The king’s cousin – Sir Richard Pole

Portrait purported to be Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

The Poles owned land in Cheshire and Buckinghamshire. Richard’s father, a Welshman, was buried in Bisham Abbey, the mausoleum of the Montagu Earls of Salisbury in 1479. Richard Neville, the Kingmaker’s father was reinterred there along with his wife Alice, the last of the direct Montagu line, in 1463. Richard’s mother was called Edith St John. Her mother Margaret Beauchamp of Bletso married three times – firstly to Oliver St John, secondly to the Duke of Somerset and finally to Lionel Lord Welles. Edith’s younger half sister from her mother’s second marriage was Lady Margaret Beaufort – making Richard Henry Tudor’s cousin.

When Henry became Henry VII returned to his family for support. Pole fought at the Battle of Stoke and was knighted in its aftermath. Richard was so trusted that Henry married him off in 1494 to George Duke of Clarence’s daughter Margaret. Whilst he might trust Richard the king had also married off a prospective source of opposition to his rule to someone without status or power themselves effectively nullifying Margaret’s Plantagenet blood and removing the prospect of her becoming a figure head for rebellion. Her brother Edward the young Earl of Warwick would spend most of his short life as a prisoner in the Tower of London before being executed on trumped up charges of treason.

Dugdale recorded that Richard served Henry when the king went to war with Scotland over the matter of the pretender Perkin Warbeck and that he received assorted offices in Wales. In time became the Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry’s son Arthur. Pole and his wife were sent to Ludlow with Arthur when the prince went to Wales to learn how to be a king. Arthur was given the role of President of the Council of Wales and the Marches but Henry expected his cousin to mentor the boy.

So what does a gentleman of the privy chamber do? For a start it was a very influential posting as it gave access to all areas of private life from the bed chamber to the lavatory. Some servants, because that’s what Richard effectively was, were only allowed into the outer or presence chamber. If you wanted real influence you needed to get behind the closed doors of the privy chamber. Richard had his cousin’s favour and could execute any verbal commands without handing over an order in writing first. Just being Richard Pole was enough to get people to do what he wanted!

Richard found himself with the uncomfortable job of telling Henry that his beloved son died on 2 April 1502. he didn’t live much longer himself being dead before the end of 1505. King Henry VII, noted for his parsimony, paid for his cousin’s funeral. Margaret, with her five young children, was forced to live in near poverty at Syon Abbey where she would remain for the next three and a half years until Henry died and was replaced by his younger son King Henry VIII. Margaret who became a friend of Katherine of Aragon during their time together at Ludlow was restored to favour when the princess became Henry’s queen.

Note: Richard owned manors at Medmanham and Ellesbrough in Buckinghamshire. His main residence apparels to have been Bockmer which was part of the manor of Medmanham and which had been much restored by his father.

2 thoughts on “The king’s cousin – Sir Richard Pole

  1. I really enjoyed Philippa Gregory’s book “The King’s Curse” about Margaret Pole.
    Despite her treatment by the Tudor kings she was a strong woman.

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