Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It's Who You Know

Cardinal Reginald Pole
While researching Reginald Pole in order to write his story in Prince of York, I was astonished by the number of famous friends he had. Lacking the ambition so prominent in most men of the sixteenth century, Reginald did not take advantage of the fact that he was well-known and respected by cardinals, kings (well, not THAT one of course), and men of all stations.

He had the perfect opportunity to do so when Pope Paul III died in 1549. Pole was expected to become the next pope. Vestments were tailor made for him and those who gambled found the odds heavily favored him. However, Reginald Pole refused to press his advantage. As others bribed, schemed, and negotiated, Reginald prayed that God would guide the outcome of the conclave. He fell short by one vote.

The throne of England was another possibility for Reginald Pole. His mother, Margaret Countess of Salisbury, was a friend and confidant of Queen Katherine of Aragon. Both women liked the idea of their children wed to one another. Later, after both women were dead, the idea was considered again by those who looked to the Tudor succession and found only women available. Reginald could be the perfect spouse for Mary, uniting York and Tudor blood and giving Mary an acceptable husband to rule the kingdom.

As far as we know, Reginald never seriously considered this possibility. He considered himself a man of God above all else, and never would marry. Instead, he returned to England when Mary became queen and was invested as her Archbishop of Canterbury.

Cardinal Pietro Bembo
Throughout his life, Reginald built fortuitous relationships but did not use them for his own advancement. Besides his royal Tudor cousins and fellow churchmen who wished to raise him to the highest earthly office, Reginald was a close enough companion to the artist Michelangelo that he had at least one portrait from him that he made a gift to the Bishop of Fano.

Reginald also had a close relationship with Vittoria Colonna who is not as famous as she should be. A devout Catholic who, like Pole, was not afraid to consider the worth of the tenets of faith brought forward by reformers, Vittoria was also a published poet. A feat in itself for her time, she was talented enough to be admired and consulted by the likes of Cardinal Pietro Bembo.

The fact that Pole spent his life surrounded by amazing historical figures is one of the many aspects of his character that made him a joy to write about. In the following excerpt, he shares a quiet evening with a man who was a scholar, Templar knight, poet, and cardinal: Pietro Bembo.

Excerpt from Prince of York

June 1543 - Rome

He realized the extent of the stress his brother’s presence placed upon him when he finally had the opportunity to relax for an evening with Cardinal Bembo. It was a beautiful summer evening, so they were seated on a rooftop veranda with a decanter of wine between them.

Reginald released a sigh as tension left his shoulders and the sun cast a riot of color into the sky.

“You have not been reading your Cicero,” Pietro observed.

Reginald had closed his eyes to soak up the peaceful feeling, but he opened them to peer at his friend. “How can you tell?”

“Ha! It is easy to see that you are far too filled with anxiety to have been studying the ancients. You are stuck firmly in the present with all its worries,” Bembo waved his hands as though this was all as clear to see as if Michelangelo had painted it on the wall.

With a grin, Reginald admitted, “As usual, you are correct, Pietro.” He took a deep draught from his glass and refilled it before speaking again. “It is my brother.”

Bembo nodded solemnly. “It can be a heavy burden to be our brothers’ keeper as is commanded by our Lord. Geoffrey has many demons.”

“He does,” Reginald agreed. “I must have greater patience with him.”

“Ah, Reynaldo,” Bembo said affectionately, leaning over to pat Reginald’s knee. “You would take on the world believing it was your duty.” Shaking his head, he continued, “The Bishop of Liege is in need of a man to see to duties of which I believe your brother would be capable.”

“Send him to Flanders?” Reginald asked, sitting upright, his muscles tightening with the discussion of his brother.

Before he could disagree, Bembo cut him off. “Yes, Flanders would be ideal. You may send him an allowance if it eases your conscience, but you are not obligated to keep him at your own table.”

“What if he….” Reginald realized he did not know what he was afraid of Geoffrey doing. Saying the wrong thing? Ending up in prison?

“Reynaldo, your brother is his own man, not your child. You will arrange this agreeable position for him and consider your obligation fulfilled.”

He nodded and lifted his glass to his lips, the matter closed.

Prince of York is available on Kindle for only 99c. It is also available in paperback as part of a combined Plantagenet Embers Novellas volume.



  1. He should have married Mary. She deserved happiness.

    1. I wrote an alternate history article for a magazine about what could have been different if they had married. It was interesting to think about.

    2. Do you still have it on file?

    3. I do. I'll have to see what the contract was on it. Maybe I can post it here if enough time has passed.

    4. Who published your AU story?

    5. It was in an edition of All About History last year. May or June edition maybe? Long story short: Reginald and Mary reign together but she still doesn't have any children and they still die the same day. However, as a condition of Elizabeth's pardon for treasonous acts, she has been wed to Edward Courtenay & they are crowned together. After 5 children and a volatile relationship, Elizabeth has an affair with Robert Dudley and is beheaded for treason exactly 30 years after her mother.

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    7. Well Mary dies in 1535 in my alternative history so we are even

    8. Well, alright. I didn't really mean it as a personal attack, just a consideration of what could have happened differently.

  2. Are you going to do a post on Jane Seymours death?

    1. Probably not. I try to write posts on topics that aren't covered on lots of other Tudor websites. Usually, my posts are based on what has recently captured my interest. I don't really have a process. ;-)

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  4. Samantha, I keep thinking of Queen of Martyrs and whike Marys life wad very tragic, her actions cannot be excused. A woman who ordered a pregnant woman burnt and the baby killed too deserves no pity. My tears and sympathy sre for Mary's victims.

    We will have to agree to disagree about Mary, Anne and Elizabeth I.

    1. I appreciate your willingness to consider all sides of their stories. One note, Mary did not order the burning of a pregnant woman, though it is believed to have occurred during her reign.

    2. Ok, I accept your correction she did not order it, but as a monarch of absolute power, it likely had her blessing.