The Communications of Cardinal Pole

22nd March 2016. An unassuming date. Or is it?

In fact, this day marks the 460th anniversary of the day when Cardinal Reginald Pole was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury.


Engraving of Cardinal Pole in Burnet’s History of the Reformation. Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

Cardinal Pole. Do you recognise the name? He was one of Queen Mary I’s most trusted, well-known and influential advisors. For the Queen, a devout Catholic, religion was of huge importance. This may explain why beautiful prayer books such as the one held in Worcester Cathedral’s library and archives were made; these books are real works of art, often containing illustrations and music notation as well as the varying styles of text. (For example, some pages were copied out again in larger text to make the writing easier to read for the person taking the service.)


Page from Mary’s Missal. Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

The important role of religion in Mary’s life could also partly explain why she held Cardinal Pole in such high esteem. Pole instigated, or at the very least was behind, various changes to the Church: the Catholic England we all surely associate with her was made with the support of Pole. These changes could not have been made without a certain amount of contact between Mary’s Cardinal at the time (someone like Pole) and the many deans and bishops across the country. Examples of these communications can be seen at the archives in Worcester Cathedral, including a letter fragment signed by Cardinal Pole himself.

They also hold a petition addressed to Mary’s cardinal at the time, which was sent by the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral and calls for various statutory changes to be made.

Letter signed by Pole

Letter signed by Pole. Image copyright the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (UK).

Even though he was ordained as a priest and then made Archbishop of Canterbury just two years before his death, Cardinal Pole was very influential. Not only did he have a hand in the numerous executions of Protestants and other ‘enemies of the state’ during Mary’s reign, but he was also a Chancellor at both the universities of Oxford and Cambridge during 1555 and 1556. This meant he had a lot a lot of influence over how they were run and probably still are to this day.

Yet, Cardinal Pole’s story is just one of many that could be told by the books, papers and manuscripts found in Worcester Cathedral’s library and archives. Whose story would you like to uncover next?


Eve Lambrick



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