William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk



Family Background

In the mid-14th Century, William de la Pole, great grandfather of this duke, was a successful and wealthy wool merchant, lending money to the crown under Edward III. (9) His sons enjoyed favour at the court of King Richard II, the eldest, Michael, becoming Chancellor on 1383 and being elevated to the peerage as Earl of Suffolk in 1385. (9) Michael’s younger brother Edmund served in the prestigious position of Captain of Calais. (9) The family’s star was in the ascendant, but was closely aligned now with that of King Richard II. (9) As his popularity plummeted, Michael took the brunt of the hatred as a figurehead of his government. (9) Criticising God’s anointed king was not an option, and so his closest advisors must take the wrath of a nation. (9) In 1387 the Lords Appellant accused him of treason and before the Merciless Parliament sat in February 1388, Michael fled to Paris, where he died the following year aged about 60. (9) Michael’s son, another Michael, father to our duke, was 22 when his father died and found himself without the lands and title that his father had been stripped of. (9) He was more closely aligned to the Lords Appellant, which left him out of favour with Richard II. (9) He fought for the restoration of his lands and properties over the years that followed his father’s death, finally being restored as 2nd Earl of Suffolk in 1398, shortly before Richard II fell. (9) Although Michael heeded the Duke of York’s call to arms to defend the kingdom from Henry Bolingbroke, he eventually embraced the cause of Henry IV. (9)


William de la Pole was the second son of (1,2) Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk. (2,3) He was brother of the 3rd Earl. (3) He was born (1,3) on October 16th, (4,5) 1396, (1,3) at Cotton, Suffolk. (5,8) His mother was Katherine de Stafford, daughter of Hugh de Stafford (2,8) KG (8) 2nd Earl of Stafford (2,8) and Lady (8,10) Philipa (8) OR Philippa (10) de Beauchamp. (8,10) Little is known of his early life, but considering he was merely a second son of an earl, it is safe to say his fortunes were not particularly promising. (7) He became an English magnate, statesman, and military commander during the Hundred Years’ War. (3,4)

Military Career

He fought in Henry V’s French wars (2,3) from a young age. (4,8) In 1415 King Henry V decided to invade France in order to press his claim to the French throne. (7) As a part of this campaign (9) Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk, fought at the Siege of Harfleur in September 1415. (5,7) Still not yet 50 years of age, (9) he succumbed to dysentery (8,9) OR was killed (7) He had been blessed with five sons and three daughters but the king’s efforts in France were to decimate his family after claiming his life. (9) His oldest son, Michael, had travelled to France with his father. (9) The Michael Senior’s death meant (7,8) that the earldom of Suffolk passed to his eldest son (William’s brother), another Michael, as 3rd Earl. (3,7) He was then one of the few notable English casualties (9) at Agincourt (2,4) the following month. (5) Aged only 19, he had been 3rd Earl of Suffolk for only a month before his death. (9) He left the earldom to William, since he died childless. (7) OR William was seriously wounded during the Siege of Harfleur (2,8) and had been sent home to England to recover1. (2)

William 4th Earl of Suffolk

As a result of the deaths of his father and brother, William succeeded to the earldom, (5,7) as 4th Earl, (8,9) and was free to begin his ascent as a soldier. (7) OR he had already fought at Harfleur. (2,8) He participated in all subsequent campaigns of Henry V (4,5) from 1417 to 1422. (5) After the death of Henry V Suffolk continued to serve in France. (2,4) He fought under the Duke of Bedford, the late king’s brother and regent of the realm (2,7) during the minority of King Henry VI, (2,4) and became one of the most-trusted generals of Henry VI. (5) He participated in a number of significant battles and sieges, and was rewarded for his services with several important positions (7) and was created a Knight of the Garter. (3,4)

Battle of Verneuil

He contributed in 1424 to the defeat of the French and Scots at Verneuil. (3) In 1428 Suffolk was made commander in chief of the English army in France. (5) It was not until 1429 that his military achievements would stall. (7) OR on September 5th (12) 1427 (11,12) when (9,11) with 1,600 men (13) Jean Dunois defeated (9,11) an army of 3000 (13) English (9,11) commanded by Richard Neville, William of La Pole and Jean de la Poul (13) at Montargis. (9,11)

Siege of Orleans

After the death of (3) Thomas Montague (13D) OR Montacute, 4th (10) Earl of Salisbury at the siege of Orléans in November 1428 (3,10) OR 1429 (10) at Meung-sur-Loire (13D) the Earl of Suffolk was charged with the conduct of the siege (3,13D) OR was one of the English commanders’, (4,8) OR was in turn replaced by John Talbot, (13) but all his efforts were defeated by the memorable intervention of Joan of Arc. (3,7)

The Battle of Jargeau

He retreated and was pursued by the Maid (3,8) to Jergeaux (3) OR Jargeau, (5,8) a small town about ten miles from Orleans. (13) Suffolk’s troops were waiting for reinforcements led by John of Lancaster. (13) On 11th June Suffolk had sex with a nun, Malyne de Cay. (8) “The nighte before that he was yolden he laye in bed with a nonne whom he toke oute of holy profession and defouled, whose name was Malyne de Cay” (8) The French army of 2,000 men, commanded by John II of Alençon (13) OR John of Dunois (11) was soon joined by the companies of (13) John of Dunois (12,13) and Florent d’Illiers, then captain of Chateaudun, doubling his force. (13) Antoine de Chabannes, Jean Poton de Xaintrailles, Gilles de Rais, Guy III of Chauvigny, Jean I of Brosse, and Louis I of Bourbon-Vendome fought at Jargeau. (13) It was June 12th (12,13) 1429, (5,8) When she saw that they were concerned at the probable size of the English force (13) at Jargeau, (5,8),Joan (12,13) encouraged them to attack it. (13) It was the first encounter between the British and the resurgent France led by Joan of Arc. (9) The royal army set out, thinking to camp outside the city, but the English army came out and a battle was inevitable. (13) With her banner Joan went into the attack, and the French took the suburbs of the town. (13) On the following day the French took the town: ‘Act and God will act’, Joan had cried. (13) During the attack she was hit on the head by a stone and knocked into a ditch but got up again. (13) In the middle of the battle, Sussex asked for a truce, but this was no longer the time for such a request. (13) In an irresistible momentum (13) Joan took it by storm, (3) Suffolk’s brother Alexander was killed in the Battle of Jargeau, (9) and Suffolk was made prisoner, (3,4) having knighted his captor before surrendering. (3) In March 1430 Malyne de Cay gave birth to William’s illegitimate daughter, Jane de la Pole2. (8)

Prisoner of War

Suffolk remained in prison for 3 years. (8,13) His brother John died a prisoner in France in the same year and his brother Thomas perished while acting as a hostage for William. (9) William was a prisoner of Charles VII. (8,10) OR He was eventually ransomed by Jean de Dunois for £20,000, (8) a huge ransom that involved selling several estates in 1431. (7) It was rumoured that Suffolk never paid it, (8) but he recovered his liberty. (3,4) He then regained his former command (5) OR his military career was effectively over. (7) OR he was almost continually engaged in the wars. (8) He was recalled to England (5,7) late in 1431 (5) to establish himself as a politician. (7)

Political career

When he returned to England, William grew ever closer to the meek and peaceable King Henry VI. (9) By this time William was nearing forty and had been fighting in France for most of his adult life, almost twenty years. (9) It would be interesting to know what this old soldier thought of his king, son of the Lion of England, but described as a lamb who had an acute distaste for war. (9) He began entering the world of politics, (4) and assisted at the coronation of Henry VI in the cathedral of Notre Dame, at Paris, in 1431. (3) He became a courtier. (8,10) He quickly made a name for himself in the minority government of Henry VI, a court dominated by men such as Humphrey of Gloucester and Cardinal Henry Beaufort, the king’s uncle and great-uncle respectively. (7) His own marriage took place (2,7) shortly after his return (2) on 11th November 1430 (date of licence3), to (as her third husband) (8) Alice Chaucer (1404–1475) (2,8), daughter of Thomas Chaucer (2,3) the king’s butler (7) and Speaker of the House of Commons, (3) of Ewelme, Oxfordshire. (2,8) Alice was the granddaughter of the famous English poet Geoffrey Chaucer (2,3) and his wife, Philippa Roet, (2,8) who was the sister of Katherine Swynford, John of Gaunt’s mistress and later wife. (2) He acquired considerable influence in the government. (5) He was a royal household official, (5) (steward), a position that involved being in close contact with the king, who was soon to reach his majority. (7) He rose to dominate the political life of the realm (1,3) under the vacillating Henry VI from the 1430s, and fought hard to serve his royal master. (1) After his return to England in 1434 he was made Constable of Wallingford Castle. (8,10) After the death of John, Duke of Bedford in 1435 and the emergence of Henry VI’s personal distaste for fighting, the campaign in France had ground to a halt, frequently deprived of funding and commitment. (9) Throughout the 1430s and 40s, Suffolk built up his power base in his native East Anglia while continuously gaining the trust of the king. (7) Suffolk seems to have remained somewhat neutral in the bitter conflicts between Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort that slowly tore apart the English court. (7) OR was a close ally (2,5) and a close friend of the king’s cousin (2) Henry, Cardinal Beaufort. (2,5) He was admitted to the king’s council. (3,7) Following the end of Henry VI’s minority (1437), Suffolk became a favoured member of it. (4) Whatever their differences, Suffolk grew close to his king and, as his grandfather had done, he was soon to find his fortunes all too closely tied to a failing king. (9) Gradually building his influence throughout the years, he eventually became the dominant figure in the government, and was at the forefront of the main policies conducted during the period. (4)

Treaty of Tours, 1444

In the factional struggle, he seems to have supported the cardinal. (7) Like Beaufort, Suffolk had a genuine desire to achieve a peaceful settlement with France. (5,7) He favoured a diplomatic rather than military solution to the deteriorating situation in France. (4) The slackening of the war effort following on the death of the Duke of Bedford led to Suffolk’s negotiating with the French. (9) A marriage to Margaret of Anjou, a niece of the French king Charles VII, would bring (9) the peace that Henry craved. (4,9) Suffolk’s first major contribution to English politics was to (9) play a central role in organizing the Treaty of Tours. (4,9) which arranged the marriage of (2,3) the 22 year old (9) King Henry VI with Margaret (2,3) the daughter of the Duke (7) of Anjou in 1444 (2,3) and the (2,3) two years’ (5) truce with France associated with it. (2,3) He stood proxy for Henry at the marriage ceremony in France, and escorted the bride to England. (3) He received the thanks of parliament for his services in negotiating the truce. (3) He also enjoyed the favour of (2,3) the weak king (4) and the queen, Margaret of Anjou. (3) To show his appreciation, the king upgraded Suffolk to (5,7) marquis. (7) OR marquess, (5,9) but he had no clear practical plan for obtaining peace. (5)

Maine and Anjou

It was soon to be revealed that, due to the poverty of Margaret’s father, not only was there no dowry for the marriage, (9) but Suffolk and the king had agreed to hand a quarter of England’s territory in France back by ceding Maine and Anjou. (5,8) A secret clause was put in the agreement which gave Maine and Anjou back to France (8) OR in return for a further extension of the truce (5) which increased Suffolk’s growing unpopularity at home. (3,5) Giving back Maine and Anjou would sweeten the deal and might also have been intended to make English territory in France more manageable. (9) One writer tells how “Many now recollected how stoutly the duke of Gloucester had stood up against the surrender of those provinces from which the king of France had made his attack”. (9) The effect of the handover of the vast tracts of land emboldened the French and led them to seek to drive the English from France altogether. (9) Suffolk was blamed for opening the door through which the English would be expelled from France so that within a few years only Calais remained in English hands. (9)

Reactions to Treaty of Tours

The selection of Margaret was to cause outrage. (9) The king’s uncle Humphrey was dismayed that he intended to ignore the contracted union to the Duke of Armagnac’s daughter. (9) Grafton wrote that “Humfrey Duke of Gloucester, Protector of the realme, repugned and resisted as muche as in him lay, this newe alliaunce and contrived matrimone: alleging that it was neyther consonant to the lawe of God nor man, nor honourable to a prince, to infringe and breake a promise or contract”. (9) Baker wrote of the problems that this match created for Suffolk. (9) “In the meantime the Earl of Suffolk, one of the Commissioners for the Peace, takes upon him beyond his Commission; and without acquainting his fellows, to treat of a Marriage between the King of England, and a Kinswoman of the King of France, Neece to the French Queen, Daughter to Rayner Duke of Anjou styling himself King of Sicily and Naples: In which business he was so inventive, that it brought an aspersion upon him of being bribed”. (9)

First Minister

If Suffolk was not already in full control of government, 1447 would solidly put him in that position. (7)

Death of Duke Humphrey, 1447

Suffolk took part in a conspiracy to undo (7) his rival (5) the Duke of Gloucester. (7) Suffolk had Humphrey (3,5) Plantagenet, (5) the good (3) Duke of Gloucester, (3,5) arrested (5,7) in February 1447. (5) Humphrey died on his way to trial (5,7) OR in custody, (5) which led to rumours that Suffolk had had him killed (3,5) at the queen’s behest. (9) Gloucester had been Protector during Henry’s minority and his loss saw the end of an era as the last son of King Henry IV passed. (9) Suffolk, it seems, stepped into the void quite willingly, but suspicion grew all about him, not least that he had been the instrument of Humphrey’s destruction. (9) Suffolk was virtually first minister (3,5) and became the principal power behind the throne (2,3) of the feeble minded Henry VI. (2,8) From 1443, following Beaufort’s retirement (5) OR Following the deaths in 1447 of Henry VI’s uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (5,7) and Cardinal Beaufort, (2,7) Suffolk was free to run England in any way he saw fit. (7)

Dealing with the enemy

He was later suspected of being a traitor. (8) Jean, Count de Dunois, was in London negotiating on behalf of Charles VII. (12 Dunois) On 16th July 1647, Suffolk met Dunois in secret at his mansion of the Rose in Candlewick street,(8,10) the first of several meetings in London at which they planned a French invasion. (8,10) Suffolk passed Council minutes to Dunois. (8,10) Dunois was a French hero from the Siege of Orleans. (10) It was rumoured that Suffolk had never paid the £20,000 owed to Dunois for his ransom and because of this he now passed on state secrets. (10) This meeting formed part of the charge against him at his impeachment. (9) Baker wrote “That he had Traiterously incited the Bastard of Orleance4, the Lord Presigny, and others to levy War against the King to the end that thereby the King might be destroyed.” (9)


Suffolk benefitted greatly from his favour with Henry VI, accumulating lucrative posts, estates, and titles. (4) This was an easy task considering the weakness of the king’s character. (7) In short order he was appointed (3,8) Lord (3) Chamberlain, (3,8) Lord High (3,10) Admiral of England, (3,8) and to several other important offices. (8) He received the earldom of Pembroke (2,3) in 1447. (2,8) He was then further elevated to (1,2) 1st (4,5) Duke (1,3) OR Marquess (2) OR Marquis (3) of Suffolk (1,2) in 1448. (2,3) This marked the height of his power: (5) he had reached the pinnacle of the nobility and attained a title previously reserved for princes of the royal blood. (9) His ascendancy was complete, and that brought him enemies. (9) Unfortunately, the government was slowing deteriorating, and new political factions were forming. (7) William married his son to his infant ward, the Beaufort heiress Margaret. (9) Lady Margaret was “the presumptive heiress of the royal house of Lancaster, as long as the king had no children.”(9) This could have resulted in William de la Pole’s son becoming King on the death of Henry VI5, which annoyed his enemies. (9)

Disaster in France

If Suffolk hoped that the Treaty of Tours would bring peace, he was spectacularly mistaken. (9) The French were threatening once again, and (7) the following three years saw the near complete loss of England’s possessions in northern France. (5,10) To defend the remaining English territories in France, Suffolk sent his political ally the Duke of Somerset to replace his nemesis the Duke of York. (7) This proved to be a fatal mistake, as Somerset lost a majority of the French lands by 1449. (7) Suffolk’s downfall came after the English treacherously captured Fougères—probably with his approval—in March 1449, thereby reopening hostilities. (5) Soon the French recaptured almost all of Normandy. (5) Suffolk absorbed all the blame for this folly from the magnates and common people alike. (7) This situation, combined with Suffolk’s local quarrel in East Anglia with the Duke of Norfolk, assured his downfall. (7) When Parliament met in November 1449, the whole Suffolk administration came under attack. (5) Many accused him of maladministration and poor conduct of the war. (4)


By 1450, Suffolk was unable to fend off the charges of treason any longer. (9) His family had risen from humble beginnings, a fact that had contributed to the odium that caused those of more noble families to turn their noses up at them. (9) From such a height, the fall was devastating. (9) For a second time, a de la Pole was to be sacrificed to save his king. (1) He was popularly, although probably (5) OR possibly (6) unjustly, (5) blamed for the disastrous loss of Henry V’s conquests in northern France. (2,4) Lord Treasurer, Ralph Cromwell, wanted heavy taxes from Suffolk; the duke’s powerful enemies included John Paston and Sir John Fastolf. (8) Many blamed Suffolk’s retainers for lawlessness in East Anglia. (8) The following three years saw the near-complete loss of the English possessions in northern France. (8) Suffolk could not avoid taking the blame for these failures, partly because of the loss of Maine and Anjou through his marriage negotiations regarding Henry VI. (8) Angry lords (1,2) jealous of Suffolk’s influence (2,4) with the king (2) sought a scapegoat for England financial and military failure, (1,2) civil unrest and the general overall troubles of the reign of King Henry VI of England. (6)OR the popular feeling’ (3) vented itself in insurrections in 1450’. (3) He was nicknamed ‘Jackanapes’. (4) His ally the treasurer, Adam Moleyns, bishop of Chichester, was forced to resign. (5)


It was demanded that Suffolk be arrested. (7) Suffolk was the head of the court party that ruled for the weak king Henry and his Queen Margaret of Anjou. (6) They both wanted to do everything they could to spare him the death penalty, (6,9) but Henry could no longer protect his favourite and even the indomitable queen could not save him. (9) His arrest took place on 28th January 1450. (2,8) On February 7th (5) 1450 (1,5) Suffolk was impeached by the Commons (1,3) charged with treason. (7,9) Before Parliament, a long list of charges were laid before him, (6,9) each of which he denied fervently (5,9) and admirably6, (7) but his defence was never going to prevail. (9) He was imprisoned in the Tower of London. (2,3) Although the impeachment dealt chiefly with alleged maladministration and the failure of the French policy, (5) there was a charge of aiming at the throne by the betrothal of his son to the six-year-old Margaret Beaufort. (5,9) He was accused of arranging the marriage of his son to Margaret Daughter and sole Heir of John Duke of Somerset, whose Title to the Crown the said Duke had often declared, in case King Henry should die without issue, might come to be King.” (A Chronicle of the Kings of England (Baker) p189). (9)

Royal Intervention

Parliament was at the ready to put Suffolk on trial and in all likelihood would have found him guilty and he would have been executed. (6) Henry VI intervened to protect his friend. (2,6) He told Parliament he would utilize his prerogative as King and decide the fate of Suffolk, (6) in the same way as Richard II had intervened on behalf of the duke’s grandfather. (9) Henry refused to find Suffolk guilty of treason but found against him on some other more minor charges. (9) He dithered and delayed making a decisive pronouncement and finally, at the urging of Queen Margaret, (6) repaid his loyalty by causing him only to be banished (1,2) for five years. (2,3) beginning May 1st, 1450, (6,9) probably in the hope that the governmental difficulties would die down, allowing him to return. (6) The Lords of Parliament probably agreed with this decision but the common people were furious. (6) It was not in the Lords’ best interests to put a powerful magnate like themselves on trial just to please the populace. (6)


The Duke was accompanied away from Westminster during the night of March 19th, heading for his house at St. Giles. (6) He was mobbed in the streets. (6,9) He was pursued by a party of outraged Londoners who tried to enter the house by force with the intention of lynching him. (6) He managed to escape out of a back door. (6) The infuriated crowd seized Suffolk’s horse and attacked his servants. (6) Driven from London by the furious crowds, Suffolk took refuge in his castle of Wingfield in Suffolk. (6,9) During the next six weeks, news of his banishment spread and angered the public even further. (6) During this time, (6,9) fearing that he was to miss the formative years of his only son, now 8 years old, (9) he wrote an emotional goodbye letter to him7 (6,9). (9) It was full of the kind of fatherly advice that Shakespeare’s Polonius gave his son. (9) On 15th April the Battle of Formigny, and with it Normandy, was lost8. (HN) On April 29th, the final session of Parliament met at Leicester and many were calling for the execution of Suffolk and other alleged “traitors”. (6) He took an oath, before the gentry of Suffolk, that he was innocent of the crimes laid to his charge, and then (3) embarked at Ipswich, (3,6) on May 1st, (5,9) OR on April 30th (6) with two ships and a small pinnace. (6)


The pinnace was sent ahead with letters to trusted allies in Calais to determine if they would receive him. (6) The lords took justice into their own hands. (1,2) Although their identity has never been established. (6) On his journey to Calais his ship was intercepted in the Channel, (2,3) by pirates. (7) OR by a vessel (2,3) the ‘Nicholas of the Tower’ (5,6) belonging to the Duke of Exeter, Constable of the Tower, (3) a large vessel of the royal fleet in a small fleet of ships that had lain in wait for him. (6) The Nicholas was captained by Robert Wennington, a ship-owner from Dartmouth. (6) Wennington knew Suffolk was coming after catching the pinnace, and he sent some of his men in a small boat to Suffolk. (6) The men said Suffolk must speak with their master. (6) Suffolk agreed, got into the small boat with two or three of his men and went to the Nicholas. (6) When he got there, Wennington greeted him with “Welcome, Traitor!”(6,9) Contemporary Account9 (9) Suffolk was captured, (2,3) by an angry mob. (4) Over the next day, (6,10) the crew (6) subjected Suffolk to a mock trial, (2,4) on the articles of impeachment and found him guilty. (6) As his own ships watched, (6) he was seized and put into the ship’s (2,5) small (5) boat (2,5) alongside (5,6) that held an axe (6,9) and rusty sword. (2,6) One of the coarsest of the sailors (2,6) told Suffolk to lay down his head. (6,9) He was told if he cooperated he would be dealt with fairly and die by the sword. (6,9) The sailor then took the sword (6,9) and cut off Suffolk’s head, taking (2,4) several (2) OR half a dozen (6,9) strokes to finish the deed. (2,6) This took place near Dover (5) on 2nd May 1450. (4,5) It was an ignominious end for a duke, a man whose family had risen in four generations from merchants to the height of England’s nobility. (9)


The sailor removed the Duke’s gown of russet and his doublet of mailed velvet and the (6) body (2,6) OR head (1) was later washed up on (2) OR laid on (3,6) the sands near Dover (2,3) in Kent (1) in May (3) 1450. (1) A headless body lay on the sand, dried blood staining the butchered neck. (3,9) Beside the body, atop a stake, the vacant eyes of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk stared out over the sea where he had met his fate, a fate that many felt he deserved. (6,9) The body lay on the beach for some time until (3,6) until it was found. (8) Suffolk’s widow, Alice Chaucer informed Queen Margaret of her husband’s death. (6) Margaret was devastated and spent the next three days weeping and unable to eat. (6) The king ordered the body to be removed (3,6) and given up to the duchess, (3) and probably (8) taken to Wingfield, in Suffolk, (3,6) where it was given a proper burial (7) by his widow Alice (8) in June. (6) OR in the Carthusian Priory at Hull (6,8) as was his wish, and not in the church at Wingfield, as is often stated. (8) The Priory, founded in 1377 by his grandfather the first Earl of Suffolk, was dissolved in 1539. (8) It has since been destroyed: (6,8) most of the original buildings did not survive the two Civil War sieges of Hull in 1642 and 1643. (8) His estates were forfeited to the crown but later, (4) in 1463, (8) restored to (3,4) his only (3,4) known legitimate (10) son, John (3,4) de la Pole, (3) 2nd Duke of Suffolk. (3,10) Perhaps the only consolation that William could have taken was that his son seemed to have heeded his words. (9) John became 2nd Duke of Suffolk and has been nicknamed The Trimming Duke, perhaps for his ability to trim his sails to suit the prevailing political winds. (9) He features in Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’, (2) parts 1 and 2. (4) His political successor was the Duke of Somerset, whose enmity with various noblemen, combined with the unstable political climate following the final loss in the Hundred Years’ War, led to the Wars of the Roses. (4)


It is difficult to ascertain exactly what type of a man Suffolk was. (7) He was certainly widely hated by his contemporaries, and many historians will classify him as a greedy, ambitious man who only cared about his own interests. (7)Popular opinion at the time, followed by Yorkist chroniclers and Tudor historians, judged him a traitor, and later legend made him a paramour of Margaret of Anjou. (5) Accused of corruption and incompetence by contemporaries, in fact William seems to have been hardworking (1) and unlucky. (1,5) These charges are not supported by any reliable evidence, and probably Suffolk was unfortunate in being made a scapegoat for an unpopular administration and policies for which others were as much responsible as he was. (5) One must remember that, as one is elevated to a higher status in government and, in turn, receives a number of highly important responsibilities, there are many unpopular decisions that must be made. (7) Suffolk, as the king’s top adviser, was the one who needed to make most of the decisions despite their popularity and, therefore, took all the blame when something went wrong. (7) One also must remember that Suffolk worked extremely hard to get to his position, both as a soldier and a politician, and paid the ultimate price in the end. (7) Perhaps it is not necessarily fair to call him greedy and ambitious when one considers those facts. (7) He was one of the first from the merchant class to raise him into a loftier position. (10) For this alone he is an important figure who fought for Henry VI’s father and then twisted himself either by chance or with his known traitorous acts manipulated his way into a higher position. (10) Whichever it was the weakness of Henry VI definitely helped him. (10) The de la Pole family was never again to achieve the level of influence Suffolk had enjoyed. (4)


Appendix 1: Sussex’s letter to his son

My dear and only well-beloved son, I beseech our Lord in heaven, the Maker of all the world, to bless you, and to send you ever grace to love Him and to dread Him; to the which as far as a father may charge his child, I both charge you and pray you to set all your spirits and wits to do and to know His holy laws and commandments, by which ye shall with His great mercy, pass all the great tempests and troubles of this wretched world. (9) And also that weetingly ye do nothing for love nor dread of any earthly creature that should displease Him. (9) And whereas any frailty maketh you to fall, beseech His mercy soon to call you to Him again with repentance, satisfaction, and contrition of your heart, nevermore in will to offend Him. (9) Secondly, next Him, above all earthly things, to be true liegeman in heart, in will, in thought, in deed, unto the King, our elder, most high, and dread Sovereign Lord, to whom both ye and I be so much bound; charging you, as father can and may, rather to die than to be the contrary, or to know anything that were against the welfare and prosperity of his most royal perity of his most royal person, but that so far as your body and life may stretch, ye live and die to defend it and to let His Highness have knowledge thereof, in all the haste ye can. (9) Thirdly, in the same wise, I charge you, my dear son, always as ye he bounden by the commandment of God to do, to love and to worship your lady and mother: and also that ye obey alway her commandments, and to believe her counsels and advices in all your works, the which dread not but shall be best and truest for you. (9) And if any other body would steer you to the contrary, to flee that counsel in any wise, for ye shall find it nought and evil. (9) Furthermore, as far as father may and can, I charge you in any wise to flee the company and counsel of proud men, of covetous men, and of flattering men the more especially; and mightily to withstand them, and not to draw nor to meddle with them, with all your might and power; and to draw to you, and to your company, good and virtuous men and such as be of good conversation and of truth, and by them shall ye never be deceived nor repent you of. Moreover, never follow your own wit in any wise, but in all your works, of such folks as I write of above ask your advice and counsel, and doing thus, with the mercy of God, ye shall do right well, and live in right much worship and great heart’s rest and ease. And I will be to you, as good lord and father as mine heart can think. And last of all, as heartily and as lovingly as ever father blessed his child on earth, I give you the Blessing of Our Lord, and of me, which in his infinite mercy increase you in all virtue and good living and that your blood may by His Grace from kindred to kindred multiply in this earth to His service, in such wise as after the departing from this wretched worlde here, ye and they may glorify Him eternally amongst His angels in Heaven. Written of mine hand, the day of my departing, Your true and loving father Suffolk. (9)

Appendix 2: his execution

William Lomner wrote to John Paston on 5th May: “and thanne his herte faylyd hym, for he thowghte he was desseyvyd, and yn the syght of all his men he was drawyn ought of the grete shippe yn to the bote; and there was an exe, and a stoke, and oon of the lewdeste of the shippe badde hym ley down his hedde, and he should be fair ferd wyth, and dye on a swerd; and toke a rusty swerd, and smotte off his hedde withyn halfe a doseyn strokes” (The Paston Letter 1422-1509 Volume II James Gairdner 1904 Ed). (9)

1 This seems to confuse William with his elder brother Michael.

2 Jane de la Pole (d. 28 February 1494) was married before 1450 to Thomas Stonor (1423–1474), of Stonor in Pyrton, Oxfordshire. (8) Their son Sir William Stonor, Kt, was married to Anne Neville, daughter of John, Marquess of Montagu and had two children: John Neville, married to Mary Fortesque, daughter of Sir John Fortesque of Punsburn, Hereford, [Punsburn is in Hertfordshire, not Herefordshire] but died without issue; and Anne Stonor, married to Sir Adrian Fortesque, who distinguished himself at the Battle of the Spurs; he was beheaded in 1539. (8) Thomas Stonor and Jane de la Pole’s two other sons were Edward and Thomas. (8) Thomas Stoner married Savilla Brecknock, daughter of Sir David Brecknock. (8) [11] His great-great-grandson Thomas Stoner (18 December 1626 – 2 September 1683) married in 1651 Elizabeth Nevill (b. (8) 1641), daughter of Henry, Lord Bergavenny and his second wife Katherine Vaux, daughter of George Vaux and sister of Edward, Lord Vaux of Harrowden. (8) [12] Thomas’s son John Stoner (22 March 1654 – 19 November 1689) married on 8 July 1675 Lady Mary Talbot, daughter of Francis, Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife Jane Conyers, daughter of Sir John Conyers. (8) [13]

3 But he was, throughout 1430, a prisoner of Charles VII in France! (8 itself says this!)

4 Dunois

5Although the marriage was annulled by Henry in 1453, it drew accusations that by promoting Margaret as a potential heir to the throne while Henry remained childless, he was seeking to see his son made king. (9) The unlikely scenario of her accession though suggests that the attraction may have been the same financial one that saw Edmund Tudor marry her soon after the annulment. (9)

6 Suggesting that there was a trial, which 3 denies.

8 Astonishing that none of the sources noticed the chronology here.

9 See Appendix 2

[bibliography of sources available upon request]

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