Margaret Pole married into the House of Plantagenet at a rather inopportune time: just as the family was losing the War of the Roses and, with it, the English throne they’d held for centuries. By the time her husband died, she only inherited a small bit of land and no other income.
Without the means to support herself, Margaret briefly moved into an abbey and devoted one of her four sons, Reginald, to the church. Over the years, he would rise to the office of the Catholic archbishop of Canterbury — but not before playing some part in his mother’s death.
From within the church, Reginald publicly opposed Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, and his subsequent calls to depose the king did not win him any favor. When Reginald began to help organize a trade embargo against England, his position protected him, but it did not protect his family from accusations of treason. One of his brothers was beheaded, and another went into exile.
As for Margaret, she was imprisoned in the Tower of London for two years until, one morning, she was sentenced to die. The usual executioner wasn’t available, however, and his replacement did a horrible job. According to one witness, her killer was “a wretched and blundering youth who literally hacked her head and shoulders to pieces.”