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Reginald Pole and the Priorities of Government in Mary Tudor's Church

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

Rex H. Pogson
Hymers College, Hull


Mary Tudor's ecclesiastical policy is highly vulnerable to the criticism that it was negative and lacked a sense of direction. She seems to have reserved her efforts for the repeal of schismatic legislation and the burning of obstinate heretics. It is therefore easy to agree with those who see little positive zeal or spiritual content in the Marian Church —‘arid legalism’ is one recent verdict. And this condemnation includes Reginald Pole. He received extensive legatine powers from the Pope, enjoyed a wide reputation as a reforming Cardinal, and was trusted by Mary as her kinsman and adviser; we should therefore expect him to have employed in England all the available weapons of the Roman Church for an attack on heresy. Yet, in Professor Dickens' words, Pole and Mary ‘ failed to discover the Counter-Reformation ’.2 It is the intention of this article to examine the priorities which Pole followed in his plans for the Marian Church, and to investigate whether his legalistic approach and his rejection of the positive methods of the Counter-Reformation were the result of inefficiency or were based on a considered, though possibly mistaken, long-term policy.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1975

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1 Dickens, A. G., The English Reformation (London, 1964), 279.Google Scholar

2 Ibid. 280.

3 Pole's relations with Loyola have been discussed by Crehan, J. H., ‘St. Ignatius and Cardinal Pole’, Archivum Historicum Societatis lesu, xxv (1956), 7298.Google Scholar

4 Pole was delayed partly because Charles V did not wish to risk legatine interference in the plans for Mary's marriage to Philip, and partly because English landowners in Parliament demanded a guarantee that Pole would not confiscate the property which they had gained from the monasteries. Pole's extensive correspondence during this frustrating delay is in Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Rome (hereafter Arch.Vat.): Nunziatore Diversae 145; also B.M., Add. 25425, 41577. cf. Harbison, E. H., Rival Ambassadors at the Court of Queen Mary (Princeton, 1940), 68–9, 198–9.Google Scholar

5 Quirini, A. M. (ed.), Epistolae Reginalds Poli (Brescia, 1744–57), v, 116, 119, 120.Google ScholarThe background to Pole's eleventh decree is discussed by O'Donohoe, J. A., Tridentine Seminary Legislation, its sources and formation (Louvain, 1957);Google Scholar‘The Seminary Legislation of the Council of Trent ’, Il Concilio de Trento e la riforma tridentina (Rome, 1965).Google Scholar

6 Calendar of State Papers, Spanish (London, 18621954), xiii, 15.Google Scholar

7 Ibid, xii, 227; xiii, 167.

8 Ibid, xiii, 366, 370 (both Mar. 1558).

9 Calendar of State Papers, Venetian (London, 18641954), vi, 179.Google Scholar Philip said that the Cardinal should ‘not interfere with…ordinary affairs, leaving their despatch, as before, to the other members of the Council ’.

10 Even on the brink of election to the Papacy, Pole refused to canvass for the one vote which would have made him Pope (Beccatelli's biography of Pole, printed in Quirini, v, 370). In England, he reacted in the same way to many administrative tasks — his name never appears in the lists of those who attended Council meetings, for instance (Acts of the Privy Council of England, ed. J. Dasent, London, 1890–1907). cf. Schenk, W., Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England (London, 1950), 117.Google Scholar

11 Cal. S. P. Venetian, vi, 1056, 1071.

12 Cal. S.P. Spanish, xiii, 392—3; for an example of Pole's care for Mary, see his letter to Philip in Quirini, v, 53.

13 P.R.O., S.P. II/II, fa. 90.

14 Knowles, D., The Religious Orders in England (Cambridge, 1959), iii, 425.Google Scholar

15 Pole's legatine register is housed in the Municipal Library, Douai; but it can be read on microfilm at Lambeth Palace Library, and there is another microfilm copy in the possession of the Abbot of Ampleforth – I am most grateful to the Abbot for permission to use his microfilm. The register is a record of dispensations, absolutions and letters for the years 1554–7, amounting to some 850 folios, and is thus by far the most important single source of detailed evidence for the administration of the Marian Church. It has, however, been largely neglected; Garrett, C. H. discussed it briefly in ‘The legatine register of Cardinal Pole, 1554—7’, Journal of Modern History, 13 (06 1941), 189–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar It was used extensively for the research from which this article has emerged: Pogson, R. H., ‘Cardinal Pole – papal legate to England in Mary Tudor's reign ’(unpublished doctoral dissertation, Cambridge, 1972)Google Scholar. In the surviving volumes of the register, there are gaps of several months without entries, and since other evidence suggests that Pole's legatine officials were active in these periods it is clear that we have lost a large amount of information. But whatever its limitations the register (hereafter Leg.Reg.) is indispensable for an examination of the Marian Church.

16 See note 4.

17 Leg.Reg. vi, fo. 134; v, fos. 96—7, for prorogation. Paul IV's decision to revoke Pole's commission, and the letter in which he broke the news to England: Quirini, v, 144; Arch.Vat., Arm. 42:9, fos. 266–7.

18 The Bulla Institoria of 5 Aug. 1553 is in Pole's Archiepiscopal Register, Lambeth Palace Library, fos. 4–5; his extraordinary legatine powers are printed in Dodd, C. (ed. Tierney, ), The church history of England from 1500 to the year 1688 (London, 1839–43), ii, cx-cxvi;Google Scholar the amplification of those powers in Mar. 1554 is also printed in Dodd, and survives in manuscript in Arch.Vat., Arm. 41.70, fos. 223–6.

19 For Pole's troubles at Trent, cf. Fenlon, Dermot, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy (Cambridge, 1972).Google Scholar Pole's letters: Quirini, iv, 150; v, 60.

20 Quirini, v, 21.

21 For instance, he told parliament when he first arrived in England that he had ‘in my commission the same in effect that was in the commission of the great comforter of mankinde when he came to reconcile the worlde to God’: Bibliotheca Vaticana, Rome (MSS on microfilm at Bodleian Library, Oxford– hereafter Bodleian, Biblio.Vat.): Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 348.

22 Foxe, J., Acts and Monuments (ed. Cattley, S. R., London, 18371841), vii, 205, 712.Google Scholar

23 P.R.O., S.P. 11/13, fo. 25: an appointment of preachers in the diocese of Salisbury, May 1558; Leg.Reg. ii, fo. 77: a grant to an ex-Benedictine monk to preach in the diocese of Worcester in Apr. 1555 — Pole implied that this was one of many such grants, but none have survived to suggest continued effort by the legate.

24 Harbison, , Rival Ambassadors at the Court of Queen Mary, 35.Google Scholar

25 Original Letters, relative to the English Reformation (ed. Robinson, H., Parker Society, 1856), 135.Google Scholar

26 Foxe, vi, 587–8.

27 B.M., Cotton, Cleo, E vi, fo. 357.Google Scholar

28 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat.: Vat.Lat. 5968, fos. 34, 380. Sermons by Pole at the reconciliation and as archbishop of Canterbury.

29 Ibid. fo. 241: Pole's writings on the sacrament of the altar.

30 B.M., Cotton, Cleo. E vi, fo. 361: the end of a letter from Pole to Tunstall in 1536.

31 Quirini, iv, 349: part of a long letter to Edward VI from exile. Pole wrote similarly ro Somerset – Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 32.

32 Bodleian, MS Smith 67, p. 36: Pole to Mary, n Aug. 1554. The Parliamentary excitement and confusion over church lands, which Pole failed to comprehend, is discussed in Neale, J. E., Elizabeth I and her Parliaments (London, 1965), i, 39;Google Scholar many complexities of local political opinion are chronicled in Dickens, A. G., The Marian Reaction in the diocese of York (St Anthony's Hall Publications, xi–xii), ii, 4, 26–8.Google Scholar

33 B.M., Harley 417, fo. 69, for an example of Pole's arguments with Cranmer. His ‘affabilitas ’was shown in Italy in his relationships with unorthodox theologians such as Ochino and Martyr (Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy, 51—2); cf. Quirini, iv, 104.

34 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 419: the opening of the second vernacular sermon in that collection.

35 Strype, J., Ecclesiastical Memorials (London, 1822), iii (pt. ii), 497:Google Scholar one of Pole's Sermons as archbishop.

36 Arch.Vat., Nunziatore Diversae 145, fo. 146: Pole to Parliament at the reconciliation.

37 B.M., Cotton, Cleo E vi, fo. 359 (Pole to Tunstall on the Tower of Babel); Pole repeatedly referred to ‘temeritas ’in his absolutions for schismatic error; Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, iii (pt. ii), 498.

38 Wotton in Paris declared Pole to be only of a ‘good and faithfull mynd ’, and Mason in Brussels was sure that the Cardinal had no ambition (P.R.O., S.P. 69/4, fo. 18; 69/5, fo. 77).

39 Arch.Vat., Arm. 64:28, fo. 169 – Pole to Gardiner on fatherly kindness; Foxe, viii, 319, for White's words.

40 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 416: one of Pole's sermons as archbishop.

41 Foxe, vii, 508.

42 Haile, M., Life of Reginald Pole (London, 1910), 441,Google Scholar for an example of the assumption that Pole was exceptionally merciful. Foxe said that ‘Pole's lightning was for the most part kindled against the dead ’(vii, 91), and that he checked Bonner's ‘fervent headiness…staying the rage of this bishop ’(vii, 307–8).

43 Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, iii (pt. ii), 485–97: Pole's sermon as archbishop with a long discussion of the need to eliminate obstinate heretics.

44 Pole handed on to King, White, Brooks and Holyman an apostolic authority to try Cranmer (Leg.Rev. iv, fo. 49); he organized a number of commissions to search for heretics in Canterbury (Leg.Reg. iii, fo. 16; Archiepiscopal Register, fos. 29–30); he was mentioned as final authority for cases of difficulty in a royal commission (Calendar oj the Patent Rolls, Philip and Mary (London, 19361939) iii, 24–5).Google Scholar

45 Pole was surprised when some rejected Catholicism just as firmly when threatened with burning as they had earlier (Quirini v, 88); Bonner realized that burnings were sometimes counter-productive in their impact on spectators, but was so committed to the persecution that he could only suggest secret burnings instead (Loades, D. M., ‘The enforcement of reaction, 1553–1558 ’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (1965), 61).Google Scholar

46 Reformatio Angliae (with De Concilio Liber), Rome, 1562 (reprinted in facsimile, London, 1962): the text of the twelve decrees of Pole's London synod.

47 B.M., Cotton, Cleo E vi, fo. 355: Pole's debate with Tunstall on the doctrinal and governmental implications of the breach with Rome.

48 B.M., Cotton, Titus B ii, fo. 151: part of a long instruction from Pole to Goldwell, one of his trusted agents, when Goldwell was due to have an audience with the Queen in 1554.

49 Quirini, iv, 42.

50 B.M., Cotton, Titus B ii, fos. 151–8.

51 Strype, , Ecclesiastical Memorials iii (pt. ii), 489.Google Scholar

51 A long account of the reconciliation celebrations was sent from England to Rome: Arch. Vat., Nunziatore Diversae 145, fo. 136. Cf. Foxe, vi, 569.

53 Guildhall Library, London: Bonner's Register, MS 9531/12, fos. 359, 366.

54 Foxe, vii, 38.

55 Priuli, one of Pole's closest friends, left an account of this Council meeting – B.M., Add. 41577, fo. 161 ff. Cf. Crehan, J. H., ‘The return to obedience ', Month, new series 14 (10 1955)Google Scholar, 221—9, for a discussion of some of the issues raised in that argument. For the growth of Henrician national feeling after the breach with Rome, see Elton, G. R., Policy and Police (Cambridge, 1972), 217–62;Google Scholar the existence of that national feeling in Mary's reign is noted in Loades, D. M., Two Tudor Conspiracies (Cambridge, 1965), 247.Google Scholar

56 Pole showed immense enthusiasm at the reconciliation – Arch.Vat., Nunziatore Diversae 145, fo. 137; B.M., Add. 41577, fos. 177–8: Pole to del Monte, Granvelle, Morone.

57 Quirini, v, 67: Pole to the archbishop of Toledo, Sept. 1557.

58 B.M., Harley 417, fo. 77: Pole to Cranmer.

59 Strype, , Ecclesiastical Memorials, iii (pt. ii), 502: one of Pole's sermons.Google Scholar

60 Bibliotheca Vaticana, Rome: Vat.Lat. 5970, fo. 338: a memorandum from Pole to Mary on the uses of Parliament.

61 Quirini, v, 73: Pole to Toledo, June 1558.

62 De Concilio Liber (treatise by Pole), Rome 1562 (facsimile, London, 1962), 25.

63 B.M., Add. 32091, fo. 145: Mary's order to Oxford University to observe ancient statutes, at the beginning of her reign; P.R.O., S.P. 11/1, fo. 14 – proclamation touching religion, Sept. 1553.

64 Foxe, vi, 503.

65 For example, Register 28 in the Archives Office at Lincoln, where 60 deprivations are recorded for 1554.

66 Rejormatio Angliae, 4.

67 This paragraph summarises some of the conclusions of my doctoral dissertation (see note 15). The details of Pole's dispensations and grants are interesting and important but cannot now concern us. For our present purposes, it is Pole's sincere attempt to attain spiritual ends through legal routines which is important. Just one example of Pole's central instruction cross-referenced locally will have to suffice: Leg.Reg. i, fo. 55; Greater London County Record Office, DL/C/33I, fo. 209. Pole gave a Lent dispensation to one Mark Dyngler, and the vicar general's act books for London give fuller evidence of the petition.

68 Leg.Reg. i, fo. 78; iv, fos. 26–7.

69 Foxe, vii, 107, 602.

70 Ibid, vi, 684.

71 Reformatio Angliae, 4–11: the long second decree moves from a consideration of the law to deal with ceremonial.

72 Strype, , Ecclesiastical Memorials iii (pt. ii), 503.Google Scholar

73 Quirini, v, 37 – Pole explained to Mary the importance of gifts sent by the Pope; B.M., Harley 417, fo. 64 – Pole wrote to Cranmer on the significance of altar lights and scripture as symbols of the light of the world entering men's minds; Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 384 – the first vernacular homily in that collection.

74 Quirini, v, 71.

75 Victoria County History, Wiltshire, ii, 31; Somerset County Record Office, Taunton, D/D/Ca, 18, 27.

76 Lambeth Palace Library, VC III/1/2.

77 Harpsfield's visitation of Canterbury in Catholic Record Society, xlv–i.

78 Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, iii (pt. ii), 412; Pole's visitation of Lincoln.

79 Quirini, v, 297.

80 The Diary of Henry Uachyn (ed. Nichols, J. G.) Camden Society, xlii (1848), 46, 73, 79Google Scholar; P.R.O., S.P. n / 1 3, fo. II (an example of the use of preaching to rouse patriotism in the southeast when there was the threat of invasion from France); Calendar of Patent Rolls, Philip and Mary, i, 77, for Gardiner's commission.

81 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 396 (the first vernacular homily in that collection); Quirini, v, 72/3, for Pole's realization in 1558 that preachers still ‘abused ’the faith in their sermons.

82 Reformalio Angliae, 14–5; cf. Pole's instructions to the clergy before the synod, putting preaching after ‘example ’as priorities — Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5967, fo. 36, headed ‘De Optimo Modo ’.

83 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 402 – a reference to his fear of the demands of preaching; for Pole's sermons, Beccatelli, Quirini, v, 379 (a general biographer's comment) – Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 380 ff (series of English sermons)–Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, iii (pt. ii), 485 ff (a long English sermon).

84 Frere, W. H. and Kennedy, W. P. M., Visitation Articles and Injunctions…of the Reformation (London, 1908), ii, 392, 397, 401, 410:Google Scholar episcopal articles stressing various aspects of the responsibility to preach.

85 Archiepiscopal Register, Lambeth, fos. 13–4 (Julius III's comments); the King and Queen were also associated with that document, and were strongly advised on preaching in a memorandum in B.M., Lansdowne 96, fo. 25; Arch.Vat., Nunziatore Diversae 145, fos. 5–6 (Granvelle's remarks).

86 P.R.O., S.P. 11/13, fo. 25.

87 Foxe, vii, 407.

88 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat 5968, fo. 380.

89 Heath, P., English Parish Clergy on the eve of the Reformation (London, 1969), 93, 103.Google Scholar

90 Quirini, v, 70.

91 cf. Schenk, Reginald Pole, 103–4.

92 Bodleian, Biblio.Vat: Vat.Lat. 5968, fo. 474.

93 This has been undertaken in the second half of my unpublished dissertation (see note 15).

94 B.M., Cotton, Cleo E vi, fos 389, 357: Pole's debate with Tunstall in 1536.

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