Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Another Missing Son of York

Tower of London
The infamy of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower gives the impression that these two are the only noble children to be lost upon entering the Tower complex. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact, a few decades later, another young boy, a cousin (1st cousin, twice removed) to Edward V & his brother, Richard, was also lost to history within the Tower walls.

Henry Pole, Baron Montegue, was the son of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. When they, along with several others were arrested as part of the supposed Exeter Conspiracy in 1538, young Henry Pole, son of Lord Montegue, was taken to the Tower as well. His birthdate is unknown (believed to be between 1520-1527), but he was not more than teenaged when imprisoned. Another young person with connections to the royal family was also arrested at this time. Edward Courtenay was imprisoned along with his parents, who had allegedly conspired with the Poles.

Modern memorial to those executed at the Tower of London
Little proof of any treasonous plot was ever discovered. However, executions of Henry, Baron Montegue, Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, and Sir Edward Neville were quickly carried out. Others, including Gertrude Courtenay and Geoffrey Pole, were released for giving testimony against the others. Margaret Pole's execution did not take place until May, 1541, but the young sons of Pole and Courtenay remained imprisoned.

The fate of Edward Courtenay is well documented. He remained in prison until the accession of Queen Mary I in 1553. She released him from the Tower, and some hoped that she would chose to marry him, uniting Tudor blood with that of the noble York remnant. Edward, who had spent half of his life in the Tower, was not a desirable husband to the Queen or her sister, Princess Elizabeth. He was sent to Europe, where it was believed that he could cause less trouble for the royal family. He died in Padua in 1556 under somewhat suspicious circumstances.

Tower of London
Henry Pole the younger has a less certain story. All that remains are snippets of evidence that imply a tragedy similar to that suffered by his earlier cousins. In April 1540, King Henry VIII issued a general pardon that specifically excluded Margaret Pole and her grandson, Henry. In July 1540, a message by French ambassador Charles de Marillac mentions 'the little nephew of Cardinal Pole, who is poorly and strictly kept and not desired to know anything.' We may infer that Henry had not yet reached his teens based on the ambassador's term 'little nephew,' but this is not certain. Eustace Chapuys, Imperial ambassador, remarked upon Margaret's death that Henry was 'placed in close confinement, and it is supposed that he will soon follow his father and grandmother.' Henry is only thereafter mentioned in the payments for his food, which ends in 1542. He is not mentioned at the accession of Edward VI in 1547. Surely, had he been alive in 1553, Queen Mary would have released the nephew of her closest advisor, Cardinal Reginald Pole.

As with his cousins sixty years earlier, it is most likely that young Henry Pole met his demise within the Tower for no reason besides the royal blood running through his veins.

Additional reading: Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541 by Hazel Pierce
Photo Credit: Samantha Wilcoxson


  1. The execution of this amazing and strong lady who should have been on the throne instead of horrible Henry Tudor is among the blackest of the wife killing murderous kings sins. She had endured SO much in life and paid a huge price of her brother’s execution under the first Tudor king only to die a needless traitors death. She was an old lady, no reason Henry couldn’t have released her on parole after killing her son but no, this vile and petty King executed her after a lengthy stay in the tower and by many accounts even her death was a horrific thing..a blundering youth executioner made a horror of the execution by missing the mark and hacking her back and shoulders many times before finally striking her head off. I cannot even imagine the painful and undeserved death she endured. Rest In Peace Margaret Pole Countess Of Salisbury

  2. What were the 'suspicious circumstances' re Henry Courtenay's death?

    1. I think you mean Edward Courtenay, since Henry was publicly executed. Only 'somewhat suspicious circumstances' - Edward died after an illness described as a fever, which some believe might indicate poisoning, given Edward's number of enemies. However, in those days, it certainly could have simply been a fever since illness took many who seemed young, strong, and invincible.