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Margaret Giggs Clement: More's Adopted Daughter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 24 June 2007 08:36


Margaret Roper was not the only remarkable young woman in the More household. Margaret Giggs was raised by More as a daughter and also learned to read Latin and Greek which would have made her one of the most formidably educated women of her day.

Margaret Giggs married John Clement, a young man who also lived in More's houshold and bore 11 children. Her youngest daughter, also named Margaret, was educated by the Augustinian nuns of Louvain since her parents were forced to live in exile in Belgium twice: during the reign of Henry VIII and again when Elizabeth came to the throne. Not unnaturally, young Margaret joined the community and served as prioress of the convent for 38 years. It is she who tells this story about her mother as a young woman (from The Life of Mother Margaret Clement via Monique deCamps.

The Carthusian monks, along with Richard Reynolds, a monk of Syon Abbey, and More and Fisher, were the King's first victims: they all refused to comply with his demand that they should acknowledge him as Supreme Head of the Church in England.

On May 4th, 1535, the first Martyrs of the English Reformation, Reynolds and the Carthusian Priors of London, Beauvale and Axholme, were executed at Tyburn. During the next five years fifteen of the London Carthusians died, either violently on the scaffold or by slow starvation in Newgate gaol. The story of Mary Gigg's brave effort to bring relief to the monks in Newgate is told simply in the Life of her daughter:

Bearing a singular devotion to that holy Order and moved with great compassion for those holy Fathers, Margaret dealt with the gaoler so that she might secretly have access to them, and withal did win him with money that he was content to let her come into the prison to them, which she did very often, attiring and disguising herself as a milkmaid, with a great pail on her head full of meat, wherewith she fed that blessed company, putting meat into their mouths, they being tied and not able to stir, nor to help themselves, which having done, she took from them their natural filth.

This pious work she continued for divers days until at last the King, inquiring if they were not dead, and understanding to his great admiration that they were not, commanded a straiter watch to be kept over them, so that the keeper durst not let in this good woman any more, fearing it might cost him his head if it should be discovered. Nevertheless, what with her importunity and by force of money, she obtained from him that he might let her go up on to the tiles, right over the close prison where the blessed Fathers were. And so she, uncovering the ceiling or tiles over their heads, by a string let down meat in a basket, bringing it as near as she could to their mouths as they did stand chained against the posts. But they, not being able to feed themselves out of the basket, or very little, and the gaoler fearing very much that it should be perceived, in the end refused to let her come any more, and so, soon after, they languished and pined away, one after the other, with the stink and want of food and other miseries which they there endured.


In Mechlin in Belgium where Margaret Giggs, now Margaret Clement, lived during her second exile, her house became a home for all English priests passing through the country on their way to find a ship to take them to England. We do not know the exact date of her death, but the circumstances surrounding it are told in her youngest daughter's Life:

But the time had now come that God had appointed to reward her for her good works done to the Fathers of the Charterhouse. He visited her with an ague which held her nine or ten days, and having brought her very low and in danger, she received all the sacraments with great devotion, and being desirous to give her blessing to all her children who were all present except her Religious daughters and one more that remained at Bruges with her husband, she caused her to be sent for in all haste. Wednesday being now come, which was the last day before she died, and asking if her daughter were come, and being told no, but that they looked for her every hour, she made answer that she would stay no longer for her, and calling her husband she told him that the time of her departing was now come, and she might stay no longer, for there were standing about her bed the Reverend Fathers, Monks of Charterhouse, whom she had relieved in prison in England and did call upon her to come away with them, and that therefore she could stay no longer, because they did expect her, which seemed strange talk unto him. Doubting that she might speak idly by reason of her sickness, he called unto her ghostly Father, a Reverend Father of the Franciscans living in Mechlin, to examine and talk with her, to whom she constantly made answer that she was in no way beside herself, but declared that she still had the sight of the Charterhouse monks before her, standing about her bedside and inviting her to come away with them, as she had told her husband. At the which they were all astonished.
 

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