Elizabeth of York and Margaret Pole
Two cousins, Elizabeth of York and Margaret Pole, had spent much of their childhood together, but their lives under the Tudor regime turned out quite differently. Their fathers had been brothers. Elizabeth was the daughter of the charismatic Edward IV, who had cemented the York place upon the Plantagenet throne, or so he had believed. Margaret's father was George of Clarence, Edward IV's brother and heir apparent until the birth of Prince Edward in 1470.
The girls did not grow up together so much because their fathers were brothers, but because King Edward had his brother, George, executed for treason. Since Margaret's mother was already dead by the time the king's patience ran out with his impetuous and self-serving brother, Margaret became a royal ward.
Margaret's relationship with Elizabeth continued after Edward IV unexpectedly died in 1483. The two years of Richard III's reign must have been confusing and tumultuous for the girls who were at that time 10 and 17 years old. However, it was nothing compared to what was in store for them.
|Elizabeth of York|
Margaret served Elizabeth as lady-in-waiting until Henry VII gave her to a faithful follower to be wed. Having royal blood second only to the daughters of Edward IV, Margaret was a fine prize for Richard Pole. Their relationship is believed to have been happy, and the couple served Prince Arthur once he was established at Ludlow.
Margaret's vital decisions took place after the deaths of Elizabeth, Henry, and her husband, Richard. Richard's death had left her in relative poverty, and Elizabeth's without a advocate at court. Henry's death, however, opened up possibilities.
And for a while it was.
Margaret served as governess to Princess Mary after waiting on poor Catherine through several less productive pregnancies. This was a high honor, as was the restoration of her family title, the earldom of Salisbury. Margaret's oldest son, another Henry, was given the Montague lands and title which could also be traced back through Margaret's family tree. As the premier peeress of the land, Margaret only had one way to move. Down.
When Henry gave up on fathering a male heir with Catherine and she started looking the five years older than her husband that she was, Margaret's star fell along with Catherine's. The break with Rome that made Henry's second marriage possible opened another chasm. As the dear friend of Henry's discarded wife and a staunch Catholic, Margaret was no longer looked upon by the king as a beloved cousin. It did not help that Margaret had four grown sons with an excess of royal blood.
The fortune of the Pole family ebbed and flowed through Henry's costly experiment in finding a suitable wife to replace Catherine. Failing to give Henry support as head of the church caused Margaret's favor to continue to fall, though her oldest son, Lord Montague did take the required oath in order to preserve his position at court. Another of Margaret's sons, Reginald, refused to break his ties with the Pope, was exiled, and became a Cardinal.
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It is difficult to imagine Margaret's difficulty in maintaining her loyalty to Catherine and Princess Mary without angering the king who wished to dispose of them. As if that weren't enough, she was forced to hide her Catholic faith when Henry cracked down on those who did not recognize his newly created position. How to stay faithful without being a traitor?
As Henry VIII became more tyrannical and the Pole's failed to fall in line, Margaret found herself in the position of so many noble men and women before her: opposed to the king.
Not able to grasp Reginald, the king took out his wrath on the remainder of the Poles. First Geoffrey, Margaret's youngest son, then Henry and his son were imprisoned along with several others. This supposed Exeter conspiracy proved the family's final downfall.
Knowing which target was weakest, the king had Geoffrey tortured and questioned for weeks before moving on the rest of the family. For his testimony, Geoffrey was released while his older brother, cousin, and others went to their deaths. Geoffrey attempted suicide at least twice, and Margaret was placed under house arrest.
|Modern Day Tower Memorial|
Her grandson, Henry Pole, who had been arrested with his father, was never seen again.
These two cousins, Elizabeth and Margaret, had each done their best to make a way for the York remnant within the Tudor dynasty. Their stories are told in greater detail in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York and Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole.