Lambeth fig tree
BY PRIMROSE ROSTRON
HISTORY was made a few days ago, when Cardinal Augustin Bea, head of the Vatican's Christian Unity Secretariat, drove to Lambeth Palace and saw in the grounds a flourishing fig tree.
The (two) original fig trees (White Marseilles variety) had been planted in the gardens at Lambeth some 408 years ago by Cardinal Pole, the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury.
Kingcups and marigolds glimmered among the osiers and rooks cawed from the plantation one spring day in 15(10, when Reginald de la Pole was born in an upper room in Stourton Castle in Staffordshire.
ROYAL ROYAL blood flowed through the veins of the new born babe, for his mother. Lady Margaret, known to many as the last of the Plantagenets, was the neice of Edward IV, and the daughter of the ridiculous Duke of Clarence, drowned in the wine vat.
The boy's father, Sir Richard Pole, was a kinsman of Henry VII, and had been tutor and Gentleman of the Bedchamber to his son, Prince Arthur.
While Reginald romped with his brothers in the Stourton fosse, or listened to fairy stories with his sister, Ursula; his parents were travelling on _Henry VII's business. For Sir Richard Pole was Governor of the Welsh Marches as well as Constable to the Castles of Harlech and Montgomery.
Soon Reginald's childhood was upset by the death of his father in 1505. His mother taught him to read and write until he went to school at the Carthusian Monastry at Sheen.
He proved a clever pupil and a brilliant linguist.
When the boy was aged nine, Cousin Hal became Henry VIII of England In those days the new king was a gracious prince and a devoted husband. He was fond of his young cousin and paid fl2 a year towards his education.
Four years later, Reginald went to Oxford as a King's scholar at Magdalen, both Latimer and Linacre 'directing his studies there.
THE. Pole family were now in high favour at Court. the
King creating Lady Margaret. Countess of Salisbury, and returning her lands which Henry VII had confiscated.
She was a close friend of Queen Katherine (of Aragon). who after the birth of Princess Mary (Tudor) confided to Lady Margaret that she would not die happily unless the English crown returned to one of Plantagenet blood. The Queen wished for a future marriage between Reginald Pole and the baby Princess.
Time and time again rumours and stories arose suggesting he might become King. Even after Mary's accession the Spanish Emperor, Charles V prevented R e g in a Id from returning to England until after the Queen's marriage to his son, Philip.
In 1516 Ursula Pole married Lord Stafford and Lady Margaret became governess to the small Princess Mary,
Mary was made miserable by her father's brutality to herself and the insults heaped upon her mother.
In 1533, Henry married Anne Boleyn. Lady Margaret refused to hand over Mary's jewels to her emissary, so the furious Henry dismissed her from her post as Governess. But Lady Margaret "continued to serve the Princess at her own expense."
THROUGHOUT all the changes of fortune the girl remained devoted to her governess, and she is believed to have embroidered the white tunic later found in Lady Margaret's coffer, and handed over, and used against her by Thomas Cromwell at her trial. On one side was embroidered the Arms of England. Viz: three lions surrounded by a wreath of pansies and marigolds, and on the back the Five Wounds of Christ. Lady Margaret's enemies maintained that the flowers stood for Cardinal Pole, the lions for Mary and the Five Wounds had been carried during the Pilgrimage of Grace.
in521 Reginald went to Italy. Henry paying £100 towards his expenses. Everywhere Pole was feted as the King of England's kinsman.
Reginald returned home in I 527. He avoided the Court where Henry was living like a beast and the Boleyn party reigned supreme.
So he returned to the monks at Sheen, often visiting his mother and her royal pupil at Stourton.
INCORRUPTIBLE AGREAT affection grew up between the royal cousins, which lasted all their lives. A contemporary w r o t e: "Many thought he would marry the King's daughter from the knowledge she had of him and the love she had borne him since childhood." If he had. what a different story the history books might have told!
In 1531, Henry summoned his cousin to York Palace, Westminster; the angry king meeting him in a secret gallery. Roth bribes and threats were offered if Pole would agree to support the royal divorce. But he proved incorruptible and asked for permission to leave England. If it was refused he threatened to attend Parliament and speak "according to his conscience."
The King never forgave him. Soon most of the family went to the Tower and on various pretexts to the block.
Fuel was added to the flames when Reginald Pole sent his famous letter from Italy. "De !Inflate Erclesia.slica," accusing Henry of "behaving like a wild beast."
ABROAD, Pole settled first at Avignon, then going on to his beloved Padua. Pole became a prominent member of the Papal Court and in 1536 was made a Cardinal. He was living in Rome when he heard the news of his mother's tragic death. Lady Margaret was beheaded with ferocious cruelty. "Until now I thought that God had given me the grace of being the son of one of the most honoured ladies in England, but no he has wished to honour me more by making me the son of a martyr," wrote her sorrowing son.
Lady Margaret's grave is in the Church of St. Peter ad Vincula, near the Tower. She was beatified in 1886. Services are held in her memory every year on May 28.
TRENT AFTER Henry's death. Cardinal Pole made a Pilgrimage to St. Baumen near Marseilles, to do Penance for the King's sins.
In 1545, Cardinal Pole was one of the legatees appointed by the Pope to the Council of Trent. Some four years later he was almost elected Pope (Julius III). Dandolo wrote to the Doge on December 5. that the Cardinal of England's election was expected.
The night before Cardinal Pole had collected the requisite number of votes and Dandolo had visited his cell to congratulate him. But Pole was still uncertain and replied: "the election should be made canonically next morning after Mass, if it is God's purpose to rise him to the See."
In the year following Mary's accession Cardliffil Pole returned home after 22 years' of exile. He sailed up the Thames in a royal barge with a great silver cross on the prow, to the pealing of London's hells and the cheers of the populace.
The Queen met him surrounded by her ladies. She was radiant with joy and kissed him in the English fashion. At supper he sat between the Queen and her husband, Philip of Spain. An old Chronicle recorded "they ate heartily, being very merry all three and laughing a good deal with much joy at being there together."
THE following year, (1555) Cardinal Pole became Archbishop of Canterbury and Philip returned to Spain. Pole lived at Lambeth and during the next few years he and Mary ruled England.
In November, 1558 the bells of London tolled for the dead Queen, Mary Tudor. and for her cousin, Reginald Pole; they had died within a few hours of one another.
So ended the life of a man who might have been King of England or Pone of Christendom!