The Queen and the Cardinal: Mary I and Reginald Pole

Eamon Duffy explores the relationship between Mary I and her Archbishop of Canterbury Cardinal Pole. Pole’s advice to his queen about attitudes to Henry VIII and in dealing with heretics show he played a far more energetic role in the restoration of the ‘true religion’ than he has been given credit for.

Between six and seven o’clock on the morning of November 17th, 1558, soon after the elevation of the Host at a Mass celebrated in her sick-room, Queen Mary died. By seven o’clock that same evening the queen’s cousin, who was also her Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Reginald Pole, was also dead. Apart from their family connections, ardent Catholicism and their eclipse as religious forces in England under Henry VIII, what did queen and cardinal share in common? Cardinal Pole’s religious formation is often described as humanist, a woefully inadequate term for his immersion both in the most modern scholarship and the most vital spiritual movements in contemporary Catholicism. He was fluent in Latin and Greek, competent in Hebrew. His mentors and friends in England included the best classical and religious minds of the time: William Latimer, Thomas Linacre, John Colet and Thomas More.

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