Reginald Pole, an English cardinal, born at Stowerton castle, Staffordshire, in 1500, died Nov. 18, 1558. On his mother's side he was related to Henry VIII. He was sent when seven years old to the Carthusian monastery of Shene, near Richmond in Surrey, and graduated at Magdalen college, Oxford, in 1515. In 1517 he became prebendary of Salisbury, and in 1519 dean of Wimborne and Exeter. About 1520 he went to Padua to finish his studies. Returning to England in 1525, he was received with great favor by the king; but preferring to spend his time in study, he retired to Shene. He had been here about two years when Henry began to question the legality of his marriage with Catharine of Aragon; and Pole, foreseeing trouble, obtained from the king permission to visit Paris. Returning after a year, his retirement was again disturbed by the determination of the king to throw off the pope's supremacy, and his desire to gain the approbation of his relative. As Pole refused his consent, to avoid the anger of Henry he passed over to the continent and dwelt successively at Avignon, Padua, and Venice. Meanwhile Henry had married Anne Boleyn, and caused a defence of his title of head of the English church to be written by Dr. Sampson, bishop of Chichester. This was sent to Pole, who wrote in reply Pro Unitate Ecclesiastica in which he compared the king to Nebuchadnezzar. Henry discontinued Pole's pension, deprived him of his preferments, and caused an act of attainder to be passed against him.
Paul III., who was then pope, created him a cardinal, and sent him as nuncio to France and Flanders, and afterward as legate to Viterbo. Here he remained until the opening of the council of Trent, which he attended as a papal legate, and in which he is said to have maintained the doctrine of justification by faith. Although suspected on this account of a leaning toward Protestantism, he was nevertheless employed by Paul in the affairs of the papal court, and on the death of that pontiff came near being chosen his successor. On the accession of Pope Julius III., he retired to the convent of Maguzano near Verona, and there remained until called to England by Queen Mary. He was made archbishop of Canterbury after the burning of Cranmer, and was elected chancellor of Oxford and subsequently of Cambridge. In the cruel measures which were taken at that time for the extirpation of Protestantism, it has been a matter of debate how far the primate was censurable; but the weight of evidence seems to favor the conclusion that he was inclined rather to lenient than to harsh proceedings. He died 16 hours after the death of the queen.
His life was written by T. Phillips (2 vols., 1764).