William de la Pole

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William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, Warden of the Isles 1448

De la Pole shows in lists of Guernsey Wardens and was probably responsible for all the Channel Islands, there being nobody nominated for Jersey at this time other than the four-year-old Lord of the Isles Anne de Beauchamp.

Early years

He was born 16 October 1396 at Cotton, Suffolk, and baptised in the church there. With his father and brother he was at the siege of Harfleur in September 1415, but appears to have been invalided to England in October.

Military service

He served in the French wars continuously for 17 years from July 1417; was granted the lordships of Hambye and Briquebec, in Normandy, 13 March 1418, taking part in the sieges of Cherbourg and Rouen later in that year.

He was Admiral of Normandy, 19 May 1419; Captain of Pontorson, 12 June, and Avranches, 27 August, 1419-1423; a Conservator of the truce with France, 27 January 1420, and with Brittany, 10 February 1421, after being at the siege of Melun, July-November 1420; was Cupbearer at the Coronation of Queen Katherine, 21 February 1421; Knight of the Garter 3 May 1421; Governor of the marches of Lower Normandy, 28 September 1421; Guardian of the Cotentin, 10 October 1422-27; served under the Earl of Salisbury in the Champagne campaign of 1423, and under the Duke of Bedford at the surrender of Ivry, 15 August, and the battle of Verneuil, 17 August 1424; Governor of Chartres, 26 September 1424.

He was created, in or before 1425, Count of Dreux, in Normandy. As Lieutenant-General of Caen, and Constable of the Earl of Salisbury's army, he conducted the siege of Mont St Michel in 1425. He led a raid into Brittany as far as Rennes in 1425-26, concluding a three months truce with the Duke of Brittany, April-June 1426; and took part in the unsuccessful siege of Montargis, July-September 1427. In 1428 he was at the siege of Orleans with the Earl of Salisbury, on whose death he was appointed to the chief command there, 13 November.

Joan of Arc

Though the siege at first prospered, the city was relieved by Joan of Arc on 8 May 1429, and Suffolk retreated to Jargeau, where he was forced to surrender, 12 June following. He was, however, released before 15 March 1430, when he was appointed Lieutenant of Caen and the Cotentin until 1 June following; and he captured the castle of Aumale in July 1430.

As Chief Ambassador to France, he acted as proxy for the betrothal on 24 May 1444, in the church of St Martin, Tours, of Henry VI to Margaret of Anjou, and concluded a two year truce with France the following 28 May.

Lord Great Chamberlain of England for life, also Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, 24 February 1447; Admiral of England during the minority of Henry, Duke of Exeter, 9 August 1447; Governor and Protector of the Staple of Calais, 9 March 1448.

Impeachment

He was created Duke of Suffolk on 2 June 1448. However, he became extremely unpopular, the cession of Maine, the loss of Normandy, the retaining of public money to his own use, and even the death of the King's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, being blamed on him. He was committed to the Tower on 28 January, and impeached by the Commons, 7 February and 9 March 1450; but on 17 March the King, by force of his submission and not "by way of Jugement," ordered his banishment for 5 years from 1 May following, and he was released after protest by the Lords.

Murder

On his journey to France his ship was intercepted, and he was executed. It was suspected that his arch enemy, the Duke of York, was responsible for his beheading on 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 for burial, seemingly at the wishes of his wife Alice.

His only known legitimate son, John, became 2nd Duke of Suffolk in 1463.

Channel Islands

Nothing is known about his role in the Channel Islands.

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