Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole

Infobox Archbishop of Canterbury
Full name = Reginald Cardinal Pole

birth_name =
began = 1556
term_end = November 17, 1558
predecessor = Thomas Cranmer
successor = Matthew Parker
birth_date = March 1500 | birthplace =
death_date = November 17, 1558 | deathplace =
tomb = Corona Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral, Kent|

Reginald Pole (1500 – November 17, 1558) was an English prelate, a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury during the Counter Reformation against the Church of England.

To the reign of Queen Mary I

Pole was born in at Stourton Castle, Staffordshire, England in March 1500 [History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851] to Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. His maternal grandparents were George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Isabella Neville, Duchess of Clarence.

He was a member of Magdalen College, Oxford from about 1512 until about 1519. He was taught by William Latimer and Thomas Linacre, and admitted BA on 27 June 1515. In February 1518 Henry granted him the deanery of Wimborne Minster, Dorset; after which he was Dean of Exeter [ [ Britannia Biographies] ] .

In 1521, Pole went to Padua, where he met such leading Renaissance figures as Pietro Bembo, Gianmatteo Giberti (formerly pope Leo X's datary and chief minister), Jacopo Sadoleto, Gianpietro Carafa (the future Pope Paul IV), Rodolfo Pio, Otto Truchsess, Stanislaus Hosius, Cristoforo Madruzzo, Giovanni Morone, Pier Paolo Vergerio the younger, Pietro Martire Vermigli (Peter Martyr) and Vettor Soranzo. The last three were eventually condemned as heretics by the Catholic Church, with Vermigli - as a well-known Protestant theologian - having a significant share in the Reformation in Pole's native England. infobox cardinalstyles
cardinal name=Reginald Cardinal Pole
dipstyle=His Eminence
offstyle=Your Eminence

His studies were partly financed by his election as a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, on 14 February 1523, which allowed him to study abroad for three years.

Pole returned home in July 1526, when he went to France, escorted by Thomas Lupset. Henry VIII offered him the archbishopric of York or the diocese of Winchester if he would support his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Pole withheld his support and went into self-imposed exile in France and Italy in 1532, continuing his studies in Padua and Paris.

The final break between Pole and the King followed upon Thomas Cromwell, Cuthbert Tunstall, Thomas Starkey, and others addressing questions to Pole on behalf of the King. He answered by sending Henry a copy of his published treatise "Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione" which, besides being a theological reply to the questions, was a strong denunciation of the king's policies.

The incensed King, with Pole himself out of his reach, took a terrible revenge upon Pole's family members. Though Pole's mother and his elder brother had written to him in reproof of his attitude and action, the King did not spare them. In November 1538, Reginald Pole's eldest brother Henry Pole, Baron Montagu, another son (of Margaret Pole) and other relatives were arrested on a charge of treason, though Thomas Cromwell had previously written that they had "little offended save that he [the Cardinal] is of their kin", they were committed to the Tower of London, and in January, with the exception of his brother Geoffrey Pole, they were executed.

Reginald Pole's mother Margaret was also arrested, kept for several years under severe conditions in the Tower, and finally executed in 1541, protesting her innocence until the last - a highly publicised case which was considered a grave miscarriage of justice both at the time and later. Pole is known to have said that he would "...never fear to call himself the son of a martyr". She was beatified many centuries later, in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII).

Aside from the aforementioned oppositional treatise, King's Henry's harshness towards the Pole family might have derived from Pole's mother, Margaret Pole née Plantagenet, being considered the last member of the House of Plantagenet. Under some circumstances, that fact could have made Reginald - until he definitely chose for the Church - a possible contender for the throne itself. Indeed, in 1535 Pole was considered by Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial ambassador to England, as a possible husband for Princess Mary, later Mary I of England.

Pole was made cardinal under Pope Paul III in 1536, over Pole's own objections. In 1542 he was appointed as one of the three papal legates to preside over the Council of Trent, and after the death of Pope Paul III in 1549 Pole at one point had nearly the two-thirds of the vote he needed to become Pope himself [CathEncy|title=Reginald Pole|url=] at the papal conclave, 1549-1550.

Later Years

The death of Edward VI Tudor on 6 July 1553 and the accession of Mary I to the throne of England hastened Pole's return from exile, as papal legate. In 1554 Cardinal Pole came to England to receive the kingdom back into the Roman fold. However, Mary and Emperor Charles V deliberately delayed him until 20 November 1554, due to apprehension that Pole might oppose the Queen's forthcoming marriage to Charles' son, Philip II of Spain. [cite web |url= |title= Mary Tudor|accessdate=2007-07-05 |format= |work= ]

Pole's return was followed by an Act of Parliament, the Revival of the Heresy Acts. This revived three former Acts against heresy; the letters patent of 1382 of King Richard II, an Act of 1401 of King Henry IV, and an Act of 1414 of King Henry V. All three of these laws had been repealed under King Henry VIII and King Edward VI. [cite book |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors=Henry Gee and William John Hardy (editors) |title=Documents Illustrative of English Church History |year=1914 |publisher=Macmillan |location=London |isbn= ] On 13 November 1555, Cranmer was officially deprived of the See of Canterbury. [cite web |url=
title= Marian Government Policies|accessdate=2007-07-05 |format= |work=
] Under Mary's rule, Pole was finally ordained as a priest on 20 March 1556 and raised to Archbishop of Canterbury, an office he would hold until his death. As well as his religious duties, he was in effect the Queen's chief minister and adviser. Many former enemies, including Thomas Cranmer, signed recantations affirming their religious belief in transubstantiation and papal supremacy. [^ The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church by F. L. Cross (Editor), E. A. Livingstone (Editor) Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition p.428 (March 13, 1997) ] Despite this, which should have absolved them under Mary’s own Heresy Act, the Queen could not forget their responsibility for her mother's unhappy divorce. [ [ Thomas Cranmer ] ]

In 1555, Mary began burning Protestants for heresy, executing 220 men and 60 women before her death in 1558. Pole shares responsibility for these persecutions which - contrary to his intention - contributed to the ultimate victory of the English Reformation. [Pogson, Rex H. "Reginald Pole and the Priorities of Government in Mary Tudor's Church" in The Historical Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Mar., 1975), pp. 3-20] As the reign wore on, an increasing number of people turned against Mary and her government,cite book |last= Schama|first= Simon|authorlink= Simon Schama|title= A History of Britain 1: At the Edge of the World? |origyear= 2000|edition= |series= |date= |year= 2003|publisher= BBC Worldwide|location= London|isbn= 0 56 348714 3|pages= pp.272–273|chapter= Burning Convictions] and some people who had been indifferent to the English Reformation began turning against Catholicism. [Winston Churchill (1958), "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples"] cite book | last =Churchill | first =Winston | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The New World p.99 | work = | publisher =Dodd, Mead | year =1966 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate=] Writings such as John Foxe's 1568 Book of Martyrs, which emphasized the sufferings of the reformers under Mary, helped shape popular opinion against Roman Catholicism in England for generations. Roman Catholicism would remain outlawed in England (and then the United Kingdom) until the 19th century.cite book | last =Churchill | first =Winston | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =The Great Democracies | work = | publisher =Dodd, Mead | year =1966 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate=]

In 1557, Pope Paul IV imprisoned him in the castle of St Angelo (with others, including Egidio Foscherari and Giovanni Morone), on suspicion of being Lutherans. The prosecution entirely failed. Pole died in London on 17 November 1558, a few hours after Mary's death from illness. He was buried on the north side of the Corona at Canterbury Cathedral.


Pole was the author of a book "De Concilio" and treatises on the authority of the Roman pontiff and the Anglican Reformation of England, and of many important letters, full of interest for the history of the time, edited by Angelo Maria Quirini (five volumes, Brescia, 1744-57).

He is known for his strong condemnation of Machiavelli's book "The Prince", which he read while in Italy, and on which he commented: "I found this type of book to be written by an enemy of the human race. It explains every means whereby religion, justice and any inclination toward virtue could be destroyed" [Dwyer, p. xxiii] .

In Fiction

Cardinal Pole is a major character in the historical novel "The Trusted Servant" by Alison Macleod. The book's (fictional) protagonist is sent by King Henry VIII to assassinate Pole in Italy. He relents and saves the Cardinal from a fellow assassin, and is taken into Pole's service.

As first presented to the reader, Cardinal Pole is a kindly, indeed almost saintly man, highly liberal and tolerant by the standards of the Catholic Church of the time, and the protagonist becomes very devoted to his service. But when Pole returns to England after King Henry's death and the accession of Mary, he becomes more and more tyrannical and oppressive: exasperated with the recalcitrance of the English, their refusal to embrace Catholicism and their sympathy for the underground Protestant sects.

Macleod also suggests that Pole was subconsciously guided by vindictiveness against the English, for having failed to stand by his mother when she was put to death under the old King. Finally, the protagonist breaks with him and helps condemned Protestants to escape.

When last seen in the book, Pole is presented as a tragic, broken man, whose dreams and ideals have all turned to ashes, and who while facing the hostility the Protestants is suddenly also attacked by the Pope in Rome, his former friend Caraffa. In the novel "Q" by Luther Blissett, while not appearing himself, Pole is mentioned many times as the book's subject is the upheavals caused by the Reformation and the Catholic Church's response to it during the 16th century.


* T. Phillips, "History of the Life of Reginald Pole" (two volumes, Oxford, 1764), the earliest English.
* A. M. Stewart, "Life of Cardinal Pole" (London, 1882)
* F. G. Lee, "Reginald Pole, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury: An Historical Sketch" (London, 1888)
* Athanasius Zimmermann, "Kardinal Pole: sein Leben und seine Schriften" (Regensberg, 1893)
* James Gairdner, "The English Church in the Sixteenth Century" (London, 1903)
* Martin Haile, "Life of Reginald Pole" (New York, 1910)
* Cardinal Pole is a major character in the historical novel "The Loyal Servant" by Alison Macleod.
*Catholic Encyclopedia|Reginald Pole []


External links

* [ "The role of the Venetian Oligarchy" by Webster Tarpley (includes detailed discussion of Pole's activities in Italy)]
* [ "Queen Mary" by Alfred Tennyson, "Enter Cardinal Pole"]
* [ Henry Cole, Cardinal Pole's Vicar General, tries to restore Catholicism at Cambridge University]
*worldcat id|lccn-n50-20449

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