Angelic Cardinal Reginald Pole - C. M. Antony

The Third Legation

On July 6, 1553, King Edward VI. died; and as soon as he heard the news Pope Julius III. sent Cardinal Pole, at Maguzzano, a brief, dated August 6, appointing him Legate to the new Queen Mary of England; and also to the Emperor, and the King of France, through whose dominions he would pass, and between whom he was, if possible, to make peace. His letters-patent and credentials were to follow; and the appointment of Dr. Pate, the exiled bishop of Worcester and Pole's old friend, as Papal Nuncio, was left to the Legate's discretion.

The rapture of joy which filled his soul overflowed in his letters, which for the next eighteen months give us a graphic picture of the complicated events which led to the Reconciliation.

For it was not by any means plain sailing. The bitter hostility between the Emperor and the King of France threatened at any minute to break into open war; and as Charles V. desired and intended to marry Mary to his son Philip II., King of Spain and Naples, and Pole was believed to be unfavorable to the match; as also Henry of France regarded him as a partisan of the Emperor, whose friend he had always been, it was abundantly evident that the journey to England would be fraught with difficulty and danger. The Cardinal had to pass through the Emperor's dominions as well as through France; he was entrusted with a mission of peace to both monarchs; and Henry II. was as morally weak as his father had been. In the end, through political jealousies, the Legate's journey, as will appear, was delayed seventeen months; during which England was in the throes of rebellion, and an unrest which almost amounted to civil war.

Before beginning the history of this eventful journey, one letter, most important in view of future events must be noticed. Cardinal Gianpetro Caraffa (who two years later was to become Pope Paul IV.) had been created Archbishop of Naples, his native city, in 1549. He was a furious political partisan, and in Naples political hatred ran high against the Emperor and his son Philip, King of Naples. It is evident from this letter of Pole's to the Dominican Master of the Sacred Palace, on August 6, 1553, in which he expresses his joy that Caraffa is again on affectionate terms with him, and had expressed a wish to read De Unitate, that a very serious misunderstanding, fomented by Pole's enemies, had arisen between them. It seems probable from the close of the letter, that Caraffa had actually paid some attention to the ridiculous charge of heresy, of which mention has been made, though the estrangement was originally, and mainly, political Pole being known as a friend of the Emperor, to whom the Neapolitan Cardinal was violently opposed.

On August 7 Pole replied at length to the Pope's letter, proposing to come to Rome for an audience before starting on his mission. On August 13 he wrote the first of three important letters to the Queen of England, congratulating her warmly on overcoming so many obstacles and enemies—rather by supernatural than natural means, for: "Spiritus Sanctus supervenit in corde hominum." He points out how all the evil had originated in the King's divorce; and speaks of himself as one "who of all these yet living . . . has suffered the most, both on this account . . . and for the Queen's cause." He then tells her plainly of the necessity of reunion with the Apostolic See, of which he has been appointed legate; asking her pleasure as to the time and place of the reconciliation, for "in this point of obedience to the Church consists the establishment of her crown, and the entire welfare of her kingdom." On the same day he received his legatine commission, through the hands of Parpaglia, and wrote to Cardinal Dandino, Papal Legate at Brussels, asking his advice as to the probable attitude of Charles V. toward his mission.

At that moment, however, Dandino had a secret envoy of his own in England, the future Cardinal Commendone; and on that very day—August 13, 1553—he was witness of the scene at Paul's Cross, where an excited mob threw missiles—one of which was a dagger—at Dr. Gilbert Bourne, the Queen's chaplain, while he was preaching there. Commendone had a private audience with Queen Mary, who sent a humble message for forgiveness to the Pope; and returned to Dandino, who, firmly persuaded that the time for Pole's mission had not yet arrived, promptly dispatched him to Rome, to make his report.

A week later, however, Pole wrote directly to the Emperor, informing him of his mission; begging his help in carrying it out; and praying for a speedy audience. At the same time the Legate sent a long letter of instructions to the secretary who was to convey his letter to Charles. It seemed impossible, throughout his life, for a man of Pole's transparent sincerity to suspect anyone else of double-dealing.

On the 27th, still from the monastery on Lake Como, he wrote his second letter to Mary—a long and deeply touching epistle. He speaks of the joy with which Catholics everywhere have received the news of her accession; and the fact that all eyes were fixed on her, who had power to "render the title of the primacy of the Church on earth to him to whom the Supreme Head both of Heaven and earth has given it;" and reminds her of those who had shed their blood for the primacy; and her own youthful sufferings, in "the same school in which the Divine Providence which educated you, educated me likewise; I entering at the same time as you, and learning the same lesson from the same Master." He concludes by urging her to seek, at all costs, the reconciliation of her kingdom.

He wrote, too, to Gardiner(now Lord Chancellor) , referring in most generous terms to that prelate's lapse during the last two unhappy reigns, "not having well learnt at that time . . . the mode of resisting schism," and insisting upon the fundamental truth of papal supremacy. At the same time he begs Gardiner's assistance in the Council, in the great work to which he has been called: "For this, I hope, the Lord God will have elected your lordship as His great and powerful instrument."

On August 30 Parpaglia wrote from Rome to say that the Pope left every detail of the mission entirely in Pole's hands, with absolute confidence in his powers; and thought of recalling his French and imperial legates, in order that Pole alone, on his journey to England, might treat for peace between the two rival monarchs whose dissensions were the despair of Christendom. A week later, the Legate, replying to the Pope, says that he considers it extremely unfitting that the first session of the English parliament should pass without reference being made to reunion, so that the need of a legate is evident; and he asks permission to proceed at once to the imperial court, en route for England. To his Dominican friend at the Vatican, he adds, that even if the moment has not yet come for him to be in England he can at least be "in the neighborhood"; and he repeats this to Cardinal Dandinoat Brussels, in a letter flavored with gentle sarcasm. He has seen and heard Commendone, he says; and is quite agreed on the necessity of proceeding prudently; but much experience has shewn him the fatal effects of human respect in a case where the honor of God was involved; and in short, he is ready to face any danger in order to carry out his mission.

On September 10, Queen Mary, in an audience with the Venetian ambassador, let him know" very earnestly," that the cardinal should "by no means come hither, either as a legate or as a private individual, until a more fitting time." She begged him to assure the Holy Father that this was not because she had changed her mind, or that she did not wish to see the Cardinal, but out of sheer necessity. And indeed, a woman has seldom been placed in a more difficult or delicate position.

Before any law could be passed, or repealed—even that affecting the legitimacy of her own birth—Parliament must meet; and in order that it might, she must first be crowned. At that ceremony, which took place on October 1, 1553, she promised to protect the rights of the Holy See. She was perfectly aware that in order to do this effectually she must make an important political marriage, and that the husband proposed by her cousin and adviser Charles V. was unpopular with the nation as a whole. No reliance can be placed on the rumor that she had expressed a wish to Commendone that the Cardinal-deacon might be dispensed from his vows, and marry her himself. But she had not yet seen Philip; the kingdom was rent with religious and civil strife; and she doubtless felt that until the question of her marriage was settled, she could do little towards a public reconciliation with Rome. Such at least was the policy of the Emperor; and it was successful in delaying Pole's journey for a year, lest by any means the marriage of Philip and Mary—to Charles an absolute political necessity—should be frustrated.

Pole left Maguzzano at the end of September, and wrote to the Pope from Trent on the day of Mary's coronation referring to his hope of establishing peace between Charles and Henry II., to the latter of whom he wrote officially next day; as also to the Constable of France, the Papal Legate, and the Nuncio. On the same day he wrote for the third time to Mary, reminding her of his two former letters, and telling her frankly that the Emperor wished him to defer his mission—which is the advice of a prudent prince, and such as he could recommend Mary to follow, did he not see that she has "always been guided by a greater light than could be given to her by human prudence." He entreats her not to let the first session of Parliament pass before introducing some definite measure of reunion.

To Courtenay, the Marquis of Exeter, he also wrote on the same day, in terms which might perhaps be construed into a wish to see him Mary's husband; which indeed at one time seemed the desire of the nation. On October 8, Mary at length replied to her "good cousin and most blessed Father in Christ," thanking him almost passionately for his kindness and patience, and promising to do all that he wished, as soon as it should be possible to "manifest the whole intent of her heart in that matter." She desires that Parliament may do away with the iniquitous laws which have been the origin of all their afflictions; and then hopes to obtain a general pardon from the Pope.

It was doubtless Pole's generally suspected dislike to the "Spanish match" which caused his detention at Dillingen on his way to an audience with the Emperor. He writes thence pathetically to the Pope of the "stormy sea" on which he has now embarked; and of the "mainland of friends" left behind him; recommending himself earnestly to the Holy Father's prayers.

About this time, Pole's secretary, Pening, whom he had sent with his last letter to the Queen, met the Cardinal at Dillingen, and informed him of the success of his mission. This the Cardinal drew up in the form of a report, which Pening took to the Pope. It informs him that Pening had seen Queen Mary, who spoke very freely to him, telling him of her desire to be absolved by Cardinal Pole, and that she knew that her coronation ought to be preceded by the General Reconciliation; but as the latter ceremony was not yet possible she begged Pening to send an express to the Cardinal informing him of her desire, before her crowning, so that she might "remain with her conscience at ease and believe herself absolved." She promised that Parliament should carry out the wishes of the Holy Father, so far as she had any power, but that it could not assemble till after her coronation, for which she begged Pening to wait. This he did; and at the opening of Parliament Gardiner made a fine speech on the unhappy schism of the country. "Her Majesty's final decision was that his Right Reverend Lordship was to come leisurely towards Brussels, where he should await further news."

This was excellent, and Pole's spirits revived. He was now fifty-three; his health, never robust, had lately begun to fail, and he suffered acutely from rheumatism which often took the form of inflammation of one eye. He must have longed for the peace and tranquility of his beautiful Benedictine monastery during the next year.

On October 24, the Emperor sent Mendoza to the Legate, to request him to remain for a time where he was. Pole wrote to Charles to remonstrate; and also to Pope Julius, to whom he says that, being his legate and owing him his first duty, he will even at his command, disregard the Emperor's wish and go forward. To Mendoza he laid great stress on the indignity offered to a Papal Legate who was desired to "loiter" in his progress. Mendoza gave him "clearly to understand" that the obstruction was the Spanish marriage. "From this" [says Pole] "I comprehend that these difficulties about not allowing me to go forward proceed from nothing else; and that until the business be accomplished according to the Emperor's desire, or his Majesty be altogether quite certain of being able to conclude it, he will always find means to prevent my going; being unable, from what I believe, to convince himself that I would assist him to place my country in the hands of a foreigner."

Four days later he addressed a spirited remonstrance to Charles, on the subject of his double legation, telling him that it was not to the honor of any of the parties concerned that the Cardinal-legate should be detained, and his audience postponed.

On November 2, Parpaglia returned from an Embassy to Henry II. at Paris, bringing good news. The King of France was delighted to hear of the mission of "his good cousin and great friend"—whom he had as yet never met—and promising him a "cordial and honorable" reception in his kingdom.

A month later Pole wrote a charming letter to Queen Mary, again warning her of the danger to the country as long as it is unreconciled, and reminding her that St. Peter's ship could neither go to pieces nor founder. That as far as England is concerned she is now in the position of the pilot, and responsible for all. It is no time to hesitate. On January 23, 1554, Mary answered this letter, begging Pole to use his legatine powers in providing priests for the realm, confirming in their benefices such as are not "heretics and married priests . . . among whom are certain prelates." She assures him of her longing to see him in England, and has sent the Bishop of Norwich to him, with this letter, to Brussels. A few days later, on January 28, the Cardinal was able to tell the Pope that the Emperor has offered him audience, describing his honorable reception at Brussels, at which Norwich assisted. They had entered in procession, the Bishop of Arras having interviewed the Emperor as to the formal audience; and making "many apologies" as to Pole's detention at Dillingen, to which, however, the legate did not make "much rejoinder." Beccadelli tells us that the Cardinal, however, replied: "I own that I was a little surprised that I, who have access to God every day on behalf of the Emperor, should find it so difficult to gain admittance once to the Emperor in the cause of God."

Pole says himself that he was really glad that the Emperor had so far refused to see him, as he had been suffering so terribly from rheumatic gout. He was roused from sleep by the Bishop of Norwich, during the night of February 5, with sudden dispatches from England about Wyatt's rebellion. Five days later he had an audience of the Emperor which left matters much as they were. This he describes in a most interesting letter to Cardinal del Monte, in which he refers at great length to the Papal absolution which the Holy Father longed to bestow on England, and to the form of Reconciliation. He shall, he says, request the Queen to send him someone who "evinces piety"; to ask for absolution in the name of the whole nation, so that he may be empowered by England to bestow it.

On February 12, Mary took the definite step of presenting twelve of the "most Catholic" bishops she could find in her realm to the legate, begging the Pope to institute and confirm them in their sees—Pole in the meantime giving them license to take possession should the Pope's bull not arrive in time. She calls the Cardinal her "proctor."

At Easter Pole was in Paris, where he had an audience of Henry II. at St. Denis, and consulted with the great ecclesiastics and statesmen as to the prospects of peace. He dined with the King on April 2, 1554; had another audience, and found Henry most desirous that hostilities should cease. On April 8 he made his public entry into Paris, at the King's request, when he published the Jubilee. He was back at Brussels again on April 19, and saw the Emperor a couple of days later; but on May 25 came a serious check. The Pope had been much annoyed by the information that the Emperor's objection to the Legate's journey arose from Pole's antipathy to the Spanish match. His enemies had spared no pains to misrepresent facts. The poor Cardinal writes that he would rather die than fail to relieve the Pope's anxiety. His friend Cardinal Morone had also written to suggest that in all probability his habitual silence had annoyed the Emperor; he counseled him not to "lack demonstration of joy" when the subject was discussed in future. This Pole very humbly promises to do to the best of his ability—acknowledging the fact that hitherto he has not discussed the Spanish marriage at all "because it did not seem to him in conformity with modesty, nor expedient . . . for the religion which he had in hand, to speak about such a thing before the persons concerned had either asked his opinion, or given him any hint of it."

[Illustration] from Cardinal Pole by C. M. Antony


Never, perhaps, had his delicacy and humility appeared to greater advantage. There is no doubt that his enemies did him untold harm, both with the Pope and the Emperor, but secretly. He compares himself to a man in a field of long grass, threatened by a deadly snake, which he cannot see, and at whose movements he can only guess by the moving of the grass through which the reptile glides.

The royal wedding took place in Winchester Cathedral on July 25, 1554, and at the beginning of June the Cardinal wrote to the Queen to know if it was her wish that one of his attendants should assist at the ceremony; charging her at the same time to use all her power to make peace between the King of France and the Emperor, who would now be her father-in-law. The Venetian ambassador, Michiel, was eventually chosen to represent the Legate; and on July n Pole wrote a courteous letter of congratulation to Philip, reminding him of his new responsibilities, and of his "inherited title of Catholic."

Of "the most serene Madame Mary, Queen of England and Defendress of the Faith," the retiring Venetian ambassador gives a vivid picture about this time.t

"She is of low stature, with a red and white complexion, and very thin; her eyes are white and large, and her hair reddish; her face is round, with a nose rather low and wide, and were not her age on the decline she might be called handsome rather than the contrary." To this extremely non-committal opinion he adds: "She is of very spare diet, and never eats until 1 or 2 P.M., although she rises at day break, when, after saying her prayers and hearing mass in private, she transacts business incessantly until after midnight, when she retires to rest." He dwells on her attachment to the Church, for which, he says, she is ready to die; and gives a long list of her accomplishments, including the mastery of five languages. "But she seems to delight above all in arraying herself elegantly and magnificently . . . and she . . . wears much embroidery and gowns and mantles of cloth of gold and cloth of silver of great value. . . . She also makes great use of jewels ... in which she delights greatly."

This is not, perhaps, the generally received idea of Mary Tudor.

The marriage having been celebrated with great pomp and magnificence, the legate, after waiting a couple of months, addressed a dignified and touching letter of remonstrance to Philip, which he begins by reminding him it is now a year since he knocked at his palace gates, and had been refused admittance. Were the King to ask "who knocks?" he would reply: "I am he, who in order not to exclude your consort from the palace of England, endured expulsion from home and country and twenty years of exile." But this is nothing. He comes, "not as a private person, but in the name of the Vicegerent of the King of kings, the successor of St. Peter; or rather of St. Peter himself, who has long been knocking at the royal gate, which, though open to others is closed to him alone." The letter, too long for insertion, is perhaps one of the most beautiful of this prince of letter-writers. It was followed on September 28 by one to the Emperor, earnestly desiring him, now that the marriage is an accomplished fact, to open the road to England without further delay.

"If he shall return [to Rome] without saving his country," the English ambassador had just written to Queen Mary from Brussels, "like as he shall return a sorrowful man, so shall the realm have lost the fruition of such a one as for his wisdom, joined with virtue, learning, and godliness, all the world seeketh and adoreth. In whom it is to be thought that God hath chosen a special place of habitation, such is his conversation, adorned with infinite godly qualities above the ordinary sort of men; and whosoever within the realm liketh him worse, I would that he might have with him the talk of one half-hour—it were a right stony heart that within a small time he could not soften. If it be his fortune to depart without shewing the experience thereof in the realm, his going away shall be, in mine opinion, like the story in the gospel of such as dwelt in regione Geresenorum, who upon a fond fear, desired Christ, offering Himself unto them, ut discederet a finibus illorum."

His patience was on the point of being rewarded. On October 15 Queen Mary wrote to her "good cousin Pole" by the hand of Simon Renard, the imperial ambassador in England, hoping for his speedy arrival "by God's grace." Philip also wrote, and Pole met Renard at Brussels, to discuss final details; particularly with regard to the legate's instructions as to the restitution of stolen church property, about which the Queen was deeply concerned. Everything being satisfactorily settled, Pole wrote on October 27 to Philip and Mary, informing the latter that his frequent appeals to her ought rather to have been made to the Pope.

There was still an official delay of some days, as it was thought well that the Legate should travel attended by the English ambassador; but on November 9 the Bishop of Arras came to Pole from the Emperor. He "exulted and rejoiced," holding in his hand letters from Philip to his father the Emperor, in which he requested that the Legate might set out on his journey at once, but begging him to arrive unofficially; though he should be subsequently publicly recognized as Legate by King, Queen and nation. The King earnestly requested him not to go into detail as to the distribution of church property, but to "announce good intentions to all in general terms."

The first stipulation was a disappointment "such as is wont to happen in all the affairs of God;" but Pole promised to fall in with their wishes, "not unwillingly;" and as to the second item, "very willingly."

All preparations being now finished he left Brussels, escorted by Lord Edward Hastings and Lord Paget, on the 13th, and, in less than a week, reached Calais, where he was received with great rejoicings. On his arrival it was remarked with awe that the contrary wind which had raged for some days, suddenly dropped, and became fair.

He crossed the Channel to Dover in the royal yacht, escorted by six men of war; and on November 24, 1554, the exile of twenty-three years set foot in his native land.