Margaret Pole was born in England in 1473 and was the niece of two English kings. Another king arranged for Margaret to marry Sir Reginald Pole, a friend of the royal family. They had a happy marriage, giving birth to five children: Henry, Reginald, Geoffrey, Arthur, and Ursula.
When Reginald died, the new king, Henry VIII, made Margaret a countess. He appointed her governess of his daughter. Henry VIII called Margaret the “holiest woman in England.”
Untimely and homicidal death was a reality of royal English politics and intrigues before, during, and after the time Margaret lived. Brutal, harsh, but real. She was from the Plantagenet royal line, kings who had ruled over England from the 12th to the 15th century. Her grandfather Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, warrior in the English War of the Roses, which ultimately produced the Tudor line, died on the field of battle. Her father, George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, died in the Tower of London in January, 1478. Many other tragedies happened in Margaret’s family due to the central place her family relations held in English royal lines.
When Henry VIII, once called by Pope Leo X, “Fidei defensor” – Defender of the Faith, due to his authorship of “Defense of the Seven Sacraments”, which was critical of Martin Luther, broke with Rome and appointed himself head of the Anglican Church in England, so he might divorce Queen Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Margaret told Henry that he was wrong. Margaret had served as Governess of the Princess, eventually Queen, Mary.
The king expelled Margaret from the royal court. He became even angrier when one of Margaret’s sons, Reginald, a cardinal of the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but who resided outside of England on the European continent, wrote an article denying Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. Henry blamed Margaret. He had her arrested. Margaret was seventy years old by this point.
Margaret was questioned harshly to prove that she was a traitor, but there was no evidence. She had always been faithful to Jesus and the Church. None of this mattered to Henry. Margaret was sentenced to death. She was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years, suffering cold and neglect, before being executed by beheading on the morning of May 28, 1541.
The following poem was found carved on the wall of her cell:
“For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!”
Her last words were: “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The character of Lady Salisbury, played by Kate O’Toole in the Showtime series “The Tudors” is loosely inspired by her.
Lord, in Whom there is no change or shadow of alteration, You gave courage to Your servant Blessed Margaret Pole. Grant unto us, we beseech You, through her intercession, the grace to always be steadfast in faith. May we be strengthened to serve You in imitation of the courage of Blessed Margaret. We ask this through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.
Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us!
Blessed Margaret Pole, pray for us!
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "“Si comprehendus, non est Deus.” -St Augustine, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, “Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him . . . God here speaks to souls through words uttered by pious people, by sermons or good books, and in many other such ways.” —St. Teresa of Avila, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity… I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistences and absurdities of the Protestant theory.” (St. John Henry Newman, “Duties of Catholics Towards the Protestant View,” Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England), "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom