Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England

Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England

Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England

Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England

Excerpt

Cardinal Pole (1500-58) is little known in his native country. One of the reasons is obvious: Pole's chief intervention in English affairs--his attempt to restore Roman Catholicism under Queen Mary--was unsuccessful, and this failure was followed by the growth of the specific English horror of "Popery." Other reasons play their part too: Pole spent only eight years of his adult life in England but twenty- nine on the Continent, and his contribution to English history is therefore bound to be rather limited. For the Roman Church, however, his lifework has been of the greatest importance; he also has a place in the history of humanism. Seeing Pole properly means seeing him as a leading Catholic reformer and a European humanist.

Yet Reginald Pole was also a great Englishman of the sixteenth century, known abroad as the "Cardinal of England." He played his part in European life by carrying on a great English tradition--the tradition of Thomas More. Just as there was no conflict between More's English and European loyalties, until Henry VIII drove his cruel wedge between them, so it was Pole's chief aim to unite Europe and England in a renewed Christendom. But being nearly a generation younger than More, Pole was faced with a more difficult task.

The task itself was not clearly realized by Pole until More's martyrdom; he was among the first to whom More's death was a decisive, life-giving event. But in so far as this task . . .

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