Reginald Pole - Encyclopedia

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REGINALD POLE (1500-1558), English cardinal and archbishop of Canterbury, born at Stourton Castle, Staffordshire, was the third son of Sir Richard Pole, Knight of the Garter, and Margaret, countess of Salisbury, a daughter of George, duke of Clarence, and therefore niece of Edward IV. He was intended for the church from his youth; and when seven years old was sent for five years to the grammar school which Colet had founded near the Carthusian monastery at Sheen. Here he had Linacre and William Latimer as teachers. In his thirteenth year he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and two years after took his degree in arts. In 1517 Henry VIII. appointed his young kinsman to a prebend in Salisbury, and soon afterwards to the deaneries of Wimborne and Exeter. He was a friend of Sir Thomas More, who says that Pole was as learned as he was noble and as virtuous as he was learned. In 1519, at the king's expense, he went to Padua, the Athens of Europe, according to Erasmus; and there, where Colet and Cuthbert Tunstall had also been educated, the "nobleman of England" as he was called, came into contact with the choicest minds of the later Italian Renaissance, and formed the friendships that influenced his life.

In 1525 he went to Rome for the Jubilee, and two years of ter returned to England and was initiated by Thomas Cromwell into the mysteries of statesmanship, that master telling him that the main point consisted in discovering and following the will of princes, who are not bound by the ordinary code of honour. When the divorce question arose, Pole, like many other excellent men, seems at first to have been in its favour. He probably took the same view that Wolsey had, viz. that the dispensation of Julius II. was insufficient, as of two existing diriment impediments only one had been dispensed. When however the king raised the theological argument which ended in disaster, Pole could not accept it; and, after the failure of Campeggio's mission, when the king asked him for his opinion, he excused himself on the score of inexperience, but went by Henry's order to Paris (1530) to obtain the judgment of the Sorbonne, making the condition that another should be joined with him to do the necessary business. At this time, he says, the more he saw into the case the less he knew how to act as he was desired. On his return to England he spoke strongly against the project to the king, who seems to have dealt gently with him in the hope of using him for his own ends. He offered him the sees of York or Winchester, and kept them vacant for ten months for his acceptance. There was a stormy interview at York Place; but Pole succeeded in mollifying the king's rage so far that Henry told him to put into writing his reasons against the divorce. This was done, and, recognizing the difficulties of the situation, the king gave him leave to travel abroad, and allowed him still to retain his revenues as dean of Exeter. In 1 535, which saw by the deaths of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More a change in Henry's policy, Pole received orders to send a formal opinion on the royal supremacy, and the king promised to find him suitable employment in England, even if the opinion were an adverse one. The parting of the ways had been reached. Pole's reply, which took a year to write, and was afterwards published with additions under the title Pro unitate ecclesiae, was sent to England (May 25, 1536) and was meant for the king's eye alone. It contained a vigorous and severe attack upon the royal policy, and did not shrink from warning Henry with temporal punishment at the hands of the emperor and the king of France if he did not repent of his cruelties and return to the Church. He was again - summoned to return to England to explain himself, but declined until he could do so with honour and safety; but he was on the point of going at all risks, when he heard from his mother and brother that the whole family would suffer if he remained obstinate. Paul III. who had prepared a bull of excommunication and deposition against Henry, summoned Pole to Rome in October, and two months after created him cardinal.. In January 1537 he received a sharp letter of rebuke from the king's council, together with the suggestion that the differences might be discussed with royal deputies either in France or Flanders, provided that Pole would attend without being commissioned by any one. He replied that he was willing and had the pope's leave to meet any deputies anywhere. Paul III. in the early spring of that year named him legate a latere to Charles V. and Francis I., for the purpose of securing their assistance in enforcing the bull by helping a projected rising in England against Henry's tyranny. The mission failed, as the mutual jealousy of the sovereigns would not allow either to begin operations. Moreover, the fear of Henry was sufficient to make the French king refuse to allow one who was attainted by act of parliament to remain in the kingdom; so Pole passed over to Flanders, to wait for the possible arrival of any royal deputies. The proposed conference never took place, and in August 1537 the cardinal returned to Rome. There he was appointed to the famous commission which Paul III. established for considering the reforms necessary for the church and Roman curia. The report Consilium delectorium cardinalium is, in its plain-spoken directness, one of the most noteworthy documents of the history of the period. Towards the end of 1539, after Henry had destroyed the shrine of St Thomas Becket, another attempt was made to launch the bull of deposition, and Pole again was sent to urge Charles V. to assist. Once more his efforts were in vain, and he retired to his friend Sadoleto at Carpentras. As Pole had escaped Henry's power the royal vengeance now fell on his mother, who was executed as a traitor on the 27th of May 1541. When the news came to the cardinal he said to his secretary Beccatelli that he had received good tidings: "Hitherto I have thought myself indebted to the divine goodness for having received my birth from one of the most noble and virtuous women in England; but henceforth my obligation will be much greater, as I understand I am now the son of a martyr. We have one patron more added to those we already have in heaven"; and returning to his oratory Pole found peace in his sorrow.

On the 21st of August 1541 the cardinal was appointed legate at Viterbo, and for a few years passed a happy and congenial life amid the friends that gathered round him. Here he came into close relations with Vittoria Colonna, Contarini, Sadoleto, Bembo, Morone, Marco Antonio, Flaminio, and other scholars and leaders of thought; and many of the questions raised by the Reformation in Germany were eagerly discussed in the circle of Viterbo. The burning question of the day, justification by faith, was a special subject of discussion. The "dolce libriccino," the famous Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Gesu Christo crocifisso verso i christiani, which was the composition of a Sicilian Benedictine and had been touched up by the great latinist Flaminio, just appeared at Mantua in 1542 under the auspices of Morone, and had a wide circulation (over 40,000 copies of the second edition, Venice 1543, were sold). Containing extracts from the Hundred and Ten Divine Considerations of Juan Valdes (q.v.), it was soon regarded with the utmost horror by many. But at Viterbo it was in favour, and the orthodox interpretation was regarded rather than the other which might be taken in the Lutheran sense. Pole's own attitude to the question of justification by faith is given by Vittoria Colonna, to whom he said that she ought to set herself to believe as though she must be saved by faith alone and to act as though she must be saved by works alone. In the excited temper of the times any defender of justification by faith was looked upon by the old school as heretical; and Pole, with the circle at Viterbo, was denounced to the Inquisition, with all sorts of crimes imputed to him. Though the process went on from the pontificate of Paul III. to that of Paul IV., nothing was done against the cardinal until the time of the latter pope, who was his personal enemy. It is by no means certain that Pole ever knew about the process begun against him; and immediate subsequent events show that no credence was given to the charges.' While at Viterbo his rule was firm but mild; and no charge of persecuting heretics is made against him. He regained many, such as his friend Flaminio, by patience and kindliness, to a reconsideration of their errors. During this time also he was still engaged in furthering a proposed armed expedition to Scotland to aid the papal party, and in 1545 he was again asking help from Charles V. But the Council of Trent, first summoned in 1536, was at last on the point of meeting, and this required all his attention. In 1542 he had been appointed one of the presiding legates and had written in preparation his work De concilio; and now in 1545, after a brief visit to Rome, he went secretly, on account of fear of assassination by Henry's agents, to Trent, where he arrived on the 4th of May 1545. At the council he took a high spiritual line, and his learning and devout life made him a great leader in that assembly. He advocated that dogmatic decrees should go together with those on reform as affording the only stable foundation. His views on the subject of original sin, akin a it is to that of justification, were accepted and embodied in the decree. He was present when the latter subject was introduced, and he entreated the fathers to study the subject well before committing themselves to a decision. On the 28th of June 1546 he left Trent on account of ill-health and went to Padua. While he was there frequent communications passed between him and the council and the draft of the decree on justification was sent to him. His suggestions and amendments were accepted, and the decree embodies the doctrines that Pole had always held of justification by a living faith which showed itself in good works. This effectually disproves the story that he left the Council of Trent so as to avoid taking part in an adverse decree.

On the death of Henry (Jan. 28, 1547), Pole, by name, was left out of the general pardon; and in the subsequent rising in the West the insurgents demanded that he should be sent for and made the first on the record in the council. He wrote several times to England to prepare a conference, but only received a rude reply from Somerset, who sent him a copy of the Book of Common Prayer. At the conclave of 1549 Pole received two-thirds of the votes, but by a delay, caused by his sense of responsibility, he lost the election and Julius III. succeeded. He then retired to Magazzano on the Lake of Garda and occupied himself by editing his book Pro unitate ecclesiae, with an intended dedication to Edward VI.

The accession of Mary opens the third period of his life. On the 5th of August 1553 he was appointed legate to the new queen and began his negotiations. But many difficulties were put in the way of return. He was still under attainder; and the temper of England was not yet ripe for the presence of a cardinal.

'7See, however, Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie (ed. 3) § "Pole," where it is said that "only his procrastination, and then his death saved him from appearing before the Inquisition." Within the institution of the Inquisition his name continued to be regarded as that of a heretic and misleader of others, as is proved by the mass of evidence accumulated against him in the Compendium inquisitorum (v. archivio della societ y di storia patria, Rome, 1880), p. 283, &c. - (ED.) The project of the queen's marriage was also an obstacle. A marriage between her and Pole, who was then only a deacon, was proposed by some, but this did not at all meet the views of the emperor, who therefore hindered him the more from setting out for England. The marriage with Philip, of which Pole did not approve, having taken place (July 2 5, 1 554), and Rome yielding on the practical difficulties of the lay holders of Church lands, a parliament favourable to the proposed reunion now assembled, and Pole was allowed to return to England as cardinal. On his landing he was informed that the attainder had been reversed; and he received the royal patent authorizing his performance of the legatine duties within the realm. Arriving at Whitehall, where he was received with joy by Mary and Philip on the 30th of November, he proceeded to parliament and there absolved the kingdom and accepted in the pope's name the demands respecting ecclesiastical property. He entered wisely on his work of reformation, for which he was well prepared. One of the most important matters he had to deal with was to rectify the canonical position of those who had been ordained or consecrated since the breach with Rome. Acting according to the instructions he had received from Rome, where the matter had been fully gone into, he made an investigation, and divided the clergy ordained after that period into two classes; one consisting of those ordained in schism, indeed, but according to the old Catholic rite, and the other of those who had been ordained by the new rite drawn up by Cranmer and enforced by act of parliament 1st of April 1550. The first class, after submission, were absolved from their irregularity, and, receiving penance, were reinstated; the second class were simply regarded as laymen and dismissed without penance or absolution. At his first convocation he exhorted the bishops to use gentleness rather than rigour in their dealings with heretics; and Pole, in himself, was true to his principle. He was not responsible for the cruel persecution by which the reign was disfigured. On the 4th of November 1555 Pole opened, in the chapel royal at Westminster, a legatine synod, consisting of the united convocations of the two provinces, for the purpose of laying the foundations of wise and solid reforms. In the Reformatio Angliae which he brought out in 1556, based on his Legatine Constitutions of 1555, he ordered that every cathedral church should have its seminary, and the very words he uses on this subject seem to have been copied by the Council of Trent in the twenty-third session (1563). He also ordered that the Catechism of Caranza, who, like him, was to suffer from the Inquisition for this very book, should be translated into English for the use of the laity. On Cranmer's deprivation, Pole became archbishop of Canterbury; and, having been ordained priest two days before, he was consecrated on the 22nd of March 1556, the day after Cranmer suffered at Oxford.

Soon afterwards the clouds began to gather round him. His personal enemy Caraffa had become pope under the name of Paul IV. and was biding his time. When Rome quarrelled with Spain, and France, on behalf of the pope, took up arms, England could no longer observe neutrality. To injure Spain and heedless of England's need, Paul IV. deprived Pole of his power both as legate a latere and legatus natus as archbishop of Canterbury (June 14, 1557); he also reconstituted the process of the Inquisition against the cardinal and summoned him to Rome to answer to the crime and heresies imputed to him. No remonstrances on the part of the queen, of Pole or the English clergy could induce the pope to withdraw his sentence except to declare that the cardinal still held the position of legatus natus inherent in the primatial see. In a dignified but strong letter Pole says: "As you are without example in what you have done against me, I am also without an example how I ought to behave to your Holiness": and he drew up a paper containing an account of the various acts of hostility he had experienced from the pope, but on second thoughts he burnt the document, saying it were not well to discover the shame of his father. Mary, who had been warned by her ambassador to the pope that prison awaited Pole, prevented the breve ordering the cardinal to proceed to Rome from being delivered, and so Pole remained in England. Broken down as much by the blow as by ill-health the cardinal died at Lambeth on the 17th of November 1558, twelve hours after Mary's death and under the unmerited disgrace of the papacy in defence of which he had spent his life. He was buried at Canterbury near the spot where the shrine of St Thomas Becket once stood.

The chief sources for Pole's biography are his life written in Italian by his secretary Beccatelli, which was translated into Latin by Andrew Dudith as Vita Poli cardinalis (Venice, 1563), and his letters (Epistolae Reginaldi Poli) edited by Girolamo Quirini and published in 5 volumes (Brescia, 1744-1757), a new edition of which is in preparation at Rome with additions from the Vatican Archives. See also the State Papers (foreign and domestic) of Henry VIII., Edward VI. and Mary; the Spanish and Venetian State Papers; vol. i. of A. Theiner's Acta genuina S.S. Oecumenici Caecilii tridentini (1874); the Compendio dei processi del santo uffizio di Roma da Paolo III. a Paolo IV. (Societa romana di storia patria, Archivio, iii. 261 seq.); T. Phillipp's History of the Life of R. Pole (Oxford, 1764-1767); Athanasius Zimmermann, S.J., Kardinal Pole sein Leben and seine Schriften (Regensburg, 1893) Martin Hailie, Life of Reginald Pole (1910); and F. G. Lee, Reginald Pole. (E. TN.)

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