The Tudor Society

14 August – Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

On this day in Tudor history, 14th August 1473, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was born.

Margaret Pole is an interesting lady - the niece of Edward IV, Countess of Salisbury in her own right, governess to Mary I... and she came to a rather awful and sticky end.

Let me tell you a bit more about this fascinating Tudor lady and what happened to her.

Also on this day in history:

  • 1479 – Date given as the birthdate of Katherine of York (Katherine, Countess of Devon), at Eltham Palace. Katherine was the daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and she married Sir William Courtenay, the future Earl of Devon, in 1495.
  • 1513 - William Parr, Marquis of Northampton and brother of Queen Catherine Parr, was born.
  • 1539 – Death of Sir Peter Edgcumbe. Edgcumbe served as Sheriff of Devon and Cornwall at various times between 1494 and 1534, was at the 1513 Battle of the Spurs and was present at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.
  • 1620 – Burial of Katherine Hastings (née Dudley), Countess of Huntingdon, in Chelsea Old Church. Katherine was the daughter of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and his wife Jane, and was married to Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. Katherine was buried in her mother's tomb.

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  1. R

    Good afternoon, fellow Tudor nut,😂😂😂 love that self description.

    Margaret had to be resilient when you think she and her unfortunate brother went through growing up. With both of her parents dying in difficult circumstances, her mother a few weeks after her son Richard who also died when Margaret was three, then her father was arrested, tainted in Parliament and then executed on 18th February 1478. George, Duke of Clarence wasn’t murdered, he was privately executed, most probably as people believe by drowning in fine wine. He was Attained in Parliament for allegedly plotting to kill his brother and his children, but was more of a nuisance than a traitor and his real crime was usurping royal authority when he hung two people for the alleged crime of poisoning Isabella, his wife. Clarence was not the most stable of the sons of York and had betrayed Edward twice before, joining Warwick in hair brained schemes to put himself, then Henry on the throne. He hadn’t received either the same recognition or the rich rewards his young kid brother, Richard had, now his wife died suddenly, he was denied justice, so he took it himself. Completely mad with grief when his baby son died soon afterwards, Clarence then hired a sorcerer who predicted his brothers would die. Edward had no choice but to arrest him. Six months later he was privately executed as above. I believe he was mad with grief but I am not the King of England whose wild brother is claiming he has a better claim because he is legitimate and I am not. When that same brought, while sane has joined or led two rebellions, one of which dethroned Edward, I think he would now be giving serious consideration to the real possibility that with two young heirs, he may never be secure while his highly unstable brother is allowed to live and spout about his own claim and rights. George suffered a horrible death, but I doubt his brother had any real choice but to end his life, although the method was quite bazaar. It is not entirely certain this was the method of execution, but it was the one consistently mentioned in contemporary sources. It certainly gave food to Shakespeare, whose version was complete nonsense save that it had Clarence plotting, but he most certainly wasn’t murdered by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who on the contrary tried to save his brother, as did their mother, who was completely devastated by George’s death.

    The children who survived, Edward, the three year old heir, later allowed his family title of Earl of Warwick and the slightly older Margaret, were of course now barred from the crown but still royal children and were raised as wards of the crown. It is interesting that Henry Tudor should be terrified of an eight year old child that he placed him in the Tower, but then he wasn’t exactly that secure in spite of his victory. Within one year Henry Vii faced his first challenge when John de la Pole, another Plantagenet heir via the sister of Edward iv, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, took off and raised an army with a rather ambiguous aim of putting a rival on the throne. The official story was that the aim was to rescue Edward, Earl of Warwick and put him on the throne, but John had his own claim. A boy by the name of Lambert Simnel was used as a decoy and claimed to be the Earl of Warwick. When the real Warwick was shown in public John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln vanished and the plot became even more dangerous. A foreign army was raised and defeated at Stoke Field, leaving John de la Pole and his army dead in June 1487 and Lambert Simnel on the battlefield. He was brought back to Court and put in the royal kitchens and later he served as a falconer. The real Warwick never saw the light of day again, being beheaded on trumped up charges of treason in 1499 by a paranoid Henry Vii who had been troubled for nine years by another young man who claimed to be the lost Prince Richard of York, by the odd name of Perkin Warbeck. To please Spain and clear house Henry had to get rid of any rivals before it was safe for Catherine of Aragon to marry Prince Arthur and to secure his own crown. In the meantime before the Battle of Stoke a boy, assumed to be Simnel, although sources differ on this post was actually crowned in Dublin Cathedral as Edward vi. The only reference to his numerical assignment is in the York Books and a proclamation associated with this boy but close examination shows it could read v or vi and the i was added later. In sources the boy taken was named as Edward, John and three other names, with only the official version calling him Warwick. This is interesting as some historians believe it was actually the lost son of Edward iv who was crowned in Dublin, who was the cause of the rising and that Warwick and Lambert were decoys or invented by the government.

    Margaret was of course still being raised by royal favourites and as the video states she was married off to a man lower in status, Sir Richard Pole but the marriage was obviously successful as she had five surviving children, four of whom were sons. Margaret was a survivor. She was a woman of great intelligence and her status was recognised by the Tudors. She was made Countess of Salisbury in her own right and her children raised with Prince Henry. They became ironically his companions and the people he chose as his friends, rather than those his own father approved off. Margaret and her sons were in favour at the Court of Henry Viii for a number of years, with many honours coming their way. Margaret was known for her piety and was a trusted friend of Katherine of Aragon. She was the governess to her daughter, Princess Mary for most of her childhood. It was Henry’s divorce and later his religious changes that caused trouble for this great family. Although the Pole family and the Courtney family with whom they were closely connected and related to via marriage took the Oath of Supremacy and survived the initial purges and trouble through having patronage of the Holy Maid of Kent, Elizabeth Barton, they were under suspicion from 1535/6 onwards.

    The middle son, Reginald, a favourite of King Henry Viii who paid for his education, who was also muted as a husband for Princess Mary, began to write a pamphlet which condemned the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon and which questioned his religious changes. Reginald went further in 1537 when he was encouraged by the Pope to write in favour of the recently defeated Pilgrimage of Grace and to encourage new rebellions. Henry was furious and sent henchmen to capture and bring home Reginald for trial or to arrange an accident. Because they failed to get him and because Henry Pole made some foolish remarks about if Henry died it would be merry in England, Cromwell invented the Exeter Conspiracy in 1539 and the Pole and Courtney families were arrested for treason. Others were also arrested, such as Sir Edward Neville, Nicholas Carew and Margaret herself. Neville and Carew were beheaded because of alleged knowledge of the plot. Margaret saw the loss of her son, Henry Pole, her son in law, the arrest of her friend Gertrude Courtney, the arrest of her other son, Geoffrey who was persuaded to turn King’s evidence, but who then tried to commit suicide twice and was pardoned and released “on account of his youth” and the imprisonment of her child grandson. He was about eight or nine and vanished into thin air. It isn’t certain but many historians believe he was either poisoned or starved to death. Like a number of other Princes in the Tower, we may never know the truth.

    Margaret Pole was held as a prisoner whose fate at this point was unknown and she was provided for by clothing made by the Queen on the orders of the King and probably provided with gifts by Kathryn Howard. However, suddenly, without any warning, because Henry was soon to leave on progress to the North, and quite possibly because her son had published another pamphlet, Margaret in May 1541 became the innocent victim of Henry’s viciousness. Her beheading is one of the most infamous of his dark reign. Two accounts exist but both agree her end was brutal. One states that Margaret refused to bow to the axe and the executioner had to chase this poor old woman around the scaffold and chop her down, which as you can imagine was brutal and frightening. Another states that she was bewildered as to the cause but submitted willingly but that the executioner was careless and it still took several blows to end her suffering. Margaret had obviously aged prematurely in the Tower as Chapuys thought she was 90. She was still elderly for the time at 66. It is highly unlikely that she had hatched any plots or was any danger to the Tudor regime and this execution has to go down as nothing but a brutal act of cold blooded and tyrannical judicial murder. In fact it wasn’t even that as she faced no legal proceedings. She was a forgotten inconvenience for two years who was merely executed so as Henry could safely trot off on progress with his dolly bird wife.

    Margaret was one of the most highest status women of the late Plantagenet and Tudor ages. She was the daughter of a potential heir to the throne, the sister of an heir to the crown and a mother to four potential heirs, barring lawful exclusion and Henry’s own male heirs. She was the niece of two King’s of England. Margaret Pole was a true Plantagenet who had more royal blood in her big toe than the man who destroyed her family had in his whole being. Yes, Henry Viii was half royal, his mother being at least the daughter of a King, but her own parents had a marriage which was still questioned in 1537. The ironic thing was the Poles accepted their legal status. They were not interested in challenging the Tudors, nor did they have any power base or support to do so. They were loyal and had proved that loyalty time and again. They were closely respected and rewarded by Henry Viii and greatly respected by the nobility. Cardinal Pole was more distressed about the treatment of his fellow Catholics and his aunt than seriously wanting to uproot the Tudor Dynasty. The reason for a direct attack on this great family was the failure to be able to place it’s one troublesome member on trial for high treason. Margaret was respected as a fine Christian woman and Henry’s treatment of her was universally criticised. Her death was considered a martydom by the Catholic Church and in the nineteenth century she was made Blessed Margaret Pole.

    RIP Blessed Lady. Amen

    1. B

      Hey Real, I’ve been on quite a few chat rooms with you, and generally, I just keep quiet! I like your C of Sals comments as she, along with M. Beaufort are two of my 16th century Heroines. Thanks for the additions to Claire’s great as usual talk.

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14 August – Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury