Reginald Pole was born at Stourton Castle, Staffordshire, on 3 March 1500, to Margaret Plantagenet and Sir Richard Pole. Reginald was the grandson of George, Duke of Clarence (Isabel Neville) and great-nephew to both King Edward IV and King Richard III. To say he had royal blood in his veins would be an understatement. Unfortunately, after the execution of his grandfather, the Duke of Clarence, his family name was severely tarnished and Clarence’s lands and titles were forfeited.
When Reginald’s uncle, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Henry VII became King of England. At the time it was imperative for all the Yorkist supporters to move into the shadows and not to interfere with the Tudor reign. With all that being said, Henry VII arranged a marriage for Margaret Plantagenet to Sir Richard Pole. Sir Richard Pole was considered a safe marriage for Margaret — he was related to My Lady, the King’s Mother, Margaret Beaufort through her half-sister (Edith St. John), who was Sir Richard Pole’s mother. By marrying Margaret Plantagenet into the family it would make it more difficult for plotters to use Margaret as a figurehead for their Yorkist cause.
Margaret and Richard went on to have five children together: Henry, Reginald, Geoffrey, Arthur and Ursula Pole. In 1504/5, Sir Richard Pole died. After his death, Margaret was left to raise five children with a limited amount of land inherited from her husband. She had no salary and no prospects.
With Margaret’s limited funds Henry VII was nice enough to pay for the funeral of his cousin, Sir Richard Pole.
Margaret Pole was first cousin to Henry VII’s late wife, Elizabeth of York – in a way, she was family and probably reminded Henry VII of his wife as well.
To ease the financial burden, Margaret devoted her third son, Reginald Pole (age 5) to the Church. Nonetheless, Reginald would bitterly resent her abandonment of him later in life. Additionally, Margaret, without adequate means to support herself and her children, was forced to live at Syon Abbey among Bridgettine nuns after her husband’s death. She remained at the abbey until her return to favor at the ascension of Henry VIII in 1509.
In 1538, Reginald wrote a scathing letter to his mother. This letter portrays how bitter he was toward her.
“that ever you had given me utterly unto God. And though you had so done with all your children, yet in me you had so given all right from you and possession utterly of me that you never took any care to provide for my living nor otherwise, as you did for other, but committed all to God, to whom you had given me. This promise now, Madam, in my [Maister]es name I require of you to maintain, [the wh]iche you cannot keep nor make good if y[ou] now beginne to care for me. [–] I mean this, not intermit the least care of mind for me, knowing to what master you have given me; but both touching yourself and me both, commit all to His goodness, as I doubt not your ladyship will, and shall be to me the greatest comfort I can have of you.” Venge (Venice), 15 July”
“Son Reginald,” I send you God’s blessing and mine, though my trust to have comfort in you is turned to sorrow. Alas that I, for your folly, should receive from my sovereign lord “such message as I have late done by your brother.” To me as a woman, his Highness has shown such mercy and pity as I could never deserve, but that I trusted my children’s services would express my duty. “
Reginald Pole was once a favorite of his cousin, Henry VIII. The king even paid for half of Reginald’s schooling at one time. However, when Reginald rejected any divorce discussion regarding Katherine of Aragon, spoke poorly of Anne Boleyn and then refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy, he enraged Henry. Henry turned on Reginald and attacked his family in England instead — since Reginald was out of the king’s reach.
Between 1537 and 1539 the Pope ordered Reginald on two diplomatic missions to persuade Europe’s Catholic monarchs to ally against Henry VIII. Both of his missions were unsuccessful, and Henry, in revenge for Pole’s treasonous activities, executed Pole’s brother, Henry Pole, Lord Montagu at the end of 1538, and his cousin Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter in the beginning of 1539. In 1541 he also executed Margaret Pole, Reginald’s mother.
Having royal blood during the Tudor reign was a dangerous thing, especially if you were related to a York.
Here is a list of family members were all executed for treason between the reign of Edward IV and Henry VIII:
George, Duke of Clarence (grandfather) – by Edward IV
Edward, Earl of Warwick (uncle) – by Henry VII
Henry Pole, Baron of Montague (brother) – by Henry VIII
Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter (1st cousin) – by Henry VIII
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (mother) – by Henry VIII
Reginald Pole died 17 November 1558, the same day as Queen Mary I of England.