Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ursula Pole Stafford, RIP

Ursula Pole Stafford's mother, brother, father-in-law, and one of her sons lost their heads during the reigns of Henry VIII and Mary I. One of her daughters found favor with Elizabeth I. Ursula died on August 12, 1570. Her mother was Blessed Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury (executed on 27 May 1541); her eldest brother was Henry Pole, First Baron Montagu (executed on 9 January 1539); her father-in-law was Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham (executed on 17 May 1521); her son was Thomas Stafford (executed on 28 May 1557). Her daughter Dorothy married another Stafford--her distant cousin William, Mary Boleyn's widower--and served as Elizabeth I's Mistress of the Robes, an important role in the Queen's household. Dorothy and her family were staunch Protestants and went into exile during Queen Mary I's reign.

Historian Conor Byrne comments on her family's fortunes and her survival, dying of natural causes with her head still on:

In the space of two years, Ursula had lost both her mother and her eldest brother. It was fortunate for her that her brother Geoffrey was pardoned and managed to escape abroad; notwithstanding this fortune, Ursula surely experienced considerable grief and emotional turmoil. The impact of knowing that her mother had been brutally massacred in the most appalling of circumstances can only be imagined. Luckily, Ursula managed to escape the bloodbath of the Pole family.

Ursula died on 12 August 1570. Her life had been eventful, but she managed to keep her head at a time when Tudor fear and paranoia was rife. She enjoyed greater fortune in the reign of Edward VI, when her husband was promoted to the barony, and as aforementioned her daughter was warmly received at the court of Elizabeth I. Ursula seems to have died in obscure circumstances. We cannot even be sure of where she was buried. She is one of the forgotten royal women of Tudor England, a Yorkist lady perhaps regarded by some as the rightful princess of England.

It's not clear whether or not Ursula remained true to her mother's religion (not to mention her brother Reginald Cardinal Pole, the last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury). This blog comments that her husband reverted to Catholicism during Mary I's reign. Their son Thomas's rebellion against Mary was based on his concerns about the queen marrying Philip of Spain and belief that he had a better claim to the throne, through his mother being the heir of the Plantagenet Duke of Clarence. Her daughter Dorothy and other children appear to have conformed to the established church--did she, out of expediency?

Note that she died two days before what would have been her mother's 97th birthday (August 14, 1473)!

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