Pole, John de la, Duke of Suffolk

   Because of the influence he exercised in East Anglia, John de la Pole, second duke of Suffolk, was courted by all sides in the civil wars, even though he seems to have been a man of little political ability.
   His father, William de la POLE, first duke of Suffolk, was chief minister to HENRY VI until the duke was driven from power and murdered during the political upheavals of 1450. Henry VI confirmed de la Pole in his father’s title in 1455, but, by 1458, Suffolk had married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, a connection that cost the duke demotion to earl of Suffolk when Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU held power in 1459. Suffolk thereafter aligned himself with the house of YORK, fighting with Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in February 1461. After EDWARD IV won the throne at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461, Suffolk received surprisingly few rewards from his brother-inlaw; he was not even re-created duke of Suffolk until 1463.
   This lack of favor may have stemmed from personal dislike, or from the king’s low opinion of Suffolk’s abilities; it did not, however, blind Edward to his need for the duke’s support in the conflict with the house of LANCASTER, as the Paston family discovered in 1469 when the king refused to help them against the duke, even when he was shown the ruins of a Paston manor destroyed by Suffolk’s men (see Paston Letters). This stance paid off for Edward when Suffolk sided with him against the Warwick-inspired uprisings of 1469–1470. When Warwick drove Edward from England in October 1470, the duke quietly withdrew to his estates, emerging again in the spring to support Edward’s restoration to the throne (see Edward IV, Restoration of). Suffolk was thereafter more consistently favored than he had been in the 1460s, but he never achieved a position of trust or influence with the king. He accompanied Edward on the French expedition of 1475 and was appointed lord lieutenant of IRELAND in 1478, although he never assumed the office. Upon Edward IV’s death in 1483, Suffolk acquiesced in the usurpation of RICHARD III. Although Suffolk’s eldest son, John de la POLE, earl of Lincoln, was looked upon as Richard’s heir after the death of the king’s son in 1484, the duke himself no more enjoyed the confidence of Richard III than he had that of Richard’s brother. After Richard’s death at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in August 1485, Suffolk readily submitted to HENRY VII, receiving as reward the constableship of Wallingford Castle. The duke thereafter retained Henry’s trust, even after Lincoln died fighting for the Yorkist pretender Lambert SIMNEL at the Battle of STOKE in June 1487. Suffolk died in 1491.
   Further Reading: Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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