The de la Pole family

The de la Poles connected with the Suffolk titles were:

1st earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (bc1339 - d1389)

2nd earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (b1367 - d1415)

3rd earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (b1394 - d1415)

4th earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - William de la Pole (b1396 - d1450), who became:

1st duke of Suffolk (1st creation) - William de la Pole

2nd duke of Suffolk (1st creation) - John de la Pole (b1442 - d1491)

3rd duke of Suffolk (1st creation) - Edmund de la Pole (b1471/2 - d1513)

Not the 4th duke and Yorkist pretender to the English crown - Richard de la Pole (? - d1525)


Not unusually, there are some significantly different accounts on the Internet about the various de la Poles.  The following are what I think are reasonably correct interpretations of these and other sources.  Just as the Charles Brandon book based on a PhD there must be a PhD waiting to be written on the de la Poles with properly researched data.

Some useful background to the de la Poles, including an interesting connection between bricks and the dukes of Suffolk, can be found in Jane Wight’s book Brick Building in England:

From p52: “The concentration of brick in Hull made it the one brick-built town of the Middle Ages in England. ... Holy Trinity Church, sole survivor of Hull’s early brickwork, was the focus of attention in the mediaeval town. ... The leading merchants concerned in building the church and in the whole development of Hull were the de la Poles (earlier called Rotenherring), whose money came from sheep and trade and who had their own brickworks.  At first Holy Trinity was to provide its Lady Chapel (later rededicated) as their family chapel and burial place but they later transferred to the (lost) Charterhouse”.

From p57:  Ravenser (which disappeared through erosion) was declining and “Edward I persuaded its most influential merchant William de la Pole to come to the new town of Kingston”.  (Hull being Kingston-upon-Hull is known in various forms) ... The Manor of Myton was granted to William de la Pole.  ... by the end of the Thirteenth century there were several periods of growth...based first on fishing, then on ship-building and the wool trade (the de la Poles acting as distributors of Cistercian wool).  In the mid-fourteenth century the de la Poles engaged in money-lending to the Crown.  Edward III reneged on his debts  in 1350, which affected the family’s prosperity, but by this period their interests were shifting southwards to London and then East Anglia, centred on Wingfield in Suffolk” ...

... and then continuing back to bricks and the building of Hull: “de la Pole himself ‘builded a goodly house of brick again (i.e. against) the west end of S Maries Chirch, lyke a palace, with goodly orchard and gardein at large, enclosed with brike (i.e. brick)’.  Michael became Earl of Suffolk in 1385, and his Hull Street courtyard-plan mansion came to be known as ‘Suffolk Palace’.  The site is that of the Head Post Office.  The de la Poles had their own brick kiln, north of the town at Trippett, from the fourteenth century.”

The family knowledge of bricks must have continued into Suffolk as Pevsner notes on p492 about Wingfield Castle that “licence to crenellate was given in 1385” and mentions “brick battlements’.

1st earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (c1339 - 1389)

As outlined above, Michael’s father William de la Pole (d1366) was a wool merchant who became important during the reign of Edward 3 when he emerged as the king’s chief financier.  William was also Mayor of Hull (inscription on Sir John Wingfield’s tomb at Wingfield).  Michael built on the family’s strength, became a trusted friend of Richard 3 (accession 1377) and was appointed chancellor in 1383 and created earl of Suffolk in 1385.  As relations between Richard 3 and parliament deteriorated Michael was later impeached on  charges of embezzlement and negligence and, fearing for his life, ultimately left for Paris where he died after having been sentenced in-absentia and having his title removed.

The 1st earl married Kathryn Wingfield, daughter of Sir John Wingfield (d1361) who founded the Church and College at Wingfield.  Sir John’s tomb is in the church at Wingfield.

2nd earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (b1367 - d1415)

Supported Henry 4 against Richard 2.  He regained his father’s title on the accession of Henry 4 in 1399.

“Married Katherine de Stafford, daughter of Hugh de Stafford, 2nd earl of Stafford and had at least 8 children: Michael (3rd earl); William (4th earl/1st duke); Alexander (d1429); John (d1429) father of Margaret de laPole, Countess of Kendall); Thomas (d1433) died in France whilst a hostage for brother William; Iabel (d1466) married Thomas Morley; Elizabeth, marriage 1 to Edward Burnell, marriage 2 to Sir Thomas Kerdeston” (Wikipedia).

Died of dysentry in 1415 before the siege of Harfleur and was succeeded by his eldest son, Michael, who was with him in France at the time.  (Reports differ as to dying before or at the siege).

3rd earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - Michael de la Pole (1394 - 1415)

Eldest son of 2nd earl.  Married Margaret Mowbray, daughter of the duke of Norfolk (before the Howard creation) and had only two daughters: Catherine de la Pole b1410) nun at Bruisyard and Elizabeth de la Pole (b1411, died as a child).

Gained the title on the death of his father but held it only briefly as he died the same year at the battle of Agincourt.  The title went to his brother William.

4th earl of Suffolk (3rd creation) - William de la Pole (b1396 - d1450), who became:

1st duke of Suffolk (1st creation)

William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk (first creation) in 1448, was a merchant from Hull (see above for more details of Hull).  He married Alice Chaucer, granddaughter of Geoffrey Chaucer (writer), whose home was at Ewelme in Oxfordshire (see Pevsner’s ‘Oxfordshire’, p595 - 600).  Their charitable gifts of Church, almshouses and school are still to be seen, but the Crown seized the ‘palace’ in the 16th Century and little remains of it, fragments being built into the Manor House.  Geoffrey Chaucer himself had Ipswich connections.  Although his parents and grandparents were vintners and lived in London, their predecessors were from Ipswich and were thought to be well off merchants.

William served in the French wars.  His contribution to the siege of Orleans (1429) was frustrated by Joan of Arc who captured him but whom he knighted before surrendering.  He remained a prisoner in France until being ransomed in 1431.

He assisted at the coronation of Henry 6 at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, and remained close to Henry negotiating treaties and marriage,  He was made marquis of Suffolk and then earl of Pembroke (1447).  He was appointed as effectively first minister to a weak Henry 4 with numerous titles (chancellor/chamberlain/admiral) and then duke of Suffolk in 1448 but by then he was unpopular and in 1450 he was impeached and sentenced without trial to 5 years banishment, starting in the Tower.

“He took an oath, before the gentry of Suffolk that he was innocent of the crimes laid to his charge, and then embarked at Ipswich. But he was overtaken at sea by a vessel belonging to the duke of Exeter, Constable of the Tower, (and) was by his order beheaded, and his body was laid on the sands at Dover (May 1450).  It was removed by the king’s direction and given up to the duchess who buried it at Wingfield in Suffolk.” ( 

Alternatively (from Wikipedia) he was banished to France for 5 years “but on his journey his ship was intercepted and he was executed.  It was suspected his arch-enemy the duke of York was responsible for the beheading on the gunwales of a boat and his body was thrown overboard.  He was later found on the seashore near Dover and the body was brought to a church in Suffolk, possibly Wingfield, for burial, seemingly at the request of his wife Alice.”

2nd duke of Suffolk (1st creation) - John de la Pole (b1442 - d1491)

John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk (1st creation) married Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Richard, duke of York (descended in turn through both parents from Edward 3 (b1312, succeeded at age 14, d1377, reigned 50 years - the “Yorkist” line).  Elizabeth’s mother was Cicely Nevill.

Elizabeth was the sister of Richard 3 and Edward 4 (d1483) as well as George, duke of Clarence and others (Richard, duke of York had 12 children) so John was brother-in-law to two kings.  John presented the church at Ewelme (Oxfordshire) with a wooden font cover on the death of his mother, who is buried in the church. The tomb of John (d1491) and Elizabeth is at Wingfield and is shown on that page.

Elizabeth de la Pole’s brother Edward 4 who married Elizabeth Woodville, widow of John Grey, in turn had a daughter called Elizabeth of York (i.e. Elizabeth’s niece) who married Henry 7. Edward 4 had two other sons Edward 5 and Richard Duke of York, both murdered in the Tower.

Edward 5, was born 1470 and succeeded at the age of 12 in April 1483.  He reigned uncrowned for eleven weeks and one day.  On the road to London, at Stony Stratford, he was intercepted by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard 3) and Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, and taken by them to London.  He and his brother were placed in the Tower of London (albeit the palace not the prison).  Richard needed them out of the way and they were never seen again and it is commonly believed that they were murdered in the Tower in 1483.

Another of Elizabeth de la Pole’s brothers, Richard 3, was born in 1450, succeeded in 1483 at the age of 32, and died in 1485 having reigned for 2 years.  Henry Tudor of Richmond (Yorkshire), to become Henry 7, had been a fugitive from his native land since the age of 5 and lived in Brittany until he landed at Milford Haven (Pembrokeshire) on 7 August 1485 and marched East with supporters.  He met the forces of Richard 3 at the Battle of Bosworth in Leicestershire where Richard “cut his way through the enemy up to his rival, overthrew Henry Tudor’s standard and was at last killed, ‘fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies.” (Richard’s body was discovered in Leicester in 2013).  That was the end of the Plantagenets but not the end of relationships with the monarchy and the dukes of Suffolk as we shall see next with the Brandons.  It is said that William Brandon, brother of Charles Brandon the first duke of Suffolk (second creation), acting as Henry’s standard bearer at Bosworth was struck down and killed by Richard himself.

The succession of Henry 7 (born 1456, succeeded at age 29 in 1485, died 1509) marked the end of the mediaeval age and the beginning of the House of Tudor.

John and Elizabeth had eleven known children (Wikipedia) including John and Edmund.  At one stage John, Earl of Lincoln, was heir presumptive to the crown (see Wingfield Church plaque on John de la Poles’ monument).

3rd duke of Suffolk (1st creation) - Edmund de la Pole (b1471/2 - d1513)

The third Duke of Suffolk was Edmund de la Pole, second son of John, who survived his elder brother John but was still under 21.  He agreed with king Henry 7 to forego the title of duke on his 21st birthday (26/2/1493) and assume the title of earl of Suffolk.

Was indicted for murder in 1498 (a crime of passion) and left for France in 1499.  He returned voluntarily and was restored to favour by the king.  He led a colourful life including a botched rebellion against Henry 7 in 1501 in conjunction with Emperor Maximillian who held a grudge against Henry 7.  He ended up stranded in captivity on the continent and after power politics was forcibly repatriated 5 years later and kept in the Tower of London but where his life was spared.  He was later executed by Henry 8 in 1513, partly through annoyance at the continuing rebellion by his brother Richard de la Pole and other Yorkists.  Different sites on the Internet suggest either 30th April 1513 or 4th May 1513 as the date of execution.  I believe he was  executed in the Tower on 30th April and buried 4th May. He was buried in the Chapel of the Minories Abbey just outside the Tower.  His wife Dame Margaret and their daughter Dame Elizabeth who was a nun at the Abbey were also buried there. (Ref: A History of the Minories, E M Tomlinson, Smith Elder & Co, 1907,  p69 to p74).  There are no remains of the Chapel to be found today.

Not the 4th duke of Suffolk - Richard de la Pole (? - 1525)

5th son of John de la Pole and Elizabeth of York and the last head of the house of York to seek the English crown.

The death of Edmund “... left at large Edmund’s brother Richard, who served the French as a general, called himself duke of Suffolk in succession to Edmund, and sought French support to claim the English throne” (p27, Charles Brandon,  Duke of Suffolk, S J Gunn, pub Blackwell).  The re-creation of the duke of Suffolk title for the rising Charles Brandon was cleverly conceived to offset this threat.

Dukes of Suffolk

The Brandon family

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