Pole, Reginald a famous English cardinal, who figures so prominently in the English Reformation period, upon whose character rests the stigma of duplicity and selfishness, and against whom both Protestants and Romanists have written in censure or praise, was descended from royal blood, being a younger son of Sir Richard Pole. lord Montague, cousin-German of king Henry VII, and Margaret, daughter of George, the duke of Clarence, and younger brother to king Edward IV. Pole was born at Stourton Castle, Staffordshire, in March, 1500. When seven years old he was sent to the Carthusian monks at Sheen for instruction. At twelve he became a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, where the famous Linacre and Will. Latimer, two great masters of Latin and Greek, were his teachers. At fifteen he took the B.A. and entered into deacon's orders, and in 1517, the year that Luther began to preach against indulgences, Pole was made prebendary of Salisbury, to which preferment the deanery of Exeter and others were soon after added by king Henry VIII, who greatly admired Pole, and desired his elevation to the highest ecclesiastical dignity. At the age of nineteen Pole went to Italy, there to continue his studies, and was by the king afforded support suitable to his rank. He visited different universities, and finally rested at Padua, where he entered a distinguished group of scholars, among whom were Leonicus, a great philosopher and philologist, Longolius, Bembo, and Lupset, a learned Englishman. These masters were his constant companions, and they have told us how he became the delight of that part of the world for his learning, politeness, and piety. From Padua he went to Venice, where he continued for some time, and then visited other parts of Italy. Having spent five years abroad, he was recalled home; but being desirous to see the jubilee, which was celebrated this year at Rome, he went to that city: whence, passing by Florence, he returned to England, where he arrived about the end of 1525. He was received by the king, queen, court, and all the nobility with great affection and honor, and was highly esteemed, not only on account of his learning, but for the sweetness of his nature and politeness of his manners. Devotion and study, however, being what he solely delighted in, he retired to his old habitation among the Carthusians at Sheen, where he spent two years in the free enjoyment of them. In 1529 when king Harry determined upon his divorce from Catharine of Aragon, Pole, foreseeing the troubles consequent upon this, and how he must needs be involved in them, resolved to withdraw, and obtained leave of his majesty to go to Paris. Here he continued in quiet till the king, prosecuting the affair of the divorce and sending to the most noted universities in Europe for their opinion upon the illegitimacy of his marriage, commanded him to concur with his agents in procuring the approval for his contemplated step from the faculty of the University of Paris. Pole left the affair to the commissioners, excusing himself to the king as unfit for the employ, since his studies had lain another way. Henry was angry, upon which Pole returned to England in order to pacify him; but failing in this, and unwilling to make a tool of himself to the king in his questionable designs, Pole returned to Sheen, where he continued two years. It has been asserted that scruples of conscience and of religion were not his only motive: that, though a priest, he was not without hope of marrying the princess Mary Tudor, and that it was not without such views that Catharine of Aragon had committed the education of her daughter to his mother, the countess of Salisbury. Henry at length perceiving that the court of Rome resolved to oppose the affair of the divorce, conceived a resolution to shake off their authority, and to rely upon his own subjects. Pole was again pressed, but as steadfastly refused as before, even under the temptation of being made archbishop of York if he should comply with the king's demands. The king having dismissed Pole in anger, he consulted his safety by leaving the kingdom, and rejoined the company of the distinguished men he had known abroad. 'he first year he spent at Avignon; but as his health declined there he went to Padua, making now and then excursions to his friends at Venice. The literary circle in which he moved was formed by Caraffa (Paul IV), Sadoleto, Gilberto, Fregoso, archbishop of Salerno, Bembo, and Contarini. These men even embraced the doctrine of justification, and in their social meetings discussed the means of reforming the papacy-their great principle being to preserve the unity of the Church under the papal government. In Italy, during the reign of Henry VIII, Reginald Pole rose to great distinction, and on the accession of Paul III in 1534 was raised to the cardinalate, as were his friends just mentioned. Thus the days passed very agreeably in Italy, while fresh troubles were rising in England. Henry had not only divorced Catharine, but married Anne Boleyn, and resolved to throw off the papal yoke and assert his right to the supremacy, with the title of Supreme Head of the Church. To this end he procured a book to be written in defense of that title by Sampson, bishop of Chichester, which he immediately sent to Pole for his confirmation. Pole, taking courage from the security of the pope's protection, not only disapproved the king's divorce and separation from the apostolic see, but shortly after drew up a treatise, entitled De unitate
ecclesiasticat, in which he controverted the pretensions of Henry to the headship of the Church, and compared him to Nebuchadnezzar. He forwarded a copy of it to the king, who, displeased with Pole, under pretence of wanting some passage to be explained, sent for him to England; but Pole, aware that to deny the king's supremacy was high- treason there, and considering the fate of More and Fisher, refused to obey the call. The king therefore resolved to keep measures with him no longer, and accordingly his pension was withdrawn, he was stripped of all his dignities in England, and an act of attainder passed against him.
Pole was abundantly compensated for these losses and sufferings by the bounty of the pope and emperor. At the same time Paul III, having in view a general council for the reform of the Church, called to Rome several persons renowned for their learning, and among them Pole, to represent England. In vain his mother, brothers, and friends tried to dissuade him from going to Rome. After some wavering, the exhortations of his friend Contarini prevailed over the fears of his family, and lie went to Rome in 1536. There he was, against his earnest wish, created cardinal, Dec. 22, 1536. Two months afterwards (February, 1537) Paul appointed him his legate on the other side of the Alps, and sent him on a most delicate and dangerous errand. The rebellion of the northern Catholics against Henry VIII seemed to the pope a favorable occasion to attempt the reconciliation of England with the Roman see. The legate's instructions were to promote a good understanding between the emperor and the king of France, to establish himself in the Netherlands, and if circumstances allowed of such a course to pass over to England. Scarcely had he put his foot on the French territory when Cromwell, his personal foe, claimed him in virtue of an article of a treaty concluded between Francis and Henry; but, secretly put on his guard by the king himself, he pursued his journey with the utmost speed, and stopped only at Cambrai. The regent here refused to allow him to enter the Netherlands; and, after a short stay with the prince-bishop of Liege, he was obliged to make his way back to Rome (August, 1537). At the same time Henry VIII set a price of fifty thousand crowns on his head, and promised to the emperor a subsidy of four thousand men in his war against Francis for his extradition. If the pope had up to that time shrunk from extreme measures against the schism of England, it was because lie felt powerless to put them into execution. Having succeeded in restoring peace between the two great rulers of the Continent, he at last published his bull of excommunication. Pole was sent in secret mission to the courts of Spain and France; but forestalled by the English agents, lie could only get evasive answers. Charles, at Toledo, declared that he had more urgent business to attend to, but that he was ready to fulfill the promises made by him to the pope if Francis assisted him without afterthought. Francis, in his turn, protested his good will, but besought the legate not to enter his states if he did not bring some positive proof of the emperor's sincerity. After carrying on negotiations for several months, Pole came to the conclusion that he was being deluded on both sides, and advised the pope to wait patiently for a better opportunity to turn up in the course of political events. His share in these negotiations proved fatal to his relations. Henry wreaked his savage vengeance on him by sending to execution his brother, lord Montague, and his aged mother, lady Salisbury, who was dragged to the scaffold May 17, 1541. The second brother of the cardinal, Sir Geoffrey, saved his life by revealing the secrets of his relations and friends. In 1539 cardinal Pole was sent to Viterbo, where, in the exercise of his functions, until 1542, he distinguished himself by his piety, the encouragement he gave to letters, and his tolerance towards the Protestants. In 1545 he repaired to Trent, under strong escort, to superintend the works preparatory to the council. After the death of Henry (1547), he wrote to the Privy Council in favor of the Catholic communion, and to Edward VI in justification of his acts; but his letters were left unopened. Pole's book, De unitate ecclesiastica. was published in Rome in 1536; and though, as Burnet, says, "it was more esteemed for the high quality of the author than for any sound reasoning in it," it yet gave the most certain proof of his invincible attachment and zeal for the see of Rome, and was therefore sufficient to build the strongest confidence upon. Accordingly Pole was employed in negotiations and transactions of high concern, was consulted by the pope in all affairs relating to kings and sovereign princes, was made one of his legates at the Council of Trent, and, lastly, his penman when occasion required. Thus, for instance, when the pope's power to remove that council was contested by the emperor's ambassador, Pole drew up a vindication of that proceeding; and when the emperor set forth the interim, was employed to answer it. This was in 1548, and pope Paul III dying the next year, our cardinal was twice elected to succeed him, but refused both the election: one as being too hasty and without due deliberation, and the other because it was done in the nighttime. This unexampled delicacy disgusted several of his friends in the conclave, who thereupon concurred in choosing Julius III, March 30, 1550. The tranquility of Rome being soon after disturbed by the wars in France and on the borders of Italy, Pole retired to a monastery in the territory of Verona, where lie lived agreeably to his natural humor till the death of king Edward VI in July, 1553.
On the accession of queen Mary, Pole was appointed legate for England, as the fittest instrument to reduce that kingdom to an obedience to the pope; but he did not think it safe to venture his person thither till he knew the queen's intentions with regard to the reestablishment of the Romish religion, and also whether the act of attainder which had passed against him under Henry, and confirmed by Edward, was repealed. It was not long before he received satisfaction upon both these points; and he set out for England, by way of Germany, in October 1553. The emperor, suspecting a design in queen Mary to marry Pole, contrived means to stop his progress; nor did he arrive in England till November, 1554, when her marriage with Philip of Spain was completed. (The English ecclesiastical historian Soames thinks that Pole was delayed by bishop Gardiner, who himself desired this distinguished post.) On his arrival Pole was conducted to the archbishop's palace at Lambeth, Cranmer being then attainted and imprisoned; and on the 28th went to the Parliament and made a long and grave speech, inviting them to a reconciliation with the apostolic see, for which purpose, he said, he was sent by the common pastor of Christendom. This speech of Pole occasioned some motion in the queen, which she vainly thought was a child quickened within her womb: so that the joy of the times was redoubled, some not scrupling to say that as John the Baptist leaped in his mother's womb at the salutation of the Virgin, so here the like happiness attended the salutation of Christ's vicar. The Parliament being absolved by Pole, all went to the royal chapel, where the Te Deum was sung on the occasion; and thus, the pope's authority being now restored, the cardinal, two days afterwards, made his public entry into London, with all the solemnities of a legate, and presently set about reforming the Church and freeing it from heresy. In conformity with a pontifical bull, he published a decree by which, 1, churches, hospitals, and schools founded during the schisms should be preserved; 2, persons who had married at unlawful degrees without dispensation should be considered as legitimately united; 3, buyers of ecclesiastical property should not be disturbed in their possession. But such a triumph did not satisfy the fanatics. Encouraged by the chancellor, Gardiner, they filled England during four years with those horrors which left forever a bloody stain on Mary's memory. Pole had formerly been suspected of favoring the Reformation, because he had advocated in the Council of Trent (q.v.) and at Ratisbon (q.v.) the adoption by the Church of Rome of the doctrine of justification as held by the Protestants, and being now anxious to satisfy the Papists, altered in his actions, and became the severe opponent of all Protestants. In the cruel measures which were adopted it is sometimes claimed for Pole that he had no direct part, as he was by nature humane and of good temper, and had ever previously proved most lenient to Protestants; but it would appear as if Pole, in his desire to please the pope and the queen, did adopt sterner measures than heretofore. The poet Tennyson has recently taken the favorable view of Pole's conduct, and thus makes him speak of his decision how to reconcile the heretics:
"For ourselves, we do protest That our commission is to heal, not harm; We come not to condemn, but reconcile; We come not to compel, but call again; We come not to destroy, but edify; Nor yet to question things already done: These are forgiven-matters of the past And range with jetsam and with offal thrown Into the blind sea of forgetfulness" (Queen Mary, act 3, scene 3).
In a later scene he makes bishop Gardiner (q.v.) the persecutor, and Pole the advocate and friend of the heretic:
"Indeed, I cannot follow with your grace; Rather would say-the shepherd doth not kill The sheep that wander from his flock, but sends His careful dog to bring them to the fold" (Act 3, scene 4).
There is somewhat to favor this interpretation of Pole's acts. After the death of pope Julius, and his successor Marcellus, who rapidly followed him to the grave, the queen recommended Pole to the popedom; but Peter Caraffa, who took the name of Paul IV, was elected before her dispatches arrived. This pope, who had never liked our cardinal, was pleased with Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, whose temper exactly tallied with his own; and therefore favored his views upon the see of Canterbury in opposition to Pole, whose nomination to that dignity was not confirmed by him till the death of his rival, which happened Nov. 13, 1555. After Pole's decease, pope Paul IV himself acknowledged that if the cardinal's humane policy had been accepted, England might not have been lost again to Rome.
After his elevation to the legateship of England, Pole had the sole management and regulation of ecclesiastical affairs in that country. His concurrence in the butcheries of Protestants did not, however, secure him against the attacks of his old enemy Paul IV, who upon various pretences accused him as a suspected heretic, summoned him to Rome to answer the charge, and, depriving him of his legantine powers, conferred them upon Peyto, a Franciscan friar, whom he had made a cardinal for that purpose. The new legate was upon the road for England when queen Mary, apprised of his business, assumed some of her father's spirit, and forbade him at his peril to set foot upon English ground. Pole, however, was no sooner informed of the pontiffs pleasure, or rather displeasure, than, out of that implicit veneration which he constantly and unalterably preserved for the apostolic see, he voluntarily laid down the legate's ensigns and forbore the exercise of its power, dispatching his trusty minister Ornameto to Rome with letters clearing him in such submissive terms as melted even the obdurate heart of Paul. The cardinal was restored to his legantine powers soon after, but did not live to enjoy them a full twelvemonth, being seized with a double quartanague, which carried him off, Nov. 17, 1558. During his illness he often inquired after her majesty, and his death is said to have been hastened by that of his royal mistress, which, as if one star had governed both their nativities, happened about sixteen hours before. After lying forty days in state at Lambeth, Pole's remains were carried to Canterbury, and there interred. He was a learned, eloquent, modest, humble, and good-natured man, of exemplary piety and charity, as well as generosity becoming his birth. Though by nature he was more inclined to study and contemplation than to active life yet he was prudent and dexterous in business, so that he would have been a finished character had not his superstitious devotion to the see of Rome led him from the path his own convictions marked out to him. Burnet, who has drawn Pole in very favorable colors, acknowledges this fault in the great cardinal. Froude's delineation of Pole as a narrow-minded and fanatical bigot is precisely the reverse of the fact. Pole, like his friend Contarini, was a leading member of that moderate party of Romanists who, though they dreaded the disruption of Christendom, desired a reform not only in the discipline but also in the doctrine of the Church. From this position he was only scared by fear of losing his mitre. This betrays a weakness, it is true, but rather of ambition than of fanaticism or narrow-mindedness. It is, besides, unjust to make Pole the sole responsible party for the persecutions which were inaugurated; for Fox (8, 308) has furnished clear evidence against such an insinuation. He even gives two instances where Pole personally interfered to save Protestants from execution. All that Pole did, even at the worst, was to suffer the law to take its course, and not preventing what he knew should not have been done. But, of course, this is bad enough; we only desire that it be made no worse. Hook has taken a view very much dependent on Froude. In the instructions which Pole was putting out at the time of his decease for the clergy, and in the devotional books which he was putting together for his people, it is hard to find anything but good- sense, deep piety, and hearty benevolence.
Pole wrote various controversial and theological tracts, besides the work above referred to. Among these publications are, Liber de Concilio (Venet. 1562, 8vo, and elsewhere): — Refoirmatio Anglica ex Decretis ipsius Sedis Apostolicae Legati anno MDLVI (Rome, 1562, 4to); one of the most elegant pieces of composition in the Latin language, and which, for perspicuity, good-sense, and solid reasoning, is equal to the importance of the occasion on which it was written (Phillips, Sacred Literature): — De Summo Pontifices Christi in Terris Viecario et de ejus Officis et Potestate; a Treatise of Justification (Lovanii, 1569, 4to); this work is reported to have been "found among the writings of cardinal Pole." See Hume, Hist. of England, ch. 37 (very favorable); Froude, Hist. of England, 6:369 sq.; Collier, Eccles. Hist. of England (see Index in vol. 7); Schröckh, Kirchengesch. seit der Ref. 2, 575 sq.; Soames, Hist. of the Ref. 1, 251 sq.; 2, 185 sq., 229 sq., 327 sq., 357 sq.; 4. 66 sq., 77, 238, 495, 545 sq., 577 sq., 595; Ffoulkes, Divisions in Christendom, 1, § 63; Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (Lond. 1869), vol. 3; Hardwick, Hist. of the Reformation, p. 64, et al.; Seebohm, Hist. of the Prot. Religion, p. 194, 206, 212; North H'Bit. Rev. Jan. 1870, p. 283; Westminster Rev. April 1871, p. 266; and especially the references in Allibone, — Dict. of Brit. and Amer. Authors, s.v.