Venice: April 1537

Pages 57-60

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 5, 1534-1554. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1873.

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April 1537

1537. April 20? MS. St. Mark's Library, Cod. xxiv. Cl. x. No date of time. Printed in v. ii. pp. 33–41. “Epistolarum Reginaldi Poli.” 143. Cardinal Pole to Cardinal Rodolfo Pio, Cardinal of Carpi.
The many and serious troubles which now harass him are increased by his being compelled to abandon France without seeing the Cardinal of Carpi. (fn. 1) His regret is mitigated by the Bishop of Verona [Matteo Giberti] who went in Pole's name to Pio, and by the Cardinal's young envoy Francesco, who acquainted him with Pio's will and advice. Apologises for declining the proposed interview in the place appointed, where they might at least have condoled with each other on the evil nature of the times, as he will now do by letter. What other course can he pursue, what but the times are to blame? How was it possible to believe that a king, by nature generous and by religion Christian, should be compelled by the times to refuse to receive a legate from the Pope. Knows that the King does so unwillingly; this is seen by the honours which he caused him to receive on the way, and by the previous declarations made by the French ambassadors to the Pope, who told his Holiness that his (Pole's) coming would be most agreeable to their King, though there were many who prognosticated the result. If when even near the palace he could not gain admission, what can he call this if not the iniquity of the times? Has nothing to blame, save the iniquity of the King of England, whom King Francis thought it necessary to gratify in this matter, and who demanded of the most Christian King that he should lay hands on an ambassador and legate of Christ's vicar commissioned to him for the cause of Christ, and deliver him [the legate] prisoner into the hands of a hostile power. This demand was subversive of the law of nations and of God, destructive of all intercourse between man and man, and a betrayal at one and the same time of God and his neighbour, and an insult to France. Cicero pronounced Cato fortunate, because no one had ever dared to ask a baseness of him. On this occasion England did certainly not render the like homage to France. Is surprised that the King of France could have listened to such a proposal without anger. But this persecution on the part of the enemy does him (Pole) honour, he being persecuted as the Apostles were of yore, and Christ before them. He was to have negotiated the peace between the powers, the Council, and the affairs of England. His legation, therefore, related entirely to the interests of Christ.
With regard to England, the object was to reconduct her to the religion of which she was formerly a model. This end can certainly not be condemned by any one, and he will now show whether the means adopted by him for attaining it were at variance with precedents afforded by his country (alienam a majorum institute). The disease having descended from the head into the body of the entire island, the remedies (in the language of physicians) were two, surgery and diet. Many persons, including those who had taken up arms in England, were in favour of surgery. He (Pole) preferred the milder course, and chose diet. Was this an error? when preparing for his mission to the King of France, who now denies him audience, he believed that the friendship between France and England, and that of King Francis with the Pope, would greatly facilitate his project. The recent disturbances in England gave the King of France a fair opportunity, and although the insurrection is quelled for the moment, yet the country will never be secure until the affairs of the religion (whereby it was caused) are adjusted; so that it seemed for the advantage of England to adjust the same by means of the most Christian King. Lest the King of England's antipathy to their order should render him averse to him (Pole), he was accompanied by the Bishop of Verona [Matteo Giberti], a prelate who had used his good offices for the King in the reign of Pope Clement, and been most friendly towards the English nation, and he (Pole) bad frequently heard the King commend the services he had rendered him, Giberti being also in favour with King Francis for like conduct with regard to France. Therefore deemed the Bishop of Verona a fitting person to counsel what became the dignity of the two Kings.
Cardinal Pio now sees how far he (Pole) has shown himself a traitor to the King of England, whose councillors having persuaded him in his letter to the most Christian King to style him (Pole) a traitor and guilty of “lese-Majesty,” he appeals to the judgment of the most Christian King, and hopes for an opportunity to prove, not only to the most Christian King, but to all Christian Kings, and before the universal Church, what his treason is (qualis sim proditor). Those men, however, who persuaded the King thus to write, if they did not thus show themselves sufficiently traitorous to his Majesty, had depraved him so completely that he, who was by nature most religious, scrupulously observant of the institutions of his ancestors, gentle (modestum) and gracious, spontaneously generous and clement, thirsted (concupisceret) for honours never hitherto imagined by Kings, subverted the dogmas of the Church, despoiled churches, destroyed monasteries, persecuted the ministers of the Church, and at length most cruelly put to death men amongst the best of any ever born in England, none excelling them in learning and every virtue, and the King himself placing the utmost trust in them. Nor does he say this solely of Rochester (fn. 2) and others in whom these merits were eminently conspicuous, but of all executed for the same cause.
If these counsels do not sufficiently convict their authors of treason to the King, these letters [to the King of France], such as one robber would scarcely write to his accomplice, most clearly show what traitors they are; and indeed, were a legate accredited to a robber, still less to a King, and that King being most Christian, does not think that he could find any other robber so unmindful of the law of nature (which in this matter even robbers acknowledge) as to think himself at liberty to ask his fellow robber to surrender the legate to him. Those men, therefore, who persuaded the King of England to require another King, the most Christian, to deliver the legate into his hands, are therefore traitors. If lese-Majesty be treason, what can be more iniquitous to Majesty (if it be not its extinction and annihilation rather than lese-Majesty) than for any one to cause Majesty to ask of a King that which is repugnant to all honesty, decorum, and humanity? (Si Iœdere Majestatem Regis est proditorem esse, ecquœ res esse potest, qua magis Majestas Regis lœdatur (si hac tamen lœdere Majestatem est, ac non potius tollere et delere) cum quis Regi auctor est, ut ei petat, quœ omni honestati, pudori, et humanitati repugnant.) Nor did the royal councillors prove themselves traitors solely by their disregard for his (Pole's) present office, which is respected by all nations, even such as abhor the Christian religion; but they also failed to consider how he had always borne himself from childhood, and that he had never ceased exerting himself for the welfare of the King and the realm. So it is evident that the real traitors are those who represented him to the King so differently to what he always was and still is. Fears the King will discover his error when it is too late.
This letter is too diffuse, but he wished it to make him amends for the interview of which he has been disappointed.
Should it please God that he should act for the welfare of his country, the efforts of these folk (horum conatus) will prove vain.
Cambrai, 20th April 1537?
[Latin, 219 lines.]
April 27. MS. St. Mark's Library, Cod. xxiv. Cl. x. No date. Printed in vol. ii, pp. 41–45. “Epistolarum Reginaldi Pole.” 144. Cardinal Pole to Erardo della Marck, Cardinal Bishop of Liege.
Sent a noblemen, his familiar, to the Cardinal of Liège at Brussels yesterday, accompanied by a person in the service of the Bishop of Cambrai, but the Governor of Valenciennes would not allow him to pass, without a special order from the Queen [Maria of Hungary, Governess of the Low Countries]. Was surprised that by the Queen's order, passage should be denied to a person conveying a letter to her chief councillor; but the Governor must have acted officially, as he is a most courteous person. Cannot but consider this proceeding strange. The Pope intrusted him with this legation chiefly at the instigation of two Imperial ambassadors, the one [Chapuis?] by letters from England, the other [Cifuentes?] at Rome; nor was anything done with regard to the road and the whole journey without their counsel and advice, and indeed they were well nigh the impellents throughout. (Nihil quod ad viam, et ad totum iter pertineret, non modo sine eorum consilio et hortatu, sed pene non illis impulsoribus factum esse.) The Pope deferred to them in all things, and Count Cifuentes, the Imperial ambassador, and Ortis, LL.D., who conducted the suit of the late Queen Katharine at Rome, where he is now the Emperor's proctor, well nigh compelled him to take the road through France, to which he very strongly objected (me maxime reclamante). They then congratulated him and the Pope on his having prevailed on the Bishop of Verona [Matteo Giberti] to accompany him; and touching the journey, it was settled that if he went through France, and unless an opportunity offered for crossing over to England, it was to end in Flanders, where he might expect every facility for transacting the public business with which he was charged. But as his commission related not only to the adjustment of English affairs hut to peace between the Emperor and the King of France, and to the Council General, which matters he was to discuss with all the powers through whose territories he might pass, it was also settled that on his way through France—unless the affairs of England allowed him to go conveniently to King Francis—he was to send the Bishop of Verona to him to negotiate what related to the Peace and the Council, he (Pole) in the meanwhile remaining in the same place (so long as the English business left him at liberty), awaiting the Bishop, who was to return to him immediately on ascertaining the King's will about those two matters.
The Pope assented to all this, in accordance with the opinion and will of the Imperial ambassadors, nor as yet has he (Pole) departed from these instructions; but after entering France, when hopes were given him of a conference, the King, on his (Pole's) arrival in Paris, anticipating his demands, sent him a message to say that, urged by the English ambassadors, he could not receive him. For the rest he treated him with the greatest honour, and granted his request for audience for the Bishop of Verona, to negotiate the Peace and the Council. The Bishop went to the King's camp, but perceiving at the first interview that he was averse to a truce as proposed by the Pope, Giberti returned. Then purposed passing into Flanders to complete his mission, as counselled by the Imperial ambassadors, with the Pope's consent.
The drop of courtesy bestowed in France was expected to be followed by a flood of hospitality in the Emperor's dominions, as a province belonging to his Imperial Majesty was proposed by his ambassadors to him (Pole) as the limit of his legation; instead of which, is prevented from sending one of his attendants with a letter to so great a personage as the Cardinal Bishop of Liege. The thing is so marvellous that he would wish to know the cause, as having gone thither by the advice of the Emperor, he expected him to fail in nothing that could facilitate the undertaking. Will discuss all these matters with the Cardinal when they meet, which he hopes will be soon. Wishes to know where the interview can take place, and would prefer the Province of Liège. The Pope recommended him (Pole) as his son, to the Cardinal of Liège, and desired him (Pole) to obey him by reason of his tried constancy and faith in God and the Holy Roman Church, and of his generosity in all things. Is sufficiently guarded by the good-will of the Bishop of Cambrai, though he cannot but feel alarm both by reason of the soldiers who come even to the gates of the city, and stop the passes; as also because free transit is allowed to everybody, including the English, whose King's hostility makes them not only spies but conspirators (insidiatores) against him, as he has experienced lately. In short, the Cardinal of Liège, knowing who he is, by whom sent, the object of his mission, and who instigated and as it were insisted on it (et quibus instigantibus, atque adeo compellentibus veniam), will give him suitable advice.
Cambrai, 27th April 1537.
[Latin, 127 lines.]


  • 1. In the year 1535 the Cardinal of Carpi was sent as nuncio to France, by Pope Paul III. to announce the Council. (See Cardella, vol. iv. p. 174.)
  • 2. John Fisher, Cardinal Bishop of Rochester, beheaded on the 25th June 1535.