Reginald Pole

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Cardinal Reginald Pole as played by Mark Hildreth

Born March 1500 died November 17, 1558

Character's backstory: 3rd Son of Margaret Pole, Lady Salisbury (the last Plantagenet) and Sir Richard Pole. From the beginning of his reign King Henry VIII recognized him as a near kinsman and showed him special favour, even financed Pole's education. Pole left England in 1521 to pursue his studies in Paris and later in Italy during the time of The King's Great Matter, in order to avoid taking sides. In 1526, he had been offered the post of Archbishop of York following Cardinal Wolsey's fall. However, he saw this as a bribe; in an audience with the King, he expressed his feelings against the divorce so boldly that the King put his hand on his dagger. As he had not made his stance public, the King allowed him to withdraw to the continent. He published his most blistering attack against the King in a treatise entitled, "Defense of the Unity of the Church" which answered questions regarding the King's supremacy. After this, relations between Pole and the King had been irrecoverably severed. After that, Pole remained in self-imposed exile in Italy. In 1535 Pole was considered by Ambassador Chapuys as a possible husband for Princess Mary Tudor.

By 1536, he was lodged in the Vatican and Pope Paul III had made him a Cardinal and papal legate to England. In 1537, he undertook his first legation to aid the Pilgrimage of Grace. After being recalled to Rome, he was present in the spring of 1538 at the meeting between Charles V and Francis I at Nice. Meanwhile Pole's brothers, Henry Pole, Lord Montagu and Sir Geoffrey Pole, had been arrested in England. There was good reason to believe that his own life was in danger, even in Venetian territory, from King Henry VIII's hired assassins. He then set himself with the Pope's approval to organize a European league against Henry. He met Charles V at Toledo in February 1539, but was politely excluded from French territory. After learning the sad news of his mother Lady Salisbury's martyrdom, he was recalled to Rome. He said 'I am now the son of a martyr. This is the king's reward for her care of his daughter's education,' but added calmly, 'Let us be of good cheer. We have now one patron more in heaven.'

Gentility: Great-nephew to both King Edward IV and Richard III through his mother, a Plantagenet cousin of King Henry VIII

Margaret Pole was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who was brother to both Yorkist Kings -- Edward IV and Richard III.

Position: Was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Mary I (succeeded Thomas Cranmer; Pole was the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury); was also Papal Legate to England, and Cardinal

Missed being elected Pope by a small margin.

Personality type: Studious and pious

Signature look: Red cardinal robes and long beard

Endearing traits: He was always a mild man and would have nothing to do with the burning of heretics.
'Throughout his life Pole's moral conduct was above reproach, his sincere piety and ascetical habits were the admiration of all. As compared with the majority of his contemporaries, Pole was conspicuously gentle, both in his opinions and in his language. He had the gift of inspiring warm friendships and he was most generous and charitable in the administration of his revenues."[source:]

Annoying trait: Some say he was a bigot

Mark Hildreth as Reginald Pole

"Seldom has any life been animated
by a more single-minded purpose"

- Dr. James Gairdner

Cardinal Reginald Pole

"... Reginald Pole was born with a rather better hereditary claim to the English throne than King Henry; after some hesitation (a feature of his whole career), he bit the royal hand that was feeding him in an expensive Italian education and sided with the King's wronged wife Catherine of Aragon. This led to Pole's permanent exile in Italy from the early 1530's. His enforced leisure, exalted birth and reasonably comfortable income combined with a strong sense of duty and a thoughtful, introspective piety to make him a major player in the ferment of Italian theological exploration." ~ Diarmid MacCulloch's Reformation

During the papal conclave of 1549-1550, Pole came up one vote short of becoming the first English Pope since Adrian IV. Pole returned to England in 1553 after the ascension of Queen Mary I, promising a return to Catholicism in England. Despite becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, he was unable to attain the Church reforms he advocated due to lack of funds, institutional conflict, and the war declared between Pope Paul IV and King Phillip II. Pole was recalled to the Vatican in 1557 and was imprisoned by the Pope, along with two other Cardinals who were under suspicion of being secret Lutherans. After his release Pole returned to London, and died on the same day as Queen Mary I -- November 17, 1558.

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Family members:
Maternal Grandfather: George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence
Mother: Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (Lady Salisbury)
Father: Sir Richard Pole
Brother: Henry Pole,1st Baron Montagu
Brother: Sir Geoffrey Pole
Brother: Sir Arthur Pole
Sister: Ursula Pole

Pole was a celibate clergyman most of his life, but before he became a priest he was considered as a possible husband for King Henry's daughter, Princess Mary.

Sir Thomas More
Bishop Stephen Gardiner
Princess Mary Tudor - he and Queen Mary I set about restoring the Roman Catholic Church. However, he ran afoul of Mary's husband Philip II of Spain, and then of Pope Paul IV; his difficulties were thereby multiplied. He died the same day as Mary.

Charles V

King Henry VIII
Thomas Cromwell



Non-fiction :


  • The Trusted Servant by Alison Mcleod


  • Pole, "For there is another, close to the throne, with legitimate claim and a true faith. The Lady Mary. If not her, there is another Catholic with a legitmate claim, a scion of the Plantagenents who ruled before the Tudors and would gladly rule after them." Mendoza, "Of whom do you speak, your eminence?" Pole, "I speak of myself, Senor Mendoza."



MarkHildreth as Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole & Cardinal Von Waldburg

Reginald Pole (left) speaks with Cardinal von Waldburg

Cardinal Pole
Cardinal Pole by Sebastino del Piombo
c. 1540
currently hangs at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Reginald Pole as portrayed by Mark Hildreth

Reginald Pole
17th Century Painting of Reginald Pole
Mark Hildreth as Reginald Pole

Reginald Pole as played by Mark Hildreth
Reginald Pole as played by Mark Hildreth
Cardinal Pole learns of the execution of his mother Lady Salisbury and his brother Henry Pole