Saturday, May 28, 2011
May 28 -- Feast of Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Pole
Margaret was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, and the granddaughter of the Earl of Warwick. George was a player in the last phase of the War of the Roses, when his family (the Yorks) not only vied with the Lancasters for control of the throne, but also plotted against each other. Although George's plotting earned him an execution, his connection to the family made sure it was at least private. The legend says he was was drowned in a double-hogshead of wine., which certainly seems like a waste of good wine, but I suppose nothing is too good for family.
Margaret had the misfortune to be the cousin and ward of King Henry VIII, the first king from the House of Tudor. His reign was sanctioned by both Lancasters and Yorks. You'd think life would be pretty good as the ward of such a powerful monarch. Life should have been even better as the governess of his first daughter, Mary.
The problem, of course, is that he was not very amenable to criticism, or even the tacit suggestion of disapproval. He desperately needed audible and frequent affirmation. His decision to divorce Mary's mother in order to marry Anne Boleyn, which ultimately led to the schism between the Churches of Rome and England, was not favored by Cousin Margaret. Even though she had been named Countess of Salisbury, she was exiled from court. Her son, Cardinal Reginald Pole, wrote critically of Henry's decision and brought condemnation on his family. Henry ordered the execution of two other Pole Brothers. Margaret herself was imprisoned in the Tower for two years. Then, when a rebellion actually did break out, she was beheaded, just to be sure that any treason she may have been harboring in her heart did not manifest itself in the world.
It's bad enough to want to split the Church of your country just so you can get a divorce. Beheading your own cousin on top of it was just way over the top. You'll note that in the picture above she's praying while rats scurry all around her cell.
Posted by Tom Major at 3:08 PM