Todays post is Samanthas second submission, and chapter from her book. Margaret Pole is something I find very interesting – I’m actually surprised that she was able to live the life she was able to. She is quickly becoming one of my favourite people from this era. If you’re a fan of hers, you’re going to love this submission! I very much look forward to purchasing Samanthas book! This chapter does not disappoint.
A word from the author,
Margaret Pole’s story is not one that novelists tend to focus on despite her intriguing position as close friend of Catherine of Aragon, governess of Princess Mary, and mother of the famous Cardinal Reginald Pole. Before I had completed Elizabeth of York’s story in Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, I knew that I would have to continue with Margaret’s.
Though they have much in common, these women have some significant differences as well. Margaret is a complex character, well aware of the shadow of treason that curses her family but also anxious to see her family raised to positions that their royal blood deserves. Fortune’s wheel turns erratically throughout her life, seeing her alternatively raised as Countess of Salisbury and branded a traitor like her father and brother before her.
Besides the inevitable drama between the tempestuous Henry VIII and his York cousins, there is also the question of religion. When Henry sets aside his first wife, Margaret is horrified on several levels. She longs to support Catherine and Mary and is devoted to the Catholic faith. She also has a growing brood of children and grandchildren to consider. How to stay faithful to her God and her king becomes a question she struggles with.
In Faithful Traitor, Margaret is a strong, independent woman who finds that, despite her best efforts, there is a price to pay for having an excess of royal blood.
Faithful Traitor: The Story of Margaret Pole
February 11, 1503
The Queen of England was dead.
The parchment bearing the news fell to the floor as Margaret grasped for the closest chair and collapsed into it. She forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat and closed her eyes in an effort to form a prayer.
Margaret fought the conflicting feelings churning within her upon hearing about the death of her cousin, Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth had done what she thought was right when she married the last hope of the Lancastrians, Henry Tudor, but Margaret would always hate the man for sending her brother to his death.
Edward had been innocent, of that much Margaret was certain. What she still wondered was how much Elizabeth had truly done to help him as his youth wasted away while he was imprisoned in the Tower. Elizabeth had loved him once, Margaret knew, but she had also allowed him to be executed on the Tower Green.
Grief threatened to rise in Margaret’s chest as she remembered Edward and Elizabeth running through the moor at Sherriff Hutton, laughing and being chased by the puppy that Edward had adopted upon arrival. They had both boasted the bold red-gold Plantagenet hair that glimmered brightly in the sunlight. It was difficult for Margaret to convince herself that they were both gone now, and she would not see either of them again until they greeted her in heaven.
She remembered that Edward had a sprinkling of freckles across his sun-kissed cheeks, while Elizabeth’s skin had been smooth and pale like Margaret’s own. Elizabeth’s relationship with Edward had begun, in part Margaret was sure, to fill the gap left by the disappearance of her own brothers when their uncle Richard had taken the throne in 1483. It seemed so long ago now.
Margaret sighed and opened her eyes, memories had come more easily than prayers. She leaned to retrieve the unpleasant missive and wondered if she should have been there with Elizabeth in her last moments. Allowing herself to become lost in reminiscences again, she reflected upon the times that she had attended her cousin during the birth of other children. The one that had taken Elizabeth’s life, baby Katherine, had quickly given up its own as well.
“Oh, Bess,” Margaret sighed and briefly wondered if the gentle spirit of the first Tudor queen could hear her.
Though Margaret had loved her golden cousin with an adoration akin to worship, that devotion had wavered when young Edward of Warwick was led to the scaffold. With Elizabeth gone, there would be nobody to soften the rule of Henry VII, England’s unexpected Tudor king. Margaret was thankful that she had her husband to lean on through turbulent times.
She rose from her seat to go to him now. Richard would know how to comfort her, even as she had no idea how to cope with the feelings raging inside of her. He had been with her through most of the young Tudor dynasty, and she thanked God daily for him. Henry had given Margaret, a prize of high value because of her royal blood, to his devoted follower, Richard Pole, but she had surprised herself by falling in love with him.
Margaret strode from her chamber in search of her husband, taking in her surroundings with the renewed appreciation of someone who has been reminded that they are enjoying a day that a loved one has missed. The estate at Bockmer was a relatively simple one for the niece of two kings and cousin to the latest queen, but it was the place that gave Margaret the greatest happiness.
As she moved through the corridors, remembering special moments and dreaming of more to come, she was struck strongly by the memory of her sainted family members of whom there were so many. Shaking her head, she vowed to focus on the present. Thinking of all who had gone before her through her thirty years of life would only drag her into a dark pit of depression. She must find Richard.
He would be catching up on his personal business, a task that he had more time for since the death of Prince Arthur. Richard had been the steward of Henry and Elizabeth’s firstborn son until his passing ten months earlier. The time since they had returned to their own estates from the prince’s at Ludlow had been used to bring the Pole family holdings into order.
Margaret reached the heavy wooden door of Richard’s study, but paused before entering. Would Elizabeth have risked another pregnancy at age thirty-six if Arthur had lived? Her eyes searched for patterns in the floor rushes as her mind sought answers that it never could obtain. Prince Henry was now the heir to the crown and the only surviving royal prince, since Elizabeth’s final effort at childbearing had not been fruitful.
Shaking herself from her reverie, Margaret lifted her head and knocked upon Richard’s study door. Not waiting for him to call out, she pushed the door on its creaking hinges and entered the sunny room. While some men preferred dark, cave-like studies for carrying out their business, Richard preferred his well lit by the glazed glass windows and an abundance of candles. It was one of his few indulgences to keep the room bright, saying that it improved his disposition.
He rose from behind his desk and neat piles of documents as she entered, swiftly reaching her side and taking her hands. His were smooth except for the calluses caused by wielding his sword in the service of Henry Tudor.
“What is wrong, my Meg?” he asked her, his dark eyes searching her brighter sea green ones.
She lowered her face from his analysis, wondering how he could read her so easily. “It is Bess,” she whispered.
“Queen Elizabeth?” he asked, not as comfortable with family nicknames for his sovereign as his wife was.
Margaret nodded and shifted slightly toward him. He took her in his arms, sensing her need. “The baby?”
All had been concerned for the beloved but aging queen. Though her mother, Edward IV’s queen Elizabeth Woodville, had birthed many children for well into her forties, childbirth remained a risky but vital business of queens.
Margaret simply nodded, finding herself unable to speak. She buried her face in Richard’s doublet, losing herself in his strong, supportive embrace. She could not place enough blame at Elizabeth’s feet to not mourn for her. “I have just had a letter from my cousin, Cecily,” she began before the lump in her throat made speech impossible.
“Dear Meg,” Richard said, holding her tighter. “Tell me.”
She forced herself to look up into his eyes though hers were shining with unshed tears. Only seconds passed, but it was long enough for her to drink in his features and discern where their children had inherited small elements of their appearance from him.
Henry, their eldest, whom Richard had insisted be named after his king and benefactor, had received Richard’s serious yet caring nature. His forehead creased in concern just the way Richard’s was now. Arthur had the same thick, dark hair that was the envy of many young ladies. Sweet Ursula was the image of her mother except for her quick smile that was all Richard. Finally, little Reginald showed all signs of becoming Richard’s physical reflection with no sign of Plantagenet features visible thus far.
“Meg,” Richard whispered, pulling her from her wandering thoughts.
Taking a deep breath, Margaret forced herself to say, “She has died, Richard. And the baby, too.”
The tears that had been threatening to fall now streamed unashamedly down Margaret’s face, and Richard directed her toward a bench and pulled her down beside him. He gently stroked her thick auburn hair and whispered comforting platitudes as she sobbed.
“She died on her thirty-seventh birthday,” Margaret whispered when her breath came more regularly. “She always did sicken when with child. She should not have risked another.”
“She only wished to perform her duty to her king and her God. She was a devoted queen.”
They were quiet as each mentally reviewed images of the copper-haired Plantagenet princess who had become Henry’s wife. After a few moments, Margaret raised her head and gave Richard a weak smile. “You have held me through so many tears, my love. I do not know what I would do without you.”
“Or I without you, sweet Meg,” he said softly, giving her shoulders a squeeze. “You have endured much, and I only hope that our family has been some small comfort to you in these last fifteen years.”
Margaret pulled away to meet his eye, “I would not have survived had we not been married, Richard. Henry may have believed that he chose you for me, but it is God who knew that I needed you. As a lost and confused fifteen-year-old girl, you were my safe place. You still are.”
She rested her head on his shoulder, feeling exhausted by her emotional display.
“Henry has lost his wife and child then?”
Margaret nodded, feeling the rough fabric of his doublet against her cheek. “The baby was a girl. She was named Katherine and died shortly before Bess.”
“It will be a burden for Henry. He believed that their relationship was healing.”
“It should not take the death of a child to mend a marriage,” Margaret snapped with more venom than she intended. Her emotions were too raw for self-control.
“It should not,” Richard quietly agreed. He would say no more. Now was not the time, and they had argued about Queen Elizabeth’s right to blame Henry for the death of their children of illness or Edward of Warwick by execution far too many times already.
“I suppose we should tell the children,” Margaret sighed.
“You retire to your rooms. I will send Molly to attend to you, and I will speak with the children.”
Margaret did feel overcome with weariness despite the early hour. “I believe some warmed wine and a few minutes to rest would do me wonders,” she admitted.
Richard kissed her forehead after walking her to her rooms. Margaret extinguished the candles and pulled the curtains around her bed so that it was as dark as night. As she lay her head down, she could not escape the ghosts from taking over her mind, bringing her to tears once again over losses that still felt fresh after several years.
Her last thought before passing into heavy, dreamless sleep was that maybe Elizabeth was the lucky one, for there were more of their shared family members in heaven than on Earth.