This Saturday, 28th May, we celebrate the (optional) memorial of Bl. Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury (1473-1541). Margaret was born at Farleigh Hungerford, in Somerset, but later lived at the small castle of Warblington near the shore between Havant and Emsworth. She had built the castle (only one ruined tower remains) beside the church of St. Thomas. Although she lived in many places during her life, Warblington was her principal residence in later years, and it was from here that she was arrested and taken to Cowdray and then on to imprisonment and execution and burial in the Tower of London. Her father, the Duke of Clarence, was brother to both Edward IV and Richard III, and so all her life she was seen as a something of a threat to the ruling monarchs, as she had a legitimate claim to the throne. She married Sir Richard Pole and became lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon, beginning a lifelong friendship. She later became governess to Princess Mary, the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine. At first Henry VIII favoured Margaret, restoring to her lost family lands and titles, but this came to an end at the time of his divorce from Catherine. Her loyalty to Catherine, and to Mary, as well as to her Catholic faith, brought her into conflict with the King at the time of his divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn. Although the King described her as ‘the holiest woman in England’ she was eventually arrested on the grounds of treason, and imprisoned at Cowdray in 1538-9. She never faced trial and there was no credible evidence against her. In spite of this she was executed in 1541, at the age of 70. Reportedly the inexperienced executioner took ten blows to sever her head. When her son Reginald Pole, the future cardinal, heard of his mother’s death, he is reported to have said: “Hitherto I have thought myself indebted to the divine goodness for having received my birth from one of the most noble and virtuous women in England; but from henceforth my obligation will be much greater, for I understand that I am now the son of a martyr. May God be thanked and praised. We must rejoice, because now we have one more patron to intercede for us in Heaven.” This Saturday, let’s pray for the clergy and people of our parish in Southbourne, dedicated to Our Lady of Peace and Blessed Margaret Pole.