Richard de la Pole, Yorkist Claimant to the throne

POLE, RICHARD de la (d. 1525), pretender to the crown, younger brother of Edmund Pole [q. v.] and of John Pole [q. v.], was fifth son of John, second duke of Suffolk [q. v.] Two other brothers, Humphrey and Edward, who were older than himself, took orders in the church, the latter becoming archdeacon of Richmond. In 1501 Richard escaped abroad with his brother Edmund. French writers, who apparently have confounded him with Perkin Warbeck, erroneously state that he entered the service of Charles VIII of France as early as 1492, the year in which Henry VII besieged Boulogne; that Henry, on the conclusion of peace, demanded his surrender; and that, though this was refused, he was compelled to quit France (Duchesne, Hist. d’Angleterre, p. 975, 2nd edit.). Others say, equally falsely, that King Charles gave him a pension of seven thousand écus. In the parliament which met in January 1504 he was attainted, along with Edmund and another brother, William. He is called in the act ‘Richard Pole, late of Wingfield in the county of Suffolk, squire,’ while his brother is designated William Pole of Wingfield, knight (Rolls of Parl. vi. 545).

In March 1504 he joined his brother Edmund at Aix-la-Chapelle, and was left there by Edmund as a hostage or security for the payment of Edmund’s debts in the town. The latter’s creditors, unable to obtain payment, rendered Richard’s life unbearable, and threatened to deliver him up to Henry VII. Richard, however, managed to attract the sympathy of the munificent Erard de la Marck, bishop of Liège, who contrived to get him out of his perilous situation, and he arrived somewhat later in the year at Buda in Hungary. Henry VII sent ambassadors to Ladislaus VI to demand his surrender, but that king not only refused to deliver him, but gave him a pension (Cal. Venetian, vol. i. No. 889, and Cal. Henry VIII, vol. ii. No. 1163 II; cf. Ellis, Letters, 3rd ser. i. 141).

In 1509 Richard, like his two brothers Edmund and William, who were then in the Tower, was excepted from the general pardon granted at the accession of Henry VIII, and in 1512, when England and France were at war, Louis XII recognised him as king of England, giving him a pension of six thousand crowns. Towards the close of that year he commanded a body of German landsknechts in the unsuccessful invasion of Navarre, during which his company sustained more severe losses than any other. In this campaign he and the Chevalier Bayard were warm friends, and suffered great privations together (‘Chronique de Bayard,’ p. 102, in Buchon). In the spring of 1513, when his brother Edmund was put to death in England, he assumed the title of Duke of Suffolk, and became an avowed claimant of the crown of England. Though his pretensions were not formidable, discharged soldiers of the garrison of Tournay (then in English hands) threatened to join him (Cal. Henry VIII, vol. ii. Nos. 325–6). It was reported, too, in Spain that he had been given the command of a French fleet. Later in the year he led a company of six thousand men against the English at the siege of Thérouanne. In 1514 Louis gave him twelve thousand landsknechts ‘to keep Normandy, and also to enter into England and to conquer the same’ (Hall, Chronicle, p. 568, ed. Ellis). He conducted them to St. Malo in Brittany, to embark, it was supposed, for Scotland. Their behaviour in France had been so riotous that the people were glad to get rid of them. But peace was concluded with England before their departure. Henry VIII had insisted on Richard’s surrender. To that Louis would not consent, but he desired Richard to leave France, and gave him letters to the municipal authorities of Metz in Lorraine (an imperial city), requesting them to give him a good reception. He entered Metz on 2 Sept. 1514, with a company of sixty horsemen and a guard of honour given him by the Duke of Lorraine. The town gave him a present of wine and oats for his horses, with a temporary safe-conduct renewable at convenience.

When Louis XII died (1 Jan. 1515), Francis I continued Pole’s allowance, and he remained for some years at Metz. English ambassadors organised conspiracies for his capture. In February 1516 an Englishman who had been arrested confessed that he had been sent by Henry VIII to kill him. During a visit to Francis I at Lyons in March he obtained, it would seem, a distinct promise from the French king to support his title to the crown of England at a convenient opportunity (Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Nos. 1711, 1973, 2113). In the summer he paid a visit to Robert de la Marck at Florange. On Christmas day he again left Metz secretly, along with the Duke of Gueldres, who had come thither in disguise. Proceeding to Paris, he visited the French king by night. He returned to Metz on 17 Feb. 1516–17. Spies employed by England tried hard to discover his plans. Between June and August, accompanied by several young gentlemen of Metz, he paid visits to Milan and Venice.

Early in 1518 there were rumours that Francis I was about to send him into England to dispute Henry’s title to the throne. But between 8 May and 24 Oct. he spent most of his time in Lombardy. Although peace was made between England and France on 2 Oct., it was reported to Wolsey that Francis favoured ‘White Rose,’ as Pole was called, more than ever, and had augmented his stipend.

Pole had hitherto resided in Metz in a fine pleasure-house named Passe Temps, which a chevalier named Claude Baudoiche had lent him. In February 1519 the owner desired to resume possession. Thereupon the chapter of Metz gave him for life a mansion called La Haulte-Pierre, near St. Simphorien, at a low rent on his undertaking to rebuild it. This he did in magnificent style. His tastes were luxurious, and he initiated horse-racing at Metz; but after losing money in the pastime he gave it up.

After the death of the Emperor Maximilian, in January 1519, Francis I sent Pole to Prague to influence Louis, the young king of Bohemia, and his tutor Sigismund, king of Portugal, in favour of his candidature for the imperial crown (Colbert MS. 385 in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris). In September some disturbances caused by an intrigue which he had carried on with a citizen’s wife led him to leave Metz for Toul, whither his paramour escaped after him. There he remained during the next three years—in the house of the cardinal of Lorraine. His company of landsknechts was dismissed.

In 1522, when England and France were again at war, Francis contemplated sending Pole to invade England. At the close of 1522 he was in Paris with Francis, and frequently rode through the streets. The French king showed like courtesies to John Stewart, duke of Albany [q. v.], the regent of Scotland, who was arranging an attack on England from the north. In 1523 Pole and Albany went to Brittany to make preparations for a joint invasion of England. They left the French coast together, and Albany reached Scotland at the end of September, when he announced that he had parted at sea on Monday (21 Sept.) with his ‘cousin, the Duke of Suffolk,’ who was about to carry out an invasion of England. Nothing further is recorded of Pole’s movements, and the invasion did not take place.

In the spring of 1524 he served in the campaign in Picardy, and writing to Louise of Savoy, the mother of Francis I, from the camp near Thérouanne, he declared that all he had in the world was owing to her. On 24 Feb. 1525 he was killed, fighting by the French king’s side, at the battle of Pavia. In a picture of the battle, preserved at the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, his lifeless body is represented in the thick of the combat with the inscription ‘Le Duc de Susfoc dit Blance Rose.’ When the news of his death reached Metz, the cathedral chapter ordered an anniversary celebration for his soul. [Hall’s Chronicle; Dugdale’s Baronage; Sandford’s Genealogical History; Napier’s Swyncombe and Ewelme; Letters and Papers of Richard III and Henry VII (Rolls Ser.); Ellis’s Letters, 3rd ser. vol. i.; Calendars, Venetian, vols. i. and ii., Henry VIII, vols. i–iv.; Busch’s England unter den Tudors, vol. i.; Journal of Philippe de Vigneulles, in Bibliothek des literarischen Vereins in Stuttgart, vol. xxiv. A pamphlet by F. des Robert (Un pensionnaire des Rois de France à Metz), published at Nancy in 1878, is full of inaccuracies, but of some value in local matters.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46
Pole, Richard de la by James Gairdner

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