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Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk (1472?-1513)

EDMUND DE LA POLE, Earl of Suffolk (1472?-1513), was the second son of John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk, by his wife Elizabeth, sister of Edward IV. About 1481 Edward sent him to Oxford, mainly to hear a divinity lecture he had lately founded. The university wrote two fulsome letters to the king, thanking him for the favour he had done them in sending thither a lad whose precocity, they declared, seemed to have something of inspiration in it. The family owed much to Richard III, who made Edmund a knight of the Bath at his coronation on 4 July 1483.1 He, with his father, was also present at the coronation of Elizabeth, queen of Henry VII, on 25 Nov. 1487,2 and was frequently at court during the next two years.

In 1491 his father died, Edmund, the eldest surviving son, had not attained his majority, and was the king's ward.3 He ought still to have succeeded to his father's title, but, his inheritance being seriously diminished by the act of attainder against his late brother [see John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln], he agreed with the king by indenture, dated 26 Feb. 1493 (presumably the date at which he came of age), to forego the title of duke and content himself with that of Earl of Suffolk on the king restoring to him a portion of the forfeited property—not indeed as a gift, but in exchange for a sum of £5,000 to be paid by yearly instalments of £200 during his mother's life and of £400 after her death. This arrangement was ratified in the parliament of October 1495.4 Henry's skill at driving a hard bargain was never more apparent. But in the parliamentary confirmation of the indenture he showed himself gracious enough to restore to the impoverished nobleman his 'chief place' in the city of London, in the parish of St. Laurence Pultney, which by the agreement itself the earl had conceded to the king.5

In October 1492 Suffolk was at the siege of Boulogne.6 On 9 Nov. 1494 he was the leading challenger at Westminster in the tournament at the creation of Prince Henry as Duke of York, and was presented on the second day with 'a ring of gold with a diamond' as a prize. In 1495, on Michaelmas day, he received the king, who was on his way from Woodstock to Windsor, at his seat at Ewelme.7 The parliament which confirmed his agreement with the king assembled in the following month, and he was one of the lords appointed triers of petitions from Gascony and foreign parts.8 It was probably in 1496 that he was made a Knight of the Garter in the room of Jasper, Duke of Bedford, who died in December 1495.9 In February 1496 he took part in a 'disguising' before the king.10 In the same month he was one of a number of English noblemen who stood sureties to the Archduke Philip for the observance of the new treaties with Burgundy.11 On 22 June he led a company against the Cornish rebels at Blackheath.

In Michaelmas term, 1498, he was indicted in the King's Bench for murder. It appears that he had killed a man in a passion; and though he received the king's pardon, he is said to have resented the fact that he, a prince of royal blood, should have been arraigned for the crime. In April 1499, however, he attended a chapter of the Garter at Windsor.12 But in July, or the very beginning of August, he fled the kingdom, first taking refuge at Guisnes, near Calais, where Sir James Tyrell, captain of the castle, had friendly conferences with him, and afterwards going on to St. Omer. Henry, much alarmed at his departure, issued on 20 Aug. strict orders against persons leaving the kingdom without a license.13 He also instructed Sir Richard Guildford and Richard Hatton, the former of whom was going on a mission to the archduke, to use all possible persuasions to induce Suffolk to return. Henry's ambassadors persuaded the archduke to order Suffolk out of his dominions; but the captain of St. Omer, who was charged to convey the order, delayed the intimation of it, much to his master's satisfaction. Guildford had instructions to bring Suffolk back by force if persuasion failed. Suffolk wisely preferred to return voluntarily, and was again taken into favour. He was, however, by no means satisfied as to the king's intentions; and the judicial murder of the Earl of Warwick, which happened immediately after, did not reassure him. It seemed as if the house of York were to be extirpated to secure the Tudor throne.

On 5 May 1500, however, he witnessed at Canterbury the king's confirmation of the treaty for the marriage of Prince Arthur with Catherine of Arragon,14 and six days later he followed the king to Calais to the meeting with the Archduke Philip. He returned to England, but having heard that the Emperor Maximilian, who had an old grudge against Henry VII, would gladly help one of the blood of Edward IV to gain the English throne, he in August 1501 repaired to Maximilian in the Tyrol. The emperor at first gave him no encouragement. After remaining six weeks at Imst, Suffolk received a message, promising him the aid of three to five thousand men for a period of one, two, or three months if necessary. Leaving his steward Killingworth to arrange details with Maximilian, he repaired to Aix-la-Chapelle with letters from the emperor in his favour to the council of that town. After Suffolk's departure Maximilian raised difficulties in performing his promise. But Suffolk was at length informed that Maximilian had persuaded the Count of Hardeck to lend Suffolk twenty thousand gulden. The count was to be repaid double that sum, and his son was to go with Suffolk into England.

On 7 Nov. 1501 Suffolk, Sir Robert Cuzon —who seems first to have suggested the project to the emperor — and five other persons were publicly 'accursed' at Paul's Cross as traitors. Afterwards on the first Sunday of Lent (13 Feb.) 1502, Suffolk's brother, Lord William de la Pole, with Lord William Courtney, Sir James Tyrell, and other Yorkist friends, were thrown into prison. Of these, Tyrell and Sir John Wyndham suffered as traitors in May following; but the two Lord Williams, whose Yorkist blood and connection were alone suspicious, were only kept in confinement till the accession of Henry VIII. Suffolk himself was outlawed at Ipswich on 26 Dec. 1502.

He was also disappointed in the hope of help from his foreign friends. His remonstrances addressed to the emperor from Aix were in vain, and on 28 July 1502 Maximilian signed a treaty at Augsburg, pledging himself in return for £10,000 not to succour any English rebels, even though they claimed the dignity of dukes (for Suffolk had resumed his forfeited rank in the peerage).15 Nevertheless, Suffolk was suffered to remain at Aix unmolested. But on 12 Feb. 1503 Maximilian took, at the English king's request, an oath to observe the treaties, and gave a reluctant promise to expel Suffolk from Aix by proclamation. He merely wrote, however, to the burgomaster and town council that, as he had sent the unhappy nobleman thither, and was forbidden by his treaty with England to grant him further aid, he had arranged to pay them three thousand Rhenish florins, to enable him to quit the town free of debt. But it does not appear that Maximilian kept his word, for Suffolk remained at Aix, still in debt, for several months after.

In January 1504 he was attainted by the English parliament,16 along with his brothers William and Richard,and a number of his adherents. His situation seemed hopeless. Strangely illiterate letters during the next few years reflect his wretchedness, and form a most astounding commentary on that erudition with which he was credited by his university when a boy. Just before Easter 1504 he managed to quit Aix by leaving his brother Richard behind him as a hostage. He had arranged to join George, duke of Saxony, governor of Friesland, but on entering Gelderland he was seized and thrown into the castle of Hattem, in spite of a safe-conduct the Duke of Gueldres had sent him. The duke is believed to have obtained money from Henry VII to keep the prisoner safe, and refused the demand of his overlord, Philip, king of Castile, to deliver him. But in July 1505 Philip's able captain, Paul von Lichtenstein, obtained possession of Hattem, with the prisoner in it. Much negotiation between Philip and the Duke of Gueldres followed, and during the course of it Suffolk was temporarily handed back to the duke; but in October Philip again obtained possession of the prisoner, and shut him up in the castle of Namur.

On 24 Jan. 1506 Suffolk gave a curious commission to two of his servants to treat with Henry VII for an adjustment of the differences between them, with a set of specific instructions as to the terms. He demanded Henry's aid, if necessary, for his delivery out of Philip's hands. In the same month Philip visited Henry at Windsor, and consented to surrender the unhappy fugitive. At the end of March Suffolk was conveyed through London,17 and committed to the Tower.

Henry gave Philip a written promise to spare his life,18 and the rumour that he recommended his son and successor to put Suffolk to death is probably a scandal [i.e., slander].19 But at Henry VIII's accession he was excepted from the general pardon, and in 1513, when his brother Richard had taken up arms in the service of France, with whom England was then at war, he was sent to the block, apparently without any further proceedings against him. A contemporary Spanish writer suggests20 that he had given fresh offence by writing to urge his brother to promote a rebellion in England. But as a prisoner in the Tower he had little opportunity of doing so, unless it were purposely afforded him.21

Pole married Margaret, a daughter of Richard, Lord Scrope, and by her he had a daughter named Anne, who became a nun at the Minories without Aldgate. He left no male issue.

1. Holinshed, iii. 733.
2. Leland, Collectanea, iv. 229, 230, ed. 1770.
3. Rolls of Parliament. vi. 477.
4. Rolls of Parl. vi. 474-7.
5. ib. p. 476.
6. Chronicle of Calais, p. 2.
7. Excerpta Historica, p. 105.
8. Rolls of Parl. vi. 458.
9. Beltz, Memorials of the Garter, p. clxix.
10. Excerpta Historica, p. 107. [AJ Note: A court entertainment that was a precursor to the masque.]
11. Rymer, xii. 688, 1st edit..
12. Anstis, Register, ii. 238.
13. Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII, ii. 377; Paston Letters, iii. 173, ed. Gairdner.
14. Rymer, xii. 752, 1st edit..
15. Rymer, xiii. 9, 22-7, 1st edit..
16. Rolls of Parl. vi. 545 seq..
17. Le Glay, Négociations, i. 114.
18. Cal. State Papers, Spanish, vol. i. No. 456.
19. Mémoires de Du Bellay, livre i.
20. Peter Martyr, Epp. No. 524.
21. cf. Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, vol. ii. No. 248.

Gairdner, James. "Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk."
Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. XLVI. Sidney Lee, Ed.
New York: Macmillan and Co., 1896. 21-23.

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