The Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

Posted By on May 27, 2010

An unknown lady, Margaret Pole?

On this day in history, the 27th May 1541, Margaret Pole, the 8th Countess of Salisbury was executed at the Tower of London. I was fortunate enough last week to see her memorial tile on the floor of the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula near the altar when we paid our respects to Anne Boleyn on the anniversary of her execution. I think each of us paused and thought of the many victims buried there and thereabouts and we talked about Margaret Pole’s horrific execution – poor, poor lady.

Who was Margaret Pole?

Margaret Pole, or Margaret Plantagenet, was the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, brother of two Plantagenet kings: Edward IV and Richard III, and his wife Lady Isabella Neville, daughter of “Warwick the Kingmaker”. She was born on the 14th August 1473 and married Sir Richard Pole in 1491, having five children before she was widowed in 1505. One of her children was Reginald Pole who became a cardinal and then Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Mary I.

The Fall of the Poles

At the beginning of King Henry VIII’s reign, she was in favour. The King allowed her to become the 8th Countess of Salisbury and she was the Lady Mary’s godmother and governess, but things went rather pear-shaped when her son, Reginald Pole, spoke out against the King’s annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Things got even worse when Reginald Pole published Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione, which denounced Henry VIII’s policies. This brazen insult to the King made Henry want to wreak his revenge on the Pole family and the situation was not helped by the Countess of Salisbury’s Plantagenet blood, which Henry VIII also saw as a threat.

In November 1538, various members of the Pole family were arrested for treason and taken to the Tower of London. In January 1539, many of them were executed. Even though the Countess was elderly (for Tudor times), being 65 years of age in 1538, she was questioned and taken to Cowdray House near Midhurst. In May 1539 a Bill of Attainder was issued against her by Thomas Cromwell and a tunic displaying the Five Wounds, which was used as a symbol in the Northern rebellions, was used as evidence against her, having allegedly been found in her belongings. She was stripped of her titles and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

The End of Margaret Pole

After two years of being imprisoned as a traitor in the Tower, the now frail 67 year old Plantagenet heiress was executed. As a woman of noble birth, Margaret Pole was given a private execution. There are two accounts of her execution – One says that she was executed by an inexperienced axeman who missed her neck the first time, gashing her shoulder, and that it took a further ten blows to finish her off. The second account tells of how she managed to escape from the block and that she was hewn down by the executioner as she ran. This second account concurs with the first in that it says that eleven blows were required. Whichever account you believe, this lady had a truly awful end. I will never understand how Henry could take his anger out on a frail old lady who was no threat to him and who had acted as a mother figure to his daughter Mary.

Blessed Margaret Pole

On the 29th December 1886, Pope Leo XIII beatified Margaret, making her Blessed Margaret Pole, a Catholic martyr. Her feast day is the 28th May, the date that some sources give as her execution date.

These are the words found on the wall of her cell and thought to have been etched there by Margaret:-

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!

RIP Margaret Pole, Lady Salisbury, another victim of King Henry VIII.

Further Reading

There is a great page on Margaret Pole at wikipedia – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Pole,_8th_Countess_of_Salisbury and a book on her – Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership by Hazel Pierce.

Comments on
"The Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury"

57 Responses to “The Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury”

  1. Melissa says:

    I had no idea she was a Blessed. Instead of saying RIP Lady Salisbury I’ll say Pray for us, Lady Salisbury! Henry made martyrs out of a lot of people, didn’t he?

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  2. Sheena says:

    What a sad end to a women who was of no threat to Henry. It is also rumoured that Henry had her grandson executed, right?

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    Actually Geoffrey Pole the grandson was actually pardoned and released. He went into exile later on and came home when Mary came to the throne.

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    Claire Reply:

    Geoffrey Pole was Margaret Pole’s son and I think Sheena is referring to Margaret Pole’s grandson, Henry, son of Henry Pole, Baron Montagu, who was imprisoned with his father in the Tower of London. I did try to find out what happened to him but could only find that he died sometime after 1542 while still imprisoned at the Tower, although I haven’t seen any contemporary evidence to back this up.

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  3. Rob says:

    Dreadful! As so often, there are so many aspects of Henry’s policy of government that defy all logic or rationality. So many aspects of his character that are simply repulsive.

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  4. Sharon says:

    Hi Sheena
    Margaret Pole’s grandson, the son of Lord Montagu was arrested with his Father. He was 17 or 18. No record of what happened to him.
    Another family also arrested at the same time was Henry Courtney, his wife and his son Edward. Cousins to Henry VIII. Courtney was accused of treason along with the Pole family. Henry Courtney was beheaded. His wife was released in 1540. She was a good friend of Mary. (Henry’s daughter) Edward Courtney who was 11 at the time of arrest and was kept prisoner in the Tower for 15 years.
    Henry always feared that his right to the throne was illegitimate. Reginald Pole started writing against the divorce from Katherine. Even though the Pole family were his cousins, he felt the need to be rid of them. Why he had to kill a 67 year old lady is beyond comprehension.

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    margaret Reply:

    its disgusting thats what it is to allow a man such as henry to be allowed rule and just murder people as he wished all in the name of the crown again corruption they were all tainted with this madness

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    Who was going to prevent him from ruling? Remember when Henry came to the throne he was quite different and Thomas More saw his reign as a new goldern age. He was 17, handsome, kind, fun loving, just, wise, learned, athletic, courteous, and a very different person to the cruel tyranical Henry of 1541. Many things had changed him: a long and bitter divorce, deception and perceived adultery in the woman that he had torn the kingdom apart for; betrayal, uprisings, war, four marriages; the loss of Jane Seymour; his marriage to Anne Boleyn, a severe bang on the head when he fell from his horse is blamed for a personality change, and so on. He did not just come to the throne in order to murder people: the executions were as a result of a lot of political, personal and religious changes in the country connected to Henry’s dynastic problems. The rivals that he saw in these families are also indirectly connected with all of these changes. Henry may have ended his reign as a tyrant: but he cerainly did not start out that way and his people loved him. He was a popular monarch for more than 30 years.

    You may be right: there is a madness connected to the crown and to power: the Tudors were no different in that than their predessessors and their successors. If it was not for the restraints on the crown by Parliament the upstarts on the throne at the moment would most likely be as crazed as some of our kings and queens of years gone by. But there was certainly no-one who was going to remove him: he had too much power and kings were seen as sacred in those days. That is why they were allowed to act as they did: the people could not do much about them unless they had a revelution and most people had too many other important things to do; such as living to be bothered. It is the same now: we will still have a limited monarch; as we are too lazy to get rid of them and be a republic instead.

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    Leah Reply:

    I just want to say thank you for this tempered and informative response. As I was reading many other comments that demonized Henry VIII’s actions, horrid as they were, they seem little different than the way we behave now, except when we feel our power threatened we bomb countries instead of killing families. As the world gets larger the power plays and exploitations are so far away that we don’t have to look at them, but they are indeed being perpetrated. And as you say, we’re simply too busily getting on with life to incite change. We think that the world has come so far, changed so much, but I wonder if it’s just been reconfigured.

  5. HannahL says:

    This was one of the saddest executions of Henry’s reign. I have never understood what could have been going on in his mind when he condemned this poor lady to death.

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    Michele Reply:

    …if you think that Henry VIII, in defiance if the Catholic Church over his wish to marry Ann Boleyn, “created” the Anglican church so he could marry her … then you can understand that he could do apparently irrational inexplicable things when it suited him
    it has always puzzled me how people can call themselves devout Anglicans when the entire reason the Anglican church even became a denomination was because it was founded for nefariuos resons

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    Katheryn Dennes Reply:

    So I suppose the Catholic Church doesn’t have any blood on their hands do they???? She’s not called Bloody Mary for nothing!!! And I’m sure a lot of innocent children suffered under the hands of the catholic church even in recent times!!!!!!!! Get a grip!! You need to look at the period as a whole, Henry was no different to any other ruler at that time!!

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    Sandra Reply:

    Well put!! To add to that, there are many rulers today who act in much the same way as Henry did.

    Heather Oates Reply:

    I think if you read about all the rulers of that period you will see none of them were as evil as Henry VIII. I have never read that his Father executed two of his wives. One of them innocent , there as no evidence of Ann having affairs, he wanted her out of the way so he could marry Jane Seymour. He killed monks in evil ways just to raise money by stealing from the churches. The Stuarts get a bad name but they did not kill their wives or men of God. He was not even a strong King, he lost land and wars, Elizabeth was cruel like her sister Mary but she a strong ruler who defeated the Spanish. Also he did only create the Church of England so he could get a divorce. That is a fact. He was an insane despot. Yes even now the Catholic Church has hurt children but so have Vicars. Evil people are attracted to jobs that give them trust, so they can abuse. However in HIstory Henry VII is by far the most evil king ever to rule.

    carol halliday Reply:

    i agree, i find the Tudors fascinating.

  6. janice says:

    i would say she died because there was risk her person would had been used by supporters of the Pole family and the lady Mary, by people who would like to see on the throne somebody else than Henry, and Reginald was still a threat then anyway…..just imagine, you would support somebody you like in his/her studies & life and at the end s/he turns back to you and is not your faithful and loyal subject. Its just politics, nothing personal. At home i sometimes have huge discussions with my mum about Elizabeth I. & Mary of Scots. Defiinitely i vote for Elizabeth, peace in realm and security of the throne is more important than to cut off somebodys head.

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  7. rosalie says:

    Ernest Shakleton the explorer was believed to have a particular insight into how to rule his men, because he was brought up in a dominantly feminine family. and this insight was beneficial. Likewise, Henry was raised and protected by his Mother, in the tower, and by a series of nannies, etc. this softer influence does not seem to have benefitted him, nor his daughters, wives, aunts, cousins, etc. His agenda overtook his tenderer feelings.

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  8. Alex Vasili says:

    Margaret Pole did indeed meet a terrible end. It is appalling that a lady of her standing and one who had resolutely kept her distance from the court and had always behaved with gravity and dignity, should die in such a cruel way. After all, she did not express any political views or had any aspirations for her family other than being a friend and supporter of Katherine of Aragon. I suspect the executioner botched the job and hacked her to death. A sad death for a frail woman who had been arrested on trumpted up charges and who had actually be woken with out warning and told that she would die that day – no wonder she resisted!! RIP.

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  9. SarahD says:

    So unfair. RIP Margaret.

    Sarah

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  10. gwenne says:

    janice says:
    May 28, 2010 at 1:15 am

    i would say she died because there was risk her person would had been used by supporters of the Pole family and the lady Mary, by people who would like to see on the throne somebody else than Henry, and Reginald was still a threat then anyway…..just imagine, you would support somebody you like in his/her studies & life and at the end s/he turns back to you and is not your faithful and loyal subject. Its just politics, nothing personal. At home i sometimes have huge discussions with my mum about Elizabeth I. & Mary of Scots. Defiinitely i vote for Elizabeth, peace in realm and security of the throne is more important than to cut off somebodys head

    Some executions by state heads are required, (traitors, assassins, etc.) but so many times it has been shown throughout history (and present times) that executions are used as an excuse for murder. And by the way, Elizabeth’s and Mary (Q of Scots) situation is entirely different than Henry’s rampages of pique and fit. There was no reasoning behind it, and murderous rages were a part of his persona. A persona that obviously was suffering from major mental instabilities. So in that context, no it wasn’t for the safety of ‘state’ or ‘throne’ that drove his fondness of executions, it was his love for himself above everything else.

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  11. Meghan says:

    My guess for Henry’s actions can be summed up with one person, Margaret Beaufort. Henry must have known about her part in the removal of Richard III from the throne. Though I have not had a chance to research her fully, Robin Maxwell’s novel To the Tower Born was very interesting in showing what she could do (though I must remind myself it is a novel). I think Henry was scared to death of those events playing out once again and as a result good people suffered.

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  12. Carolyn says:

    I think he killed her to punish her son who was out of his reach.

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  13. Maureen says:

    Here is a link ti a stained glass window for Margaret — with some background info as well —

    http://norbertinevocations.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/blessed-margaret-pole/

    I think you will have to save and paste the
    link, but the window is very nice!

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  14. Carolyn says:

    Maureen, it was a clickable link for me (no copying and pasting needed). The picture is beautiful but sad, showing her praying in her cell in the Tower with rats at her feet. I was struck by a line in the article describing Margaret’s son, Reginald Pole, as being the last Archbishop of Canterbury (he died the same day as Mary I). Is this because it’s a Catholic web site and they don’t consider the office legitimate now that it is under the authority of the Anglican church? I’m not criticizing, being neither Catholic nor Anglican. I was just curious.

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  15. Pru says:

    Is the poem still on the cell wall?

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  16. BoleynBlue says:

    I think that this is one of the most shocking and sad executions during Henry’s reign.

    Rest in peace Lady Saliisbury.

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  17. Dawn says:

    Another female sacrificed in the tubulent world of male politics of Tudor times. The countess was born ‘to close to the throne’. She was a constant threat in the Kings mind. She had more royal blood running through her veins than either Henry or his father, and she was in and out of favour depending on the Kings mood. In a time when the whole of your family could be destroyed, and your wealth and belongings taken and put in the royal treasury by upsetting the Henry, you would have thought that her son Reginal Pole would have considered the danger he put his mother, and his family in by speaking out against the King’s policies, while he was hiding behind the Pope’s cassack in Europe. He knewn how vengeful Henry could be. To my mind he was as responsible for his Mother’s execution, and the other members of his family as the King, he had no qualms about offering them for sacrifice, because he was after a cardinals cap. Reginald Pole gave the King the last excuse he needed to remove the family that he considered a threat to his crown, and get his hands on their wealth, after all Margret was around the 5th richest women in the kingdom
    As for her execution, I have read that with her being a proud woman, and protesting her innocence to the end, she refused to place her head on the block, when they tried to force her down she struggled and fought, and would not keep still. While they were trying to hold her in place the axeman was told to strike when he could, therefore the poor woman ended up being butchered alive. A terrible end to another innocent woman, at the hands of men and their power struggles. I only hope that the cardinals cap, the Arch Bishops mitre, which he later received from ‘Bloody Mary’, was worth it.
    Am I too cynical, maybe, but power, religion and wealth, is a terrible mix. Keep up the good work, I find the articles up for discussion stimulating and refreshing. Reading other comments/ideas gives you a whole new prospective on things, Thank you.

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  18. Shoshana says:

    I think this sad Lady’s execution is just another example of Henry VIII’s domineering power and his desire for revenge against anyone (her son, Reginald) who dared to speak out against him. His method of dealing with those who disagreed with him was to silence them by any means possible, including death. We often hear of those he executed but I’d be interested to learn of who and how many were financially and socially ruined by him during his reign. I imagine the number might be staggering. Even his so called close friends did not escape his wrath; notable Norries who died on the block accused of adultry with Anne Boelyn, but also the Duke of Suffold and his sister for their marriage without his permission. Henry almost destroyed them financially; it was only their willingness to submit to him totally after their marriage that they were able to once again regain his favor – something that rarely happened once Henry’s anger was stirred against someone. Would it not be interesting to have a mental evaluation of Henry VIII? Just imagine what it would say.

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  19. Frances G says:

    RIP dear Lady Salisbury. You are in heaven while Henry resides in hell – where he belongs! He had over 70,000 people killed in his reign. Unbelievable!

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    What proof do you have for Henry having 70,000 people killed other than a random number that a so called historian trotted out without backing up their sources or numbers, came out with on TV one day? There is no proof that he had 70,000 killed: what is your justification for this figure?

    Oh and by the way, if Henry repented and died in the faith of Christ then he is not in Hell, he is in heaven!

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    Claire Reply:

    It actually isn’t a “random number” that was trotted out on TV one day. It has been cited by many historians and chroniclers over time.

    The figure of 72,000 actually comes from a contemporary source, William Harrison’s (1534-1593) “The Description of England” which was published as part of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles. Harrison was chaplain to Lord Cobham. In his chapter “Of Sundry Kinds of Punishment Appointed for Offenders”, he wrote:
    “It appeareth by Cardan (who writeth it upon the report of the bishop of Lexovia), in the geniture of King Edward the Sixth, how Henry the Eighth, executing his laws very severely against such idle persons, I mean great thieves, petty thieves, and rogues, did hang up threescore and twelve thousand of them in his time.”
    Cardan was Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576), the Italian mathematician, physician and astrologer, who cast Edward VI’s horoscope. Cardano, in turn, cited the Bishop of Lexovia (the old name for Lisieux):
    “He was affected also by a constellation with schismatic properties, and by certain eclipses, and hence and from other causes, arose a fact related to me by the Bishop of Lexovia, namely that two years before his death as many as seventy thousand persons were found to have perished by the hand of the executioner
    in that one island during his reign.”
    It appears that Harrison added to it to make up for the final years of Henry’s reign.
    As Thorsten Sellin says in his article “Two Myths in the History of Capital Punishment” – http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4814&context=jclc, David Hume repeated Harrison’s figure of 72,000 in his nineteenth century work, as did Samuel Romilly in a debate in the House of Commons in 1810. As Sellin points out, nobody knows where the Bishop of Lexovia got his information about 70,000 being hanged. He was Jacques d’Annebaut, son of the Constable of Normandy and brother of Claude d’Annebault, Marshal of France. He was Bishop of Lexovia from 1539 to 1558 (Cardinal from 1544). Although the figure comes from contemporary sources, it is generally taken with a pinch of salt because we just do not have records to back it up.

    Harrison’s book can be read at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1577harrison-england.asp (search for “threescore”) or you can see the page in question at Google Books click here.

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    BanditQueen Reply:

    All the Tudor monarchs had severe punishments against thieves and beggers and so on: that does not mean that there is any evidence of 72,000: show me the trial records and I will believe the figure. Sorry I have been taught to challenge figures in history as they are often eggagerated and not always verified. I am aware of most of the sources above: I just do not agree with the figure unless I see proof: sorry. And it was trotted out on TV: The Madness of Henry VIII!

    Claire Reply:

    You misunderstand me, I’m not saying that the figure is correct, we have no way of knowing it, what I’m saying is that it IS from contemporary sources because you claimed that it was just something “trotted out” on TV with no basis and that’s not true, whether you agree with the figure or not. I too don’t agree with it and there’s no way of verifying it unless someone looks at all of the court records throughout the country at that time. It comes to an average of 1894 executions a year or 36-37 a week.

    Out of interest, Harrison was not being critical of Henry VIII’s 72,000 executions, he was praising the King for dealing for “idle persons… great thieves, petty thieves, and rogues.”

    stjustpaul Reply:

    It is really sad that anyone in this age believes in heaven and hell, if these places do exist they are here on earth and we humans make them

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  20. Barbara Ilott says:

    While I agree with much of the above, I would point out that Lady Salisbury is the only case I know of where an aristocratic woman did not go to her execution with the courage and dignity expected of her class. Guilt or innocence were relative in the religious / political turmoils of her day. The correct and expected behaviour was to show dignity and courage. To forgive ones enemies in general and the executioner in particular and not to make a fuss. Such behaviour as Lady S showed might be interpreted as being cowardly by her contemporaries. It was even more important for a Christian martyr to behave well. Not to do so suggested a lack of faith in God’s mercy. I do not understand while the pope declared her “Blessed” – clearly a political gesture just like the original execution.

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    margaret Reply:

    well how in the name of goodness could u remain at ease and showing courage and dignity on a scaffold about to have your head hacked off , henry was evil and will never be at peace

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    Katheryn Dennes Reply:

    Others did!! I’m not judging I believe there was nothing wrong with her behaviour just stating the obvious!

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    renalda Reply:

    Maybe she had dementia and didn’t understand. She was 67 years old, after all. Contemporary accounts sympathized with her, and didn’t portray her as cowardly.

    BanditQueen Reply:

    Saint Margaret Pole refused to bend to the injustice inflicted upon her and forced the executioner to catch her and do his worse. She was declared blessed because that is what she was or rather is. The Holy Father declared her so because of her saintly life and her death in the Catholic Faith. She had done no harm to anyone. Who are you to call anyone a coward when they are being hacked to pieces by an executioner paid to kill her? And a frail woman to boot nearly 70 years old? He showed her no mercy despite her age and her sex and she forced him to chase her before he could perform his terrible office. I would suggest it was the executioner who was a coward? Executioners cover their faces as they do not want anyone to know who they are in case of retribution, but I say they are cowards for doing such a terrible act to begin with. Margaret was a very holy woman and that is why she was made a saint.

    The Holy Father only declares someone a saint after it is decided by two investigations: they look into every part of a persons life and after life, and make a decision based on that investigation. It is not just looked at by one person or based on their death, but their life as well, and what others said about them. You may not understand any of that; but God made Margaret a saint: the Holy Father only put the blessing to His declaration.

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  21. dynastic stability was. important for henry 8th after all before his farther 16 battles had .taken place .you cant judge history with 2013 veiws and the risk of a catholic war was allways a risk

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    Katheryn Dennes Reply:

    Well said exactly my thoughts in an earlier comment!! I’m sure people forget the inquisition????

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  22. M-G SALOMON says:

    St Margaret was murdered by Henry VIII for two main reasons:

    1st she was a Plantagenet, thus a menace to the throne because Henry VIII actually as an usurper was fully aware of his illegitimacy to the throne of England (as well as his father Henry VII, responsible for the biggest destruction of official Archives in England).
    2nd being a staunch Catholic, she was a threat to Henry VIII’s schism, the proof of this was that Henry VIII i.a. dismissed her as Governess of his dautghter Queen Mary. Who, it has to be acknowledged, later reintrocuded the Roman Catholic Faith in a what I dare call une manière très peu Catholique.

    Saint Margaret by equipollency, having shed her blood for the Catholic Faith, is to all effects a Saint for the Roman Catholic Church as the late Rev. Father Walsh in St. Asaph, a Relatore delle cause dei Santi for this case, wrote to me several years ago.
    The only missing step is an official proclamation from the Holy See which I presume has never materialized for neither understandable nor obvious diplomatic ??? reasons.
    Her son Card. Reginald de la Pole actually proved to be a pusillanimous person, most probably because he did not wish to end as a Martyr as his Mother, since Henry VIII remunerated killers pursued him even in Italy were he had sought sanctuary.
    Even if perhaps resting on scant historical documental evidence, I would suggest further reading of Hugh Ross Williamson’s (a direct descendant of St Margaret) books (out of print and difficult to find) on the subject.

    Pray Saint Margaret’s reliquiae (now under the floor of St Peter ad vincula at the Tower in London) may some day be brought to rest in her own shrine in Christchurch East Dorset.

    M-G.S.

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    BuceFan1 Reply:

    It seems Countess Margret has quite a dedicated and informed champion in you, D-G. Keep up the good work.

    (Btw, can you recommend any good resources on the topic of the Tudor reformation? I can only assume you might know some.)

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  23. Mary.Seymour says:

    At the risk of having the book thrown at me, I would point out that if Margaret Pole had met her death with the courage and dignity of Jane Grey, Anne Bolyn, Catherine Howard and Jane Rochfort she would not have suffered so much. To go to ones execution with dignity and courage was the conduct expected of mediaeval and Tudor aristocrats – it was part of the obligation of nobility. Margaret Pole by her (reported) conduct let the side down.

    On the other hand, while it may have taken eleven blows to sever her head, it it very unlikely that she would have felt them all. A damaging blow to the upper spine could well have speedily rendered her unconscious. As I say, if she hadn’t put up a fight – if she did – she would have suffered less.

    And she might well have suffered more & for longer if she had died a natural death.

    And who is to say that a “frail old woman” might not be politically dangerous ?

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    Claire Reply:

    Chapuys’ report of the execution actually makes no mention of her putting up a fight:

    “She sent her blessing to her, and begged also for hers. After which words she was told to make haste and place her neck on the block, which she did. But as the ordinary executor of justice was absent doing his work in the North, a wretched and blundering youth (garçonneau) was chosen, who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces in the most pitiful manner.”

    So it’s hard to know what really happened. I hope that she didn’t suffer for long.

    “And who is to say that a “frail old woman” might not be politically dangerous?” Well, she had shown no signs of being dangerous and had been Mary’s governess, but she was obviously linked to Cardinal Pole.

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  24. BanditQueen says:

    Henry by this time 1541 had become over sensitive about those around him and very suspicious of them. Cardinal Pole, the last true Archbishop of Canterbury, may have written against Henry’s divorce, but he was not responsible for the execution of any of his family. The entire family were victims of the fact that Henry had become paranoid and would not tolerate anyone who was of royal blood other than his own. The Poles were royal via George, Duke of Clarence, the third son of Richard, Duke of York, brother of Edward IV and Richard 111. He was Margaret’s father.

    Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was the last of the victims that were executed from a family who could have taken over the throne had the Tudors been wiped out. The fact that they supported Mary and were also against the divorce was used as an excuse to round them up and to implicate them in a plot invented by Thomas Cromwell. Margaret was the matriarch and the others were her sons and grandsons. Cardinal Pole, Henry, Lord Montague, Harry Courtney, Geoffrey Pole, her young grandson, who was pardoned because of his youth, were all accused of imagining the King’s death and of having a right to the crown that they wanted to promote. Really it was revenge by Henry, who had once supported and sponsored the family, because he felt betrayed by Cardinal Reginald Pole whom wrote to the rebels in the north to encourage them against the King. He could not get at Cardinal Pole so he took out the rest of the family instead.

    Henry first of all took out Lord Montague and then he took out others, along with their friends, Edward Neville and Sir Nicholas Carewe, accused of knowing about this plot but not telling the council about it. Having destroyed the sons, imprisoned the young grandson, Henry decided that the matriarch had raised them to be traitors and went after poor Margaret. In spite of her years of loyal service, despite her piety and her praise from the King over all of those years, her being governess to the Kings daughter Princess Mary, Margaret was suddenly seen as dangerous. Although she was very old (|I am not sure, but I think that she was at least 70 plus) for some reason an ever more paranoid Henry imagined that this saintly old lady was somehow behind the plots, and the poor woman, without trial was taken and executed.

    I do not believe that she was afraid. There is no evidence that she was dragged screaming to her death. But once on the scaffold she declared that she had committed no crime and refused to give in to the demands of the executioner. The poor woman may have lost her mind, having lost her sons, or she may have just been stubborn to refuse to accept her fate. The executioner had to chase the poor lady around and it ended in a gruesome execution, but she refused all to the end. She was not afraid, she did not scream in terror; she refused to accept the unlawful sentence given against her.

    Margaret Pole is Blessed Margaret Pole: I pray one day she is Saint Margaret Pole and that her sons are canonized as well as the whole family died for their faith, and treason was just the government’s excuse to destroy a dynastic rival family.

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  25. Julie Gegogeine says:

    I am a history fan , not a scholar, so cannot say so much as to the exact details of Margaret’s live or death. I love historical fiction and eagerly read every bit of it that I can. What surprises me is that more hasn’t been written about Margaret. This women who was Plantagenet herself seems to be to have a story that begs to be told. Just telling the known facts and details of her life would be engrossing. In many ways I imagine a fictional story about her would be much more interesting than either of Henry the Eight’s daughters. I plan on looking up more about her, purely for the enjoyment of it. She has all the qualities of a true heroine.

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    Gerard Gosling Reply:

    Julie, read Phillipa’s book ‘The King’s Curse’, it’s written through the eyes of Margaret Pole, wonderful!

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    carol halliday Reply:

    yes a great book, philippa Gregory’s books are wonderful

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    Maxine Skopov Reply:

    Just read it also. Love her books. And from the research I’ve done so far, her novel seems very authentic, despite her filling in the gaps.

  26. Gail F. says:

    I wonder whether poor Margaret just lost it; and rebelled at the last, refusing to lay her head down out of sorrow and misery. Don’t forget, her father and brother were also executed as traitors (her father was a traitor, her brother was a victim of Henry VIII’s father’s paranoia), she had supported and obeyed the Tudor kings; it’s not hard to imagine that the poor woman just lost it at the end, ending up on the block despite having lived a virtuous life, and resorted to struggling for her life.

    I blame Margaret Pole’s executioner only for being inexperienced and not up to the task. Being an executioner was a job; the executioner did not order anyone’s death. A skilled headsman could make someone’s death quick. I believe that the unfortunate condemned man or woman customarily had to give the headsman a tip, or a purse; after the headsman asked (again, the custom) for forgiveness; although maybe that was just in the case of executing women, or royal women. Anne Boleyn was condemned to death by burning or decapitation, at the king’s pleasure; I believe he commuted the sentence from burning to the block; and granted her request for a French swordsman.

    But it was considered important for a nobleman or noblewoman to behave with dignity and courage when coming to be executed; and many of them did, even the young and imprudent Catherine Howard. Not only for their own honor and the dignity of their station, but many of them had families that they wished to protect; so they would praise the monarch or at least not blame him/her.

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  27. Karen Riner says:

    Reading all of the comments was educational for me. So many learned historians on this site. I think you have actually changed my opinion (and, it was very bad) of Henry VIII. You have given me a bit of an “education, if you will. I have learned that politics and playing politics can be a life threateningly real game, more so back then but, even by current standards. I think they “played” a little rough back then, whereas today someone might be fired from their job or put in prison if they got a little “weird” or offended the powers that be. Interestingly, we still have torture in the current world, we still have executions and some put to death are in fact, innocent…we still have battling families over power and politically sly and deceiving people. We still have rampant corruption in government and we still have an extrodinarily powerful religious community. We even have a serial killer or mass murderer in power from time to time….I think we could call Hitler a little bloody, not much different from “Bloody Mary”. Not much of a change in society at all, when you get down to brass tacks…..

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  28. Zoey says:

    I was just watching the showtime show Tudors and notice that a Lady Salisbury was said. I wonder if I am related to her in some way because my last name is Salisbury and i guess that it could be possible but who know right. And im not just joking here my actual real last name is Salisbury. Does anyone know if her ancestors ever came to America?

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    Claire Reply:

    Hi Zoe, her surname was actually “Pole” and she was the Countess of Salisbury, which is a place in England. Could your name come from the place?

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  29. Janet Silvester says:

    I have known about Margaret, Countess of Salisbury for some years but having read more about her she was a Saint. She was never charged with anything so in my eyes was murdered. I will never read any more books about Henry VIII he was completely mad, how I hate him for doing this and ruining our country.

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    Claire Reply:

    Hi Janet,
    Margaret did not have a trial but she was charged with treason and Parliament passed an act of attainder in May 1539, so it was Parliament who found her guilty. I do agree with you, though, I see her execution as nothing more than revenge for her son’s opposition to Henry.

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  30. Jonathan says:

    I love reading about the past histories of england. Margaret pole was right to run from the block, if that is what she did. What was the worse that could happen. They were to execute her anyway. She made them earn it. Yet another poor soul sent to the block by the mad king. Btw, was just in exeter, devon this past week. My future home.

    [Reply]

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