Come before the Lord, singing with joy.
Year: B(I). Psalm week: 4.
|Other saints: Blessed Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (1473 - 1541)|
Margaret Plantagenet was the niece of King Edward IV, and was born in 1473. These were troubled times. Her father, the Duke of Clarence, was executed for treason, by the King, his own brother, while she was still a small child. Her brother Edward of Warwick night have been King of England but for the establishment of the House of Tudor by Henry VII after Bosworth Field in 1485. She herself could have posed a threat to the new dynasty, but instead of having her imprisoned or executed the King arranged for her marriage to a loyal supporter of his, Sir Richard Pole. The couple lived at Lordington, near Chichester, where probably their children, including the future Cardinal, were born.
Before long the Poles were appointed to the household of Prince Arthur and his wife Catherine of Aragon. Margaret and Catherine became firm friends. But within a year Arthur died; and within three years her husband also died, leaving her to bring up their five children. However, for a time all went well. Margaret successfully petitioned for the restoration of her titles and property, confiscated at her father’s attainder, and was admitted to her title of Countess of Salisbury. No doubt because of her friendship for Queen Catherine, whom Henry VIII had married after the death of Arthur (with papal dispensation), she was appointed as governess and head of the household to Princess Mary, (later Queen Mary Tudor). At that time the King used to say that his kingdom did not contain a nobler woman than the Countess.
But in the 1530’s came the King’s “great matter”, his divorce from Queen Catherine. Needless to say, Margaret disapproved strongly, as did her son Reginald, who was forced to take refuge on the Continent from the King’s anger. The divorce and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn brought England into schism. The King tried hard to get Reginald on to his side, but of course to no avail. His book “De unitate” enraged the King, and when the Pope made him a Cardinal, that was the last straw. He vented his anger on the Cardinal’s family. It was now the year 1539. Margaret’s eldest son, Lord Montague, and other relatives, were executed for treason; and Margaret herself was subjected to a long period of interrogation, first at her own home near Havant, and then at Cowdray Park near Midhurst, the property of one of her interrogators, the Earl of Southampton. They sought evidence of treason, whether by support of her son the Cardinal, or by proving some involvement with the uprising known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.
The reports of the interrogators give us some indication of the remarkable steadfastness of this elderly lady, now approaching seventy years of age. Not only did her questioners fail to extract any admission of guilt, even after rough handling; it is clear that they both feared and grudgingly respected her. Cromwell was unable to bring her to trial for lack of evidence, so he persuaded a subservient Parliament to pass an Act of Attainder by which she was condemned purely on suspicion, without any trial.
The Countess was taken to the Tower. The sentence for treason was death, but Henry forbore to have it executed, and for two years she was kept in the Tower, suffering greatly from the cold and damp.
It was finally the fact of her royal blood that brought about her execution. The King feared a rebellion of Yorkist sympathizers, following a Rising in the North. Margaret, the “last of the Plantagenets”, must be eliminated, and he ordered her execution. She was beheaded on East Smithfield Green, within the precincts of the Tower, on 27th May 1541, and buried in the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula.
But the underlying cause of her death was undoubtedly the fact that the King could not silence the opposition to him in Europe, in which her son the Cardinal had so large a part, coupled with her own indomitable refusal, from the time of the divorce onwards, to compromise the unity of the Church. Her last words were, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake”.
The Church formally gave her the title Blessed in 1886.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 John 3:23-24 ©|
God’s commandments are these:
that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ
and that we love one another
as he told us to.
Whoever keeps his commandments
lives in God and God lives in him.
We know that he lives in us
by the Spirit that he has given us.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Wisdom 1:1-2 ©|
Love virtue, you who are judges on earth, let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek him in simplicity of heart; since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test, he shows himself to those who do not distrust him.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Hebrews 12:1-2 ©|
We should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, he endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now on has taken his place at the right of God’s throne.