Margaret of Clarence, Countess of Salisbury

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Margaret of Clarence, Countess of Salisbury

Also Known As: "Margaret Plantagenet", "Margaret of York", "Margaret de la Pole", "Countess of Salisbury", "Margaret Pole the Blessed"
Birthplace: Farley Castle, Bath, Somerset, England
Death: May 27, 1541 (67)
Tower of London, London, England (Brutally executed and beheaded)
Place of Burial: Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabella Neville, Duchess of Clarence
Wife of Sir Richard Pole, Knight
Mother of Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu; Reginald Pole, Archbishop of Canterbury; Sir Geoffrey Pole; Sir Arthur Pole and Ursula Pole, Baroness Stafford
Sister of Anne Plantagenet, of York; Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick and Richard Plantagenet

Occupation: 8th Countess of Salisbury, Lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon; Countess of Salisbury, Countess of Salisbury
Managed by: Anne Brannen
Last Updated:

About Margaret of Clarence, Countess of Salisbury

Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury was born on 14 August 1473.3 Last of the Plantagenet family line. Henry VIII was determined to get rid of her; trumped up charge of treason; death on the scaffold. According to recent research, she should have been on the throne of England, instead of her brother - who's line came down to the current Queen of England.


She was the daughter of Sir George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Lady Isabel Neville.1

She married Sir Richard Pole, son of Sir Geoffrey Pole and Edith St. John, on 22 September 1494.3

She died on 28 May 1541 at age 67 at Tower of London, The City, London, England, executed by beheading, with appalling barbarity.3 She was buried at Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower Hill, The City, London, England.3

She held the office of Lady of the Chamber to Catherine of Aragon in 1509.1 She succeeded to the title of Countess of Salisbury on 14 October 1513.3 She was Governor to Princess Mary (later Queen Mary) between 1520 and 1533.1 On 12 May 1539 she was attainted and all her titles were declared forfeit.3 Between 20 March 1541 and 20 May 1541 at Tower of London, The City, London, England, she was imprisoned.1

Children of Margaret Plantagenet, Countess of Salisbury and Sir Richard Pole

  1. * Ursula Pole3 d. 12 Aug 1570
  2. * Sir Henry Pole, 1st Lord Montagu+3 b. c 1492, d. 9 Jan 1538/39
  3. * Sir Arthur Pole3 b. bt 1493 - 1499, d. a 10 May 1527
  4. * Reginald Pole3 b. Mar 1500, d. 17 Nov 1558
  5. * Sir Geoffrey Pole+3 b. c 1502, d. Nov 1558


  1. [S8] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, page 16. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition.
  2. [S130] Wikipedia, online http;// Hereinafter cited as Wikipedia.
  3. [S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 136. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Family.,_8th_Countess_of_Salisbury

BEATIFIED by Pope Leo XIII 12/29/1886

Margaret Pole, the Blessed, Countess of Salisbury, born Margaret of York (14 August 1473 – 27 May 1541), was an English peeress. She was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who was the brother of King Edward IV and King Richard III. She was one of two women in sixteenth-century England to be a peeress in her own right with no titled husband.[2] One of the few surviving members of the Plantagenet dynasty after the Wars of the Roses, she was executed in 1541 at the command of King Henry VIII, who was the son of her cousin Elizabeth of York. Pope Leo XIII beatified her as a martyr for the Roman Catholic Church on 29 December 1886.[3]


Lady Margaret was born at Farleigh Hungerford Castle in Somerset, the only surviving daughter of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, and his wife Lady Isabel Neville, elder daughter of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, and his wife Lady Anne de Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick. Lady Margaret would have had a claim to the Earldom of Warwick, but the earldom was forfeited on the attainder of her brother Edward. Her maternal grandfather was killed fighting against her uncle, Edward IV of England, at the Battle of Barnet. Her father was then created Earl of Salisbury and of Warwick; he was already Duke of Clarence. Edward IV declared that her brother Edward should be known as Earl of Warwick as a courtesy title, but no peerage was ever created for him.[4]

When she was three, her mother and her youngest brother died; her father had two servants killed who he thought had poisoned them. He plotted against Edward IV, his brother, and was attainted and executed for treason; his lands and titles were forfeited. When she was ten, Edward IV died; her uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, declared that Edward's marriage was invalid, his children illegitimate, and that Margaret and her brother Edward were debarred from the throne by their father's attainder. He assumed the throne himself as Richard III of England. Her maternal aunt, Lady Anne, became queen of England as consort to Richard III.

Richard III had the children held at Sheriff Hutton Castle in Yorkshire. When he was defeated by Henry VII of England at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the new king married Margaret's cousin Elizabeth, Edward IV's daughter. He kept her brother Edward in the Tower of London. Edward was briefly displayed in public at St Paul's Cathedral in 1487 in response to the presentation of the impostor Lambert Simnel as the "Earl of Warwick" to the Irish lords. Shortly thereafter, probably in November 1487, Henry VII gave Margaret in marriage to his cousin, Sir Richard Pole, whose mother was half-sister of the king's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort; this would make it more difficult for plotters to use her as a figurehead. When Perkin Warbeck impersonated her cousin Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, in 1499, her brother Edward was attainted and executed for involvement in the plot. Sir Richard Pole held a variety of offices in Henry VII's government, the highest being Chamberlain for Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry's elder son. When Arthur married Catherine of Aragon, Margaret Pole became one of her ladies-in-waiting, but her entourage was dissolved when Arthur died in 1502, in his teens.

When her husband died in 1504, Margaret Pole was a widow with five children, a limited amount of land inherited from her husband, no salary and no prospects; Henry VII paid for Sir Richard's funeral. To ease the situation, Lady Pole devoted her second son Reginald Pole to the Church, where he was to have an eventful career as a papal Legate and Archbishop of Canterbury. Nonetheless, he was to resent her abandonment of him bitterly in later life.[4]

Countess of Salisbury

When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509, he married Catherine of Aragon himself. Lady Pole was again appointed one of her ladies-in-waiting. In 1512, Parliament restored some of her brother's lands of the earldom of Salisbury (only), for which she paid 5000 marks (£2666.13s.4d). Henry VII had controlled them, first during her brother's minority and then during his imprisonment, and had confiscated them after his trial. The same Act also restored to her the Earldom of Salisbury.[5] The Warwick and Spencer [Despencer] lands remained crown property.[6]

She managed her lands well; by 1538, she was the fifth richest peer in England. She was a patron of the new learning, like many Renaissance nobles: Gentian Hervet translated Erasmus' de immensa misericordia Dei (The Great Mercy of God) into English for her. Her first son, Henry Pole, was created Baron Montagu, another of the Neville titles; he spoke for the family in the House of Lords. Her fourth son, Arthur Pole, had a generally successful career as a courtier, becoming one of the six Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber. He suffered a setback when his patron Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was convicted of treason in 1521, but he was soon restored to favour. He died young about 1526, having married the heiress of Sir Roger Lewknor; the Countess and her son Henry pressed his widow to a vow of perpetual chastity to preserve her inheritance for her Pole children. Her daughter Ursula married the Duke of Buckingham's son, Henry Stafford, but after the Duke's fall, the couple was given only fragments of his estates.

Her second son, Reginald Pole, studied abroad in Padua; he was dean in Exeter and in Dorset, and canon in York, as well as several other livings, although he had not been ordained a priest. He represented Henry VIII in Paris in 1529, persuading the theologians of the Sorbonne to support Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon.[7] Her youngest son Geoffrey Pole also married well, to Catherine, daughter of Sir Edmund Pakenham, and inherited the estate of Lordington.

The Countess of Salisbury's own favour at Court varied. She had a dispute over land with Henry VIII in 1518; he awarded the contested lands to the Duchy of Somerset, which had been held by his Beaufort grandfather — and were now in the possession of the Crown. In 1520, Salisbury was appointed Governess to Henry's daughter, Princess Mary; the next year, when her sons were mixed up with Buckingham, she was removed, but she was restored by 1525. When Princess Mary was declared a bastard in 1533, the Countess refused to give Mary's gold plate and jewels back to Henry. When Mary's household was broken up at the end of the year, Margaret asked to serve Mary at her own cost, but was not permitted. When the Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys suggested two years later that Mary be handed over to the Countess, Henry refused, calling her "a fool, of no experience." When Anne Boleyn was arrested, and eventually executed, in 1536, Salisbury was permitted to return to Court — briefly.[8]


In May 1536, Reginald Pole finally and definitively broke with the king. In 1531, he warned of the dangers of the Boleyn marriage. He returned to Padua in 1532, and received a last English benefice in December of that year. Chapuys suggested to the Emperor Charles V that Pole marry the Lady Mary and combine their dynastic claims. Chapuys also communicated with Reginald through his brother Geoffrey. Now Pole replied to books Henry sent him with his own pamphlet, pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensione, or de unitate, which denied Henry's position on the marriage of a brother's wife and denied the royal supremacy. Pole also urged the princes of Europe to depose Henry immediately. Henry wrote to the Countess, who in turn wrote to her son a letter reproving him for his "folly."[9]

In 1537, Pole (still not ordained) was created a Cardinal. Pope Paul III put him in charge of organising assistance for the Pilgrimage of Grace (and related movements), an effort to organise a march on London to install a Roman Catholic government instead of Henry's. Neither Francis I of France nor the Emperor supported this effort, and the English government tried to have him assassinated. In 1539, Pole was sent to the Emperor to organise an embargo against England — the sort of countermeasure he had himself warned Henry was possible.[10]

Sir Geoffrey Pole was arrested in August 1538; he had been corresponding with Reginald, and the investigation of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter (Henry VIII's first cousin and the Countess' second cousin) had turned up his name; he had appealed to Thomas Cromwell, who had him arrested and interrogated. Under interrogation, Sir Geoffrey said that his eldest brother, Lord Montagu, and the Marquess had been parties to his correspondence with Reginald. Montagu, Exeter, and Lady Salisbury were arrested in November 1538.

In January 1539, Sir Geoffrey was pardoned, and her son Henry (and cousin Exeter) were executed for treason after trial. In May 1539, Henry, Margaret, Exeter and others were attainted, as Margaret's father had been. This conviction meant they lost their titles and their lands — mostly in the South of England, conveniently located to assist any invasion. They were sentenced to death, and could be executed at the king's will. As part of the evidence for the Bill of Attainder, Cromwell produced a tunic bearing the Five Wounds of Christ, symbolising Margaret's support for Roman Catholicism and the rule of her son Reginald and the king's Catholic daughter Mary. The supposed discovery, six months after her house and effects were searched at her arrest, is likely to have been a fabrication.

Margaret Pole, as she now was styled, was held in the Tower of London for two and a half years. She, her grandson Henry (son of her own son Henry), and Exeter's son were held together and supported by the king. She was attended by servants and received an extensive grant of clothing in March 1541. In 1540, Cromwell himself fell from favour and was attainted and executed.


The following poem was found carved on the wall of her cell:

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I! My faithfulness stands fast and so, Towards the block I shall not go! Nor make one step, as you shall see; Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me![11][12]

On the morning of 27 May 1541, Lady Salisbury was told she was to die within the hour. She answered that no crime had been imputed to her. Nevertheless, she was taken from her cell to the place within the precincts of the Tower of London where a low wooden block had been prepared. As she was of noble birth, she was not executed before the populace, though there were about 150 witnesses.[13] She was dragged to the block and, as she refused to lay her head on it, was forced down. As she struggled, the inexperienced executioner's first blow made a gash in her shoulder rather than her neck. Ten additional blows were required to complete the execution.[14] A probably apocryphal account states that she leapt from the block after the first clumsy blow and ran, pursued by the executioner, being struck several times before she died. The Calendar of State Papers does report the executioner was a "blundering youth" who "hacked her head and shoulders to pieces".[15][16][17][18] Lady Margaret was buried in the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London.[19]


Arms of Margaret, Countess of Salisbury.[20] Both her father and her mother's father were Earls of Salisbury. It is unclear whether they held the same Earldom, and if not, which of the Earldoms was restored to her. The Act of Parliament does not say, and respectable authorities differ; the chief effect of these verbal issues is whether she is eighth or second holder of the Earldom (in shorthand, "8th Countess" or "2nd Countess"; other numbers are also defensible).

Her grandfather died, leaving no sons and two daughters; his lands were divided between them, and when the younger daughter, Anne Neville, Richard III's queen, died without surviving children, Edward, as her nephew, inherited the lot. In the fifteenth century, the elder daughter's husband, George of Clarence, would have inherited the chief estate of the family and the earldoms. By modern law, it would have required a new creation for George to be an Earl, although the law of abeyance, first devised under the Stuarts, would permit the King to declare one of the daughters a Countess in her own right; however this did not happen. In the fifteenth century, an only daughter would have inherited — this is how the title came to the Nevilles in the first place — but when a peer left several daughters, the title immediately reverted to the Crown, which might very well regrant it to a member of the family.

J. Horace Round, as followed by the Complete Peerage, holds, therefore, that her brother was representative of his father, and not of her grandfather, and that what was restored to his estate was his father's Earldom of Salisbury; so she is second Countess.[21] Legacy[edit] Her son, Reginald Pole, said that he would "...never fear to call himself the son of a martyr". She was later regarded by Catholics as such and was beatified in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.[22]


When not at Court, the Countess lived chiefly at Warblington Castle in Hampshire and Bisham Manor in Berkshire.[23] She and her husband were parents to five children:

Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu (c. 1492 – 9 January 1539), notable as one of the peers in the trial of Anne Boleyn; married Jane Neville, daughter of George Nevill, 4th Baron Bergavenny, and Margaret Fenne; beheaded by order of Henry VIII. A great-grandson of Henry Pole was Sir John Bourchier, a regicide of King Charles I of England – a great-great-grandnephew of Henry VIII. Reginald Pole (c. 1500 – 17 November 1558), cardinal, papal legate in various regions, including England, and the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. Geoffrey Pole (c. 1501 – 1558), Lord of the Manor of Lordington in Sussex, suspected of treason by King Henry VIII and accused of conspiring with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor; lived in exile in Europe; married Constance Pakenham, granddaughter and heiress of Sir John Pakenham. John Pakenham was ancestor to Sir Edward Pakenham, brother-in-law to Duke of Wellington. Arthur Pole (c. 1502 – 1535), Lord of the Manor of Broadhurst in Sussex; married Jane Lewknor, daughter of Roger Lewknor and the former Eleanor Tuchet, herself daughter of the 6th Baron Audley and the former Anne Echingham. Lady Ursula Pole (c. 1504 – 12 August 1570), married Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford. Notes[edit] Jump up ^ National Portrait Gallery Jump up ^ ODNB; the other was Anne Boleyn, Marquess of Pembroke. The ODNB does not qualify the assertion, but is discussing sixteenth-century usage; sources which apply modern law retroactively will consider some women peeresses in their own right when their husbands sat in Parliament with their father's style and precedence. Jump up ^ DWYER, J. G. "Pole, Margaret Plantagenet, Bl." New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale, 2003. pp. 455–56. ^ Jump up to: a b ODNB. Jump up ^ ODNB, which argues that the restoration was a tacit admission of her brother's innocence; however, lands and titles had been restored to the heirs of guilty peers during the previous century. Jump up ^ TNA, minsters' accounts, SC6/HENVIII. Jump up ^ ODNB, Reginald Pole Jump up ^ ODNB; quotation as given there. Jump up ^ ODNB, "Reginald Pole"; "Geoffrey Pole". Pole and his hagiographers gave several later accounts of Pole's activities after Henry met Anne Boleyn. These are not consistent; and if — as he claimed at one point — Pole rejected the Divorce in 1526 and refused the Oath of Supremacy in 1531, he received benefits from Henry for a course of action for which others were sentenced to death. Jump up ^ ODNB, Reginald Pole. Jump up ^ "The Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury". The Anne Bolyn Files. Retrieved 12 June 2011. Jump up ^ "The Tower of London". The Travelling Historian. Retrieved 12 June 2011. Jump up ^ "Executions & Beheading at the Tower of London". Castles. Retrieved 24 November 2011. Jump up ^ The Complete Peerage, v. XII p. II, p. 393 Jump up ^ "Margaret Pole". Tudor History. Retrieved 18 January 2014. Jump up ^ "1541: Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury". Executed Today. Retrieved 18 January 2014. Jump up ^ "Margaret Plantagenet". Tudor Place. Retrieved 18 January 2014. Jump up ^ "Block and Axe". Royal Armouries. Retrieved 18 January 2014. Jump up ^ Profile of Margaret, Lady Salisbury, Regina (online) Jump up ^ Pinches, John Harvey; Pinches, Rosemary (1974), The Royal Heraldry of England, Heraldry Today, Slough, Buckinghamshire: Hollen Street Press, ISBN 0-900455-25-X Jump up ^ Complete Peerage, "Salisbury, Earldom of" ::::::Co vol XI, pp. 399–402 and appendix F (supplementary pages 126–133) Jump up ^ Camm, Bede, Lives of the English martyrs declared blessed by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and 1895, (Burns and Oates Limited, 1904), ix. Jump up ^ Ford, David Nash (2010). "Margaret Plantagenet, Lady Pole & Countess of Salisbury (1473–1541)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 16 June 2011. Sources[edit] Dwyer, J.G. "Pole, Margaret Plantagenet, Bl." at New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale, 2003. pp. 455–456. Cited as New Catholic Encyclopedia. Mayer, T.F. Pole, Reginald (1500–1558), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008, cited as ODNB, Reginald Pole. Pierce, Hazel. "Pole, Margaret, suo jure countess of Salisbury (1473–1541)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22451. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.); cited as ODNB. Bernard, George W. (2005). The king's reformation: Henry VIII and the remaking of the English church. Yale University Press.

House of York.

p. 1073.

Margaret, survived into the reign of Henry VIII, but when her son fell into disfavour, he took his revenge upon the mother. Margaret refused to submit tamely, saying she was not guilty of treason and would not lay her head meekly on a traitor's block. She had to be dragged to the block by force, was beheaded in MAY 1541; she was not quite sixty-eight. She was later beatified as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Source: The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon K. PENMAN issued by Macmillan, London.

Added by Y. DROST, 25 JUL 2011

Note from John D. Curtis:

Caution. The Countess was married to Sir Richard Pole. Her marriage to Richard Packard needs to be verified.

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Margaret of Clarence, Countess of Salisbury's Timeline

August 14, 1473
Farley Castle, Bath, Somerset, England
November 1495
Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, England
March 12, 1500
Stourton Castle, Stourton, Staffordshire, England
of Lordington, Sussex, England
Racton, West Sussex, England
Isleworth, Middlesex, England
May 27, 1541
Age 67
Tower of London, London, England
Age 67
Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower of London, England