1500-1558. Cardinal; archbishop of Canterbury from 1556. Son of the countess of Salisbury, niece of Edward IV, Pole studied at Oxford under Thomas Linacre and William Latimer, and received ecclesiastical advancement from * without being ordained. From 1521 he studied in Europe, corresponding with Thomas More* and Erasmus.* Made dean of Exeter in 1527, he refused the sees of both York and Winchester in 1530, and in order to avoid taking sides over the king's divorce went abroad in 1532. He was a friend of * and knew Gian Pietro Caraffa (later Paul IV*). In 1536 Pole published Pro Ecclesiasticae Unitatis Defensione against Henry VIII's assumption of supremacy, and was appointed by Paul III* to a committee for the reform of church discipline.
After his ordination as deacon, the pope made him a cardinal and sent him as legate to persuade France and Spain to break with England. In 1540 an act of attainder was passed against him and his family in England, and his mother was executed. In 1542 he was among those appointed to preside at the,* and in 1549 he was nearly elected pope. On Mary's accession, Pole came to England as legate and absolved Parliament from schism. The day after Archbishop Cranmer* was burnt, and two days after being ordained priest, Pole was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury (1556). He supported Mary's persecution without taking an active part, but found the full restoration of impossible without the return of monastic property. He died twelve hours after Queen Mary.
See A.M. Quirini (ed.), Collected Letters of(1744; rep. 1967); W. Schenk, Reginald Pole, Cardinal of England (1950).