In the years from 1518, before he left England again in 1536, Reginald Pole occupied a number of ecclesiastical ranks, including that of Dean of Exeter. During the early 1530s, just as Henry VIII sought his first annulment, Eustace Chapuys was pressing Reginald to marry Princess Mary, the cousin he eventually served from Lambeth Palace. By the end of 1536, Reginald was created a Cardinal and was under holy orders, whether he had been earlier or not. The plot that he, together with his brothers Henry Lord Montagu and Sir Geoffrey, is supposed to have launched against Henry VIII needed a credible marital candidate or two for Mary. This, as we have pointed out before, meant Henry Pole the Younger, Montagu’s son, and Edward Courtenay, son of the Marquis of Exeter. Either or both of these teenage boys could have been viewed, by Henry VIII, as threats so both were consigned to the Tower. Pole was never seen after 1542, whilst Courtenay was only released in 1553.
Reginald Pole, as a Cardinal, was bound by clerical celibacy but could this be reversed? Not if this later case is anything to go by, although Phillip II, Mary’s eventual husband and Catherine of Aragon’s great-nephew, had a hand in it: Sebastian, the young King of Portugal died without issue at the 1578 battle of Alcacer Quibir and only his great-uncle Henry, Manuel of Beja’s son, remained from the legitimate House of Aviz, that almost provided spouses for Richard III and Elizabeth of York in the previous century. Henry, however was a Cardinal and Gregory XIII, at Phillip’s behest, would not release him from his vows. Henry ruled alone for nearly a year and a half before dying on his 68th birthday. The strongest claimant to succeed him was … Phillip II, who ruled Portugal, followed by his son and grandson, for a total of sixty years, although Antonio, a Prior and Sebastian’s illegitimate cousin, tried to reign.