Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower
Higginbotham, a prolific author of English-focused historicals, gives us an excellent non-fiction retelling of the sad life and horrific death of Countess Margaret Pole, the daughter of an attainted traitor, the niece of Richard III, the mother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, and a loyal servant of the Tudors. Higginbotham approaches her subject with excellent research and the use of both primary and secondary sources, and reconstructs the life of this accomplished woman, the last of the Plantagenet line, who was a peer in her own right. Appointed the governess to Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s oldest child, Margaret became a close friend to Catherine of Aragon and her staunch defender when Henry took up with Anne Boleyn. Ultimately, Margaret, at age 67, was judicially murdered by that same king, who feared her claim to England’s throne during a time of religious unrest. Her execution at the hands of an axeman, who hacked her head and shoulders to pieces, was one of the most brutal in English history, especially considering her gender. In 1886, Pope Leo XIII beatified Margaret Pole as one of the 54 English martyrs of the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. This fascinating book is both enlightening and entertaining. Very highly recommended.