Am I alone in always having imagined that John de la Pole’s wife, Margaret Fitzalan, Countess of Lincoln, was a woman of childbearing age? Somehow I just took it as read, and thus that their apparent lack of heirs was a nasty trick of nature.
Chance caused me to check for more information about this daughter of Thomas Fitzalan, 12th/17th Earl of Arundel and his wife Margaret Woodville.
Given Lincoln’s staunch support of Richard III, I can’t help wondering how he felt about his wife’s strong Woodville connection. Oh, he probably didn’t care. After all, the prolific Woodvilles had managed to marry into half the noble families in the realm. In fact, we don’t know anything at all about Lincoln’s attitude to his marriage or his wife. He is Sir Enigmatic de la Pole when it comes to that.
What we know of Margaret is that her father bequeathed her a ‘great ring with a turquoise’, and that she died in 1493, apparently never having remarried. (Horrox in ODNB states that Margaret lived until 1524.) We also know, or it seems generally accepted, that she was born in 1475. Now then, if this last point is true, then she was still only 10 at the time of Bosworth, and 12 when Lincoln was killed at Stoke Field. Suddenly the barrenness of the marriage takes on a different hue. There were no children because the bride was too young to consummate the match, and her husband died before she was the accepted age for such to take place.
Now we come to the myths. Well, fake news, as the present saying goes. Maybe they’re not as important as the untruths attached to Richard III, but certainly they’re the sort of thing that worm their way into history as fact.
I will begin with the son that Lincoln and Margaret are supposed to have had, but who died very young. His name was Edward de la Pole, we’re told. Well, even if he had been born posthumously, I still cannot accept that it could have happened. Was Lincoln no better than King John, Henry IV and Edmund Tudor? Did he bed his little bride before she was fully developed? No, I do not think so. Richard III wouldn’t have had any of that! Even if Lincoln himself was ready to do it, which I doubt very much indeed. In fact, I do not think Lincoln and his wife would have seen anything much of each other until her sexual majority, by which time Lincoln was dead at the age of 25 maximum, probably only 23. She would still have been at home with her Fitzalan family. Perhaps at Arundel Castle itself.
As for the suggested son, the only Edward de la Pole I can find was Lincoln’s brother, who became Archdeacon of Richmond. He lived 1466–1485, so was born nine years before Margaret Fitzalan. A non-starter. He was Lincoln’s sibling, not offspring.
All of which makes the suggestion of Lincoln and Margaret having a daughter as well even less likely. The daughter was (we are told) another Margaret, who went on to marry Sir John Hardy, Senior, and had a son, John Hardy, Junior, who became Mayor of London. https://www.geni.com/people/Sir-John-Hardy-Jr-Lord-Mayor-of-London/6000000001444501215 I can’t say this site is gospel, of course. Anyway, this new Margaret is identified as the daughter of Lincoln and Margaret Fitzalan, and was (wait for it!) born in 1490. Really? Well, she might have been Margaret’s, because Margaret could indeed have lived on until 1524. But a child born in 1490 could not have been Lincoln’s because he definitely died in 1487.
Another curiosity that has crept into the records is that Lincoln himself married twice, his second bride being the daughter and heir of Sir John Golafre. Again, it’s impossible. Lincoln’s first wife lived for at least six years after his demise, so how he managed to take a second bride I do not know. There’s no record of an annulment or any such thing (that I can find), nor can I trace this new bride’s Christian name, or which Sir John Golafre it could possibly be, as the last one appears to have died in 1442! This would make any daughter of his a little too old to marry Lincoln and present him with children. She would have been at least 43 in 1485, and in those days surely coming to the end of her childbearing days.
This Sir John Golafre married a few times. One wife was Margaret, the daughter of Sir John Heveningham, and widow of Sir Walter de la Pole of Dernford in Sawston, Cambs. Another was Elizabeth Bruyn, the widowed cousin of Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk. So there are definitely connections between the de la Poles and Golafres, but not with our Earl of Lincoln.
All of which makes me wonder and regret that Lincoln married Margaret. He was the son and heir of the 2nd Duke of Suffolk and Elizabeth of York (Richard’s sister), and most probably Richard’s intended heir as well, but with such a young bride, it was impossible for him to father legitimate children until she was old enough. We don’t know exactly when the marriage took place, but he was always heir to the dukedom of Suffolk, if not of Richard. Oh well, these political matches are a tangle, and presumably it was very advantageous indeed for Lincoln to be united with a daughter of the Earl of Arundel.
Whatever the reason/s, it resulted in Lincoln, like Richard himself, dying without legitimate issue.
Aha, but did it? Maybe all the above is wrong. There is an interesting article about Lincoln in Volume XIII (2003) of The Ricardian. It is by Wendy Moorhen, and considers the earl’s life and career in general, but also his marriage. She states that Margaret Fitzalan was indeed his wife, but makes no mention of Margaret’s youthfulness. She too mentions the great ring with a turquoise, which her father bequeathed to his daughter, Lady Lincoln, in 1524.
The thing of particular significance to me, with regard to my present article, is a suggestion that Lincoln’s youngest brother, Richard de la Pole, was in fact his son. The concealing of this fact was due, it is suggested to protect an infant or posthumous son of an attainted traitor. It would seem that Richard’s career tends to give credence to this tale. It would also raise the question about the mysterious son Edward, some sources claim was born to Lincoln and Margaret, but who died young. Perhaps he didn’t die at all, but merely had his name changed.
He was born in 1480, as far as I can discover, which means when Lincoln himself was somewhere between 14 and 16, depending on whether his year of birth was 1462 or 1464. This means that Margaret Fitzalan was only around five – totally ridiculous, of course. So if Richard de la Pole was Lincoln’s son, he was surely born on the wrong side of the blanket.
Yet Richard was to lay claim to the dukedom of Suffolk, become known as the White Rose, and be fêted by Louis XII as the king of England. This, in spite of older brothers still alive. This could be explained if he was indeed Lincoln’s son, and therefore of the senior line. But if he was illegitimate. . .? The French would enjoy mischief-making, of course, yet there was a very strong suggestion about Richard de la Pole’s true lineage being through the Earl of Lincoln, and therefore one generation removed from the 2nd Duke of Suffolk,.
But there is cause to wonder if Margaret Fitzalan wasn’t a mere five but 14 in 1480, when Richard de la Pole was born. It is possible. The 17th Earl of Arundel’s marriage to Margaret Woodville took place “shortly before 17th February 1466″, which means that the earliest a child could have been born to them was around November of that year. The earl’s successor, the 18th earl, was born in 1476. Apart from him and Margaret Fitzalan, there were another brother and sister, Edward and Joan, whose dates of birth I have not been able to ascertain. If Margaret was that first child, born around November 1466, she would of course, have been old enough to consummate her marriage to Lincoln, and bear him children. But the earlier date of 1475 seems fairly fixed in place for her.
Had she been 21 or so at the time of Lincoln’s death at East Stoke, everything would change of course. She might indeed have given birth to Richard de la Pole, who would thus be legitimate. There are so many mysteries surrounding the enigmatic Earl of Lincoln, who has left a tantalisingly brief trail through his short period of history. Brief, but filled with intriguing questions about his marriage and possible offspring.