Supporters of religious freedom today honor the memory of Sir Thomas More, martyred for obeying his convictions rather than the King. Few know that behind the brilliant lawyer and Catholic saint was a very strong young woman—his daughter, Meg.
Though largely overlooked by history, Meg is an inspiration to women today who face hostility for their religious beliefs. This reflection by Archbishop Chaput offers more backstory on this courageous and fascinating young lady:
The person who sustained [Saint Thomas More] in his distress, more than anyone else, was his daughter Meg. … They were very close, a natural complement of minds. In their last meeting before his execution, More embraced her and said “You alone have long known the secrets of my heart.” As a father and tutor, More had raised Meg to be an articulate, confident, supremely gifted Christian woman; a published female author at a time when that distinction was extremely rare. In one sense, her life was More’s greatest achievement.
We revere the witness of Thomas More because we know his story. But the reason we know his story is the courage of his daughter Meg. …. it was Meg who made sure that his materials were published and that her father’s story would not be forgotten – all this from a woman in her 20s when her father died.
Meg’s legacy has much to teach young women today.
First, Meg possessed a well-reasoned faith and firm convictions that could still engage different opinions. Although she signed the same oath which kept her father imprisoned—and often tried to convince him of the rational reasons to to sign it—the generosity of her educated mind acted as iron sharpening iron. Debating with someone he deeply loved and respected emboldened St. Thomas More to see the truth of his own argument. Further, the well-reasoned foundation of Meg’s faith was strong enough to help carry her father—no intellectual or spiritual slouch himself— through his time of doubt in God.
Meg was also a woman of constancy. Although Meg may have initially disagreed with More’s opinion, he had her unyielding support. When others were afraid to show solidarity with More during his imprisonment, Meg was a frequent visitor.
Lastly, Meg was a woman of bravery. Though young and socially vulnerable after the death of her father, Meg was unafraid to speak truth to power and continue her father’s legacy. History tells us that after St. Thomas More was beheaded, Meg personally took his head from the pike and kept it in her possession until her death. She collected and distributed More’s writings and ensured his thoughts would be recorded for future generations.
So, in addition to celebrating the great St. Thomas More today, let us also remember his beloved daughter—and the other women, often forgotten by history, whose strength of character enabled great acts of courage.