The dukes (and earls) of Suffolk

The dukes of Suffolk came and went not once, not twice, but three times.  The results of this

means that there were three 1st dukes of Suffolk, two 2nd dukes of Suffolk and two 3rd dukes of Suffolk.  The earls came and went too, with some of them preceding the dukes and others carrying on, but we’ll look at them later.  Confused yet?   It happened like this:


Dukes of Suffolk


First creation

The dukes of the first creation came from the de la Pole family who were originally from Hull (see Bricks). 


-  The 1st duke of Suffolk was William de la Pole (1396 - 1450) who was promoted firstly from 4th earl of Suffolk to marquess and then to be the 1st duke of Suffolk because he played an important part in national and international affairs during the reigns of Henry 5 and Henry 6.  William married the grand-daughter of the famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer, Alice Chaucer, whose tomb can be found in St Mary’s, Ewelme, Oxfordshire (see Pevsner, Oxfordshire, pp595 - 600).


-  The 2nd duke of Suffolk was his son, John de la Pole (1442 - 1492).  Jon married Elizabeth Plantagenet and hence became brother-in-law to each of Edward 4 and Richard 3.


-  In turn his son, Edmund de la Pole (1472 - 1513), became the 3rd Duke of Suffolk but the dukedom was surrendered in 1493 and the earldom in 1504.


Second creation

The title, having passed back to the Crown was revived in its second creation for the Brandon family.


Charles Brandon (1484 - 1545) became the 1st duke of Suffolk in 1514.  Probably the most famous and powerful duke of Suffolk, he became brother-in-law to Henry 8 by marrying Mary Tudor after the death of her first husband (king of France).  One aspect of the new dukedom was to counter a potential threat to Henry from a remaining de la Pole.


-  The title passed to his son, Henry Brandon (1535 - 1551) who became the 2nd duke of Suffolk.


-  On the death of Henry the title passed to Charles’ younger son, Charles Brandon (1537 - 1551) who held it for only 30 minutes before his death, after which it reverted once more to the Crown.


Third creation

The third and final creation a matter of weeks later was for Charles’ son-in-law.


-  Charles Brandon’s son-in-law was Henry Grey (1517 - 1554) who was marquess of Dorset and he was created 1st duke of Suffolk in 1551.  The title was forfeited (act of Attainder) and was never awarded again.  Henry was the father of Lady Jane Grey.


The important buildings associated with the dukes are Wingfield Castle of the de la Poles(Pevsner p492) and Westhorpe Hall of the Brandons - the latter mostly demolished in the late 18th Century (p56 of Jane Wight’s Brick Building in England) but with some original remains (p480 of Pevsner).  Mouments to the de la Poles are in Wingfield church.  The remains and monument of Mary Tudor are in St Mary’s church in Bury St Edmunds.



Earls of Suffolk  (Source: Burke’s)


First creation (c1068)

Shortly after the Norman Conquest an earldom combining Norfolk and Suffolk was conferred on Ralph the Staller.  At that time no distinction was made between Norfolk and Suffolk.  After Ralph’s death the title passed back to the Crown but within a year seems to have been conferred again on Ralph’s son, Ralph de Gael who subsequently rebelled against William (the Conqueror) in 1075 and was stripped of his title and lands.


Second creation (1336/7)

The next creation of the earl of Suffolk came through the grant to Robert de Ufford in 1336 or 1337 of the title 1st earl of Suffolk.  Robert was one of Edward III’s leading associates in the early phases of the Hundred Years War.  His son, William de Ufford became the 2nd earl of Suffolk until he died when the second creation is deemed to have expired.


Third creation (1385)

In 1385, barely two and a half years later, the title of 1st earl of Suffolk was again conferred, this time on Michael de la Pole of a prosperous but bourgeois family from Hull (see Bricks) and who around this time was Lord Chancellor.  As a favourite of Richard II he became unpopular with other nobility and was tried in-absentia and found guilty of high-treason thus forfeiting his title.

Shortly before Richard II’s own fall, his son, another Michael, had the title restored as 2nd  earl of Suffolk and this in turn was annulled when Henry IV became king although later peacemaking restored it to him a second time.


The 3rd earl of Suffolk was yet another Michael de la Pole who married Elizabeth Mowbray, daughter of the duke of Norfolk (of the creation before the Howards).


The 4th earl of Suffolk was William de la Pole who subsequently became 1st duke of Suffolk of the first creation (see Dukes above).


Fourth Creation (1603)

The first earl of Suffolk was Thomas Howard, son of the 4th duke of Norfolk.  This led to a long line, which was joined with the title earl of Berkshire when Thomas Howard, 4th earl of Berkshire also became 11th earl of Suffolk in 1745.  Thereafter the titles were joined together, through to the current 21st earl of Suffolk and 14th earl of Berkshire, b1935.  The heir apparent was born in 1974.


The following pages provide more detail:


Monarchs contemporary with the earls and dukes of Suffolk

Suffolk in medieval and Tudor times

The de la Pole family

The Brandon family

The Grey family


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