Excerpt from: Tudor terror: John Guy is on a mission to bring history to the masses—The Independent
It is the summer of 1535, just weeks after the execution of Sir Thomas More. A small rowing boat makes its way along the Thames from Chelsea to London Bridge. The oarsman’s passengers are a 29-year-old gentlewoman, Margaret Roper, and her maid, who carries a basket. A horrific sight meets their eyes as they approach the bridge: a dozen or more skulls on poles protruding from the parapet, which have been boiled and tarred to prevent them being fed upon by circling gulls. As new heads arrive, the old ones are moved along the row until they reach the end of the line, when they are thrown into the river.
At the door of the north tower of the bridge, the maid negotiates with the bridge-master, handing over the contents of her purse. In return she receives one of the skulls, carefully wrapping it in a linen cloth and placing it in a basket. This is all that remains of Thomas More. One day the skull will join Margaret Roper herself, when she is interred in the family tomb at Chelsea, a burial symbolic of the special attachment between father and daughter.
This is the gripping opening scene of John Guy’s study of the relationship of Margaret Roper and her father, Thomas More.
To be released: A Daughter’s Love: THOMAS MORE AND HIS DEAREST MEG by John Guy
Margaret More (1505-1544), Wife of William Roper, 1535-36
Hans Holbein the Younger (German, 1497/98-1543)
Vellum laid on playing card; Diam. 1 3/4 in. (45 mm)
From: Metropolitan Museum of Art