A message from the Principal
In 1535, a thirty year old woman left her home in Chelsea, London, and made her way up the River Thames to London Bridge. She was on her way to collect a macabre souvenir, but one that was of incredible importance to her. The woman was Meg Roper, and she was collecting the head of her father, Sir Thomas More.
Thomas More had been executed that year for refusing to accept the Acts of Supremacy; Acts which he felt meant him betraying his conscience by denying the authority of the Pope. It was tradition that the head, after being displayed, would then be thrown into the river.
Meg Roper used a mixture of bribery, stubbornness, guile and incredible bravery to stand up to the numerous systems that sought to make her father a ‘non-person’. She was an extraordinary woman for her time.
She has been considered the most learned woman in 16th century Europe – corresponding with great thinkers like Erasmus and writing herself a number of original works, translating many Greek works and supporting her father in his vast intellectual pursuits. She was a genuine outlier at a time when women generally took a secondary role to the activities of husbands, fathers and brothers.
What was different in her upbringing? Her father insisted that she be educated. Not just in the ways conventional for the time – basic maths and writing to enable the management of a household – he insisted she receive a classical education so that she would be the equal of men. Even a cursory look at her achievements show that she was much more than equal.—
What message is there for us? The big one for me, is this. Encourage your daughters. The difference was that her father insisted that she be treated with equality and respected her in that way. He stood beside her as she struggled with Greek and Latin, and gently coaxed and encouraged her through her learning. He presented her to people he knew as someone who should be respected as an educated, independent and intellectual force. And she became that.
The circle closes when she makes her way down river on that night in the 1530s. Braver than the men who also respected and love Thomas More, she is an example of knowledge made power, restoring her father’s dignity through the editing of all of his written works so she could show that he had never opposed the King. To many she is an example of filial love. To me she is an example of how powerful our children can be when we show them how much we value their love of learning, their aspiration and their true selves.