Catholic World – Cardinal Pole

Cardinal Reginald PoleCardinal Pole was a representative man. As Archbishop of Canterbury he stands in direct contrast to Cranmer. Each of these primates was at the head of a host during a period of mortal conflict. They led respectively the forces of the old and of the new faith. Pole represented the Catholics of England, especially the wiser and better part of them. Cranmer was one of the feeblest and worst specimens of the reformers. He had not even the unenviable merit of being true to his own principles. He could not stand the shock of battle, and though a standard-bearer, he surrendered his colors in the hope of saving his life. Pole, on the contrary, suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake, and the cruel fate of his mother and his near relatives warned him but too plainly of the end that awaited him if he should ever come within reach of the tyrant. Let us trace his history, though but in outline; for we shall find it full of interesting matter, food for reflection, and lessons of piety. There are many men of less importance and less merit whose lives are better known than his. One who enjoyed his friendship during many years—Ludovico Beccatelli, Archbishop of Ragusa—has left us a record of his acts, and painted his character with a faithful hand. To him principally, and to Cardinal Pole’s own writings, we are indebted for what we have learned respecting him; for though much is to be found on the subject of his career in the pages of Lingard, Strype, Flanagan, Hume, Strickland, and Froude, it is to those higher sources especially, together with the state papers of the time, that every one must remount who would obtain reliable information.

It was when Henry VII had passed the middle of his reign, and Alexander VI filled the papal chair, that Reginald Pole was born at Stowerton Castle in Staffordshire. His father was Sir Richard Pole, (afterward Lord Montacute, or Montague,) a Welsh knight, and his mother was Mary, Countess of Salisbury, daughter of that Duke of Clarence whom Edward IV. drowned in a butt of Malmsey. He was the cousin also of Elizabeth, Queen of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII. He had thus all the advantages which people attach to high descent, and no pains were spared to give him an education suited to his rank and prospects. The monasteries were then schools for the instruction of boys of good family, and to one of these Reginald was sent when a child. It was the Carthusian monastery at Shene, from whence he was removed in time to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he laid the foundation of his future learning, and was taught by the celebrated Linacre, the preceptor of Prince Arthur, and physician to Henry VIII and the Princess Mary. His education was carried on at the cost of Henry; for which reason he often in after life spoke of the king with gratitude. He was but a boy when he obtained his degree of B.A., and might (like Wolsey, who graduated at Oxford when fourteen years old) have been called the “Boy Bachelor.” He was also admitted very early into deacons’ orders; at seventeen he was made Prebendary of Salisbury; and at nineteen Dean of Wimborne and Exeter.

The reformation had not yet broken out. England was ruled without a parliament by the all-powerful minister Cardinal Wolsey; and Henry VIII, who had in 1513, when Pole was at Oxford, won the battle of the Spurs and taken Tournay, appeared for a moment as a competitor for the imperial crown on the death of Maximilian. It was part of his good pleasure that Reginald Pole should be highly educated, and accordingly about the year 1520, when the youth was twenty years old, he caused him to repair to the University of Padua to complete his studies. Reginald resided in that seat of learning in great splendor. A numerous retinue attended him, and he enjoyed the society and esteem of many eminent persons, such as Bembo and Sadolet. His morals were pure, his manners graceful, and his amiability made him much beloved.

After five years of university life, he returned to England, and was received by Henry with many marks of royal favor. But he shunned the splendors and seductions of the court, and retired to a house that had belonged to Dean Colet within the Carthusian monastery at Shene. Henry’s erratic career had begun; and he was seeking to obtain a divorce from his faithful and virtuous wife, Catharine of Aragon. Reginald earnestly desired to escape the complications that were likely to ensue. He knew that a storm was gathering; and after two years of retirement at Shene, he obtained Henry’s permission to pursue his studies at the University of Paris. He was not yet priests’ orders, neither had he taken monastic vows. For this a curious reason was assigned.

All the contemporaries of Queen Catharine affirm that she earnestly desired a union in marriage between her daughter, the Princess Mary and Reginald Pole. His mother, the Countess of Salisbury, had always resided with Mary, and the biographers of Pole with one voice declare that Mary had regarded him with favor from earliest childhood. We ought not, however, to lay too much stress on this fact, since the disparity of their ages was too great to admit of their being lovers at an early period of life. Reginald was sixteen years older than Mary, yet it is not surprising that, when her proposed marriage with the Emperor of Germany was broken off, and Reginald, having returned to England, appeared at court in his twenty-fifth year conspicuous for the culture of his mind and the beauty of his person, the queen should wish to see him become the husband of her child. He was of royal blood, and very nearly resembled his ancestor Edward III and his great-uncle Edward IV. His portrait was taken by Michael Angelo for that of the Saviour of men in the grand painting of the Raising of Lazarus. He revived, therefore, in his carriage and features the memory of the heroic Plantagenets from whom he descended. Already renowned for learning, and with a mind enriched with travel and residence in foreign lands, he had frequent opportunities of seeing the lovely Mary who would probably one day be Queen of England. Lady Salisbury still lived with her, and she was both her relative and friend. The princess showed great partiality for the noble and accomplished Reginald; and at a much later period a marriage was proposed between them as a matter of state convenience, but without its being very long or seriously entertained.

Reginald was not suffered to remain long in peace at the University of Paris. An order arrived requiring him to procure opinions favorable to the divorce, in concert with Langet, the brother of the Bishop of Bayonne. The task was ungrateful to him, full of danger, and hardly to be executed with a clear conscience. He resigned it to his colleague, and was soon recalled. He might have succeeded Wolsey in the see of York, and possibly Warham in that of Canterbury, had he been willing to pander to the vicious inclinations of his royal master. He wavered, indeed, for a moment, and fancied he had found an expedient by which he might satisfy Henry without wounding his own conscience. He repaired to Whitehall Palace, and there, in the stately gallery, he stood before the anti-christian king. He loved that king in spite of his wickedness; for he owed to him his education, together with many dignities and splendors. He loved him too well to deceive him. The truth could not be suppressed. It wrought within him like a pent-up fire. His feelings overcame him, and he burst into tears. It was enough to stir the king’s displeasure. It revealed the secret workings of Reginald’s mind. The divorce would be a crime—a horrible crime. The reasons assigned in its favor were flimsy deceits. The helpless queen and her daughter would be victims moving all hearts to pity. Henry frowned, and his hand often sought the dagger’s hilt; but though Reginald wept, it was not likely a Plantagenet should fear. Upon quitting the gallery, Reginald was loaded with the bitterest reproaches by his brothers, and especially by Lord Montague. He was induced to write to the king. He explained his motives in language equally firm and temperate; and Henry, into whom the demons had not yet fully entered, took the letter, or professed to take it, in good part. He declared that he loved Pole in spite of his obstinacy, and that, if his opinion were only favorable to the divorce, he should love him more than any man in the kingdom. History has taught us how much his love was worth; for his embraces were sure pledges of ruin and destruction. He did not, however, withdraw Reginald’s pension of five hundred crowns, but allowed him to leave England again.

Having emphatically declared his dissent from the resolutions of parliament and convocation, Pole found his position more and more uneasy. He turned his face again to the south, and in 1532 took up his residence for a time at Avignon. During his absence the fatal divorce was completed, and the doom of England as a Catholic country was sealed. The thought of returning to it became distasteful; and he retired to the monastery of Carpentras, and subsequently to his old quarters at Padua. His leave of absence was extended. He was enabled to visit Venice. His pension was duly paid; he received the revenues of the deanery of Exeter, and was specially exempted from the obligation of swearing allegiance to the children of Anne Boleyn. So far forbearance was shown toward him, and he was not insensible to the indulgence. He always in after life retained the same feelings, and even his bitterest invectives were softened with notes of love.

In the year 1535, when he was in his thirty-fifth year, (for, being born in 1500, his years run with the century,) Pole was requested to send in his opinion on the authority claimed in England by the see of Rome. A similar request was made to all other English noblemen and gentlemen; for Henry in his worst deeds endeavored to fortify himself by public opinion; and when doctors at the universities resisted his will, he overcame their scruples by the help of menacing letters. Mr. Starkey, a personal acquaintance, was commissioned to correspond with Pole, and he advised him to avoid his previous errors. He was to say distinctly and honestly whether he approved the divorce and the separation from Rome—whether they were, in his opinion, right or wrong in the abstract, and not whether they might be defended on grounds of expediency. He insisted the more on this distinction, because, as we have seen, when Pole was first consulted by Henry about the separation from Catharine, he had hesitated, requested time for consideration, and tried to discover reasons for complying with his sovereign’s wishes.

But years had passed since that trying occasion. The germs of evils had rapidly developed. Henry’s character had unfolded; Pole’s had matured. Their divergence had become antagonism; and Pole was in no way disposed to let the opportunity now afforded him escape. It was the time to write what contemporaries widely scattered, and even posterity, might read. Brief answers to brief questions would do for the king; but a volume would do better for Rome, the courts of Europe, the people of England, and the angry glances of the lawless prince himself. He intended it, no doubt, for Henry’s perusal in the first instance; but he could hardly doubt that what he might speak in secret chambers would be proclaimed from the house-tops. He showed the manuscript in parts to Cardinal Contarini. The language was impassioned and almost violent. The cardinal advised discretion, and ended by protesting against what he considered fruitless invective. To this Reginald replied that he knew the king’s character well. He had been too much flattered. No one had durst tell him the truth. He could not be moved by gentleness. His eyes ought to be opened by the plainest speaking, and the censures of the church ought long ago to have fallen upon him. It was not for his sake only that Pole wrote; he had the welfare of the flock of Christ in his heart. He was determined to expose the matter fully, that king and people might be thoroughly warned.

In the mean time the emperor’s designs on England were abandoned; and the quarrel between him and Henry seemed likely to be brought to a peaceful issue. Thus one hope which Pole entertained of seeing divine judgments fall on the king of England was blighted. Yet his book must be completed. The king must have the first reading of it. He would not even submit it to Pope Paul III through Cardinal Contarini. Perhaps he feared that his holiness would think it ill-timed or intemperate. We certainly find him lamenting that the pope did not convince the emperor how much more blessed it would be to fight with Henry than with the Turks—to be the champion of the Christian faith in Europe, and drive back the fearful encroachments of heresy.

At length, in May, 1536, Pole’s De Unitate Ecclesiæ, was completed. His ardent disposition and his indignant piety found vent in this composition, and it rolled along like a river swollen by rains. The very passages in it which Mr. Froude holds up to reprobation and scorn are those which Catholics in general will regard with the most pleasure; they will strike upon their ears as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and denouncing in just and measured terms the crimes of a royal heresiarch. It will appear to them instinct with affection rather than hatred. “I will cry in your ears,” he says, “as in the ears of a dead man—dead in your sins. I love you—wicked as you are, I love you. I hope for you, and may God hear my prayer. I should be a traitor did I conceal from you the truth. I owe my learning to your care.” He draws a hideous picture of Henry’s guilt and presumption, and then proceeds to dissect a book which Henry had sent him on the supremacy by Dr. Sampson, Bishop of Chichester. He inveighs against the abuse which Henry made of his regal power, maintaining that the king exists for the people, not the people for the king. He makes the people the source of kingly power; and his words, populus regem procreat, “the people make the king,” involve a distinct denial of

“The right divine of kings to govern wrong.”

He subordinates the regal office to that of the priest, and in language singularly modern, he asserts that sovereigns are responsible to their people, and that Henry, by breaking his coronation oath, has forfeited his right to the crown, and justified the rebellion of his subjects.

The third and most important section follows. It is addressed to Henry VIII, to England, to the emperor, and to the Spanish army. He accuses the king of intriguing with Mary Boleyn before his marriage with Anne, and brands the “supreme head of the church” as the “vilest of plunderers, a thief, and a robber.” He relates in forcible language the story of the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More, Bishop Fisher, and the Charterhouse monks. He calls on England loudly to rebel.

“O my country!” he says, “if any memory remains to you of your ancient liberties, remember—remember the time when kings who ruled over you unjustly were called to account by the authority of your laws. They tell you that all is the king’s. I tell you that all is the commonwealth’s. You my country, are all. The king is but your servant and minister.”

No trumpet of revolt could blow louder, yet Pole did not stop even here. He proclaimed his intention of exciting the Emperor Charles to invade England, and to assemble under his banner all those English who remained true to God and his holy church. This part of the treatise, when printed, was circulated as a pamphlet in the German States. It protested that Pole acted in the love of his country, and “in that love of the church which was given him by the Son of God.” The Spaniards above all men were bound in his view to vindicate the honor of the noble daughter of Isabella of Castile, whom Henry had divorced. The king of France, he believed, would make peace with the emperor, and at the pope’s bidding undertake the chastisement of the towering enemy of God and man.

But the address is not all rebuke and menace; the tones of wrath melt into tenderness at the last, and die away in exhortation to repentance and promises of mercy. It effected little. Catharine of Aragon died in Kimbolton Castle in the same year in which it came to hand, and Anne Boleyn, four months later, passed from the bridal-chamber to the scaffold. Henry had broken for ever with the holy see, and England, torn from the centre of unity, sank and wandered in an abyss. The book was sent to England from Venice on the 27th of May, 1536. It was accompanied by two letters, one to the king, the other to Tunstall, Bishop of Durham. The bishop was to read for the king what was intended for his majesty only. By which we must understand that, if the treatise produced the desired effect on Henry’s mind, it would be considered as a secret communication; but if it failed, the author would then be at liberty to publish it to the world. It is not certain that Henry ever read it. He heard reports of it, however, from Tunstall and Starkey, and made no mystery of his displeasure to those around him. To Pole himself he wrote briefly, requiring him to return to England and explain his ideas more fully. Starkey and Tunstall wrote also, pointing out Reginald’s presumption, which, they said, if persevered in would become a crime, and urging him to return to England, and seek the king’s pardon. Pole was far too astute to obey this summons. Other letters were addressed to him, and finding that he would not venture on the English shore, Henry’s agents tried to persuade him not to publish the work, and to give up or burn any copies of it which he might have retained. But this request was as fruitless as the former. Pole continued for a time to receive his pension, and his book, the effects of which were likely to be formidable, was reserved in manuscript till a fitting occasion for publishing it should arise.

Being an English subject, in the enjoyment of certain emoluments and dignities, Reginald Pole was not altogether free in his movements abroad. He could not accept an invitation from the pope to visit him at Rome without first obtaining Henry’s permission, or without, at least, expressing a hope that his majesty would not be offended if he repaired to the eternal city. Henry did not deign to reply, but he induced Reginald’s mother and brothers, Cromwell, and his friends at home, together with some members of both houses of parliament, to endeavor to deter him from the journey and from accepting any office that might be offered him in Rome. For a time, therefore, he resisted the importunities of his friend Contarini, and declined the purple held out to him by Pope Paul III; for he knew that in accepting it he should make the king his implacable enemy and expose his family to cruel persecution. But other circumstances arose, which made the cardinalate appear desirable; and he accepted it about Christmas, 1536, and trusted that it might in the issue aid him in accomplishing the main purpose of his life. That purpose was the recovery of England, in part at least, if not entirely, to the Catholic faith. The rising in England which he had predicted had taken place. The suppression of the monasteries had filled the faithful in the north with indignation, and from the Wash to the borders of Scotland the people in general flew to arms. They bore on their standards the emblems of faith, and the image of Christ crucified was carried in their front. The revolt was styled the “Pilgrimage of Grace,” and its object was not the overthrow of the throne or the sovereign, but the removal from him of all evil counsellors and “villein’s blood.” It is deeply to the disgrace of Englishmen that they did not rise to a man and support the cause of freedom and religion against the worst of tyrants. Pole was anxious to afford the insurgents all the assistance in his power, and to remove from them and from the English in general any pretext for acquiescence in the changes forced upon them. A legate’s commission was granted him, and he was instructed to land in England, or to hover over its coasts in France or Flanders as circumstances might require. He knew not whether the insurrection were crushed, or whether Henry, on the contrary, were in the power of the rebels. He therefore manœuvred with the English government till things should take a decisive turn, and executed his commission with delicacy and dexterity. His professed object was to receive in Flanders such commissioners from the king as he might think proper to send for the purpose of discussing the points at issue between the government and the pope. He brought with him as credentials five letters; one to the Catholic people of England; a second to James of Scotland; a third to Francis King of France; a fourth to the Regent of the Netherlands; and a fifth to the Prince Bishop of Liege. He was ready to treat with Henry on any reasonable terms, and hopes were still entertained at Rome of England’s being reconciled to the holy see. He was instructed to exhort the emperor and the King of France to cease hostilities against each other, and to turn their arms against the Turks. By this means they would forward the supreme pastor’s design of convening a general council for the reformation of manners and the reconcilement of nations which had fallen from the faith to the unity of Christendom.

No sooner had Pole entered France than the English ambassador there required that he should be delivered up, and sent as a prisoner to England. The lengths to which Henry VIII had gone altered the position of his Catholic subjects, and to be faithful to God and the holy see was to be nothing less than a traitor. Reginald Pole especially had incurred this charge, and as soon as it suited Henry’s purpose, he preferred it against him without scruple. The king of France refused to deliver him up, but he requested Pole not to ask for an audience, and to prosecute his journey as speedily as possible. A treaty with England obliged the French government to give no shelter to political offenders, and Pole was compelled to turn aside from Paris and repair to Cambray. His welcome there was no warmer than in France. The Regent of the Netherlands had been terrified by Henry, and Pole was conveyed under an escort to Liege. A price of fifty thousand crowns was put on his head by the king of England, and four thousand auxiliaries were offered to the emperor to aid him in his campaign against France, provided he would deliver up the person of the cardinal into Henry’s hands. The hatred of the king became implacable, and he pursued Pole ever after with the most murderous intentions.

From his watch-tower at Liege, Reginald beheld with bitter regret the failure of every attempt at insurrection in England. Alternate hopes and fears preyed on his mind. Conspiracy against the king seemed to offer the only chance of averting the triumph of Protestantism in England. Rebellion assumed in his eyes a sacred character, and every insurgent who fell wore the glory of martyrdom. He would willingly have seen his relations plotting against the author of untold evils to mankind. But a rumor was spread abroad of his life being in danger; that assassins were employed by Henry to murder him; and the holy father, anxious to preserve so valuable a life, recalled him to Italy. He was bent on publishing his book in defence of the church’s unity, and desired to do so under the pope’s auspices. In a letter to his secretary, Michael Throgmorton, Cromwell, who was then Henry’s chief adviser, heaped reproaches upon Pole for his treason, dared him to publish his book if he thought fit, defended his master’s resistance of papal authority, and intimated that Henry could find means to avenge himself on Cardinal Pole, even though he should be “tied to the pope’s girdle.” The times, it must be confessed, were most painful and trying; wickedness in high places forced many persons from their allegiance against their will who would have been, under happier circumstances, the most loyal and devoted of subjects. The mind of Cardinal Pole was deeply imbued with a love of the Catholic religion, and wherever he might be, whatever he might be doing, his unique object was its reëstablishment in his beloved and native land.

In June, 1538, we catch a glimpse of Cardinal Pole among the orange-groves that skirt the water’s edge on the beautiful bay of Nice. Hither he came as attendant on the pope in a congress which resulted in a truce between France and Spain. But the name of Henry VIII was not mentioned in the treaty on which the sovereigns agreed. The pope and the princes were left free to act toward him or against him as they might think fit.

In the beginning of the year 1539 Pole’s book was printed, and sown broadcast over Europe. Many additions had been made to it, and the excesses into which King Henry had rushed increased the vehement indignation of the author. The pope, also, at the same time, issued his bull of deposition against the apostate prince. His crimes could no longer be endured; the putrid member must be lopped off from the body of the church. Cardinal Pole himself was despatched on another mission, the object of which was to arouse the Emperor Charles V. to an invasion of England. He addressed an apology to the emperor explaining his conduct, lest his majesty should fail to see how fealty to the King of kings may sometimes oblige a subject to disown allegiance to an earthly sovereign.

Meanwhile, another rising was meditated in England. The Pilgrimage of Grace had failed, but the moment was propitious for another attempt. The Catholic forces of the empire would be stirred against Henry by the pope and Cardinal Pole, and the pacification of Nice had brought Europe into the condition most adverse to the schismatic king. The plot was discovered by the government, and suspicions fell on the relatives of Pole. He was believed to have been in correspondence with them, and to have excited them to conspire and rebel. His brother, Sir Geoffrey Pole, turned king’s evidence, and his accusations were accepted as truthful; though the word of a traitor to his own party is as much to be despised as himself. Knowing, as we do, that the heart of Cardinal Pole was burning with a desire of Henry’s overthrow, it will be to us a question of small interest whether he really instigated his friends to revolt or not. Neither shall we be very careful to inquire into the validity or invalidity of the charges against his kinsfolk. If faithful to the king, they were unfaithful to God; if rebels against his authority, they were valiant for the truth. The evidence obtained in their disfavor was presumptive only; it proved, indeed, something as to their general tendencies; but it was not sufficient for their just condemnation. They had one crime which could not be pardoned; they were near relations of Reginald Pole. The king had not a more dangerous enemy than he beyond the seas; and the accused persons were all of them more or less of royal blood; all capable, on occasion, of setting up a rival claim to the throne, and making their descent, titles, property, and influence means of supplanting the reigning prince. The Marquis of Exeter, Lord Montague, and Sir Edward Neville were beheaded on Tower Hill, December 9th, 1538. Lady Salisbury was made to endure a cruel imprisonment, and deprived of all her property; nor could she even purchase a warm garment to protect her aged limbs. When more than seventy years of age, she was brought to the block. “Blessed are they that suffer for righteousness’ sake,” were her last words. The effect of these judicial murders on Cardinal Pole’s mind may easily be conceived. Other injuries may be forgotten or forgiven, but this shedding of the blood of innocent and beloved relatives is a crime that never ceases to cry to heaven for vengeance.

Pole’s mission to Charles V. produced little effect. Some warlike demonstrations were made against Henry, but the emperor soon assured the legate that it was impossible for him at that time to proceed further. Reginald Pole was bitterly disappointed. Again his hope of the church’s triumph and Henry’s discomfiture was blasted. He saw the wicked in great prosperity and flourishing like a green bay tree. But his strength and consolation was in the inner life. “For me,” he wrote, “the heavier the load of my affliction for God and the church, the higher do I mount upon the ladder of felicity.” There were those who accused him of nourishing a hope that he should one day be king of England; but perhaps they have ascribed to him what was only the foolish dream of some fond admirers.

This legation was a mockery and a cross. He was bandied about from Toledo to Avignon; from Charles V. to Francis. Neither sovereign could be induced to unite against the king of England. Francis refused to receive the legate unless he brought with him some written pledge of the emperor’s sincerity, and Charles refused to give that pledge unless the cardinal had first been received by Francis. Pole saw that he was cajoled by both.

Once more he vacated diplomatic functions. Once more he retired within the cloister at Carpentras, to hide his face in mourning and prayer, to ponder the torments of his saintly mother, and fix his weeping eyes in solitude on the image of his crucified Lord. The emperor had tamely declined to fight the battles of Jehovah, and his supineness added wormwood to Pole’s bitter cup. Paul III had compassion on his distress, and need of his counsels. He recalled him from his retreat near Avignon—from the ruins of the Temple of Diana at Carpentras, to the life and energy of Christian Rome.

The hatred of Henry toward Cardinal Pole was increased by this last attempt to band the most powerful princes of Europe against him. “Judgment of treason” was pronounced on him in England; and efforts were made to induce foreign governments to deliver him up. His steps were tracked by spies; his goings in and out were watched; and he believed the poniards of assassins to be often brandished near him. His aged mother, the venerable Countess of Salisbury, was brought to the block, as we have already mentioned. No examination had extracted evidence of her guilt; no ground for a criminal prosecution could be discovered. She was attainted without previous trial or confession; for Henry and his abject minion, Cromwell, were as indifferent to the forms of law as to the substance of justice. Her name, together with that of Pole’s nephew, the son of Lord Montague, and that of Gertrude the Marchioness of Exeter, was introduced into a bill of attainder, though neither of them had confessed any crime or had been placed upon trial with means of defence. The marchioness was pardoned in six months; of the fate of the young man no record remains; but the aged countess, who was the last in a direct line of the Plantagenets, who was the nearest relation in blood that Henry had, and of whom in former days the king had often said that she was the holiest woman in Christendom, was dragged from the tower to the scaffold after a confinement of two years, and commanded to lay her head on the block.

“My head,” she replied, “never committed treason. If you will have it, you must take it as you can.”

The executioner performed his office while the head was held down by force. Reginald Pole ever after regarded himself as the son of a martyr, and accounted that a higher honor than to be born of a royal line.

His long residence abroad after his mother’s death was not marked by events of sufficient importance to require very special record. At Rome, the pope granted him a guard, that he might be protected from plots against his life contrived by the revengeful Henry. He corresponded largely with persons of distinction in various countries, and his letters, which were published at Brescia (Brixia) in five volumes quarto, in 1754-57, under the editorship of Cardinal Quirinus, are highly circumstantial, and contain abundant matter of historical interest and closely connected with the lives of Pope Paul III, the Emperor Charles V, the King of Scots, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. In 1562, a work of his appeared, entitled, De Concilio Liber; and in the same year, at Rome, edited by P. Manutius, Reformatio Angliae, ex decretis Reginaldi Poli Cardinalis. Two volumes, quarto. The book on councils was written by Pole as president of the Council of Trent in 1545; and Phillips, in his life of him, speaks of it as

“A treatise which, for perspicuity, good sense, and solid reasoning, is equal to the importance of the occasion on which it was written, and shows at once the reach and ease of the author’s genius, and the goodness of his heart. The preface by Manutius is long, and one of the most elegant compositions in the Latin language.”

Cardinal Pole’s life of exile, therefore, was neither idle nor fruitless. The labors which his hand then wrought remain to this day, and are highly prized by all who love to trace the stream of history to its fountain head. The year after Cromwell’s disgrace and death (1541) Pole was appointed Governor of the Province of the Patrimony of Saint Peter—the only part of the States of the Church which is now left to the Bishop of Rome. By this kindness on the part of Paul III, the cardinal was relieved of a disagreeable dependence on foreign princes for his daily expenses. His government was marked by wisdom, gentleness, and moderation. He always discouraged severity, though he held firmly the right of the church to punish offenders. His leisure hours were devoted to literature, and in the writings of ancient and modern poets and sages he often forgot, for a time, the miseries of his country, and the dangers which, even in Italy, beset his own person.

Disorders among the clergy, a general corruption of morals, the schism of Luther, and the excesses of Calvin conspired to make a general council the obvious and only remedy that could be applied. Cardinal Pole and two other legates were nominated by Pope Paul III to preside at the Council of Trent in the year 1542. But the sittings were suspended amid the din of arms, and renewed three years later in the same city. Cardinal Pole then presided again, having on his journey been tracked from place to place by ruffians employed by Henry VIII to dispatch him at all hazards. Such atrocity, however, did not exasperate Pole unduly, nor cause him to forfeit his character for clemency and moderation. It was, on the contrary, objected to him in Italy, as afterward in England, that he was too lenient. It was even laid to his charge, and made an argument against his being raised to the popedom, that during his administration as governor two persons only had been put to death. He lived, alas! in an age when laws were sanguinary, and human life was comparatively of trifling account.

Cardinal Pole rendered valuable assistance in the early stages of the Council of Trent; but in 1546, he was obliged to discontinue his sittings and retire, first to Padua, and afterward to Rome, in consequence of ill health. The decree of the council concerning justification, as it now stands, was revised and completed by him. It is a monument of luminous and concise statement of scriptural truth, and perfectly reconciles passages at first sight discrepant in the epistles of Saint Paul and Saint James.

When Henry VIII was gone to his account, and the young Edward mounted the vacant throne, Cardinal Pole made two unsuccessful efforts to incline the thoughts of that young prince favorably toward the true and ancient religion. But Edward VI in his tender years was surrounded by persons who made it their business to misrepresent every thing connected with the Catholic Church. The boy-king was thus made the tool and victim of crafty and ambitious men, who reared the structure of their own fortunes out of a pile of sacrilege.

When Paul III died in November, 1549, Cardinal Pole was at the head of his council, and governor of Viterbo. The larger part of the cardinals were desirous of electing him to the vacant chair; but the number of votes required being two thirds, the choice did not ultimately fall on him. It was not the design of Providence that he should either be pope of Rome or king of England; yet he was very near being the successor of Paul III on one occasion, and the husband of Mary, Queen of England, on others. During the sitting of the conclave he wrote an essay, which was afterward published, on the duties of the papacy. But the period was not without its trials. Envious detractors arose, and charged him not only with being too lenient in the government of Viterbo, but also with favoring the modern errors. It often happens that when good men avoid severity, their clemency is blamed; when they are gentle and charitable toward heretics, their orthodoxy is impugned.

There was near the lake Benacus, (now Garda,) in the neighborhood of Verona, a spot named Maguzano, where stood, in Cardinal Pole’s time, a monastery of Benedictine monks. To this retreat the cardinal turned when, in 1553, he obtained the pope’s consent to resign his government of the province of Viterbo. His duties as governor had compelled him frequently to visit Rome, and that city, which should have been the abode of peace and piety, was filled with tumult and discord, in consequence of the dissensions between Julius and Henry II of France. Many of the cardinal’s dearest friends were no more. Contarini, Bembo, Sadolet, Cortesius, Badia, and Giberti, Bishop of Verona, slept the sleep of death, while Flaminius and Victoria Colonna, Marchioness of Pescara, had also gone down to the grave. Cardinal Pole, therefore, was fain to retire beforehand from a transitory world, and seek once more in the shade of the cloister the peace that passes all understanding and the prospect of a heaven near at hand.

But it was with him as with so many others who have betaken themselves to a spiritual retreat, and bidden farewell to the busy world at the very moment when Providence intended to call them into greater publicity and more active service than ever. Edward VI died on the 6th of July, 1553, the same day of the same month on which his father had stained his hands in the blood of Sir Thomas More. The Princess Mary ascended the throne. She was a zealous Catholic, and if she had only understood the temper of her subjects; if she had not attempted to annihilate a too powerful minority; if she had been content to encourage the ancient faith without persecuting the adherents of the new religion; if she had married an Englishman, or indeed any one but a Spaniard, to whom, on account of his nationality, her people were unalterably averse, she might have prolonged her life and made her reign happy; she might have been one of the greatest sovereigns of her age; she might have established Catholicity in England on a permanent footing; she might have bequeathed to her sister Elizabeth a system of tolerant government, and have taken it out of her power to persecute Catholics in her turn, and to supplant and vitiate entirely the old religion of the land.

No time was lost by the holy father, Julius III, in sending Cardinal Pole to England as legate. Before setting out on his journey, he entered into correspondence with the queen, in order to be certified of her good dispositions, and received from her the warmest assurances of welcome and support. She was, in fact, in the early part of her reign, too eager to announce her future policy, and would have done more wisely if she had followed the counsel of the Emperor Charles V, who warned her “not to declare herself too openly while the issue of affairs was yet uncertain.” The successive rebellions of Northumberland in favor of Lady Jane Grey, and that of Sir Thomas Wyatt, ought to have made her be prudent, and avoid above all things pressing matters to extremity. She knew how deeply the nobles and rich men of her realm were implicated in the crime of sacrilege, and how tenaciously they clung to the spoils of abbeys and church lands of which they had become possessed. Scarcely a day passed without some indication of the insecurity of her tenure of power—without some warning of the necessity of ruling with impartiality and moderation.

Cardinal Pole was on his way to England, when he dispatched from the Tyrol two messengers, one to the King of France, and the other to the emperor, informing them of his instructions to negotiate, if possible, a peace between them in the name of the pope. Charles V., however, was by no means disposed to let Pole proceed quietly on his journey. He was bent on marrying his son Philip to Mary, and he feared that the cardinal might be either a rival of his son or an adversary of the match. He refused, therefore, to see the legate, stopped him in the heart of Germany, and caused him to return to Dillingen, on the Danube. Here he received instructions from Rome to wait until circumstances should clear his path; and here too he learned that the articles of the queen’s marriage had been agreed to, and the rebellion of Sir Thomas Wyatt suppressed. But the chief obstacle to Pole’s presence in England being removed, the emperor consented to receive him at Brussels, and Mary consulted him by letter as to the bishops whom she should appoint to fill the sees of those whom she had removed. The new prelates were carefully selected; and when the Catholic religion was again proscribed in the succeeding reign, one of them only, Kitchin of Llandaff—the calamity of his see—who had changed with every change of the court, abjured the faith of Christ and adopted that of Queen Elizabeth.

Pole was still unable to obtain the emperor’s permission to cross over to England, because the marriage of Mary with Philip had not yet been celebrated. The delay was truly afflictive to the cardinal and the queen, and the negotiations carried on by Pole between the emperor and the king of France produced little effect. At last the emperor yielded to Mary’s entreaties; Pole’s legatine powers, though already very ample, were enlarged; and he was permitted to accept the invitation of the Lords Paget and Hastings, with a train of gentlemen, sent to Brussels for the purpose of escorting him to his native country. He was empowered to reconcile England to the holy see on such conditions as he should think proper and feasible, particular faculties being given to him to dispense with the restitution of church property and ecclesiastical revenues. His agreeable manners and amiable address pointed him out as the fittest man in the world to execute so difficult a commission; and the English ambassador at Brussels, writing of him to Mary, said,

“His conversation is much above that of ordinary men, and adorned with such qualities that I wish the man who likes him the least in the kingdom were to converse with him but one half-hour; it must be a stony heart which he does not soften.”

The bill required for the reversal of Cardinal Pole’s attainder was passed in November, 1554. It stated that the only reason for the attainder had been the cardinal’s refusal to consent to the unlawful divorce of Queen Mary’s father and mother, and its repeal restored him to all the rights which he had forfeited through his probity. The legate having taken leave of the emperor, set out the next day in princely style, accompanied by one hundred and twenty horse. A royal yacht and six men of war were in readiness to receive him at Calais. The wind itself was propitious to his voyage, and, having been rough and contrary for several days, suddenly changed its direction, and wafted the apostolic messenger safely to the British shore.

The legate, when he landed at Dover, was received and welcomed by his nephew, Lord Montague. He was treated as one of the royal family, and on his arrival at Gravesend, he was met by the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Bishop of Durham. They presented him with the act by which his attainder was reversed; and in his character as legate he proceeded with them up the Thames in a royal barge, at the head of which shone conspicuously his silver cross. Masses of spectators lined the banks, and a large number of smaller barges followed him up the river till he arrived at Whitehall, then the residence of the court. The chancellor with many lords, the king, and the queen with the ladies of her court, welcomed him with affectionate joy. The palace of Lambeth, which Cranmer had exchanged for a prison, was richly furnished for his use, and on the morrow, the 28th of November, the lords and commons assembled expressly to hear from the legate’s own lips the object of his coming. The address which he delivered was long and impressive; it dwelt on the dismal condition of nations cut off from the unity of the church; and it set forth the abundant blessings which would follow from the purpose of the holy see and the queen being accomplished in the formal reconciliation of England to the communion of the Bishop of Rome. On the next day, which was the feast of Saint Andrew, the parliament met again, together with the king, the queen, and the legate. The nation, like a scattered and harried flock, was received once more into the fold of the church by general consent, amid deep emotion, praises, and tears of joy. Yet many who were present had misgivings about the permanence and solidity of the union thus affected. They remembered the recent rebellion in favor of Lady Jane Grey, the rising of Sir Thomas Wyatt, the countenance supposed to be given to the rebels by the Princess Elizabeth, the extreme unpopularity of the Spanish alliance, and the haughty, violent character of Gardiner, the chancellor, and of Bonner, the Bishop of London. Events unfortunately justified these apprehensions, and made the short reign of Mary, for reasons which we shall presently enumerate, a dismal failure and an instalment of endless disaster.

The day after the reconciliation, the lord mayor and other civic authorities waited on the legate, and requested him to honor the city with a visit. Accordingly, on the first Sunday in Advent he went by water from Lambeth, landed at Saint Paul’s wharf, and proceeded in great pomp to the cathedral, where high mass was celebrated in presence of their majesties and the court. The sermon was preached by Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, who took occasion to confess the share which he had in the national guilt, and to implore his hearers, who had been influenced by him when he went astray, to follow him now that he had recovered the right path. It was certainly asking a good deal, since Gardiner himself had sat with Cranmer and pronounced the sentence of divorce between the king and Catharine. He had also maintained the royal supremacy, and sold his pen to Henry’s caprice.

The bill which was framed to effect the restoration of the Catholic religion in England was very comprehensive and carefully worded. It distinguished minutely between the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdictions, and guarded against what legists are accustomed to consider the encroachments of the latter. It secured to the owners of church lands the undisturbed possession of their property wherever it had been legally conveyanced; and without this concession the legate’s mission would have proved fruitless. It was followed by a release of state prisoners, and by an embassy being sent to the Roman see. Before it had reached its destination, Pope Julius III died, after a pontificate of five years. He was succeeded by Marcellus, who reigned only three weeks, and by his decease opened the door for renewed exertions to raise Cardinal Pole to the papal chair. It was the third time that Pole’s friends had used all their influence in his behalf. In the conclave which elected Julius III, Cardinal Farnese had nearly succeeded in procuring his election; in the proceedings which issued in the choice of Marcellus, the same cardinal had obtained letters from the king of France in Pole’s favor; and now again, when Caraffa was chosen and took the name of Paul IV., it was not the fault of Philip, Mary, or Gardiner that the tiara did not light on the head of Reginald Pole.

Having mediated a peace successfully between France and the emperor, Pole was appointed, by Philip’s special request, chief of the privy council. He was to be absent from the queen as little as possible, and nothing of importance was to be undertaken without his concurrence. Pope Paul IV., however, did not look favorably on Cardinal Pole, and had, even at this time, some thought of recalling him to Rome. Meanwhile the legate with Gardiner made a slight attempt to arouse the University of Oxford from its lethargy in respect to human learning, and a short time afterward, before the end of the year 1555, Gardiner being dead, the cardinal convoked a national synod to consider the disorders of the period, and the best means of stemming the torrent of depraved morals and strange forms of unbelief.

It is not our purpose to enter into the history of the severe measures which were adopted for the extirpation of heresy in England, and which we may, with the light which subsequent events have cast upon them, with reason suspect to have been extreme and injudicious. We are concerned only with the history of Cardinal Pole, and every thing goes to prove that he always preferred lenient to severe measures, so far as he considered it compatible with the welfare of religion and the safety of the throne. As for Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and other principal personages who were put to death, they deserved their fate on account of the numerous treasons and crimes which they had committed, or to which they had been accessory; and Elizabeth herself might with perfect justice have been brought to the block, from which she was saved only by the influence of Gardiner, for conspiring against the crown of her sister. The whole number of victims brought to the scaffold was only from two to four hundred, and numbers of those who escaped into Ireland were sheltered and concealed from legal pursuit by the Irish Catholics, who have suffered death by thousands for the sake of religion, but have scarcely ever inflicted it on others. The fanatics and demagogues, who with the cowardly and blood-thirsty instincts of their species are seeking to stir up the American people, “who will not rise, in spite of their prayers and their prophecies,” against the Irish Catholics of the United States, will do well to remember this fact, or rather, as such persons always forget what does not suit their purpose, the intelligent and honest citizens of this republic will do well to remember it, when these mischief-makers attribute to their Catholic fellow-citizens any ulterior design or hope of ever seeking to propagate their religion in this country by violent means.

As for Cardinal Pole himself, even Mr. Froude acknowledges that he was “not cruel.” Burnet testifies that he rescued the inhabitants of his own district who were condemned to death from the hand of Bonner. His secretary, Beccatelli, informs us that “he used his best endeavors that the sectaries might be treated with lenity, and no capital punishment inflicted on them;” and he himself declares that he approved of putting heretics to death only in extreme cases. Rigorous and severe punishments upon all classes of offenders, coercive measures and the stern exercise of authority were, however, according to the spirit of that age in every country, and it is not strange that the milder counsels of the gentle Pole were over-ruled, and that he was unable to hinder the executions desired by those who had the supreme power of the law in their hands. The administration of Mary was severe and despotic. Yet it is false to say that in her spirit and intentions she was cruel or tyrannical. What appears to us like an unnecessary and even impolitic rigor and vindictiveness against those who, by the laws of England, were rebels against both the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of the realm, was to a great extent due to the importunate counsels of the lay-lords. Even Bonner and Gardiner would gladly have pursued a milder policy, and the majority of the bishops and ecclesiastics, notwithstanding the atrocious persecutions to which they had been subjected under Henry and Edward, would have cordially sustained their primate if he had been left free to exercise his authority unimpeded by the interference of the civil power. Yet, though Mary’s policy was severe, it was mercy itself compared to that of Henry, Elizabeth, and their Protestant successors. It is not only an atrocious calumny; it is a grim and dismal jest for the panegyrists of Elizabeth, and the exculpators of the hideous massacres of Cromwell, to affix the epithet of “bloody” to Queen Mary. Moreover, it is not a mere question of a greater or lesser amount of bloodshed which should govern our award of justice in respect to the two cases. There is a difference of principle in the case, which an impartial Jew, Mohammedan, infidel, or even Protestant can and ought to admit, as some have admitted. Those persons who, in England or elsewhere, have been put to death by the civil power for the crime of heresy under the Catholic law, have been condemned for abjuring that religion in which they had been brought up, and which had been part of the law of the land, as well as the universal and traditional belief of the nation, from the beginning of its formation, or at least for centuries. Even if the principles of law by which they were condemned are pronounced tyrannical and unjust, it is plain that there is no parity between the case of a ruler acting on such principles, in common with other rulers of the time and of past ages, and according to maxims universally approved by jurists and statesmen, and one who compels his subjects to renounce their ancient laws and religion, and to abjure the faith in which they have been educated, at his individual whim and caprice. But although we are not disposed to abandon Queen Mary to her calumniators, we may give to Cardinal Pole the high honor of having been wiser than she was, or than her other counsellors were, and of having been in advance of the general spirit of his age in regard to the wisest and best method of treating religious errors, which had taken too deep a root to be summarily plucked up by a violent effort; and with these few remarks upon a topic which requires much greater space for a satisfactory discussion, we proceed with the personal history of the cardinal.

After Cranmer’s execution, Cardinal Pole, who had hitherto been in deacons’ orders, was ordained priest, consecrated bishop, and invested with the pallium as Archbishop of Canterbury. His works of piety were numerous; he founded religious houses, preached, prayed, and watched for souls in all respects as one that must give account. He was made chancellor of the University of Oxford, by the resignation of Sir John Mason, and chancellor of that of Cambridge also, on the death of Gardiner.

To a sensitive mind there is no greater anguish than that which springs from the hostility of those whom it has faithfully served. This suffering it was Cardinal Pole’s lot to incur. His whole life had been devoted to God, the church, and the holy see. For these he had endured exile, persecution, and the loss of all things. For their sakes he had seen his mother and his dearest relatives dragged to the scaffold. In their cause he had studied, written, toiled, prayed, and wept till his hairs were gray. As their defender and champion he had been welcomed to England by his cousin and sovereign, raised to the head of the English church, and made the chief instrument in bringing back the ancient religion. But having done so, having given every proof a prelate could give of his devoted attachment to his religion, having twice been on the very steps of the papal throne, with what agony must his spirit have been tortured when he found, as he did find, that he was in disfavor with Paul IV.; that he was superseded as legate; that he was recalled to Rome; and that, to crown the cup of bitterness, he and his friend, Cardinal Morone, were to answer to a charge of heterodoxy before the Inquisition.

“Does Almighty God, therefore,” he wrote to the pontiff, “require that a parent should slay his child? Once, indeed, he gave this precept when he commanded Abraham to offer in sacrifice his son Isaac, whom he tenderly loved, and through whom all the promises made to the father were to be accomplished. And what are now the preparations your holiness is making but so many forerunners of the sacrifice of my better life, that is, of my reputation? For in how wretched a sense must that pastor be said to live who has lost with his flock the credit of an upright belief?… Is this sword of anguish, with which you are about to pierce my soul, the return I am to receive for all my services?”

Happily for the cardinal, Mary and Philip took his part. They remonstrated with the pope on the loss which they and their subjects would sustain if Pole were recalled, and they prevailed with the holy father so far that he consented to the cardinal’s retaining the see of Canterbury, while he appointed Peto, the Greenwich friar, to supersede him as legate. Quite in the spirit of her father, Mary caused the nuncio who brought this decision to England to be arrested, and interdicted Peto from accepting the legatine office. He never received any official notice of his appointment, nor Pole of the papal decision. He was, however, too loyal a subject of the pope to avail himself of this regal interference. He ceased to act as legate, and sent his chancellor to Rome with entreaties and protests. Again the pope required that Pole should appear in Rome to clear himself from the charge of heresy; and Peto was summoned there also to assist the pontiff with his advice. Proceedings against the English cardinal were already commenced, and the distressing state of things was set at rest only by the death of some of the principal actors. Peto, the rival legate, died, and while the affair was still in suspense the grave closed over the disappointed, despairing queen, and the broken-hearted cardinal. He was attacked by a quartan ague, and, feeling conscious of his approaching end, he made a will, in which he protested his attachment to the Church of Rome and especially to Pope Paul IV., from whom he had experienced treatment which seemed equally inexplicable and unkind. His last hours were passed in acts of devotion, and it was probably with supreme satisfaction that he laid his aching head on the pillow of death on the morning of the 18th of November, 1558. His friend, cousin, and sovereign had preceded him in the dark valley by only twenty-two hours, and he felt, no doubt, that his most powerful if not his best friend was no more. Elizabeth was already queen, and her Protestant tendencies were well known. There was every reason to suspect that she would reverse the religious system restored by her sister, and take advantage of the general unpopularity which Mary by her severity had incurred. There was one object only for which Cardinal Pole could reasonably wish to prolong his life, and that was to clear himself from the extraordinary charge which had been brought against him by calumniators. But it was the will of Providence that his fair and unspotted fame should be vindicated only after his death.

During forty days the palace at Lambeth was hung with black. An altar was placed in the apartment of the deceased cardinal, and masses were said constantly for the repose of his soul. His body was then conveyed to Canterbury with great pomp, and his funeral was followed by large numbers of citizens and clergy. The exalted rank of Cardinal Pole, the important part he had played in the history of his time, and the high offices he had filled made him an object of reverence to the multitude, who knew not, and did not even suspect, the intrigues of which he was the victim and the humiliating charge under which he lay.

We shall not endeavor in this place to follow the example of his indiscriminating panegyrists. Suffice it to say that he was a devoted son of the church, and that he did all in his power to resist the impious will of the tyrant with whom Providence had brought him face to face. His zeal for the conversion of England was laudable, though not crowned with the success which it deserved.

In his youth he had written a commentary on Cicero’s works; but this was never printed, and the manuscript was lost. He excelled in exposition of the Scriptures, which were his constant study and delight. “His character,” Mr. Froude allows, “was irreproachable; in all the virtues of the Catholic Church he walked without spot or stain.” He was honored with the friendship of men of great distinction, such as Sir Thomas More, Erasmus, Sadolet, Bishop of Carpentras, Bembo, Friuli, Paul III, and Ignatius Loyola. His forgiving disposition may be gathered from the fact that when three English ruffians came to Capranica to murder him, were arrested on suspicion, and confessed that they were emissaries of Henry VIII, he would only allow them to be condemned to the galleys for a few days. His clemency, as we have seen, in a relentless age, caused him to be suspected; and we have the testimony of Bishop Burnet, the Protestant historian of the Reformation, to assure us that

“such qualities and such a temper as his, could he have brought others into the same measures, would probably have gone far toward bringing back this nation to the Church of Rome; as he was a man of as great probity and virtue as any of the age he lived in.”

– text taken from the article “Cardinal Pole” in the June 1870 edition of Catholic World, author not listed