Please note that this important character from history had the plain surname of Pole. His name is not De la Pole – quite a different family*. Our subject became a Cardinal and later Archbishop of Canterbury, but through his mother (the Countess of Salisbury) he had a Yorkist claim to the throne of England. Being an intelligent man, he did not press this claim, or even mention it, though it must have passed through his mind on certain occasions.
Pole was an ardent Roman Catholic, and this fact, added to his noble birth, made him an important figure not so much in England(Protestant) as in other European countries (Catholic). The English Protestant Reformation was in progress; Roman church properties, tithes, ‘benevolences’ etc. were being grabbed by the Crown and the nobles, and by 1552 Reginald had gone to live out of England, thoroughly disenchanted with Henry VIII and the Reformation; they were both evil according to him, and in the case of the Monarch he was right.
Abroad he was given a Cardinal’s hat and powers, and wasted no time before trying to persuade the rulers of France and Spain to invade England and thus stamp out Protestantism. The rulers were not (at that time) to be persuaded, and in Britain Henry VIII (q.v.) true to form, murdered Pole’s brother and ancient mother to punish Reginald’s presumption and lèsé majesté.
Not even England’s Ivan the Terrible could live for ever, and Reginald Pole was invited to return home one year after Henry’s death in 1547. His task was to assist the new Queen, Mary Tudor (q.v.) in her counter-reformation. In the middle of the 16th century religion had huge importance, and knowing which church to use for worship could save your head, or being burnt alive in public.
Reginald was made Archbishop of Canterbury, a title held by eitherCatholics or Protestants, and began making reforms most of which were sensible. But he did not admire the Queen’s persecution of Protestants, and dared to protest.
By the time of his death in 1558 his reforms had been neglected or banned, and he died a desperately disappointed man.
* William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk (1396 – 1450) was defeated by Joan of Arc and forced to call off the siege of Orléans)
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