The Amazing English Reformation Martyr You’ve Never Heard Of

Public Domain, Wikipedia

Blessed Margaret Pole was born August 14, 1473. She was the Countess of Salisbury and she was distantly in line for the throne of England. Being a possible successor to the throne called for danger. She was only three years old when her mother died and a few years later her father died as well.

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When Margaret was about eighteen years old, she married a distant relative, Sir Richard Pole. Her marriage was a happy one. She had five children; one of them became a cardinal and later, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1505, Margaret was widowed.

Then, years later, she became godmother and governess to Princess Mary, daughter of to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. When King Henry wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, Margaret’s son, Cardinal Reginald Pole, spoke out against the decision. The entire Pole family was against the divorce.

The king found this insulting and threatening. Because the family was against his decision, they were exiled from the court and stripped of their titles. No longer was Margret a governess to the young princess.

Eventually, she was taken to the Tower of London. And two years later, she was beheaded. Two of her sons would soon die for the same cause.

There are two accounts of how she was martyred. One account states that the regular headsman was away and an inexperienced one was forced to do the task. It is said that he missed and accidentally struck her shoulder. It took ten more attempts to finally kill her that day.

The other explains that she managed to escape and was eventually caught and beheaded. But either way, while approaching her death, her last words were the eighth beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for justice’s sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

On December 29, 1886, she was beatified by Pope Leo XIII along with other English martyrs. Her feast day is May 28, the day she died in 1541. She was around seventy years old.

Also, on the wall in the Tower of London, is scribed a poem believed to have been written by Blessed Margret Pole:

For traitors on the block should die;

I am no traitor, no, not I!

My faithfulness stands fast and so,

Towards the block I shall not go!

Nor make one step, as you shall see;

Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!

Bl. Margaret Pole, pray for us!

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