Open main menu

POLE, Sir GEOFFREY (1502?–1558), a victim of Henry VIII's tyranny, born between 1501 and 1505, was brother of Henry Pole, lord Montague [q. v.], and of Reginald Pole [q. v.] the cardinal, being the youngest son of Sir Richard Pole (d. 1505), by his wife Margaret, afterwards Countess of Salisbury [see Pole, Margaret]. He was one of the knights made by Henry VIII at York Place in 1529 (Metcalfe, Book of Knights, p. 61; Cal. Henry VIII, vol. iv. No. 6384). Soon afterwards he married Constance, the elder of the two daughters and heirs of Sir John Pakenham, by whom he became possessed of the manor of Lordington in Sussex. Local antiquaries assert that this manor belonged to his father; but this has been fully disproved by Father Morris (Month, lxv. 521–2). From 1531 his name is met with in commissions of various kinds, both for Hampshire and for Sussex.

Like the rest of his family, he greatly disliked Henry VIII's proceedings for a divorce from Catherine of Arragon. In 1532, when the king went over to Calais with Anne Boleyn to meet Francis I, he crossed the sea in disguise, and keeping himself unseen in the apartments of his brother, Henry Pole, lord Montague [q. v.], who had gone over with the king, stole out at night to collect news. Montague sent him back to England to inform Queen Catherine that Henry had not succeeded in persuading Francis to countenance his proposed marriage with Anne Boleyn. Next year, however, his name appears set down—not with his own good will, we may be sure—among the knights appointed ‘to be servitors’ at Anne Boleyn's coronation (Cal. Henry VIII, vi. 246). But a week after, on Thursday, 5 June, he dined with the Princess Mary (ib. No. 1540, iii.); and frequently, when Anne Boleyn was queen, he visited the imperial ambassador, Chapuys, to assure him that the emperor would find the hearts of the English people with him if he invaded England to redress the wrong done to Catherine (ib. vii. 520). He added that he himself wished to go to the emperor in Spain, which Chapuys wisely dissuaded him from doing (ib. vol. viii. No. 750, p. 283).

In 1536, on the suppression of the smaller monasteries, he purchased from the commissioners such goods as then remained of the abbey of Dureford in Sussex, near Lordington (Sussex Archæological Collections, vii. 224). In the end of that year he is said to have commanded a company, under the Duke of Norfolk, against the northern rebels at Doncaster; but his sympathies were really with the rebels, and he was determined beforehand not to act against them (ib. xxi. 77). Norfolk, however, was aware that the insurgents were too strong to be attacked, and Sir Geoffrey had no occasion to desert the royal standard. A letter of Lord De la Warr, perhaps misplaced in the ‘Calendar’ in October 1536, speaks of his causing a riot by a forcible entry into Slindon Park, which he was afterwards ordered in the king's name immediately to quit (Cal. Henry VIII, vol. xi. No. 523). In October 1537 when he came to court the king refused to see him (ib. vol. xii. pt. ii. No. 921); and a letter of his to the lord chancellor, dated at Lordington, 5 April, in which he hopes for a return of the king's favour, was probably written in 1538, though placed among the state papers of 1537 (ib. vol. xii. pt. i. No. 829). On 29 Aug. 1538 he was arrested and sent to the Tower (ib. vol. xiii. pt. ii. p. 91).

This was a blow aimed at his whole family, whom the king had long meant to crush on account of the part taken by his brother Reginald the cardinal. For nearly two months Geoffrey lay in prison; on 26 Oct. a set of interrogatories was administered to him, first about words dropped by himself in private conversation, when he had expressed approval of his brother's proceedings, and next as to the letters and messages he or his mother, or others of his family, had received from the cardinal during the last three years. With the fear of the rack before him, and knowing that he would be compelled to implicate his family, he endeavoured to commit suicide, and did himself some serious injury (ib. vol. xiii. pt. ii. Nos. 703, 875). But it was in vain. Seven separate examinations was he obliged to undergo, with further and further questionings as new information was elicited from himself or from those whom his confessions implicated, until the whole case was made out for the king against not only himself, but his brother Lord Montague, Henry Courtenay, marquis of Exeter [q. v.], Sir Edward Neville (d. 1538) [q. v.], and others. His wife, who was herself examined by the council, privately informed her brother-in-law Lord Montague that her husband was driven to frenzy, and might make indiscreet revelations. Brought to trial with those he had implicated, on 4 Dec. at Westminster, he was condemned to death on his own plea of guilty, but, while his brother and the others met their fate, his life was spared. There were new victims still to be caught, and even on 30 Dec. Cromwell intimated to the French ambassador that they hoped to learn something more from him. At last, on 4 Jan. 1539, he received his pardon, which, it is said, his wife obtained for him, representing that he was so ill that he was already as good as dead (Foley, Records of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, iii. 790–1). During the Christmas week, indeed, he seems to have made another attempt upon his own life, trying to suffocate himself with a cushion (Cal. Henry VIII, vol. xiv. pt. i. p. 19).

In September 1540 he was committed to the Fleet in consequence of ‘a certain affray’ which he had made in Hampshire on one Mr. Gunter, a justice of the peace, who had given the council information against him. A fortnight later he received the king's pardon on condition of his keeping the peace towards Gunter, and not coming again to court until the king's pleasure were further declared. Early in April next year another complaint was made against him to the council for an assault on John Michael, the parson of Racton, his parish church in Sussex. He seems to have previously connived at the trumping-up of a charge of treason against Michael.

A few weeks later his mother was put to death, and he was afraid of further trouble. ‘He went about,’ says a contemporary writer, ‘like one terror-stricken, and, as he lived four miles from Chichester, he saw one day in Chichester a Flemish ship, into which he resolved to get, and with her he passed over to Flanders, leaving his wife and children.’ It is added that he found his way to Rome, and threw himself at the feet of his brother the cardinal, saying he was unworthy to be called his brother for having caused another brother's death. The cardinal brought him to the pope for absolution, and afterwards sent him into Flanders to the bishop of Liège, allowing him forty crowns a month to live upon. There he chiefly lived till the close of Edward VI's reign. His wife and family, however, were still at Lordington, and he had a strong desire to return to England. In 1550 he visited Sir John Mason [q. v.] at Poissy, while on a journey to Rouen. He explained that he was riding up and down that summer to see countries, and vainly begged Mason to procure leave for him to return to England. He was excepted from the general pardon granted at the end of the parliament in 1552 (Strype, Eccl. Mem. vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 67). After Queen Mary's accession he returned to England. He died in 1558, a few days before his brother the cardinal, and was buried at Stoughton Church. He was attended in his last illness by Father Peter de Soto [q. v.] His widow Constance, who made her will on 12 Aug. 1570, desired to be buried beside him. He left five sons and six daughters, two of whom were married, and one a nun of Sion; the eldest son, Arthur, is separately noticed.

[Sandford's Genealogical Hist.; Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, Foreign, Edward VI, Venetian, iii. 1560; Privy Council Proceedings, ed. Nicolas, vol. vii.; Sussex Archæological Collections, vol. xxi.; Tytler's England under Edward VI and Mary, i. 313; Chronicle of Henry VIII of England, translated from the Spanish by Martin A. Sharp Hume. The notices of Sir Geoffrey Pole in Froude's History are altogether erroneous.]

J. G.