Appendix: D. Mr. Bergenroth's Communication on Documents Relating to Cardinal Pole among the Simancas Archives

Pages 69-71

Report to the Master of the Rolls On Documents in the Archives of Venice. Originally published by Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, London, 1866.

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D. Mr. Bergenroth's Communication on Documents Relating to Cardinal Pole among the Simancas Archives

The archives at Simancas contain various state papers, partly originals and partly copies, which relate to the history of Cardinal Pole. My copies of them are not yet made, but I think I can state from memory, and with the help of my short notes, the general contents of them.

In the year 1534 Miser Reginald Pole made the acquaintance of Martin de Zornoza, who was Spanish Consul in Venice, and confided to him his political plans and aspirations. In consequence of this confidence, Zornoza wrote on the 4th August 1534, a letter in cipher to the Emperor, in which he descanted much on the excellent qualities of Reginald Pole, on his blood royal, etc., and his desire to render to the Emperor all kinds of services in his power. Reginald Pole, continued the writer of that letter, entertained a very intimate correspondence with the discontented English subjects in North Wales, Berwick, Somersetshire, and other parts of the kingdom. If the Emperor would give him only a little help, he would easily dethrone King Henry, and place England at the disposal of the Emperor. It does not appear that the Emperor encouraged Reginald Pole to carry out his plans.

In June and July 1535, the correspondence from Venice in behalf of Reginald Pole was re-opened. The Cardinal Contarini wrote on the 5th June to the Emperor. He has known, he says, Reginald Pole for many years by reputation, and made his personal acquaintance some months ago. Pole is the very pattern of a pious Christian, and desires nothing more than to be a “soldier of the true faith.” He is not afraid of danger, and would be glad, in imitation of the first Christians, to suffer for Jesus Christ. It is the intention of Pole to go to England and to convert the King by peaceful means to the true religion; but he begs the Emperor, whose affair it is to give “salutem gentibus usque ad extremum terræ,” to protect Reginald Pole.

This letter was followed by a second letter of Martin de Zornoza, dated 15th July 1535. The Consul enlarges in it on the good services which Pole can render to the Emperor in England by directing the movements of the rebels. Enclosed in this letter is a letter of Reginald Pole to the Emperor, dated 17th July 1535. Pole is more guarded in his expressions than Zornoza. He does not speak of dethroning the King of England, but promises to remove all causes of displeasure which the Emperor has in England. The letter is full of almost base flattery. The letter of Pole is written with bad pale ink, but the date and signature is added with good dark ink, exactly alike to the ink which the Consul Zornoza used. It is therefore probable that Pole composed his letter in his house, brought it to the Consul, and, after having obtained his approval, signed it in the house of the Consul.

The offers of Pole did not produce any deep impression on the Emperor. “El Ingles que esta en Venicia,” “the Englishman who stays in Venice,” did not seem to the Emperor a fit candidate for the English throne, especially as the Emperor had already promised the hand of the Princess Mary and the throne of England to the infante of Portugal, Don Luis.

Pole did not solicit the help of the Emperor only; he sought also the protection of Rome. As long as Pope Clement VII. lived, he does not seem to have been supported; but when Paul III. had ascended the Papal throne, his prospects soon improved. Towards the end of the year 1536, and in January and February 1537, the Imperial Ambassador in Rome wrote to the Emperor, that the Pope intended to send Reginald Pole as his legate to England. Pole was to encourage and to lead the rebels, to dethrone King Henry, to marry the Princess Mary, and to be King of England. Ten thousand ducats were given to him wherewith to entertain sharpshooters in Flanders and Germany in succour of the English rebellion. But all this was to be done with the outward appearance of a mission of peace. The “soldier of the true faith,” the pretender to the hand of the Princess Mary, and the candidate for the English crown was therefore made a cardinal in appearance, the Pope taking care that he should not enter even the lowest degree of holy orders, and content himself with having the tonsure shaved on his head. (fn. 1)

The Imperial Ambassador in England (Eustacius Chapuis) had served as a middleman between the English rebels and Rome. He had written to the ambassador in Rome, that the rebels anxiously waited for a legate of the Pope, and that Pole had great chance of success. But the letters he wrote to the Emperor were much less encouraging. He told the Emperor that the rebellion was serious, but that the leaders of the rebels were men of little talent and energy. If popular movements in any country, he added, could not much be relied upon, a popular movement in England afforded no guarantee at all, as the English people are so fickle and inconsistent.

Besides the Ambassador of the Emperor in France informed him that the King of France did not think favourably of the mission of Pole. The King of France was at that time heartily tired of his alliance with Henry, whom he declared to be an incorrigible “fool.” He had, however, his own plans, and hoped to get at least one-third of England into his possession. Pole and the Court of Rome were now candidates for the English crown whom he could not favour.

Another circumstance, which was unfavourable to Pole, was that he had not kept the secret. He had openly boasted in Rome that he was going to drive King Henry out of his kingdom.

The Emperor, in consideration of all these circumstances, refused to Pole the permission to go to England by way of Trent, Germany, and Flanders. He did not even permit that the two thousand ducats should be sent to bankers in Antwerp. On the other hand, however, he permitted his ambassador to encourage Pole to go to England through France. If the King of France, such was the calculation of the Emperor, arrested Pole, he made the Pope his enemy. If he permitted Pole to proceed to England, he would come to an open rupture with King Henry. As it, however, was still possible that Pole might be successful, the Emperor instructed Chapuis in England and the Queen Maria in Flanders to act according to circumstances, and to aid Pole if he had a fair chance of success, or to take no notice of him if fortune was adverse to him.

Pole went at last to France. In Carpentras, I think, he was stopped. From that town he sent a long memoir to the King of France, in which he explained his peaceful views. He would willingly sacrifice his life if he could thereby reclaim King Henry from his way to eternal perdition, and would do nothing in England that was not approved by the King of France. In spite of his readiness to sacrifice his life, he asked the King of France to procure him a safe-conduct from the King of England. The King of France was not duped by the assurances of Pole to go on a peaceful mission, and Pole returned to Italy.

Besides the state papers relating to the transactions just mentioned (which all are originals), there are about one hundred or more copies of letters of Cardinal Pole from the originals which are or were preserved in the archives of the Vatican. They are directed to the Pope and his ministers, and belong to the years 1553 till 1558. The subjects of which they treat are various, religious as well as political. The copies were made at the command of King Philip II. for his private use.


  • 1. “que podrian suceder curas de manera que se curasse con la princesa, y a este fin no ha quirido S.S. que tome grado alguno sino sola corona.”