On 14th June 1439, William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk elicited wardships for himself. One of the longer-term causes of the Wars of the Roses was the way the administration of Government was undertaken. It led to complaints of maladministration from the ‘loyal opposition’ and charges of ‘evil and corrupt’ counsellors such as the Earl of Suffolk surrounding King Henry VI.
Corruption in Henry VI’s Government
The charges were not baseless. Following the Duke of Bedford’s death, the Council lost the clarity of leadership it needed to be a stable system of governing. As Henry came of age, he had favourites who circumnavigated traditional routes of having matters debated and agreed.
At the forefront of this was the Earl of Suffolk. He was one of the most powerful men in the country, and he ensured that his own followers gained positions within the administration of bodies such as the Duchy of Lancaster. In short, he filled positions with ‘yes men’ for his own ends. Suffolk also avoided convention by not presenting things to full Council.
Elicit Taking of Wardships by William de la Pole
In 1439 there are repeated incidents of only himself or a few Council members deciding things and having them passed by the King. On 14th June, this was a unilateral decision to place two children into the Earl of Suffolk’s care. This allowed him to choose who they married, and that meant that he or his followers will benefit from the inheritances due to the wards (children).
Such matters, for children of magnates, were usually discussed, here it was fait accompli. Over 1439 and 1440, there are at least eleven occasions where council business was conducted either by Suffolk alone or with just one other council member. Stafford, Moleyns and Beauchamp being used as the second council members throughout this period, the latter being the only one to survive the rebellions of 1450 unscathed and untargeted.