Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Reginald Pole Refuses to Return to England

 From Jane Wertman:

Reginald Pole was the third son of Countess Margaret Pole – one of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the War of the Roses, and one of only two women in 16th-century England to be a peer in her own right (the other was Anne Boleyn…). As was true of many younger sons, he joined the Church, with much of his education funded by Henry VIII. Pole waffled a bit when Henry asked him to support his divorce from Aragon, but his refusal quickly escalated into real opposition. He published a treatise, Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione, which utterly rejected Henry’s position and denied the authority of the English church. Of course, he was smart enough to do this from a safe distance – he was in Italy, and out of Henry’s grasp. Henry tried to get him to return, but this letter delivers his clear reply.

A brief summary of the consequences of this letter are in order here. Henry’s anger at this letter only spurred Reginald Pole on. Because of his royal blood, he was seen as a possible claimant to the throne – especially if he married the Lady Mary; this became an underlying element of all his machinations. The Pope named him a cardinal in 1536, then in 1537 put him in charge of organizing assistance for the Pilgrimage of Grace (and related rebellions). In 1539, Pole was given the task of trying to organize an embargo against England, which would presumably spur additional rebellions that would place him (and Mary) on the throne. For a while, Henry tried to have him assassinated but was unsuccessful. By 1541, Henry had enough and simply took his revenge on Margaret Pole, whose botched execution was one of the worst examples of Henrician justice (you can read about it in my May 27 blog post). Reginald was relatively quiet after that, though when Mary did come to the throne, she named him Archbishop of Canterbury to replace the disgraced (and reformist) Thomas Cranmer….(Read more.)


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