ROPER, Christopher (1508/9-58/59), of Lynsted, Kent.
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Family and Education
b. 1508/9, yst. s. of John Roper of St. Dunstan’s, Canterbury and Eltham by Jane, da. of Sir John Fineux of Faversham and Herne; bro. of William. educ. Corpus, Oxf. 2 July 1524; G. Inn, adm. 1528. m. Elizabeth, da. of Christopher Blore of Rainham, 3s. 5da.1
Escheator, Kent and Mdx. 1550-1; commr. relief, Kent 1550; j.p.q. 1554.2
Christopher Roper was his mother’s youngest and favourite son. If she had had her way he and not the eldest, William, would have inherited the Ropers’ old home in Canterbury, but in 1524 her husband left this to her for life and then to William. He provided for Christopher out of the family’s other residence at Eltham, from which his mother was to receive £13 6s.8d. for his maintenance and education until he was 24, and feoffees were to pay him initially a further £20 a year and then the entire yield. This arrangement was doubtless one of the issues in the dispute over the will which had to be resolved by a private Act of Parliament in 1529 (21 Hen. VIII, c.23): it was there laid down that each of the younger sons should receive lands worth £26 13s.8d. a year, and in the event Christopher Roper was to inherit the lodge at Lynsted which his mother had brought to her marriage.3
The decision that Roper should enter Gray’s Inn, instead of following his father and brother at Lincoln’s Inn, must also have been his mother’s, for it was there that her own father the lord chief justice had learned his law; it was she, too, who would later cultivate the connexion with another member of the inn, Thomas Cromwell. Roper was in Cromwell’s service by 1535, the year which saw the death of William Roper’s mentor Sir Thomas More, and three years later he was included in a list of the minister’s servants considered suitable for advancement by the King. It was a judgment at variance with his mother’s admission that in his youth he preferred pleasure to profit, and there is no evidence that it was acted upon; a dozen years were to pass before Roper was named to his only office as escheator of Kent. His Commons career was to be correspondingly brief, being limited to the 31 days of the Parliament of March 1553. Lacking any personal claim to sit for Rochester beyond a marital connexion with the village of Rainham, some miles east of the city, Roper could have done so only because his brother William, one of the Rochester Members in at least the two previous Parliaments, was on this occasion not re-elected. It is doubtful whether there was more to the exchange than fraternal goodwill, for if the younger Roper’s Cromwellian background may have told in his favour under the Duke of Northumberland, he was to yield nothing to his brother in his subsequent loyalty to Mary. When Sir Thomas Wyatt II sought to raise Kent in rebellion, Roper was taken prisoner for proclaiming him a traitor, a service later rewarded by a lease of Maidstone rectory and other former church property in the county. This, with his lease of the manor of Tonge, near Lynsted, from Jane Seymour in 1537 (renewed by the crown in 1540) and his purchase or lease of Panthurst Park, near Sevenoaks Weald, from (Sir) George Harper and Thomas Culpeper in 1556, seem to have been his only additions to his inheritance.4
Roper’s will of 20 May 1558 was Catholic in tone and content, with its provision for a light to burn night and day for a year before the sacrament in Lynsted church and its bequests to the Observant Franciscans of Greenwich and to the Dominicans in Smithfield, London. His lands he bequeathed to his wife and executrix while she lived, with remainder successively to his three sons and to William Roper, the loving eldest brother whom he named overseer. He died between 18 June 1558, when he and William acquired the wardship of Elizabeth Parke (who was to marry his son John), and 18 Apr. 1559 when the will was proved. In 1616 John Roper was created 1st Baron Teynham.5