Geoffrey Pole

Sir Geoffrey Pole
Born c. 1501 or 1502
Died 1558
Spouse(s) Constance Pakenham
Children Sir Arthur Pole of Lordington
Thomas Pole of Lordington and of West Stoke
Edmund Pole of Lordington and of West Stoke (?)
Geoffrey Pole of Lordington and of West Stoke
Henry Pole
Catherine Pole
Catherine Pole
Elizabeth Pole
Mary Pole
Margaret Pole
Ann Pole
Parent(s) Sir Richard Pole
Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury

Sir Geoffrey Pole of Lordington, Sussex[1] (c. 1501 or 1502 - November 1558)[2] was an English knight who supported the Catholic Church in England and Wales when Henry VIII of England was establishing the alternative Church of England with himself as leader.

Early life

He was fourth son of Sir Richard Pole (d. 1505), by his wife Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, and the younger brother of Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu and of Cardinal Reginald Pole. He was one of the knights made by Henry VIII at York Place in 1529.[3][4] Soon afterwards, or before 9 July 1528, he married Constance Pakenham, the elder of the two daughters and co-heirs of Sir Edmund Pakenham, Gentleman Usher to Catherine of Aragon, who died in 1528 and by whom he became possessed of the Manors of Eastcourt and Lordington at Racton in West Sussex, Sussex. From 1531, his name is met with in commissions of various kinds, including Justice of the Peace for both for Hampshire and for Sussex, and member of Parliament for Wilton beginning in 1529.[5]

Like the rest of his family, he greatly disliked Henry VIII's proceedings for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon. In 1532, when the king went over to Calais with Anne Boleyn to meet Francis I of France, he crossed the sea in disguise, and keeping himself unseen in the apartments of his brother, Henry Pole, 1st Baron Montagu, who had gone over with the king, stole out at night to collect news. Montagu 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 on 1 June 1533 and was paid ₤40 for that service.[6] A week after, on Thursday 5 June, he dined with the Princess Mary.[7] When Anne Boleyn was queen, he frequently visited the Spanish imperial ambassador, Eustace 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 Queen Catherine.[8] He added that he himself wished to go to the emperor in Spain, which Chapuys wisely dissuaded him from doing.[9] Geoffrey was also in the confidence of French ambassador and the bishop of London, John Stokesley. As T.F. Mayer puts it "In short, Geoffrey had a much higher profile in the opposition to Henry VIII's policies than his mother or his brother Henry Pole, Lord Montagu."[5]

Pilgrimage of Grace and Imprisonment

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] In October 1537, he came to court and the king refused to see him.[13] 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.[14] On 29 August 1538, he was arrested and sent to the Tower of London.[15]

This was a blow aimed at his whole family, whom the king had long meant to crush on account of the opposition to his policies by his brother Reginald the cardinal. For nearly two months, Geoffrey lay in prison; on 26 October a set of interrogations was administered to him, first about words dropped by himself in private conversation, when he had discussed an English religious policy with his brother, Henry, and next about letters and messages he, his mother, or others of his family had received. Much of he evidence he gave was instrumental in condemning both his brother and mother to the scaffold, primarily because of their loyalty to Princess Mary and the Catholic church.[5] On 4 December 1538, he pleaded guilty at his trial for treason and then attempted twice to commit suicide. He was pardoned on 4 January 1539, but the experience seems to have led to a mental breakdown.[16][17]


After his mother's execution, many of the Pole family lands were seized by the crown, but some were returned to Geoffrey in 1544. In 1548, he fled England and 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 Liege, allowing him an allowance of forty crowns a month. There he chiefly lived until 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 at Poissy, while on a journey to Rouen. He explained that he was riding up and down that summer to see countries and begged Mason to procure leave for him to return to England. He continued to campaign to return home. In 1552, his son Arthur was released from prison and went to serve the Duke of Northumberland. Geoffrey wrote to the duke, asking for a safe conduct home. Despite these efforts, he was excepted from the general pardon granted at the end of the parliament in 1552.[18] After Queen Mary's accession in 1553, he returned to England.

Death and issue

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. His widow Constance, who made her will on 1 or 2 August 1570 and died after 12 August 1570, desired to be buried beside him. He had five sons (the eldest son Arthur) and six daughters, two of whom were married, and one a nun of Syon Abbey. One of the married daughters was the mother of John Fortescue, whose daughter Elizabeth Fortescue (died aft. 16 April 1652) married Sir John Beaumont, 1st Baronet:



  2. Dictionary of National Biography
  3. METCALFE, Book of Knights, p. 61
  4. Chronicle of Henry VIII of England, translated from the Spanish by Martin A. Sharp Hume - Cal. Henry VIII, vol. iv. No. 6384
  5. 1 2 3 Geoffrey Pole. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/22447.
  6. Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, Foreign, Edward VI, Venetian, iii. 1560 - Cal Henry VIII, vi. 246
  7. ib. No. 1540, iii.
  8. ib. vii. 520
  9. ib. vol. viii. No. 750, p. 283
  10. Sussex Archaeological Collections, vii. 224
  11. ib. xxi. 77
  12. Cal. Henry VIII, vol. xi. No. 523
  13. ib. vol. xii. pt. ii. No. 921
  14. ib. vol. xii. pt. i. No. 829
  15. ib. vol. xiii. pt. ii. p. 91
  16. Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Family: A Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), p. 136.
  17. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, pp.16 and 228.
  18. Tytler's England under Edward VI and Mary, i. 313; STRYPE, Heel. Mem. vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 67
  19. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, p.16.
  20. Dictionary of National Biography Arthur Pole
  21. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 106th edition, 2 volumes (Crans, Switzerland: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 1999), volume 1, p. 16.
  22. 1 2 Sharpe, Thomasin Elizabeth (1875-01-01). A royal descent [of the family of Sharpe]; with other pedigrees and memorials [With] Additions and corrections.
  23. A companion and key to the history of England; consisting of copious genealogical details of the British sovereigns, with an appendix, exhibiting a chronological epitome of the successive holders of the several titles of the ... nobility, etc, with their armorial bearings. 1832-01-01.
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