Monday, November 17, 2014

The Death of Mary Tudor and Reginald Pole

The Death of Mary Tudor and Reginald Cardinal Pole

       November 17 marks the anniversary of the deaths in 1558 of both Queen Mary Tudor and Reginald Cardinal Pole.

      Mary has gone down in history with the label "Bloody Mary," attached to her by later English who were themselves of a Protestant viewpoint.  

      Life was in many respects not good to Mary.  The only surviving child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, she grew up within and firmly believed in her mother's strict Spanish Catholicicism.  As Henry withdrew England from obedience to the Pope as a mechanism for achieving the "divorce," obvious strains arose between Mary and her father.  That marriage being ultimately declared invalid, Mary found her position changed from Princess to a bastard unable to inherit the throne.  The birth of the presumably legitimate Princess Elizabeth further cut Mary off from her expected inheritance.  Enmity between Mary and Anne Boleyn made the situation even more difficult, Mary being required to serve Elizabeth even as a member of the Boleyn family, who likewise was against Mary, was in charge of the household.  While Boleyn's execution and the declaration of the invalidity of her marriage to Henry as well rendered Elizabeth illegitimate,  the birth of Edward (ultimately Edward VI) removed her even further from the throne.

     After the death of Edward VI Mary finally succeeded to the throne, but her reign was at best troubled.  Believing herself to be duty bound to undo the "reforms" of her father and their expansion under her brother, Mary reaffirmed the obedience of theEnglish Church to Rome, recalled Cardinal Pole and made him Archbishop of Canterbury, and set about the return of the Catholic faith.  As demonstrated by the work of A.J. Scarisbrick and Eamon Duffy, this was for the most part a small task - the overlay and substitution of what we today consider to be "Protestant" aspects of faith were a thin facade.  Still, there were "true believers" who were executed, most notably Cramner, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

          Her marriage to Philip of Spain was a disaster, especially on a personal level.  

          By coincidence, today as well marks the death of Cardinal Reginald Pole, who under Mary served as the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.  Pole had been exiled  by Henry VIII when Reginald wrote against the "divorce" from Catherine of Aragon, subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn and rejection of Papal Supremacy.  Pole was then in Italy and out of Henry's reach.  Pole's mother, Margaret Pole, however, was in England - she was executed at Henry's orders when she was 67 years old.  Reginald Pole returned to England with Mary's rise to the throne, taking on the See of Canterbury from the disgraced (and soon dead) Cramner.

        Where Mary's reign of just over 5 years was one of tumult at the highest political levels, for at least a significant and perhaps a majority of the population it was a return to the preferred old ways, a view put forth expertly by Professor Scarisbrick in his The Reformation and the English People. Elizabeth's reign would by contrast be seen as one of peace and growth, later dubbed the Gloriana. As they say, the winners write the history.  Elizabeth would rule until 1603.  

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