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Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, stained glass window at St Andrew's Church at Wimpole

William de Ufford, Second Earl of Suffolk (1339?-1382)

WILLIAM DE UFFORD, second Earl or Suffolk of his house (1339?-1382), was the second but eldest surviving son of Robert de Ufford, earl of Suffolk, and of his wife, Margaret Norwich. He was born about 1339.

His elder brother Robert's death made him heir to estates and earldom, and his father's advanced age brought him prominently forward, even before he succeeded to the title. On 3 Dec. 1364 he was summoned as a baron to the House of Lords during his father's lifetime. On 10 Feb. 1367 he was appointed joint commissioner of array in Suffolk, and in the same year received license to travel beyond sea. He was often engaged in local public work.

On 4 Nov. 1369 he succeeded, on his father's death, to the earldom of Suffolk. He served in 1370 against the French along with the Earl of Warwick.1 On 12 June 1371 he was put at the head of the surveyors of a subsidy for the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and on 25 Oct. 1371 he was appointed chief warden of the ports and coasts of the same shires.2 His appointment was renewed when a different commission for this purpose was made out on 10 May 1373.3

In August 1372 he was summoned to serve in the abortive expedition which Edward III proposed to lead in person to the relief of Thouars.4 In the summer of 1373 Suffolk accompanied John of Gaunt on his long and fruitless foray that started from Calais and finally reached Bordeaux, whence he returned next year in April to England along with the Duke of Lancaster.5 A year later, in July 1375, he was made knight of the Garter.

In the Good parliament, which met in April 1376, Suffolk, though so constantly associated with John of Gaunt abroad, attached himself strongly to the constitutional party headed by Bishop Courtenay and the Earl of March, and inspired by Edward, prince of Wales. He was one of the four earls added to the committee of barons and bishops which held conference with the commons before the houses joined in granting a subsidy.6

After the death of the Prince of Wales and the break up of the parliament it was still thought worthwhile to detach Suffolk from his associates, and on 16 July he received the important appointment of admiral of the north.7 However, his deprivation of that office so early as 24 Nov., in favour of the courtier Michael de la Pole, suggests that he could not be relied upon by John of Gaunt and the ruling clique. Yet Suffolk was still enough in favour to be appointed on 29 April 1377, just before the old king's death, chief commissioner of array for Norfolk and Suffolk.8

At the coronation of Richard II on 16 July 1377 Suffolk acted as bearer of the sceptre and cross. The policy of forgetting the factions of the last reign insured him frequent employment during the next few years, and the patent rolls of the young king contain abundant evidence of his constant activity in local commissions and similar business in Norfolk and Suffolk.

In 1377 and in 1378 he was again fighting the French. On 18 June 1378 he received letters of attorney,9 and followed Lancaster to Brittany, taking part in the siege of Saint-Malo in November of that year,10 while a patent of 16 June 1378 refers to his share in 'the late engagement at sea'.11 He transferred himself to Scotland when Lancaster was made lieutenant of the Scottish march, and on 6 Sept. 1380 he was one of the commissioners appointed to compose differences and give satisfaction for injuries arising out of the breach of the truce.12

Suffolk played a prominent part with reference to the peasants' revolt of 1381. When Geoffrey (wrongly called John) Litster rose in revolt at North Walsham, and marched on 17 June towards Norwich, Suffolk was staying at one of his Norfolk manors, probably Costessey, which is very near the line of march and about four miles from Norwich. He was so popular with the commons that they formed the design to seize him and put him at their head.

Suffolk was at supper when he first learnt the sudden approach of the rebels. He rose at once from table and succeeded in effecting his escape. He disguised himself as the squire of Sir Roger de Boys, a friend who was afterwards his executor, and, avoiding the highways, he rode as hard as he could to St. Albans, whence he joined the king in London.13 The rebels at once turned towards Norwich, whereupon the affrighted citizens sent four of their number to Suffolk, asking for his advice and guidance. But the earl had already fled the county.

In the troubles that followed Suffolk was not spared. On 21 June the rebels destroyed his title-deeds at his manor of Burgh,14 while on 28 June the Suffolk insurgents burnt his title-deeds and court rolls at his manors of Hollesley and Bawdsey, near Ipswich. Before this, however, Suffolk was back in East Anglia. The king commissioned him, with Bishop Despenser and others, to suppress the eastern revolts. Suffolk lost no time, and as early as 23 June he was at Bury, attended by a force of five hundred lances. Suffolk's first work was to remove the heads of Chief-justice Cavendish and the prior of Bury, which the rebels had set up over the pillory.

But the revolt was already checked, and the trials of the rebels began at once. After three days at Bury, Suffolk removed to Mildenhall, where he also held trials on 27 June. In the days that followed he was occupied in the same work at other Suffolk towns, and on 9 July was holding inquests at Horning in Norfolk.15 On 29 July he was again holding trials at Bury.16 In all he held nineteen inquests, and at Bury alone 104 rebels were accused. Suffolk and three others were commissioned on 22 July to array the king's lieges against the rebels.17 However, on 18 July Suffolk and his colleagues had already been ordered to suspend their processes,18 and on 19 Aug. the command was renewed in a more general and peremptory form.19 On 14 Dec. he received a further commission to put down unlawful meetings and riots.20 Sixteen rebels at least were executed in Suffolk, and still more in Norfolk.

On the breaking out of a fierce quarrel between John of Gaunt and his former ally, Henry Percy, first earl of Northumberland, Suffolk attended the council at Berkhampstead in which the duke brought his charges against the earl, and, on the latter being ordered under arrest, Suffolk joined with Warwick in acting as his surety.21 Northumberland now became the favourite of the London mob, and Suffolk won back his old popularity. In the parliament that met on 3 Nov. he was again strenuous on the popular side, and towards the end of its sittings he was chosen to express the opinions of the commons to the lords.

On 13 Feb. 1382 he died suddenly at Westminster Hall.22 He was buried at Campsey Priory, 'behind the tomb of my honourable father and mother.' His will, dated 12 June 1381, was proved at Lambeth on 24 Feb. 1382. It is summarised in Nicolas's 'Testamenta Vetusta'.23 To his father's estates he added in 1380 those of the Norwiches from his mother, including Mettingham Castle, near Bungay. Suffolk is praised by Walsingham for the amiability which he showed to all throughout his whole life.24 This is no conventional form of eulogy, for no one among his contemporaries made himself so universally beloved by different parties. Though the champion of the commons in 1376 and 1382, he remained the friend and companion in arms of the unpopular John of Gaunt. The revolted villeins of Norfolk and the substantial citizens of Norwich alike looked up to him as their natural leader, and even his vigour in suppressing the revolt in Suffolk does not seem to have destroyed his popularity. His premature death was a real loss to England.

Suffolk was twice married. His first wife was Joan, daughter and coheiress of Edward, lord Montacute, and of his wife Alice, the daughter of Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk. They were married before July 1361, when Joan was twelve and Ufford twenty-two. By her Suffolk had four sons: Thomas, Robert, William, and Edmund. The eldest, Thomas Ufford, had license on 28 Oct. 1371 to marry Eleanor, daughter of Richard Fitzalan (afterwards Earl of Arundel). He died, however, before 1374, when still a mere boy, and his three brothers, all then living, also died within a year of that time. Their mother, Joan, died in 1375, without surviving issue, and was buried at Campsey.

About a year later Suffolk married Isabella, widow of John le Strange of Blackmere, and fifth daughter of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1369), and sister therefore of his political associate, Thomas de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick. By her he had no issue. His widow became a nun a few weeks after his death, and, surviving him twenty-five years, died in 1416, and was buried at Campsey.25 The earldom of Suffolk thus became extinct, and the somewhat hypothetical barony of Ufford fell into abeyance, according to the doctrine of later times. The coheirs were Suffolk's three nephews—sons of his three sisters, who married—and his surviving sister, Maud de Ufford, a canoness of Campsey. The large estates conferred on the male line of the Uffords to uphold the dignity of the earldom escheated to the crown, and were mostly re-granted in 1385 to Michael de la Pole on his creation in that year as Earl of Suffolk.

1. Fœdera, iii. 895.
2. ib. iii. 925.
3. ib. iii. 976.
4. Froissart, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, viii. 208.
5. ib. viii. 280-5, 321.
6. Chronicon Angliæ, 1328-88, pp. 69-70; cf. Rotuli Parliamentorum ii. 322.
7. Fœdera, iii. 1057.
8. Doyle, Baronage, iii. 432.
9. Fœdera, iv. 45.
10. Froissart, ix. 64.
11. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1377-81, p. 4.
12. Fœdera, iv. 96.
13. Walsingham, Historia Anglicana, ii. 5; Chron. Angliæ, p. 305.
14. Réville, Le Soulèvement des Travailleurs d'Angleterre, p. 114.
15. Powell, East-Anglian Rising of 1381 (1896), p. 131.
16. ib. p.l27.
17. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1381-5, p. 74.
18. Fœdera, iv. 128.
19. Réville, p. 158.
20. Cal. Pat. Rolls, 1381-5, p. 84.
21. Walsingham, ii. 44; Chron. Angliæ, p. 329.
22. Walsingham, ii. 48; Chron. Angliæ, p. 333: Monk Of Evesham, p. 35.
23. Nicolas, Testamenta Vetusta pp. 114-115.
24. Hist. Angl. ii. 49.
25. G. E. Cokayne, Complete Peerage, vii. 302-3.

      Excerpted from:

      Tout, T. F. "Robert de Ufford, First Earl of Suffolk."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. LVIII. Sidney Lee, ed.
      New York: The Macmillan Co., 1899. 13-15.

Other Local Resources:

Books for further study:

Rogers, Clifford J. The Wars of Edward III: Sources and Interpretations.
            Boydell Press, 2000.

Seward, Desmond. The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453.
           Penguin, 1999.

Waugh, Scott L. England in the Reign of Edward III.
            Cambridge University Press, 2007.

William de Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, on the Web:

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