Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Augustine, Ethelbert, & Margaret Pole

Today, traditionally, is the feast of St. Augustine of Canterbury (+604), Apostle of England, as well as, in some places, the feast of Blessed Margaret Pole (+1541).

St. Augustine of Canterbury

Of course, the province of Briton within the Roman Empire had already received the gospel long before St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent to Evangelize by Pope St. Gregory I "the Great" (reigned 590-604).  Nevertheless, with the coming of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, the Christian population was swept west, and these Germanic peoples were in dire need of hearing the Holy Gospel.  Pope St. Gregory sent St. Augustine of Canterbury from his monastery of St. Andrew in Rome, along with a number of companions that included St. Lawrence of Canterbury, to England.  They would arrive in 597AD.

File:Britain peoples circa 600.svg
Britain at the time of St. Augustine & St. Ethelbert.  Notice the Kingdom of Kent in the southeast -- a Kingdom of Jutes.

The kingdom to which they arrived was the Jutish Kingdom of Kent, where St. Ethelbert (+616AD) reigned as king.  St. Ethelbert was married to a Frankish wife, and was immediately receptive to the preaching of St. Augustine, though a pagan.  With his conversion, and baptism on Pentecost of 597AD, the Church won a great ally and patron, that supported St. Augustine in establishing not only the Archdiocese of Canterbury at the Kentish capital, but also the Diocese of London and that of Rochester.

When St. Augustine of Canterbury died in 604, he was succeeded by the second Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Lawrence of Canterbury (reigned, 604-619AD).

File:Aethelberht of Kent sculpture on Canterbury Cathedral.jpg
A statue of St. Ethelbert at Canterbury Cathedral.

For more on St. Augustine of Canterbury, you should note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Augustine

Patron Saints Index: St. Augustine

Here are a couple links on St. Ethelbert:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Ethelbert

Today is also the feast of Blessed Margaret Pole, also of England, and of royal stock, but from rather later and different circumstances.

File:Unknown woman, formerly known as Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury from NPG retouched.jpg
A potrait, thought to be Blessed Margaret Pole

Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, was the daughter of George, 1st Duke of Clarence, younger brother of King Edward IV and older brother of King Richard III -- thus, she was of royal York & Plantagenet stock.  Indeed, she had a decent claim to the throne of England -- far stronger than that of King Henry VII, whose son would order her to be executed in 1541AD.  Her mother was Isabella Neville, the daughter of the powerful Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.  She was, then, of far nobler stock than the the first Tudor on the throne!

In 1533, Henry VIII succeeded in getting Thomas Cranmer appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, and he granted an annulment to Henry to put away his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, to marry Anne Boleyn, which he did that same year.  Pope Clement VII, of course, denied the legitimacy of such an annulment, and Henry VIII was named "Supreme Head of the Church in England," in 1534, requiring subjects to take the oath of supremacy.  This brought down several great saints as "traitors," such as St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, in 1535.  There was further backlash, but the Pilgrimage of Grace, a rising in the north of England, met defeat in 1537.  King Henry VIII, of course, went through several wives during these years.

It was in 1541, however, that the old king finally ordered the execution of the faithful Catholic Margaret Pole, at least in part for the opposition of her son, Reginald.  It is said that it took 10 blows to finally execute her, as the axe-man was not a particularly good aim.

She would be beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886.  Her son, Reginald Pole, was a Cardinal of the Catholic Church (created a cardinal in 1537), Papal Legate to England, Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and was the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, holding those posts under Queen Mary Tudor, from 1556-1558.

Here is an article on Blessed Margaret:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Blessed Margaret

Patron Saints Index: Blessed Margaret

Live well!

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