The Historical Journal


Reginald Pole and the Priorities of Government in Mary Tudor's Church

Rex H. Pogsona1

a1 Hymers College, Hull

Mary Tudor's ecclesiastical policy is highly vulnerable to the criticism that it was negative and lacked a sense of direction. She seems to have reserved her efforts for the repeal of schismatic legislation and the burning of obstinate heretics. It is therefore easy to agree with those who see little positive zeal or spiritual content in the Marian Church —‘arid legalism’ is one recent verdict. And this condemnation includes Reginald Pole. He received extensive legatine powers from the Pope, enjoyed a wide reputation as a reforming Cardinal, and was trusted by Mary as her kinsman and adviser; we should therefore expect him to have employed in England all the available weapons of the Roman Church for an attack on heresy. Yet, in Professor Dickens' words, Pole and Mary ‘ failed to discover the Counter-Reformation ’.2 It is the intention of this article to examine the priorities which Pole followed in his plans for the Marian Church, and to investigate whether his legalistic approach and his rejection of the positive methods of the Counter-Reformation were the result of inefficiency or were based on a considered, though possibly mistaken, long-term policy.