POLE, Sir Walter de la (1371-1434), of Dernford in Sawston, Cambs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. Nov. 1371,1 s. and h. of Sir Edmund de la Pole* by his 2nd w.; nephew of Michael, 1st earl of Suffolk. m. (1) bef. Nov. 1387, Elizabeth (19 Oct. 1373-5 Jan. 1428), da. and h. of Thomas Bradestone of Bradestone in Berkeley, Glos. by Ella (d.1410), da. of Sir John St. Loe, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) between Jan. and May. 1428, Margaret (d.1472/3), da. of Sir John Heveningham*. Kntd. between Nov. 1387 and Aug. 1389.

Offices Held

Constable of Ire. 10 June 1407-c. Mar. 1413.2

Commr. of inquiry, Cambs. July 1413, July 1422, June 1423 (repairs to the great bridge at Cambridge), May 1415 (counterfeiting), Dec. 1420 (concealments); array Mar. 1419; to raise royal loans Nov. 1419; determine an appeal from the admiral’s ct. Dec. 1423; of oyer and terminer, Cambs. Nov. 1429; to assess liability to contribute to a tax Apr. 1431.

J.p. Cambridge 18 May 1414-Oct. 1415, Cambs. 24 Feb. 1419-July 1423, 12 Feb. 1425-9, Dec. 1431-d.

Sheriff, Cambs. and Hunts. 10 Nov. 1417-4 Nov. 1418, 13 Nov. 1423-6 Nov. 1424, 4 Nov. 1428-10 Feb. 1430.

Envoy to Wladislas II, king of Poland, and the High Master of the Order of Teutonic Knights 19 June-26 Sept. 1419, to Emperor Sigismund 24 July-10 Nov. 1421, to the bps. of Treves, Cologne and Mayence, Ludwig, elector of Bavaria, Henry, duke of Bavaria, and Emperor Sigismund 3 Mar.-25 Sept. 1422, to Alphonso V, king of Aragon, and Pope Martin V 20 July 1425-24 Feb. 1426, to the duke of Brittany 10-24 May 1432, and to treat with Breton ambassadors 24 Mar. 1433.


Born to Sir Edmund de la Pole’s second wife, Walter had no claim to the former Handlo estates inherited by his half-sisters, but his father made sure that he would be well provided for by settling on him between 1373 and 1376, while he was still a young child, the Cambridgeshire manors of Sawston and Trumpington, as well as lands and rents at Babraham, Pampisford and Meldreth. Accordingly, Walter held these jointly with his parents until his mother’s death in 1393, and thereafter in conjunction with his father, with whom he also shared ownership of the London property Sir Edmund had acquired. In his later years Sir Edmund lived mainly on the rents of the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire estates which he held ‘by the courtesy’ following his first wife’s death, and apparently allowed his son to have all the profits of the Cambridgeshire properties, which according to the assessments of 1412 then provided Sir Walter with a net income of £73 a year. The family seat at Dernford, along with full possession of the Cambridgeshire and London holdings, passed to the latter on his aged father’s death in 1419, when he himself was 48.3 For over 30 years before that date, however, he had enjoyed tenure of the estates of his first wife, Elizabeth Bradestone, to whom he had been married when a youth of about 16. The great-grand daughter of Thomas, Lord Bradestone (d.1360), Elizabeth had become heir to his lands on the death of her father in 1374, when she was just a few months old. Having made proof of age in 1387, she and Walter received seisin of the manors of Aveley (Essex), Shalford (Surrey), Kinsham (Worcestershire), Eversley (Hampshire) and Luckington (Wiltshire), and a few years later they successfully challenged the Crown and the bishop of London for the rights of advowson to the church of St. Mary Somerset in London. The four Gloucestershire manors of Elizabeth’s inheritance remained for some time in the keeping of her mother, Ella, who had married Richard, 4th Lord St. Maur, but before her death in 1410 Ella relinquished them to the de la Poles. In 1412 the Bradestone estates (with the exception of those in Worcestershire and London, for which information is lacking) were estimated to be worth £92 a year clear. So, by the time of Sir Walter’s first return to Parliament his total income from land must have exceeded £165 p.a.4

Although de la Pole was knighted before he was 18 years of age, his first known military service was as a member of the army which spent from September 1394 until April 1395 in Ireland under the personal command of Richard II. One of those he had asked to act as his attorneys during his absence was Robert James* of Wallingford, the husband of his half-sister, Katherine. He sailed back to Ireland on the King’s last expedition there, in the late spring of 1399, and seemingly made good use of his experience of Irish warfare, for although he was not appointed to royal commissions of any sort at home during Henry IV’s reign he was called on for military duties in the province. The substantial recognizances to which he was a party in March 1406 were probably connected with preparations for a major expedition to Ireland in the train of the lieutenant, Thomas of Lancaster; certainly, several others of those also named were due to accompany Lancaster, and it was with one of them—Sir Stephen Scrope, the prince’s deputy lieutenant—that he crossed the Irish Sea that autumn. In June 1407 he was promoted to the post of constable of Ireland. How long he remained overseas is unclear, although he evidently returned home before July 1410. Elected to Parliament for the first time in 1411, when Henry IV, under the influence of Archbishop Arundel and Thomas of Lancaster, re-asserted his authority against the prince of Wales and his allies the Beauforts, he no doubt inclined to the former party. His attachment to Prince Thomas is clear enough: in the following summer of 1412, when Thomas, newly created duke of Clarence, led a force into Normandy and Guienne in the Orléanist interest, Sir Walter enlisted as a leading member of his retinue.5

The reign of Henry V saw a much greater use made by the Crown of de la Pole’s abilities in the sphere of local administration at home in Cambridgeshire, and it was some time before he travelled overseas again. He did not participate in the King’s military enterprises in France, although the de la Pole family was well represented on the expedition of 1415 by Sir Walter’s son, Edmund (b.1391), who fought at Agincourt and later held offices in Bordeaux, and, more conspicuously, by his cousin, Michael, 2nd earl of Suffolk, and the latter’s son and heir. Up to that time the earl had not involved Sir Walter in the complicated legal transactions necessary for the recovery and settlement of his estates (matters which had preoccupied his father, Sir Edmund, for many years); yet on 1 July 1415 he named him among the executors of his will. Following the earl’s death of disease at Harfleur and that of his son, Michael, the 3rd earl, at Agincourt, Sir Walter was made a trustee of the lands which the latter’s widow, Elizabeth (Mowbray), held as dower, and he was called on to assist in her property transactions subsequently. In 1417 he also became a feoffee of the estates of Thomas, Lord Berkeley, the overlord of certain of his wife’s holdings in Gloucestershire, yet somehow managed to avoid involvement in the subsequent acrimonious disputes between Berkeley’s son-in-law, the earl of Warwick, and his nephew, James, the new lord.6

De la Pole’s skill in negotiation was put to the test by Henry V in the last three years of his reign in embassies to central Europe and western Germany. In 1419 he was sent on a mission to Poland with the aim of securing some measure of stability in the Baltic between King Wladislas and the Teutonic Knights, in order to leave the Emperor Sigismund, who supported the Knights, free to implement his promises to Henry V under the treaty of Canterbury (1416). Sir Walter’s father died during his absence; his fealty was taken in October 1419, but homage was deferred until after the King’s return to England in February 1421. Subsequently, on 17 May, while a Member of the Commons, de la Pole was appointed as ambassador to the Emperor himself. Specifically, the embassy was to discuss Sigismund’s grant to King Henry and his heirs of Dauphiné and all other lands the Emperor claimed in Languedoc, and in July, shortly before the envoys departed, their terms of reference were enlarged by an instruction to reach agreement about certain loans made by the King to Sigismund on the security of the duchy of Luxembourg. De la Pole was not of the party which reported the outcome of the mission to Henry V at Meaux on 29 Nov., for he had returned to London three weeks earlier. Then, two months after his return, he was assigned to accompany another embassy, sent first to seek military assistance from the Rhenish bishops and the Wittelsbachs, and then to request Sigismund to ‘come and do the King succorse after his many promesses and often tymes wryting’. Departure was delayed until March 1422, and by the time the envoys came home in September Henry V was dead. Sir Walter was returned to the first Parliament of the new reign.7

In February 1423 Henry VI’s council ordered the Exchequer to account with de la Pole for the sum of £44 13s.2d. owing to him for his last embassy, and it was then that he was nominated as a member of the English delegation to the impending General Council of the Church at Pavia. (In the event the personnel of the embassy was changed, and he did not go.) In May he petitioned the Council for more than £217 still due to him for his various diplomatic services under the late King. Re-elected to Parliament that autumn, on 21 Nov. he was one of a delegation of five shire knights sent by the Lower House to the duke of Gloucester and the rest of the Lords, to assure them of the gratitude of the Commons for having been kept informed of the progress of negotiations with the Scottish ambassadors, and of their conviction that the projected release of King James I of Scotland and his marriage with Bishop Beaufort’s niece would prove ‘bones et profitables’ for England. In 1425-6 Sir Walter was a member of an embassy to Pope Martin V (from whom he obtained on their meeting indults to have mass celebrated before daybreak and in places under interdict), and he also undertook to negotiate for an alliance with Aragon.8

During the Christmas recess of the Parliament of 1427-8 (de la Pole’s seventh and last), his wife Elizabeth died, leaving as heir to the former Bradestone estates their young grandson, Edmund Ingoldisthorpe†, son of their daughter, Margaret, who had married Sir John Ingoldisthorpe’s* son and heir. (De la Pole had acted as an executor for Sir John’s widow a few years earlier.) Sir John (now Lord) Sir John Tiptoft* had enjoyed an interest in the boy’s wardship for some time, since Edmund had already become the heir of the Ingoldisthorpe estates, and it was now arranged that the, youth should marry one of his daughters.9 The King’s Council, of which Tiptoft was a leading member, found further employment for de la Pole in 1432 in conducting diplomatic negotiations with Duke John V of Brittany, and in the following year he was assigned to treat with envoys from the duke for the establishment of a secure peace and the restitution of all illegally captured vessels and merchandise. On 24 Apr. 1434 Sir Walter was present at a great council at Westminster to which nearly 40 prominent knights and esquires had been summoned, to hear Gloucester’s proposal to take charge of the war in France. Shortly afterwards he headed the list of men from Cambridgeshire required to take the generally administered oath against maintenance of those who broke the King’s peace.10

De la Pole died on 2 July 1434, leaving as his heir his grandson, Edmund Ingoldisthorpe, still a minor. Six years earlier, Sir Walter had married again, and had settled his manors at Sawston and Trumpington on his new wife, Margaret. The favourite daughter of Sir John Heveningham (who had left her 300 marks for her marriage as well as an annuity of £10 for life), she long outlived not only de la Pole and his grandson, but also her second husband, John Golafre* of Fyfield (whose first wife had been Sir Walter’s half-sister, Elizabeth). In 1466 Margaret obtained from Edward IV a grant for life of certain franchises relating to the Cambridgeshire estates. Her will, dated 15 May 1472, in which she requested burial in Bermondsey abbey, made no mention of de la Pole, who by then had been dead nearly 40 years.11

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Authors: J. S. Roskell / L. S. Woodger


  • 1. H.A. Napier, Swyncombe and Ewelme, 291.
  • 2. Rot. Pat. et Claus. Hib. ed. Tresham, 185.
  • 3. CPR, 1370-4, p. 285; 1374-7, p. 360; VCH Cambs. viii. 85; Feudal Aids, vi. 406; CFR, xiv. 310-11; CCR, 1419-22, p. 19; C138/41/63.
  • 4. CP, ii. 273; xi. 360-1; CIPM, xiv. 10; xvi. 796-7; CFR, x. 204; CCR, 1385-9, p. 356; 1389-92, p. 13; 1409-13, p. 134; CPR, 1391-6, pp. 696-7; Peds. Plea Rolls ed. Wrottesley, 204; C137/78/33; Feudal Aids, vi. 439, 452, 518, 538; C115/K2/6682, f. 39.
  • 5. CPR, 1391-6, pp. 471-2, 494; 1396-9, pp. 550, 552; 1405-8, p. 248; E101/402/20, f. 35; CCR, 1405-9, pp. 111-12, 117, 128; 1409-13, pp. 168-9, 287; Napier, 292.
  • 6. Rot. Gasc. et Franc. ed. Carte, i. 199, 209; Reg. Chichele, ii. 59; CPR, 1413-16, pp. 402-3; 1422-9, p. 163; Cat. Muns. Berkeley Castle ed. Jeayes, 182.
  • 7. E364/52 m. D, 55 m. D, 56 m. D; DKR, xliv. 611, 629, 632-3; Issues ed. Devon, 359; CCR, 1419-22, pp. 142-3; J.H. Wylie, Hen. V, iii. 359-60.
  • 8. PPC, iii. 29-30, 42, 97-98; RP, iv. 199; DKR, xlviii. 237-8; CCR, 1422-9, pp. 172-3; E364/59 m. E; CPL, vii. 418.
  • 9. Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xlii. 45; C139/41/59; Test. Vetusta ed. Nicolas, 204; CFR, xv. 277.
  • 10. J. Ferguson, Eng. Diplomacy, 197; Foedera ed. Rymer (orig. edn.), x. 546; PPC, iv. 212; CPR, 1429-36, p. 385.
  • 11. C139/64/33; CPL, viii. 188; CPR, 1429-36, pp. 333, 465; 1461-7, p. 525; VCH Cambs. vi. 249-50; CCR, 1441-7, p. 225; PCC 12 Wattys.