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Arms of Ufford Earls of Suffolk

Robert de Ufford, First Earl of Suffolk (1298-1369)

ROBERT DE UFFORD, first Earl of Suffolk of his house (1298-1369), was the second but eldest surviving son and heir of Robert de Ufford (1279-1316), and of his wife, Cicely de Valognes.

His grandfather, Robert De Ufford (d. 1298), was the founder of the greatness of the family. A younger son of a Suffolk landowner, John de Peyton, Robert assumed his surname from his lordship of Ufford in Suffolk, and attended Edward I on his crusade. Between 1276 and 1281 he acted as justice of Ireland. He was instructed by Edward I to introduce English laws into Ireland,1 and practised skilfully but unscrupulously the policy of sowing dissension among the different Irish septs.2 He also built the castle of Roscommon 'at countless cost'.3 On 21 Nov. 1281 Stephen de Fulburn, bishop of Waterford, was appointed justice in his place, since Ufford 'by reason of his infirmities could not perform his duties'.4 He died in 1298.

His son Robert, who was born on 11 June 1279, further increased the family possessions and importance by his marriage to the heiress Cicely de Valognes. He was summoned to parliament as a baron between 1308 and 1311, and died in 1316. Of his six sons, William, the eldest, died without issue before his father. The fifth son, Sir Ralph De Ufford (d. 1346), became justice of Ireland like his grandfather, having married Maud [see Matilda of Lancaster], daughter of Henry, [3rd] earl of Lancaster, and widow of William de Burgh, earl of Ulster. Appointed justice in February 1344, Ralph held office until his death on Palm Sunday, 9 April 1346. He had the reputation of a vigorous and energetic but not very popular ruler.5 The youngest son, Sir Edmund de Ufford, was also a man of some note. The suggestion sometimes made that John de Offord or Ufford, archbishop-elect of Canterbury, and his brother, Andrew de Offord, were also sons of this Robert de Ufford, is highly improbable. In all probability these latter were of an entirely different family, which derived its name from Offord Darcy, Huntingdonshire.

The second but eldest surviving son, Robert, was born about 10 Aug. 1298, and succeeded to his father's estates. On 19 May 1318 he received livery of his father's Suffolk lands.6 He was knighted and received some subordinate employments, being occupied, for example, in 1326 in levying ships for the royal use in Suffolk,7 and serving in November 1327 on a commission of the peace in the eastern counties under the statute of Winchester.8 In May and June 1329 he attended the young Edward III on his journey to Amiens, receiving letters of protection on 10 May.9

He was employed on state affairs down to the end of the rule of Isabella and Mortimer, and on 1 May 1330 received 'for his better maintenance in the king's service' a grant for life of the royal castle and town of Orford, Suffolk, which had been previously held by his father.10 He also obtained grants of other lands in special tail, including the manors of Gravesend, Kent, Costessy and Burgh, Norfolk.11 On 28 July he was appointed to array and command the levies of Norfolk and Suffolk summoned to fight 'against the king's rebels.' Nevertheless in October he associated himself with William de Montacute (afterwards first Earl of Salisbury) in the attack on Mortimer at Nottingham.

He took personal part in the capture of Mortimer in Nottingham Castle, and was so far implicated in the deaths of Sir Hugh de Turplington and Richard de Monmouth that occurred during the scuttle that on 12 Feb. 1331 he received a special pardon for the homicide.12 He was rewarded by the grant of the manors of Cawston and Fakenham in Norfolk, and also of some houses in Cripplegate that had belonged to Mortimer's associate, John Maltravers.13 He also succeeded Maltravers as keeper of the forests south of Trent and as justice in eyre of the forests in Wiltshire, receiving on 3 Feb. 1331 a similar appointment for Hampshire.14

He was summoned as a baron to parliament on 27 Jan. 1332. Henceforth he was one of the most trusted warriors, counsellors,and diplomatists in Edward III's service. On 1 Nov. 1335 Ufford was appointed a member of an embassy empowered to treat with the Scots.15 He served against the Scots and was made warden of Bothwell Castle.16 On 14 Jan. 1337 he was made admiral of the king's northern fleet jointly with Sir John Ros.17 On 16 March he was created Earl of Suffolk.18 On 18 March he received 'for the better support of his dignity' letters patent conferring on him and his heirs male lands and rents worth a thousand marks a year.19 He also received a grant of £20 a year from the issues of his shire.20 On 25 June he was released from all his debts to the crown.21

During his absence in parliament the Scots retook his charge, Bothwell Castle.22 On 3 Oct. 1337 Suffolk was sent, with Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln, the Earl of Northampton, and John Darcy, to treat for peace or truce with the French.23 Further powers were given them to treat with the Emperor Louis and Edward's other allies,24 and on 7 Oct. they were also commissioned to treat with David Bruce, then staying in France,25 and were credited to the two cardinals sent by the pope to effect a reconciliation.26 On 4 Oct. Suffolk had letters of attorney until Easter, and many of his followers received letters of protection.27 His occupation on this embassy seems to confute Froissart's statement28 that he took part in Sir Walter Manny's attack on Cadsand on 10 Nov.29

Next year, on 1 July, Suffolk was associated with Archbishop Stratford and others on an embassy to France, and left England along with the two cardinals sent to treat for peace.30 He either accompanied Edward III to Antwerp31 or soon followed him, for on 10 Nov. he attested a charter at Antwerp,32 and on 16 Dec. the same embassy was again empowered at the instance of the two cardinals.33

After this Suffolk remained in attendance on the king in Brabant, serving in September 1339 in the expedition that invaded the Cambresis and besieged Cambrai, and being in the army that prepared to fight a great battle at Buironfosse,34 where he and the Earl of Derby [Henry of Grosmont] commanded the right wing of the second 'battle'.35 On 15 Nov. of the same year he was appointed joint ambassador to Count Louis of Flanders and the Flemish estates, to treat of an alliance.36 He several times became security for the king's loans.37

After Edward's return Suffolk stayed behind in the Low Countries with Salisbury. The two earls remained in garrison at Ypres.38 In Lent 1340 they attacked the French near Lille, a town which upheld Philip of Valois. Rendered rash by their easy success, they pursued the enemy through one of the gates into the town. But their retreat was cut off, and they were made prisoners and despatched to Paris, which they reached on Palm Sunday. The English chroniclers wax eloquent on the indignities to which they were exposed on the road.39 Philip VI, it was said, wished to kill them, and they were spared only through the entreaties of King John of Bohemia.40

The truce of 25 Sept. 1340 provided for the release of all prisoners, but it was only after a heavy ransom, to which Edward III contributed £500, had been paid that Suffolk obtained his freedom. He took part in a famous tournament at Dunstable in the spring of 1342 and at great jousts in London.41 He was one of the members of Edward's 'Round Table' at Windsor, which assembled in February 1344,42 and fought in a tournament at Hertford in September 1344.43 Though not a 'founder' of the order of the Garter, he was one of the earliest members that afterwards joined it.44

Suffolk served through the Breton expedition of July 1342, and was conspicuous at the siege of Rennes.45 In July 1343 he was joint ambassador to Clement VI at Avignon, receiving further powers to treat with France on 29 Aug. and 29 Nov. On 8 May 1344 he was appointed captain and admiral of the northern fleet.46 He busied himself at once in collecting vessels for a new expedition, and on 3 July accompanied Edward on a short expedition to Flanders. He continued admiral in person or deputy until March 1347, when he was succeeded by Sir John Howard.47

Edward III gives battle at Crecy. On 11 July 1346 Suffolk sailed with the king from Portsmouth on the famous invasion of France which resulted in the battle of Crecy. On the retreat northwards, a day after the passage of the Seine, Suffolk and Sir Hugh le Despenser defeated a considerable French force.48 Suffolk was one of those who advised Edward to select the field of Crecy as his battle-ground.49 In the great victory he fought in the second 'battle,' stationed on the left wing. Next morning, 27 Aug., he took part in Northampton's reconnaissance that resulted in a sharp fight with the unbroken remnant of the French army.50

Suffolk's diplomatic activity still continued. He was one of the commissioners appointed to treat with France on 25 Sept. 1348,51 and with Flanders on 11 Oct.52 The negotiations were conducted at Calais. On 10 March 1349,53 and again on 15 May 1350,54 he had similar commissions. On 29 Aug. 1350 he fought in the famous naval victory over the Spaniards off Winchelsea.55 In May 1351 and in June 1352 he was chief commissioner of array in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In September 1355 Suffolk sailed with the Black Prince, Edward, prince of Wales (1330-1376), to Aquitaine. Between October and December he was engaged in the prince's raid through Languedoc to Narbonne, where he commanded the rear-guard, William de Montacute, second earl of Salisbury, son of his old companion in arms, serving with him. After his return he was quartered at Saint-Emilion, his followers being stationed round Libourne.56 Thence in January 1356 he led another foray, that lasted over twelve days, towards Rocamadour.57

The Oriflamme, in a 15th-century manuscript illumination of the Battle of Poitiers Suffolk also shared in the Black Prince's northern foray of 1356, and in the battle of Poitiers which resulted from it, where he commanded, jointly with Salisbury, the third 'battle' or the rearward.58 The reversal of the position of the host, caused by Edward's attempted retreat over the Miausson, threw the brunt of the first fighting upon Suffolk and Salisbury, who had single-handed to withstand the French assault.59 Suffolk distinguished himself greatly, running from line to line, checking the imprudent ardour of the young soldiers, and posting the archers in the best positions.60 On the march back to Bordeaux he led the vanguard. He drew three thousand florins as his share of the ransom of the Count of Auxerre.61

Poitiers was his last great exploit, and even there he was a little effaced by Salisbury. He was fifty-eight years old, and his hair was grey.62 He still, however, took part in the expedition into Champagne in 1359.63 After that he was employed only in embassies, the last of those on which he served being that commissioned on 8 Feb. 1362 to treat of the proposed marriage of Edmund of Langley to the daughter of the Count of Flanders.64

In his declining years Suffolk devoted himself to the removal of the abbey of Leiston, near Saxmundham, to a new site somewhat more inland. This convent was a house of Premonstratensian canons, founded in 1182 by Ranulf de Glanville, and now become decayed. In 1363 it was transferred to its new home, where its picturesque ruins still remain, though they are mostly of more recent date than the buildings which Suffolk set up.

Suffolk died on 4 Nov. 1369. His will, dated 29 June 1368, is given in Nicolas's 'Testamenta Vetusta'.65 In it he directed that his body should be buried at the priory of Campsey, or Ash, under the arch, between the chapel of St. Nicholas and the high altar. Campsey was a house of Austin canonesses, of which the Uffords were patrons, and where Suffolk's wife had been buried in 1368, and his brother, Sir Ralph de Ufford, the justice of Ireland, in 1346.66 To Ralph's widow, Maud, 'the lady of Ulster,' Suffolk left twenty marks towards the rebuilding at Bruisyard, Suffolk, of a chantry-college for five secular priests, which she had originally founded at Campsey, but which she now transferred to a new site,67 where it was afterwards handed over to Minorite nuns.68 A summary of Ufford's extensive fiefs in Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, and London is given in 'Calendarium Inquisitionum post mortem'.69 The possession of the castles of Framlingham, Eye, and Orford with extensive estates in Central Suffolk, gave him an exceptionally strong position in that county.

It has generally been said that Suffolk had two wives, but there is no evidence of the existence of his alleged first wife, Eleanor. In 1324 he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Walter de Norwich and widow of Thomas de Cailey.70 Margaret had promised a fine of £20 to the crown for license to marry at will, but five years afterwards she and Ufford obtained, on 21 Oct. 1329, a release from its payment.71 Ufford and Margaret had two sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Robert, was distinguished at the siege of Lochmaben in 1341, and took considerable part in the French wars, and, though commonly distinguished as 'Robert de Ufford le fitz,' is not seldom confused with his father. He married Elizabeth, widow of William de Latimer, without royal license, but on 20 Aug. 1337 was pardoned for the offence.72 He died before his father, so that titles and estates passed to the younger son, William de Ufford, second earl of Suffolk. The five daughters were: (1) Joan, betrothed in 1336 to John, son and heir of John de St. Philibert, an East-Anglian landowner. But he was a boy under six, of whose lands Suffolk had the custody.73 The marriage was not carried out, and John at last wedded another lady.74 (2) Cicely, married to William, lord Willoughby De Eresby. (3) Catharine, married to Robert, lord Scales. (4) Margaret, married to William, lord Ferrers of Groby; and (5) Maud, a canoness at Campsey.

1. Fœdera, i. 540.
2. Gilbert, Viceroys of Ireland, pp. 108-10.
3. Cat. Documents, Ireland, 1302-7, p. 137.
4. Cal. Patent Rolls, 1281-92, p. 1.
5. Gilbert, pp. 197-204.
6. Enumerated in 'Calendarium Inquisitionum post mortem,' i. 140 (cf. Cal. Close Rolls, 1313-18, p. 542.
7. ib. 1323-7, p. 644. 8. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1327-30, p. 214.
9. ib. p. 388.
10. ib. p. 522; Cal. Inquis. post mortem, i. 146.
11. Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 48.
12. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1330-4, p. 74.
13. ib. pp. 73, 106.
14. ib. pp. 66, 69
15. Fœdera, ii. 925.
16. Chron. de Lanercost, p. 288.
17. Fœdera, ii. 956; Ufford ceased to hold this office after 11 Aug.
18. cf. Lords' Reports on the Dignity of a Peer, v. 31; Rotuli Parliamentorum ii. 56: Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334-8, p. 418.
19. Cal. Rot. Pat. 1334-8, pp. 418, 479, 496; Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338-40, pp. 14, 265.
20. Rot. Parl. iii. 107.
21. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334-8, p. 461.
22. Chron. de Lanercost, p. 288.
23. Fœdera, ii. 998.
24. ib. ii. 999.
25. ib. ii. 1001.
26. ib. ii. 1002.
27. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334-1338, pp. 527, 532, 535, 537.
28. Froissart, Chronicles, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, ii. 430, 432, 434.
29. [see Dictionary of National Biography entry on Manny].
30. Fœdera, ii. 1084; G. Le Baker, Chronicon, ed. Thompson, p. 61.
31. Froissart, ii. 443.
32. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338-40, p. 193.
33. ib. p. 196.
34. Froissart, iii. 10-53.
35. Hemingburgh, Chronicon, ii. 347.
36. Fœdera, ii. 1097; Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338-40, p. 397.
37. ib. pp. 372, 378, 391, 403.
38. Froissart, iii. 129.
39. G. Le Baker, p. 67.
40. ib. pp. 67-8; Murimuth, pp. 104-5; Walsingham, i. 226; Chron. Angli&ae;, 1328-88, p. 10; Cont. G. de Nangis, ii. 167, calls him 'Comes Auxoniæ' Froissart, iii. 122-31, gives a very different account of the capture; Dugdale, Baronage, ii. 48, and Barnes, Hist. of Edward III, pp. 168-70, say that Robert Ufford, Suffolk's eldest son, and not Suffolk himself, was taken prisoner, but this is disproved by Fœdera, ii. 1170, and Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1338-1340, p. 531.
41. Froissart, iv. 127-8.
42. Murimuth, p. 232.
43. ib. p. 159.
44. Beltz, Order of the Garter, cl., 98.
45. Froissart, iv. 137, 168.
46. Fœdera, iii. 13; Nicolas, Royal Navy, ii. 83.
47. Fœdera, iii. 111; for his activity see ib. iii. 57, 70.
48. Avesbury, Chronicle, p. 368.
49. Froissart, v. 27.
50. Northburgh in Avesbury, p. 369, speaks of the Earl of Norfolk, but there was no such earl at the time, and Suffolk is probably meant.
51. Fœdera, iii. 173.
52. ib. iii. 175.
53. ib. iii. 182.
54. ib. iii. 196.
55. Froissart, v. 258, 266.
56. Chandos Herald, Le Prince Noir, ed. F. Michel, p. 44.
57. 'Notre-Dame de Rochemade,' Wingfield in Avesbury, p. 449.
58. G. Le Baker, p. 143.
59. Oman, Art of War in the Middle Ages, pp. 623-5.
60. G. Le Baker, p. 148; Walsingham, i. 282.
61. Devon, Issue Rolls of the Exchequer, p. 167.
62. Chandos Herald, p. 57.
63. Froissart, vi. 224, 231.
64. Fœdera, iii. 636.
65. i. 73-4; cf. G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage, vii. 302.
66. Monasticon, vi. 584.
67. ib. vi. 1468.
68. ib. vi. 1555.
69. ii. 300.
70. Cal. Close Rolls, 1323-7, pp. 147, 236, show that the date was between 2 July and 13 Nov. 1324.
71. ib. 1327-30, p. 497.
72. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1334-8, p. 495.
73. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1330-4, p. 176, 1334-8 p. 176.
74. Dugdale, ii. 150.

      Excerpted from:

      Tout, T. F. "Robert de Ufford, First Earl of Suffolk."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. LVIII. Sidney Lee, ed.
      New York: The Macmillan Co., 1899. 9-13.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Rogers, Clifford J. The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations.
            Boydell Press, 2000.

Seward, Desmond. The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453.
           Penguin, 1999.

Waugh, Scott L. England in the Reign of Edward III.
            Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Robert de Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, on the Web:

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The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer

The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster


Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
London in late 16th century
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London

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