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Portrait of Cardinal Pole, c. 1556. Unknown Artist. NPG.
Cardinal Pole (1500-1558)

REGINALD POLE (1500-1558), cardinal and archbishop of Canterbury, was son — probably the third — of Sir Richard Pole (d. 1505), by his wife Margaret, who was of the blood royal [see Pole, Margaret]. Born in March 1500 at Stourton Castle in Staffordshire, he was carefully brought up by his mother, and then spent five years at the school of the Charterhouse at Sheen. Henry VIII was much interested in his education, and paid £12 for his maintenance at school in 1512.

Soon afterwards he was sent to Oxford, to the house of the Carmelite friars. Subsequently he matriculated as a nobleman at Magdalen College. On 8 June 1513 the king ordered the prior of St. Frideswide's to give him a pension, which he was bound to give to a clerk of the king's nomination, until he could provide him with a competent benefice. Pole's studies at Oxford were directed by Thomas Linacre and William Latimer (1460-1545), and he is said to have attracted much attention in a disputation of some days' duration when still almost a boy. In June 1515 he graduated B.A. While a youth, and still a layman, he was presented to the collegiate church of Wimborne minster, the incumbent of which bore the title of dean, to the prebend of Boscombe (19 March 1517-18), and that of Yatminster Secunda (10 April 1519), both in Salisbury Cathedral. From infancy his mother had destined him for the church, and he intended taking orders later in life.

In February 1521, at his own wish, he was sent by the king to Italy, with £100 towards his expenses for a year. At Padua, in May and June, he formed a friendship with the scholars Longolius, Bembo, Nicolas Leonicus, and his own countryman, Thomas Lupset. His revenues from his benefices, together with the king's allowance, enabled him to practise much hospitality. Yet he preferred a quiet life, and was embarrassed on his arrival by the attentions paid to him as the king of England's kinsman by the magistrates of Padua. Longolius died in his house there, and left him his library . Pole wrote the anonymous life prefixed to Longolius's collected writings (Florence, 1524).

He sent congratulations to Clement VII on his election (19 Nov. 1523),and received a kindly acknowledgment encouraging him in his studies. Erasmus opened a correspondence with him in 1525, introducing to him the Polish scholar John à Lasco, and he himself wrote to Cardinal Wolsey that he was everywhere much sought after — though he modestly believed it was on the king's account rather than his own. He was urged by his family to return to England early in 1525; but he lingered in order to visit Rome, where he was received with great marks of distinction. He returned to England in 1527 after five years' absence. He met with a very cordial welcome from the king and queen, but continued his studies at the Carthusian monastery at Sheen.

During his absence from England, on 14 Feb. 1523-4 he was nominated fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, by Richard Foxe or Fox, bishop of Winchester, the founder, but he never seems to have been admitted. On 12 Aug. 1527, though he was still a layman, he was elected dean of Exeter. In 1529, anxious to avoid the crisis likely to spring from the king's proceedings against Queen Catherine, he obtained with some difficulty the king's permission to pursue his studies at Paris. Henry paid him the usual £100 'for one year's exhibition beforehand,' in October 1529.1 At Paris he soon received a letter from the king requiring him to obtain from the university there opinions in his favour respecting the projected divorce. He sought to excuse himself on the ground of inexperience, and the king ultimately sent Edward Fox to assist him. But the work being only to obtain opinions — which he could collect without compromising himself — Pole did what he could, and won commendations at home for 'acting stoutly in the king's behalf.'2 Three hundred crowns, apparently in addition to the yearly exhibition, were remitted on 29 April 1530 'to Mr. Pole, the king's scholar.'3 The university of Paris came to the decision which Henry desired, owing to the interference of Francis I. In July Pole, by the king's orders, returned home.

Although he withdrew to the charterhouse at Sheen, he was invited, on Wolsey's death in November, to accept either the vacant archbishopric of York or the bishopric of Winchester. The king's aim was to obtain his avowed support for his divorce, and the archbishopric was vehemently pressed on him by the king's friends. Pole entertained genuine affection for the king, and hesitated to affront him by a refusal; but no bribe could induce him to palter with his convictions. In a moment of weakness he said he believed he had found a means of satisfying the king without offence to his own conscience. The king gave him an interview at York Place. At first Pole was tongue-tied. At length he exhorted Henry not to ruin his fame and destroy his soul by perseverance in wrong. The king in fury put his hand to his dagger. Pole left the chamber in tears.4

At the same time Pole, at the king's request, wrote a paper, very likely just after the interview, giving his opinion on the king's scruples and how to deal with them. The treatise itself does not seem to be extant, but a full account of its contents is given by Cranmer in a letter to Anne Boleyn's father [Thomas Boleyn], written on 13 June 1531, in which he says that it was 'much contrary to the king's purpose;' but the arguments were set forth with such wisdom and eloquence that if they were published it would be impossible, Cranmer thought, to persuade people to the contrary [see Cranmer's Letter to Lord Wiltshire]. Pole pointed out the danger of reviving controversies as to the succession, then he attacked the arguments on the king's side, and urged Henry to defer to the pope's judgment. The king took Pole's counsel in good part, and was almost inclined to abandon the divorce. Thomas Cromwell, however, whom Pole regarded as an emissary of Satan, induced him to persevere.

With deep dislike Pole saw soon afterwards the concession of royal supremacy wrung from the clergy. He was present, probably with a deputation of the clergy, when the King refused a large sum voted to him by convocation unless it were granted to him as head of the church of England. He may also have been present in convocation in the same year when the title, with the qualification 'as far as the law of Christ allows,' was silently conceded, after three days' strenuous opposition. His statement that he was absent when the royal supremacy was enacted clearly refers to the parliamentary act of 1534. He was then at Padua. Pole, apprehensive of the further consequences of Cromwell's predominance, petitioned to be allowed to devote himself to the study of theology abroad. He told Henry that if he remained in England and had to attend parliament (as he would be expected to do) while the divorce was discussed, he must speak according to his conscience. In January 1532 Henry thought it prudent to let him go. He and Henry parted good friends, and the king continued his pensions.

Pole settled at Avignon for a few months, but soon removed to Padua, where he spent some years, paying frequent visits to Venice. From Padua he wrote to the king a carefully considered letter, full of powerful arguments against the divorce, whose wisdom the king and Cromwell praised. Meanwhile his friends in England caused him to be instituted in his absence (20 Dec. 1532) to the vicarage of Piddletown in Dorset, a living in the patronage of his family. He resigned it three years later. In order to hold it he was dispensed 'propter defectum susceptionis sacrorum ordinum.'5 At Padua he took into his house the great classical professor Lazzaro Buonamici, with the view of re-studying Greek and Latin literature; but the thought of what was going on in England induced him to devote himself more ardently to philosophy and theology. At Venice or at Padua Pole made the acquaintance of two lifelong friends — Gaspar Contarini, who was created a cardinal a year before himself, and Ludovico Priuli, a young Venetian nobleman, who became ardently attached to him. He came to know, too, Gian Pietro Caraffa, afterwards Paul IV, and, among other men of worth and genius, Ludovico Beccatelli, afterwards his secretary and biographer.

On Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn in 1533, and the disinheriting of Princess Mary, Queen Catherine and her nephew, Charles V, alike agreed that Pole's services might be employed in redressing the wrongs of the divorced queen and her daughter. The princess might, it was vaguely suggested, become his wife, and Yorkist and Tudor claims to the throne might thus be consolidated. It was only in June 1535 that Pole was made aware, in a letter from the emperor, of the proposal that he should interfere. His first feeling was alarm at the responsibility. But he agreed to make experiment of peaceful mediation after a method of his own.

Pole was anxious at this time to avoid all chance of a civil war in England, and Henry VIII had already offered him, he vainly hoped, an opportunity of promoting peace. In the latter part of 1534 the king had, through Thomas Starkey, who seems to have been Pole's chaplain at Padua, and was on a visit to England, requested Pole's opinion on the two points, whether marriage with a deceased brother's wife was permissible by divine law, and whether papal supremacy was of divine institution. If Pole could not agree with the royal view, Henry added, he must state his own candidly, and then come to England, where the king would find honourable employment for him in other matters. Starkey's letter reached Pole at Venice in April, and Pole asked for further time for study before coming home. Starkey meanwhile deemed it prudent to give the king some indication of Pole's general political views, and set them forth in the form of an imaginary dialogue between Pole and the now deceased Thomas Lupset. Pole was represented as in theory a reformer, strongly alive to the dangers of the prerogative, but entirely loyal to a king like Henry VIII, who was incapable of abusing it. Henry was not offended at an abstract theory expounded in this way.

The king caused Cromwell, in December 1534, to write to Pole with some impatience for his answer to the two questions. But his reply was taking the form of a long treatise, 'Pro Ecclesiasticae Unitatis Defensione,' which he did not finish till May 1536. His arguments were aimed at peacefully deterring Henry from further wrongdoing, and were solely intended for the king's eyes. The work was a severe criticism of his proceedings, written not without pain and tears, for the high estimate he had formed of Henry's character had been bitterly disappointed. The king, dissembling his indignation, repeated his wish that Pole should repair to England; but Pole alleged the severe laws the king had himself promulgated as a sufficient excuse. Letters from his nearest relatives at home threatened to renounce him if he did not return and make his peace with the king. His friends in Italy were alarmed lest he should, in spite of the manifest danger, revisit his country.

Paul III was consequently induced to summon him to Rome to a consultation about a proposed general council. With some reluctance he obeyed the call, and reached Rome in November 1530. He was lodged by the pope with great honour in the Vatican. Pole found himself at Rome the youngest and most energetic member of a committee summoned by Paul III, after consultation with Pole's friend Cardinal Contarini, to draw up a scheme for reforming the discipline of the church. The committee's report was published in 1538 (Concilium delectorum Cardinalium). Pole was still a layman, but it was thought well that he should now take deacon's orders and be made a cardinal. The prospect filled him with dismay, and he endeavoured to convince the pope that it was at least untimely. It not only would destroy his influence in England, but involve his family in some danger. The pope at first yielded to these representations; but others were so strongly in favour of his promotion that he returned to his original purpose. The papal chamberlain was despatched to inform Pole of the final resolution, along with a barber to shave his crown; and Pole submitted. He was made a cardinal on 22 Dec. 1536, deriving his title from the church of St. Mary in Cosmedin. In the following February he was nominated papal legate to England.

The news of Pole's cardinalate enraged Henry VIII, but he forbore to show any open sign of anger. Popular disaffection was spreading in the north [see Pilgrimage of Grace]. A conciliatory attitude was needed to prevent a disastrous development. A letter to Pole was drawn up on 18 Jan. in the name of the king's council, and was despatched apparently on the 20th, after being signed by Norfolk, Cromwell, and others, remonstrating with him on the tone of his book and of his letters to the king, but accepting conditionally a suggestion thrown out by himself that he should discuss in Flanders, with commissioners sent by the king, the matters in dispute. It was insisted that he should go thither without commission from any one. Otherwise recognition of the pope's authority would be assumed. Pole replied from Rome on 10 Feb. that he had only obeyed the king's request in writing, and had done his utmost to keep the contents of the book secret from all but the king himself. He was ready, however, to treat with the king's commissioners in France or Flanders, but it must be in his capacity of legate.

Pole was straightway despatched by the pope to England, and carried with him money with which, it was understood, he was to encourage the northern rebels against Henry VIII. On the journey he resolved to appeal to Francis I, the ally of Henry, and to persuade the French king to exhort Henry to return to the Roman church as his only safety. With Giberti, bishop of Verona, a known friend of England, to whom Henry, if he disliked receivings cardinal, might give a more favourable reception, Pole accordingly set out. After five weeks' travelling, they reached Lyons on 24 March. Henry VIII had crushed the northern rebellion before Pole left Rome. But Francis I and the emperor were at war, and neither wished to offend Henry lest he should take part with the other against him. Henry demanded of Francis I that Pole should be delivered up to him as a traitor. Francis promised not to receive Pole as legate. Though the cardinal made a public entry into Paris, he was informed that his presence in France was inconvenient, and that he must leave the country. Much mortified, he withdrew to Cambray, which was neutral territory, and remained there more than a month, awaiting a safe-conduct from Mary, queen of Hungary, regent of the Netherlands, in order to get safely away. But the English ambassador at her court insisted that if he entered imperial territory he should be delivered up to Henry, and efforts were made by English agents to assassinate or kidnap him. Queen Mary excused herself from seeing him, and sent an escort in May to convey him from Cambray to Liege, without stopping anywhere more than a single night. Within the territory of the cardinal of Liege he was safe from further demands for his extradition.

The cardinal of Liege (Erard de la Marck) lodged Pole in his own palace, and with princely liberality pressed upon his acceptance large sums of money for his expenses. No stranger could enter or leave Liege unexamined while Pole was there. And he remained there nearly three months. At length the pope ordered him to return to Rome, which he reached in October. He remained there till the following spring (1538), when he accompanied Paul III to the meeting at Nice between Francis I and Charles V. At the first interview of the emperor and the pope the former desired to be made acquainted with Pole, who accordingly waited on the emperor at Villafranca, and was very cordially received.

After the meeting he spent some time at his friend Priuli's country house near Venice, and thence moved to Padua. There news reached him of the arrest in England of his brother Sir Geoffrey. He himself, in Venetian territory, was beset by spies and would-be assassins — one of them the plausible scoundrel Philips who had betrayed the martyr Tindal. In October he removed to Rome. Not many weeks later he was refused an audience by the pope, because he had just received such distressing news of Pole's family that he could not bear to look him in the face. His eldest brother, Lord Montague, had been arrested on a charge of treason, and with him his mother and some dear and intimate friends.

Pole felt that his own griefs were those of his country and even of Europe. The only cure was to be sought in a restoration of papal authority in England by a league of Christian princes against Henry. He therefore accepted a mission from the pope to visit the emperor in Spain, and afterwards Francis I. He left Rome on 27 Dec. 1538, and, to avoid Henry's hired assassins, travelled in disguise, with few attendants. By the end of January 1539 he reached Barcelona, and he was with the emperor at Toledo in the middle of February. Sir Thomas Wyatt, the English ambassador, vainly demanded his extradition as a traitor. Charles replied that 'if he were his own traitor, coming from the Holy Father at Rome, he could not refuse him audience.' In other respects he was not more successful than before. Charles V replied that he was not inclined to take offensive measures against England until he was sure of the co-operation of France.

While on his return journey, at Gerona in Catalonia, Pole learned that an English exile was seeking to assassinate him in hope of earning pardon from Henry for past misdeeds. This knowledge, combined with a fear that an immediate visit to France might lead to closer union between England and the emperor, led him to return for a time to Carpentras, a neutral place in the papal territory near Avignon. He, however, commissioned Parpaglia, abbot of San Saluto, a Piedmontese belonging to his household, who had been with him at Toledo, to deliver his message to Francis and inquire if he should come himself. Parpaglia was received politely, but was told that Pole's presence in France was not desired. Pole despatched Parpaglia to Rome to give a full account of the two missions. Pole's expenses had not only far exceeded his allowances, but had absorbed nearly all his savings.

The pope was satisfied that the failure of the missions was not due to Pole, and on the death of Cardinal Campeggio, who was titular bishop of Salisbury, offered the see to Pole. Pole, who was still at Carpentras, declined it. Meanwhile, in England, parliament had passed an act of attainder against Pole and all his family, with the exception of Sir Geoffrey. When the news of his mother's execution reached him,he said, 'I am now the son of a martyr. This is the king's reward for her care of his daughter's education;' but added calmly, 'Let us be of good cheer. We have now one patron more in heaven.'

Deeply depressed, he found his best comfort in tbe quietude of Carpentras, and with much reluctance obeyed the pope's summons to Rome in 1540. The pope assigned him a bodyguard; and, in order to supply him with means suitable to his birth and station, conferred on him what was called the legation of the patrimony, that is to say, the secular government of that portion of the States of the Church called the patrimony of St. Peter. Viterbo was the capital of the district which lay between the Tiber and Tuscany. Pole's government was distinguished by a leniency strongly contrasting with Henry VIII's severity. After the arrest of two Englishmen, who, on examination, were compelled to confess that they had been sent to assassinate him, he remitted the capital penalty, and merely sent them for a few days to the galleys.

In 1541, when Contarini was despatched by the pope to the diet at Ratisbon, he took counsel with Pole, and never was the breach between Rome and the protestants more nearly healed than by their able and conciliatory policy. Pole appreciated clearly the fact that the heart of the controversy lay in the doctrine of justification, on which, indeed, his own views were not unlike those of Luther, and on this subject an understanding was almost arrived at.

In 1542 he was one of the three legates appointed by the pope to open the council of Trent; but delays followed, and the council only met for despatch of business in December 1540. He spent some time of the interval in writing the treatise 'De Concilio.' He was with his two colleagues at Trent when a solemn commencement was made on 13 Dec., after which there was an adjournment over Christmas till 7 Jan. 1546. Then matters proceeded smoothly till the fifth session in June, when a rheumatic attack compelled Pole to leave for his friend Priuli's country house at Padua, whence he corresponded with the council, and gave his opinion on the decrees it passed. The subject at that time was justification, and ungenerous sneers have been pointed at his illness as a diplomatic one, because his own view in that matter inclined to the protestant side.

He returned to Rome on 16 Nov. by permission of the pope, who found his services of value in his correspondence with foreign courts. When news reached Pole of the death of Henry VIII (January 1547), he was anxious that the pope should use the emperor's aid to reclaim his native country from schism. He strongly urged the pope to send legates to the emperor and to France; while he wrote to the privy council, representing that now it would be necessary to redress many wrongs done during the late reign, but that he would not press those done to himself and his own family more than was consistent with the public peace. He warned the council, however, that no firm foundation could be laid for future prosperity without the Holy See, and that the English people were fortunate in having a pope to whom their interests were very dear. The privy council declined to receive his messenger.

Pole was not discouraged. Next year he sent to England his trusted servant Throgmorton to remonstrate on the incivility with which he had been treated, and to point out the dangers of their situation, especially if the emperor broke with England on account of changes in religion. Throgmorton failed to obtain an audience, but received an indirect answer from the Protector Somerset that any letters the cardinal might write privately would be fully considered, and that any emissary he might choose to send into France or Flanders, to speak for him, would have a passport sent him to come to England.

A few months later, on 6 April 1549, Pole despatched two special messengers to the protector, and a letter to Dudley, earl of Warwick, offering, if they declined to allow his own return, to repair to some neutral place near the English Channel to discuss points of difference. Although his messengers this time were treated with courtesy, they were dismissed with a written answer repudiating any wish for conciliation. Pole wrote, the letter said, like a foreign prince. They in England had no need of the pope. If Pole wished to return to his country, the council would mediate for his pardon; and to show him the true state of matters there with respect to religion, they sent him a copy of the new prayer-book approved by parliament.

Pole still persevered, and again sent two messengers to England with a long letter (7 Sept. 1549) to the protector, in which he pointed out that he had done no offence, either to Edward or even to his father, for which he should require a pardon. As to their proceedings in religion, he was not convinced of their sincerity. While he was concluding, news reached him of the rebellions in Norfolk and the west of England, which seemed a sufficient commentary on all that he had said. Among the fifteen articles of the western rebels, the twelfth was a demand that Cardinal Pole should be sent for from Rome and admitted to the king's council.

On 10 Nov. 1549 Pole's friend Paul III died, one of his last acts being to confer upon Pole the abbacy of Gavello or Canalnuovo in Polesina. There was much betting at bankers' shops in Rome as to his successor, and Pole's name soon distanced all competitors. One evening two cardinals came to visit Pole in his cell, and begged him, as he had already two-thirds of the votes of the conclave, to come into the chapel, where they would make him pope by ' doration.' Pole, who was as much impressed with the responsibilities as with the dignity of St. Peter's chair, induced them to put the ceremony off till the morning, and thus lost his chance. His supporters were mainly those cardinals who favoured the emperor, and they remained steady to him throughout the protracted contest. But towards its close the French party gained head; a compromise was thought advisable, and Pole himself cordially agreed to the election of Cardinal de Monte, who then easily carried the day (8 Feb. 1550), and took the name of Julius III.

Pole, it is said, in the expectation of being elected, composed an oration to thank the assembled cardinals. He undoubtedly prepared a treatise, 'De Summo Pontifice,' on the powers and duties of the papal office. The new pope, who had not favoured Pole's own claim, was greatly touched by his disinterestedness. Though in June 1550 he conferred on another cardinal the legation of the patrimony given to Pole by his predecessor, he charged the revenues with a pension of one hundred crowns for Pole, and appointed him one of three cardinals to draw up the bull for the resumption of the council at Trent. The emperor, too, gave Pole a pension of two thousand ducats out of the see of Burgos, and another out of that of Granada; but these were irregularly paid. The council of Trent was abruptly suspended in April 1552 in consequence of the war in Europe, and Pole, anxious to be out of the turmoil both of war and politics, retired, with the pope's leave, in the spring of 1553 to the monastery of Maguzzano on the Lago di Garda belonging to the Benedictine order, of which he had for some years been cardinal protector.

Here he acceded to the wish of his friends to prepare for publication his treatise 'Pro Defensione,' which had been set up in type with the pope's sanction but without Pole's knowledge and in his absence from Rome in 1539. The text apparently followed a first draft divided into four books: the manuscript sent to Henry VIII (which is now in the Record Office) was one connected treatise. There were also some variations, the most important of which were the passages alluding to the king's connection with Mary Boleyn, which in the manuscript sent to the king he suppressed. All that the book needed was a preface. This Pole now drew up in the form of a letter to Edward VI, in which he explained, as delicately as he could, the circumstances which had led him to compose the work, and vindicated his own loyalty and regard for the late king's best interests. But before this letter was sent to press Edward VI was dead, and the preface remained in manuscript till the middle of the last century, when it was included by Quirini in the great edition of Pole's correspondence [published in Brescia, 1744-57].

The treatise itself appeared, without any preface or date of publication, in 1554. Next year a second edition was published by protestant hands in Germany, with a number of anti-papal tracts appended, and a letter prefixed from the pen of Vergerius (once a papal legate, but then a protestant), repeating, with strong party spirit, an old insinuation that the work had been kept back from publication dishonestly. Pole was more troubled by other malicious insinuations made in past years against his character at Rome. His rivals in the papal election had imputed to him heresy in doctrine, overgreat lenity in his government at Viterbo, and personal impurity. He was moved to write a defence of himself, which Cardinal Caraffa wisely advised him not to publish. As others, however, took a different view, he only refrained in deference to the pope himself, to whom he referred the matter. The scandal that he had a natural child rested on the fact that he had rescued a poor English girl, whose mother had died at Rome, from the danger of an immoral life by placing her in a Roman convent. As Cardinal Caraffa, Pole's warm friend hitherto, disbelieved these imputations, it is not quite clear how they led to a temporary coolness on his part. Such, however, is the fact, and, though Caraffa soon confessed his error and expressed the highest esteem for Pole, some grudge remained, and was revived a few years later, when Caraffa became Paul IV.

The news of Edward VI's death, soon followed by that of Mary's bloodless triumph over the factious attempt to prevent her succession [see Lady Jane Grey, reached Pole at La Garda early in August. He at once wrote to the pope of the hopeful prospect of recovering England from disorder and schism. Julius III had already taken action, and sent to Pole briefs and a commission constituting him legate to Queen Mary as well as to the emperor and to Henry II of France, through whose territory he might pass on his way to England. On this Pole wrote to the queen congratulating her on her accession, and asking directions as to the time and mode in which he might best discharge his legation and restore papal authority. The queen shared his anxiety, but in other quarters the opinion prevailed that England was far too unsettled to receive a legate yet. The emperor held that Mary ought to be married to his son Philip before the relations of England to the see of Rome could be satisfactorily adjusted, and deemed it prudent to keep Pole out of the way till that marriage was accomplished.

In England it was suggested that Pole should come to England and marry the queen himself. Pole had no such aspirations, and wrote to the emperor of the great importance of immediately reconciling England with Rome. But the more worldly-minded pope, Julius III, perceived that postponement was inevitable, and, in order to preserve Pole's mission from an appearance of undignified inactivity, made over to him the unpromising task of endeavouring to make peace between the emperor and Henry II. With this further mission imposed on him, Pole decided to visit the emperor at Brussels, and on his way arrived on 1 Oct. at Trent. Thence, in a second letter to Mary, he protested against the delay of the religious settlement.

Passing through the Tyrol, he stayed some days with the cardinal-bishop of Augsburg, at Dillingen, on the Danube, where he received Mary's reply to his first note, stating that she could not restore papal authority offhand. The messenger, Henry Penning, also brought secret messages bidding Pole travel slowly towards Brussels, where he would receive letters from her again. His nephew, Thomas Stafford, visited him at Dillingen, and spoke sharply against Mary's proposed union with Philip. Pole rebuked his presumption. A few days later, when three leagues from Dillingen, he was met by Don Juan de Mendoza, who told him that the emperor thought both his missions untimely, and wished him to come no further till a more favourable opportunity. Pole remonstrated, but returned to Dillingen to await the pope's commands.

That Pole when he went to England would at once have the first place in Mary's confidence was generally anticipated. Accordingly the emperor stopped even his messengers going over to her, and the agents of the English government did the same. Mary now wrote to him, in official Latin, that his immediate coming would be inexpedient, and subsequently that his coming as legate would be extremely dangerous. The pope endeavoured to meet the difficulty by granting Pole permission, if he found it expedient, to go to England as a private person, resuming the legatine capacity when he could do so with prudence. Pole, however, found a new envoy to plead his cause with the emperor in the person of Friar Peter Soto, once his majesty's confessor, now professor of divinity in the university of Dillingen, whom he sent to Brussels in November. Solo's persuasions seem to have been effective, or Charles himself felt that Pole could no longer do much harm at Brussels. On 22 Dec. the emperor invited him thither, and in January 1564 he gave him a magnificent reception.

Mary's marriage was practically concluded. Pole, who had kept silence on the subject, declared, when asked his private opinion by Soto, that he thought the queen would do well not to marry at all. Wyatt's rebellion in January [see Thomas Wyatt, the Younger] justified at once such an opinion and the emperor's argument that England was not 'mature' for a legate. Pole was driven to occupy himself with his second mission — for peace between the emperor and France. And as the emperor's ministers affirmed that the obstacles to an honourable peace did not proceed from him, he in February left Brussels for Paris. On his way he drew up a very able address to both princes, full of arguments, alike from past experience and from policy, against the continuance of the war. He arrived at St. Denis on 12 March; the French king received him at Fontainebleau on the 29th. He remained there till 5 April, and made a public entry into Paris on the 8th. He met with a very gratifying reception in France. Personally he produced a most favourable impression on Henry II; but the conferences, though encouraging, held out slender hopes of peace.

On his return to Brussels he was very coolly received by the emperor (21 April), owing to growing rumours of his dislike of Mary's marriage. Pole vindicated the reticence he had maintained in the first instance, and declared that he cordially accepted the queen's decision when announced to him, believing that it was taken with a view to reform religion, and, if possible, secure the succession. Pole soon found, however, that the emperor wished him to be recalled. Pole referred the matter to the pope, but in the meantime remained at Brussels, while Philip went to England and was married. On 11 July Pole sent Philip a letter of congratulation.

Pole had already been consulted by Mary in spiritual matters, and had rendered himself indispensable. Neither the church nor the realm of England had yet been reconciled to Rome. But numerous bishops and married clergy had already been deprived, and as their places could only be filled by recourse either to the papal legate or to the pope, the queen had presented twelve bishops to Pole, of whom six were consecrated on 1 April. The position of affairs rendered Polo's presence in England absolutely necessary, and the pope urged the emperor not to keep Pole away any longer. But Pole's attainder had still to be reversed in parliament, and, from what was reported of his views on the subject, the possessors of church property felt that his coming might threaten their titles. The pope was willing to remove the latter difficulty, and gave the legate large dispensing powers, so that holders of church lands might not be disturbed. But the emperor, whose interests were now the same with those of the king and queen, was not satisfied that these powers were large enough. The traditional unpopularity of legatine jurisdiction in England, which could only be exercised by royal license, made it moreover desirable to carefully weigh the terms on which it was conceded before the legate arrived.

Pole was in despair. He wrote a powerful letter of expostulation to Philip, declaring that he had been a year knocking at the palace gates, althdugh he had suffered long years of exile only for maintaining Mary's rights to the succession. Philip, in reply, sent over Renard, the imperial ambassador at the English court, to Brussels to confer with him. The main difficulty was about the church property in secular hands. Pole refused to recognise the title of the lay proprietors, or to strike a bargain with them on behalf of the church. But general and immediate restitution was clearly out of the question, and he at length consented to leave the matter in abeyance, in the hope that the king and queen and other holders of church property would as a matter of conscience restore what and when they could. The divines at Rome took the more practical view that the alienation of church goods was justifiable, if it proved the means of restoring a realm to the faith.

Renard was satisfied with Pole's assurance, and Lords Paget and Hastings (the latter a nephew of Pole's) were sent to conduct him to England (November). The queen prayed him to come not as legate, but only as cardinal and ambassador. On 12 Nov. parliament reversed his attainder. Travelling by gentle stages, on account of his weak health, through Ghent and Bruges, he was received at Calais on 19 Nov. with many peals of bells and salvoes of artillery. Next morning he reached Dover in a royal yacht.

There he was saluted by Anthony Browne, first viscount Montague, Thirlby, bishop of Ely, and a number of the nobility, who brought him a letter from the queen, to which Philip had added a few words in his own hand, thanking him for coming. Nicholas Harnsfield, archdeacon of Canterbury, inquired in behalf of the chapter whether he would be received in that city as legate. But he declined, as the realm was still schismatical, and the queen had not desired it. Attended by a large company of noblemen and gentlemen, Pole rode on to Canterbury, which he entered by torchlight. Harpsfield received him with a fine oration, which moved the company to tears. But Pole stopped his oratory when, towards the close, the speaker turned the discourse to eulogy of himself.

At Rochester a request that he would come to her as legate reached Pole from the queen. A patent had already been granted him on the 10th, in advance of his coming, to enable him to exercise legatine functions in England. At Gravesend his cavalcade had increased to five hundred horse. There the Earl of Shrewsbury and Tunstall, bishop of Durham, presented him with letters under the great seal, certifying the repeal of all laws passed against him in the two preceding reigns. From Gravesend he sailed up the Thames in the queen's barge, with his silver cross fixed in the prow (24 Nov.). The king and queen received him most cordially at Whitehall, and in the presence chamber he, under a canopy of state, formally presented to them the briefs of his legation. He then was conducted by Gardiner to Lambeth Palace.

Three days later (27 Nov.) Secretary Petre summoned the two houses of parliament to court to hear a declaration from the legate. Pole, despite a weak voice, delivered a long oration, in which he said he was come to restore the lost glory of the kingdom. On the feast of St. Andrew (30 Nov.) lords and commons presented a joint supplication to the king and queen, who thereupon publicly interceded with the legate to absolve them from their long schism and disobedience. Pole, who was seated, uttered a few words about the special grace shown by God to a repentant nation, then he rose and pronounced the words of absolution.

On 2 Dec., the first Sunday in Advent, he proceeded in state, at the invitation of the corporation, to St. Paul's. High mass was celebrated, and Bishop Gardiner preached from the text (Rom. xiii. 11), 'It is high time to awake out of sleep.' On Thursday following (6 Dec.) the two houses of convocation came before Pole at Lambeth, and, kneeling, received absolution 'for all their perjuries, schisms, and heresies.' The Act 1 & 2 Phil, and Mary, c. 8, for restoring the pope's supremacy, was passed in January 1555.

Julius III published a jubilee to celebrate the restoration of his authority in England, but he died on 5 March following. Pole was spoken of at Rome as his successor, but Marcellus II was elected on 9 April 1555. He survived his elevation only three weeks, dying on 30 April, and at the second vacancy both Queen Mary and the court of France bestirred themselves in Pole's favour. But on 23 May Cardinal Caraffa became pope as Paul IV. Pole himself, meanwhile, was more concerned about the re-establishment of peace in Europe. Peace conferences were presently arranged to take place at Marck, near Calais, on the borders of the two hostile countries of France and the empire, and he crossed to Calais in the middle of May to act as president. The prospect, however, did not improve, and within a month the conferences were broken off, and he returned to England.

On 10 June Paul IV held his first consistory at Rome, when English ambassadors declared their nation's repentance for past errors. Paul ratified all that Pole had done, and said no honour could be paid to him which would not fall short of his merits. After a month's stay in Rome the ambassadors returned to England with various bulls, one among them being directed against the alienation of church property. The bull might perhaps have been construed not to apply to the owners of church property in England, whose rights had already been recognised both by the legate and by the holy see. But it was felt at once to be contrary to the spirit of the compromise which Pole had accepted. He therefore insisted on the necessity of excepting England by name from its operation. A new bull to that effect was issued without hesitation, and was read at Paul's Cross in September.

Before Philip left England for Brussels in October he placed the queen specially under the care of the cardinal, who thereupon took up his abode in Greenwich Palace; and he paid a private visit to Pole himself to induce him to undertake a supervision of the council's proceedings. Pole acquiesced, apparently so far as to receive reports of what was done in the council, and to be a referee when matters of dispute arose; but otherwise he declined to interfere with secular business. He seems never to have attended the council.

The church's affairs were all-absorbing. Cranmer, the imprisoned archbishop of Canterbury, wished to confer with Pole personally. This the legate declined, as inconsistent with his office; but he wrote to Cranmer twice, in answer to letters to himself and to the queen, The proceedings taken in England against Cranmer were sent to Rome for judgment, where sentence of deprivation being pronounced against him, the administration of the see of Canterbury was committed on 11 Dec. to Pole. At the same time Pole was raised from the dignity of cardinal-deacon to that of cardinal-priest. The queen designed him to succeed Cranmer as archbishop. Though he felt it a serious additional responsibility, he agreed to accept the primacy, on the understanding that he should not be compelled again to go to Rome. With the bull appointing him to Canterbury, Pole received a brief confirming him in his old office of legate for the negotiation of peace. Immediately afterwards Pole rejoiced to find that, without his intervention, a five years' truce was arranged between the French king and Philip, now king of Spain, at Vaucelles (5 Feb. 1556).

On 4 Nov. 1555 Pole, having a warrant under the great seal for his protection, had caused a synod of both the convocations to assemble before him as legate in the chapel royal at Westminster. Gardiner's death on the 12th deprived Pole of very powerful aid in that reform and settlement of the affairs of the church which was the great object of this synod. It continued sitting till February following, when it was prorogued till November, the results of its deliberations being meanwhile published on 10 Feb. 1556, under the title 'Reformatio Angliae ex decretis Reginaldi Poli, Cardinalis, Sedis Apostolicae Legati.' In the first of these decrees it was enjoined that sermons and processions through the streets should take place yearly on the feast of St. Andrew, to celebrate the reconciliation of the realm to Rome.

On 20 March 1557, at Greenwich, he was ordained a priest at the Grey Friars church, and there next day, when Cranmer was burnt at Oxford, he celebrated mass for the first time. On Sunday the 22nd he was consecrated at the same church archbishop of Canterbury, by Heath, archbishop of York, assisted by Bonner and five other bishops of the province of Canterbury. He would have gone to Canterbury to be enthroned, but as the queen desired his presence in London, he deputed one of the canons to act as his proxy there, and received the pallium in great state on Ladyday at the church of St. Mary-le-Bow. On entering the church a paper was handed to him by the parishioners, requesting that he would favour them with a discourse, which he did extempore and with great fluency at the close of the proceedings.

After Gardiner's death Pole was elected chancellor of the university of Cambridge. He acknowledged the compliment in a graceful letter, dated from Greenwich 1 April 1556. On 26 Oct. following Oxford paid him the same honour, on the resignation of Sir John Mason. He had previously issued a commission for the visitation of both universities, and he soon manifested his activity in revising the statutes at Oxford. Ignatius Loyola had invited him to send English youths to Rome for their education, but Pole, much occupied with the reform of the English church and universities, apparently found no opportunity to accept this invitation. He was interested in Loyola's new Society of Jesus, and Loyola on his part followed with admiration Pole's work in England. They had corresponded at times from the days of Pole's government of Viterbo.

Both Mary and Pole had underestimated the difficulties of reconciling the realm to Rome. With regard to church property, the most ample papal indulgence could not allay all disquiet when the sovereign herself declined to take advantage of it, and was surrendering the religious property in the hands of the crown. The abrogated laws against heresy had been revived hy parliament just before Pole's arrival in England, and his connection with their enforcement was merely official. But, like Sir Thomas More and all good catholics of the old school, he thought the propagation of false opinion an evil for which no punishment was too extreme. With the actual conduct of prosecutions he seems to have had nothing to do. Three condemned heretics in Bonner's diocese were pardoned on an appeal to him. He merely enjoined a penance and gave them absolution.

But Pole had to face difficulties in an unexpected quarter. Paul IV, a hot-blooded Neapolitan, longed to drive the Spaniards out of Naples. War broke out between him and Philip in Italy, and Pole found that his sovereign had become the pope's enemy. He strongly urged on Philip the unseemliness of making war on Christ's vicar. But the storm extended itself; the pope made alliance with France, and the war so recently suspended between France and Spain was again renewed. Pole now urged Mary not to declare herself against France on account of her husband's quarrel. But Philip came back to England in March 1557 with the express object of implicating her in his struggle with France, upon which Pole retired to his cathedral city, explaining to him privately that the pope's legate could not visit the pope's enemy. In April, however, Paul IV withdrew all his legates from Philip's dominion and cancelled the legation of Pole. Sir Edward Carne, the English ambassador at Rome, remonstrated. England was neutral, and the condition of the country specially required a legate. The pope recognised his error, and lamely directed that the native legateship always attached to the see of Canterbury should not be included in the act of revocation.

The clouds did not disperse. England was dragged into the war, and Pole was summoned from Canterbury by the king and queen, on pain of their displeasure. Philip and Mary wrote joint letters to the pope for the full restoration of Pole's legateship. Paul said it would be unbecoming his dignity to give back to Pole what he had taken from him; besides, he wanted all his cardinals at Rome, to consult with him in those difficult times. Still, as Mary wished for a legate in England, he appointed in Pole's place her old confessor, Friar William Peto. A brief was sent to Pole relieving him of his legateship, and requiring his presence at Rome. Mary, against Pole's wish, directed the papal messenger to be detained at Calais, and requested Pole to continue his legatine functions. Pole refused, and despatched his auditor, Niccolo Ormanetto, to Rome to inform the pope of the state of the case. He objected that the pope had not only deprived him of his legation, but insinuated that he was a heretic; and that no pope had ever called a legate into suspicion on such grounds while actually exercising his legatine functions, or had replaced him by another, without first citing him to plead his own cause and justify himself of the charge. Ormanetto was admitted to an audience by the pope on 4 Sept., and spoke discreetly in Pole's behalf.

The fortunes of war had just compelled Paul to conclude a peace with Philip, and he found it expedient to be conciliatory. He assured Ormanetto that he considered the rumours of Pole's heresy malicious, and said that he would send his nephew, Cardinal Caraffa, to Flanders to arrange all differences. But to others he maligned Pole as a heretic with a malevolence almost suggesting insanity, and spoke with bitterness of all Pole's friends. He had imprisoned Pole's disciple, Cardinal Morone, mainly because he was a disciple of Pole. When the Venetian ambassador at Rome requested the pope to give the bishopric of Brescia to Pole's ardent admirer and constant companion in England and abroad, Priuli, Paul said he would never consent to bestow it on one who was of the English cardinal's 'accursed school and apostate household.'

Cardinal Caraffa, however, went to the Netherlands, and Pole restated his case to him in correspondence. He also wrote a treatise in his defence, recounting his past relations with the pope, but threw it, when completed, into the fire, saying, 'Thou shalt not uncover thy father's nakedness.' Finally he addressed to Paul, on 30 March 1558, a powerful letter, recommending his self-denying friend Priuli for the vacant bishopric of Brescia, vindicating himself from the vague charges of heresy, and asking for some explanation of the pope's recent treatment of himself.

In the course of the summer Pole fell mortally ill of a double quartan ague [Malaria] at Lambeth Palace. At seven in the morning of 17 Nov. Mary, who had been long ill, passed away; at seven in the evening of the same day Pole, too, died — so gently that he seemed to have fallen asleep. The cardinal's body lay in state at Lambeth till 10 Dec., when it was carried with great pomp to Canterbury. There it was buried on the 15th, and it still rests in St. Thomas's Chapel. The place was only marked by the inscription, which has now disappeared: 'Depositum Cardinalis Poli.'

Pole was a man of slender build, of middle stature, and of fair complexion, his beard and hair in youth being of a light brown colour. His eye was bright and cheerful, his countenance frank and open. Several good portraits of him exist, in all of which he appears in the vestments of a cardinal, with a biretta on his head. One picture by Sebastian del Piombo, now at St. Petersburg (once absurdly attributed to Raphael), is a full- faced portrait, with a large flowing, wavy beard. This must have been painted at Rome in the time of Paul III, when he was in his fullest vigour. A large portrait at Lambeth is said to have been copied for Archbishop Moore from an original in Italy. This picture, with others of the same type, shows him seated, with a paper in his hand. Lord Arundel of Wardour has a valuable small panel-picture (not by Titian, however, to whom it is attributed), showing somewhat careworn features and small blue-grey eyes. This portrait has been engraved by Lodge. Other small panel-portraits of value are preserved at Lambeth, at Hardwick Hall (belonging to the Duke of Devonshire), and in the National Portrait Gallery. Two early engravings also deserve notice: One, in the 'Herwologia' (1620), gives the best type of his appearance; the other, which is earlier, in Reusner's 'Icones' (Basle, 1589), shows a more aged face. There is much gentleness of expression in all his likenesses.

Pole's habits were ascetic. He kept a sumptuous table, but was himself abstemious in diet, taking only two meals a day, probably to the detriment of his health. He slept little, and commonly rose before daybreak to study. Though careful not to let his expenditure exceed his income, he never accumulated wealth, but gave liberally; and his property after his death seems barely to have sufficed to cover a few legacies and expenses.

Seldom has any life been animated by a more single-minded purpose, but its aim was beyond the power of man to achieve. The ecclesiastical system which Henry VIII had shattered could not be restored in England. Royal supremacy thrust papal supremacy aside, even in France and Belgium; and when in England papal authority was restored for a time, it was restored by royal authority alone, and had to build upon foundations laid by royalty. Worst of all, the papacy, itself fighting a temporal battle with the princes of this world, disowned its too intrepid champion at the last. That he died on the same day with Mary, whose battle he had been fighting all along, was a coincidence that might be considered natural. Both might well have been heartbroken at the discredit thrown upon their zeal, and the hopelessness of the political outlook.

As a writer Pole's style is verbose, but he never cared for literary fame. None of his writings were penned with a mere literary aim, except his early anonymous life of Longolius. After his death editions of his 'De Concilio' appeared at Venice in 1502, and of the 'De Unitate' at Ingolstadt in 1587, of 'De Summo Pontifice' (1569). There was published at Louvain in 1569 'A treatie of Justification. Founde emong the writinges of Cardinal Pole of blessed memorie, remaining in the custodie of M. Henrie Pyning Chamberlaine and General Receiuer to the said Cardinal, late deceased in Louaine.' The theological views here expounded are in practical agreement with the reformers. An extract from his 'De Unitate Ecclesiastica' appeared in an English translation by Fabian Withers, under the title of 'The Seditious and Blasphemous Oration of Cardinal Pole.' Pole's correspondence, edited by Quirini, was issued at Brescia in five volumes between 1744 and 1757.




1. Calendar of State Papers, Henry VIII, vol. iv. No. 6003, v. 315.
2. ib. vol. iv. No. 6252.
3. ib. v. 749.
4. See the different accounts of the story in Epistolae Reginaldi Poli, i. 251-62, and Calendar, vol. xii. pt. i. No. 444.
5. Hutchins, History of Dorset, ii. 624.




      Excerpted from:

      Gairdner, James. "Reginald Pole."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol XLVI. Sidney Lee, Ed.
      New York: Macmillan and Co., 1896. 35-46.




Other Local Resources:




Books for further study:

Mayer, Thomas F. Cardinal Pole in European Context.
           Aldershot, Hant., UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2000.

Mayer, Thomas F. Reginald Pole: Prince and Prophet.
           Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Mayer, Thomas F. A Reluctant Author: Cardinal Pole and His Manuscripts.
           American Philosophical Society, 1999.




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Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
Assize
Attainder
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer
Praemunire


The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster
"Sanctuary"


Images:

Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's Panoramic View of London, 1616. COLOR
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London




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