In the corridors of the Tower, a jailor turns a key, unlocking the cell door. Margaret Roper steps cautiously into the dank, dimly lit cell and sees a disheveled-looking man seated at the small table… The overcast sky outside barely allowing any sunlight through the barred windows… as she walks closer toward him she begins to recognize beneath the growth of beard and pallid complexion, the face of her father, Thomas More.
Thomas More was deep in prayer ” Propicietur Dues Majestatis. In Omine Patris et Spiritus, Sancti, Amen.” and did not even hear the cell door open. He heard the voice of an angel and squinted to try to see who was there. It was an angel, his daughter, Meg. He knew she was in shock to see him this way. That was why he pleaded with his family to not to try and see him. He wiped his tears with his filthy hands and croaked out his angel’s name. ”Meg you disobeyed me, I told you , I wanted no visitors when I was arrested. I have not changed my mind. This is no place for you. I will not allow it. ” The wind blew in and Sir Thomas, wrapped the tattered blanket tighter as he shivered. ” MEG, LEAVE NOW! ” He turned his back to her and started to pray again.
Standing at the cell door, hearing it creaked open, I close my eyes tightly, trying to keep the warm tears from falling.. Unprepared for what I was to see next. As the jailer opens the door, my eyes open and adjust to the light. Turning quickly back to the jailer, I dip into my deep red velvet coin purse and take a few coins out. ”Thank you for letting me see my father, it is most appreciated”. Half smiling at him, I step through the doorway and my foot settles on the stone floor covered with stale hay and a most pungent smell. I slowly open my eyes and immediately they settle on my father, but he does not look at all like the father I once knew. The tears that I was so desperate to hold back, now fall down my red cheeks. Silently standing there, with my hands folded in front of me, I wait for him to finish his prayer. Startled by his voice, jumping slightly and my heart racing.. I reply ”Oh father, I had to come and visit you, home is just not the same without your loving precense there. We all miss you very much.” Saying in a comfortable, but shaky voice, lowering my voice slightly so that the jailer or anyone else eavesdropping could not hear. “I wish very much that you would stop being so adamant in your refusal to sign the Oath of Supremacy! One does not have to believe in this oath to sign their name upon it. The king will not hesitate to put you aside for good if you continue with this foolishness. Have you not thought about your family father? Your faith in God will not change if you sign your name upon it. Please father, I beg thee! I can not live another day without my father!” I almost scream as the tears fall faster down my cheeks and fall to his shoulder. My trembling hand rests upon the damp cloth of his shirt, I look at him looking up at me, as the wind blew in the damp, wet cell, his voice telling me to leave. My eyes flood with more tears, wanting to hold him and take him away from this hell. I firmly stand behind him, my hands on his shoulders. “I’m not leaving father”…
My heart breaks listening to Meg’s pleading; I know I cannot, will not give what everyone wants of me, especially the king. As much as I do not want Meg to see me like this, she is here and I turn around and embrace her tightly, kissing her warm cheeks. ” Meg, I hate for you to see me in this condition but this may be the last time we see each other in this life.” I take her clean hand in my grimy, dirty ones. ” I am sorry Meg, you know what you and our family mean to me but God must come first. Before the king and even my most beloved family. You are asking me to give up who I am if I compromise my beliefs. The lion has found his strength, there is no stopping him. What will he ask of me next? If being a loyal and faithful servant of his Majesty is not enough to keep my life then it is a life I no longer wish to have” The wind blows in the foul stenches and I shiver, wrapping the tattered blanket around me to try to warm myself. The damp stone keeps everything cold and putified. I look into my beloved daughter’s face, taking it in as it is the air I need to breathe. ” Meg, my dearest child, if you could only know the pain I feel leaving you, Alice and rest of our family. My happiest moments were sitting in the bossom of my family. Teaching you and watchimg you grasp everthing taught to you with ease. You have made me proud Meg, you have become a scholar that can rival any man. But I cannot turn away from my beliefs and God because it would destroy my soul. Can you understand Meg? ” I wipe her tears and hold her to me, breathing in the scent of my beautiful daughter for the last time.
Wrapping my arms tightly around my father, my cries no longer silent. As the coldest wind blows, I take my shawl and wrap it around his thin frame. I know that it won’t do much to keep him physically warm, however maybe it will keep him mentally warm knowing that I will always be here with him. Trying to keep him safe and warm from this living hell that his once beloved friend and king has put him in.
“Father, please do not say such things. it worries me even more how freely you talk of death. As if you have lost your will to live. That’s not the father I knew. If you have lost hope, what hope do I have left, our family? God must always come first, I know this. You also know that He is a forgiving God as well.” I sit closer to my father so that no one else may hear. The smell coming from this room and himself is almost too much to take. I desperately want to take him away from here. However I fear that would only anger my beloved father more than it would help.
“The king knows what he is doing is wrong. Yet he so carelessly does so with abandon and no regard for anyone but himself. Father, you have dutifully served our Lord and if you ask for forgiveness, I know it will all be alright. Please father, I do not want this to be the last time that we meet and see each other” I rest my forehead against his, the dirt and grime settling on to my face as well. I do not care, trying to take in all that I can of him, for I do fear that I will never see his loving face again.
“Father, you have taught me well. I will not stand by and watch you suffer like this. Please reconsider signing the Oath of Supremacy. If the kings wrath comes towards your way again, we shall handle him at that time. Retire to the countryside with your family, let the king have his way here at court. If you are not here, he will turn his gaze upon others. Please father” I beg, holding him tighter, shielding him, trying to keep him warm as the wind starts to grow colder and stronger.
I can smell my Meg as she wraps her shawl around me; I shall hold it up to my face at all times to smell her lovely scent and keep the rotting, putrid stenches away. She lays her forehead on mine that is covered with the filth of this hell hole. I cling to her tightly as she sobs, hating that this will be one of her last memories of me. It pulls at my heart strings; how I would love to be home sitting in my den amongst my cherished books and loving family. I remember Meg sitting on my lap, reciting her Greek, smarter then most men. My special little Meg; I stroke her hair and try to dry her tears with her shaw.
” Shhhhhhhh, hush child, everything will play out as it was meant to. God wants me to show our king that he is not above the laws of God and if my death will serve that purpose, then I will not have died in vain. Remember my darling daughter that what we do in this life is only a prelude to our eternal life. I am ready to face God, for this life on earth now holds nothing for me. The reformists are twisting the words of God and spreading their heresy. It has taken hold of our king who was once ” Defender of the Faith ”. I have kept silent and would have remained so but the king will not rest till he makes an example of me as he did with Fisher. It is true that in time God may forgive me but I could not forgive myself. When we are constantly asked to bend our beliefs, at what point do we then break? Do you see that my child? Submitting to the false oath will break me and that I cannot allow.
Do not shed anymore tears for I am at peace I will die as the king’s faithful servant but as God’s first.”
I kiss her soft forehead and tear stained cheeks, ” pray for the king Meg for his soul is now damned and he will have the blood of innocents on his hands. Pray for Queen Katherine and Princess Mary for they have been treated cruelly.” I embrace my daughter, memorizing her beautiful face. I call for my jailer. ” You must leave this foul and odious place and NEVER return Meg. We have said our goodbyes but will see each other again, where we will rejoice amongst the righteous.” I kiss her one more time and turn from her as the jailer leads her out of this cave of pestilence and doom.
By Margaret Roper UK and Thomas More UK