On this day in Tudor history, 29th August 1538, in the reign of King Henry VIII, Geoffrey Pole, son of Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was arrested.
Geoffrey was already on thin ice, having been a staunch supporter of Queen Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary, but he now was suspected, like other members of his family, of being in communication with his brother, Cardinal Reginald Pole, a man who had upset King Henry VIII by writing a treatise against him and his policies.
Unlike other members of his family, including Margaret Pole, Geoffrey managed to survive this trouble.
How? Why? What happened?
On this day in Tudor history, 29th August 1538, Geoffrey Pole, fourth son of the late Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was arrested on suspicion of being in contact with his brother, Cardinal Reginald Pole, who had denounced King Henry VIII and his policies in his treatise, “Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione”. He was taken to the Tower of London. Geoffrey had previously been banished from court following his brother’s promotion to cardinal and had been a staunch supporter of Catherine of Aragon and Princess Mary.
On 26th October 1538, nearly two months after his arrest, Geoffrey was interrogated regarding letters he and his family had received from Reginald, and words which Geoffrey had uttered showing his support for the Cardinal. As a result of information gleaned from Geoffrey Pole in seven separate rounds of interrogations, on 4th November 1538, Geoffrey’s brother, Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu, was arrested for treason along with his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Neville, and Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, and his family (wife Gertrude Blount and son Edward Courtenay). They were accused of conspiring against the king, seeking to deprive the king of his title of supreme head of the church, and plotting with Cardinal Reginald Pole. Pole’s mother, the Countess of Salisbury, was arrested on 12th November by William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, and Thomas Goodrich, Bishop of Ely and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
On 9th December 1538, Sir Edward Neville was beheaded. On 2nd January 1539, Geoffrey was pardoned due to his mental state and after several suicide attempts – an attempt to avoid further interrogations and being tortured – and also due to his testimony against his family, given when, according to his wife Constance, he was in a frenzy. His most recent attempt had been over Christmas 1538 when he was said to have tried to suffocate himself with a cushion.
Montagu and Exeter were beheaded on 9th January 1539 and Geoffrey’s mother, Margaret, was executed on the 27th May 1541. Exeter’s wife was released in 1540, and his son in 1553. Cardinal Pole managed to escape the wrath of Henry VIII, being abroad at the time. He was attainted for treason in 1539 ‘in absentia’ but this was reversed by Mary I in 1554, and he ended up serving her as her Archbishop of Canterbury, dying on the same days as his queen, 17th November 1558.
Geoffrey fled into exile in Flanders following the execution of his mother. He also travelled to Rome to see his brother and to obtain absolution for his part in the fall of his family. The pope absolved him and then he was sent back to Flanders. He stayed on the Continent until Mary I’s accession and he died a few days before the queen and his brother in 1558. He was survived by his wife and 11 children.
Here’s a bit of trivia about Geoffrey Pole – In the autumn of 1532, when Henry VIII visited Calais with his sweetheart Anne Boleyn, to obtain Francis I’s blessing for their marriage, Geoffrey went to Calais in disguise, hid himself in his brother Montagu’s apartments and then, at night, went gathering information, which he then took back to England to report back to Catherine of Aragon.