By all accounts, Lady Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury was a proud and dignified woman. At 70 years of age, she was very old by Tudor standards. She probably expected to live out her few remaining years in peace and quiet. However, this was not to be.
Henry VIII was not happy with Lady Margaret. Her son had upset King Henry and he was abroad, safely out of the monarch's reach. So, in his place, his mother was charged with treason. Although, 'charged' is probably not the right word as there was no trial.
On the morning 27 May 1541, there were about 150 sepectators gathered to watch the Lady Margaret Pole execution. She was led across Tower Green to the scaffold that had been erected of the spot where so may others had met their fate. The crowd waited.
What they expected to happen was for her to possibly say a few words before quietly laying her head upon the block. A hush fell over those assembled as she turned to the executioner. Was she going to say that she forgave him? No, far from it. The countess told him that she was not going to lay her head upon the block and if he wanted to strike it from her body then he would have to do it where she stood.
There was a moments hesitation and then a couple of guards roughly grabbed her and forced her to kneel with her head on the block. The poor headsman was, quite literally, 'put off his stroke'. He swung his axe but instead of hitting her neck, he struck her shoulder. Lady Pole jumped up and ran screaming around the scaffold. With blood pouring from the gash and into her white hair, the executioner chased her, wildly swinging his axe.
He eventutally cut down and killed her, although it took 11 bloody blows. And so ended the life of the Lady Margaret Pole, last of the Pantagenets. But it was not the last this world would ever see of the Countess of Salisbury. For it is said that on the night of the anniversary of her horrific death, her ghost is seen frantically running round Tower Green. With blood streaming from her many wounds, she re-enacts the frightful events of that day while being being forever pursued by her phantom executioner.
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