The position of the Duke of Suffolk has always been very powerful. Some of the richest and most politically advantageous families in English history have held this position.
If you are familiar with your English royal history, especially the Tudors, it is quite possible that you have heard of the Pole family.
This powerful family dominated English politics in the 14th and 16th centuries, with the title of Duke of Suffolk which was first created for William de la Pole in 1396 as 1st Duke of Suffolk, and passed down from generation to generation .
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Most famous, during the Wars of the Roses, between the Yorks and the Lancasters, they were known to have continuously tried to seize the English throne, without success.
They were the last of the York line, and Henry VII (who was on the throne at the time) was a Lancaster. His marriage to Elizabeth of York had united the two families in an attempt to stop the Wars of the Roses, but the de la Pole had other ideas.
The legitimate king?
Edmund de la Pole, 3rd Duke of Suffolk and 6th Earl of Suffolk, had originally sworn loyalty to the Tudor line when Henry VII (father of Henry VIII) ascended to the throne.
His entry to the throne of England was meant to mark a time of peace and quiet for England, but the Pole brothers struggled to bow their heads.
Edmund de la Pole was part of royalty through his mother who was the younger sister of Kings Edward IV and Richard III (King Henry Tudor defeated at the Battle of Bosworth to obtain the throne).
Edmund (the elder) and his brothers Richard and William were the only remaining credible Yorkist descendants and a threat to Henry VII.
As the brothers bowed their heads to the new king, England held her breath.
An offer for the throne
Edmund and his brothers served King Henry VII conscientiously for many years. The king had withdrawn the title of Duke of Suffolk from Edmund and replaced it with that of Lower Earl of Suffolk, but Edmund had never complained.
To anyone outside, they would have seemed to be her majesty’s loyal servants. But a storm was brewing.
In August 1501 (when Henry VII had reigned 16 years), Edmund and his brother Richard left England without royal permission for Europe in order to muster their support for a rebellion.
Edmund regained his title of Duke of Suffolk and called himself the “White Rose” (seeker to the throne).
He was proclaimed an outlaw at Ipswich on December 26, 1502, and his brothers had their honors and titles revoked. Guillaume was imprisoned in London.
Edmund stayed in Europe with his brother Richard under the protection of Roman Emperor Maximilian I for as long as he could, but disaster quickly struck.
The Roman Emperor was attempting to reach Castile in 1505 when the winds deviated him from his route to England. He fell under the influence of Henry VII and became his host. During a banquet, Henri convinces him to entrust Edmond de la Pole to him, which the emperor ends up accepting.
Much to Edmund’s dismay, he was handed over to his greatest enemy and thrown into the Tower of London.
Edmund sat rotting in the Tower for seven years. Finally, in 1509, the king died.
Usually, when a new king assumes the throne, prisoners of his choice are pardoned out of mercy. But, de la Pole was exempt from this list.
The devious Henry VII had written in his will that his heir was to execute the prisoner as soon as he ascended the throne, and that is exactly what young Henry VIII did.
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Edmund de la Pole was beheaded in Tower Hill at the age of 42.
Richard de la Pole remained in Europe, under the protection of various kings, but was killed in battle in 1525.
The de la Pole never succeeded in seizing the throne to which they so desperately believed they had a right. The Tudors held it firmly and never budged until the death of the last Tudor Elizabeth I in 1602.
The position of the Duke of Suffolk passed to Charles Brandon, a close friend of Henry VIII, after the failed usurpation of de la Pole, and a Duke of Suffolk has never again risen so high.
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