- Pole, Reginald
- (1500-1558)English humanist, cardinal, and archbishop of Canterbury, a second cousin of King Henry VIII. The king supported Pole's education and early career. Destined from childhood for the clergy, he was educated at a Carthusian monastery and then at Magdalen College, Oxford (B.A. 1515), where his teach-ers included the humanists Thomas Linacre and William Latimer. He received valuable ecclesiastical benefices and in 1521 was sent at the king's expense for further study to the University of Padua. There Pole became a close friend of Pietro Bembo, Thomas Lupset, and the Belgian humanist Christophe de Longueil. In the king's service he secured a declaration by the University of Paris in favor of Henry's plan to divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon, but privately he advised the king to abandon the divorce. After returning to Padua in 1532, Pole became close to the reform-minded Italian "evangelical" move-ment and underwent a personal conversion to an evangelical Chris-tianity that emphasized the doctrine of justification by faith. He also established connections with the king's enemy Charles V, who was the nephew of Queen Catherine and strongly opposed Henry's plans.In 1536 Pole wrote a treatise defending Catholic unity under papal leadership, Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione, which marked his open break with King Henry. Pope Paul III called him to Rome and soon made him a cardinal, and from then until he left Italy to help in the restoration of Catholicism in England, he was an influential per-sonage at the curia. Paul III appointed him to the reform commission that produced the Consilium de emendanda ecclesia, a candid survey of abuses in the church and proposals for drastic reform. Pole was governor of Viterbo in the Papal States in 1541 and one of the papal legates to the Council of Trent, where he was suspected of Lutheran heresy by conservatives. Despite these suspicions, he came within one vote of being elected pope in 1550. With the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor to the En-glish throne in 1553, the pope named Pole legate to England and made him archbishop of Canterbury. He worked closely with the queen in her effort to bring England back to the Catholic faith. He participated in the heresy trials of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and other Protestant bishops, though he was not favorable to the queen's use of force to hunt and execute heretics among the general popula-tion. Pole's dismissal from his position as legate in 1555 by the new Pope Paul IV had less to do with Paul's distaste for the evangelical beliefs of Pole than with the pope's determination to weaken King Philip II of Spain, the husband of Queen Mary, because of conflicts between papal and Spanish interests in Italy. Pole died during an epi-demic in 1558, on the same day as the queen, leaving England in the hands of her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.