant advance in the development of English biography, a sweeping overview of More's life with enough quotes and intimate details to make the man come alive on the page. British scholar and author R. W. Chambers called Roper's book "probably the most perfect little biography in the English language".
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
Margaret More Roper