Reginald Pole – White Rose and Cardinal

reginald pole.jpgThe Pole family descended from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (the daughter of the duke of Clarence who was allegedly executed in a vat of malmsey and Isobel Neville – elder daughter of the earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker). She had four sons; Henry (Lord Montagu), Arthur, Reginald and Geoffrey.    There was also a daughter called Ursula. Had Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth and remained childless and Margaret’s brother the young earl of Warwick been deemed unfit to rule then his heirs would have been the Poles.

 

Young Reginald was born in about 1500.  He was educated by the Carthusians in Sheen and from there studied at the universities of Oxford and Padua and from there to Paris; all at the expense of his royal cousin King Henry VIII.  There is a note in Henry’s accounts describing him as “Mr Pole, the king’s scholar.”

In the summer of 1530 he became caught up in the King’s Great Matter.  In addition to using the Leviticus 20:21 and checking with Jewish communities in Europe as to their interpretation of the Old Testament in order to undermine Catherine of Aragon’s countering Deuteronomy argument, Henry also sent messengers  to the great university to elicit their opinions on the matter.  On May 1 Henry asked the University of Paris for an opinion and made Reginald his “dearest relative” the chief correspondent on the matter.

Reginald seems initially to have backed his cousin.  His letters record that Paris found in Henry’s favour but that the other faction were looking for a counter-opinion. (Bernard: 214).  By the end of the year, however, Reginald appears to have been having second thoughts. It was perhaps his concern over the divorce that led him to turn down Henry’s offer of the archbishopric of York following Wolsey’s demise.  Henry must have thought that Reginald would be in favour of the divorce to offer him the post.  He needed as many bishops on his side as possible. Henry offered the post to Reginald for a second time and saw him in person to discuss the matter.  Apparently the sight of Henry was enough to convince Pole that he couldn’t go agains this own heart on the matter.  He even sent a lengthy apology on the subject which no longer exists.  In it he warned of the dispute that might arise if Princess Mary was disinherited and reminded Henry of the Wars of the Roses – which was perhaps not an entirely sensible thing to do as it reminded Henry about who had the Plantagenet blood flowing through their veins and who might have been monarchs in other circumstances.

 

In January 1532 Pole went off to Europe to continue with his academic studies and to keep a low profile which he did until 1535 when Henry demanded that he wanted Reginald’s opinion on the subject of Henry’s supremacy, the divorce and the break with Rome.  Henry  helpfully sent him some books on the subject. By the time Henry had his answer Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher were dead as were the Carthusian monks of the Charter House in Sheen who’d taught him as a boy.  Reginald described Henry as a ‘wild beast’; being like a dirty barrel and incestuous (perhaps a reaction to the fact that Henry had an affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary).  It was perhaps not a response designed to win friends and influence people nor was it a very private response as it was soon published all over Europe; later Reginald would claim that it was without his consent.

Henry politely suggested that Reginald return home for a face to face discussion.

By now Pope Paul III was in charge and he suggested that perhaps Reginald’s welcome would be rather too warm if he set foot on English shores.  It can’t have helped that the Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, had suggested that perhaps Reginald might be able to marry the Princess Mary and take the crown from Henry in 1534. The small matter of Pole’s religious orders seems not to have worried the ambassador unduly (though Pole didn’t celebrate his first mass until Queen Mary was on the throne). Chapuys had already told the Pole family to keep Reginald in Europe rather than at home where he’d most likely have ended up in the Tower at the very least.

On 22nd of December 1536 Reginald was made a cardinal having made a name for himself in Rome where his humanist education leant itself to the reform of the Catholic Church from within.  To add insult to Henry VIII’s injury Reginald was made papal legate of England in February 1537.

Reginald’s actions reminded Henry that there was such a thing as a ‘white rose faction’.  The Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 was ultimately used to round up Reginald’s mother and brothers following the Exeter Conspiracy.  It hadn’t helped Lord Montagu that he’d sent a letter to Reginald berating him for the contents of his book on the subject of Henry’s supremacy and the break from Rome. The poor man must have squirmed horribly when Thomas Cromwell turned up to visit him especially to read chunks of his brother’s rebuttal of Henry’s actions.  Even the Countess of Salisbury had written to Reginald demanding that he come home and face the music.  Both these letters had been seen by the King’s council before they were sent to Reginald (Seward: 295).  By 1539 Geoffrey was in the Tower and he in his turned implicated the rest of his family. He, his brother and his mother would be executed.

Reginald, in Europe, found himself facing assassination attempts that would continue throughout Henry’s life was increasingly disturbed by the extent to which the Church in England faced destruction.  Ultimately he sought the help of Francis I of France and also Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, arguing that Henry was worse than the Turkish threat.  Charles chose not to invade England and Reginald’s name found its way onto a bill of attainder in 1539. Henry VIII had come to hate his Plantagenet cousin. For Englishmen who didn’t want to lose their catholicism he became an alternative to the Tudors.

 

It was only when Henry VIII’s daughter Mary took the throne after the brief reigns of her half brother Edward VI and the nine days queen Lady Jane Grey that Pole returned to England after a long career as a papal diplomat.  He’d even been suggested as pope.  Mary wrote to her cousin asking for spiritual guidance, his attainder was reversed and despite a lack of concord with Mary’s spouse Philip II of Spain he stepped foot on English soil once more at Dover in 1554.  The country was Catholic once more.  He sought now to heal the breach with Rome – notable amongst the victims of Mary’s determination to wipe Protestantism from English thoughts included the burning of Thomas Cranmer who Pole replaced as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Reginald Pole died on the 17th November 1558 on the same day as Queen Mary.  Their plan to return England and Wales to Catholicism bound to fail as Protestant Princess Elizabeth was now hailed Queen Elizabeth I.

The portrait of Pole pictured at the start of this post may be found at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, in Derbyshire.

Bernard, G.W. (2005) The King’s Reformation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

Seward, Desmond. (2010)  The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors. London: Constable

 

Medieval Monastic Orders- part I

imagesDuring the later Anglo-Saxon period all monasteries were Benedictine. Benedictine monks follow the rules written by St Benedict in the early sixth century (535-540) for his monastic foundation at Monte Cassino. The rule covers what monks are and aren’t allowed to do as well as regulating their days and nights with regard to Divine worship, study, manual labour and prayer.  However, as the medieval period went on many monks, such as the Benedictine in the manuscript image to the left of this paragraph developed a reputation for behaving in a decidedly unmonastic manner.

By the eleventh century, Cluny Abbey, which followed the rules of St Benedict, as indeed did X889_727_CWBernhardBoxevery monastic order that followed, chose to reinterpret the rules. The order applied itself to the liturgy rather than educational and intellectual work expanded. In England, William Warenne founded the Cluniac abbey at Lewes just after the conquest. William the Conqueror requested more Cluniac monks to come from their mother abbey in Cluny to England but was unsuccssessful in the first instance. Gradually though more Cluniacs did arrive. William Rufus, not known for his piety, encouraged the Cluniacs to come to England as did his brother King Henry I who funded Reading Abbey which interestingly was inhabited initially by Cluniac monks but did not go on to become a Cluniac establishment. The royal family continued to support the Cluniac order. King Stephen founded the Cluniac priory at Faversham which became notable as the burial place for his family. In Yorkshire Pontefract was a Cluniac establishment. Despite this early popularity the Cluniacs did not prosper as an order in England as the centuries progressed not least because all Cluniac houses were daughter houses following the rule and direction of the mother-house in Cluny and thus aliens.  Whilst the Plantagenets held a huge European empire it wasn’t a problem but as English monarchs found the size of their continental domains dwindling they didn’t want monks who looked to Europe for direction and preferred to sponsor home-grown talent.

images-101The Cistericans, pictured left, were founded in 1098 by the monks of Citeaux who believed in austerity and hard work – again a reinterpretation of the rule of St Benedict and reforms designed to counter perceived laxity in other monastic houses. Their habit was made from unbleached wool. These were the so-called ‘White monks.’ They arrived in the south of England in 1128. In 1132 Walter Espec gave the white monks land at Rievaulx – the rest as they say, is history. Fountains Abbey is also a Cistercian foundation. Unlike the standard Benedictine monks they refused gifts and rights of patronage – in short anything that would have made them easily wealthy. Instead they cultivated the wilderness. An emphasis was placed upon labour. The great Yorkshire abbeys acquired land and farms over the next two hundred years extending south into Derbyshire and north into Cumberland. In 1147 Furness Abbey was founded. At that time Furness was in Lancashire rather than Cumbria as it is in present times.

The next influx of monastic types were the Charterhouse monks or Carthusians as they should be more properly named. ThisDP808069 order was developed by the monks of Chartreuse. The first monastic foundations for this order were in Somerset at the turn of the twelfth century. They lived in isolation. Each monk had a cell and a cloistered garden. They did not see one another, even for Divine service as each stall was screened – together but alone. They arrived during the reign of King Henry II as part of the monarch’s penance for the death of Thomas Becket. The Carthusians restricted the numbers of monks in each priory to 13 monks composed of a prior and twelve monks and eighteen lay brothers. There was a vow of silence and they were vegetarians. The order did not really take off until the fourteenth century by which time monasticism was suffering on account of the Black Death: changing economy and social structures. In Yorkshire the Carthusians established Mount Grace Priory in 1398. Today its ruins remain the best preserved Carthusian monastery in England. The seated Carthusian on the right is an early eighteenth century portrayal and can be found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Of these orders only the Carthusians do not have nuns as well as monks.

So far, so good.  Part two of Medieval Monastic orders will cover the canons and part three will cover friars.