Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Poynings, Edward
POYNINGS, Sir EDWARD (1459–1521), lord deputy of Ireland, only son of Robert Poynings [see under Poynings, Michael de], and his wife, Elizabeth, only daughter of William Paston (1378–1444) [q. v.], was born towards the end of 1459, probably at his father's house in Southwark, which afterwards became famous as the Crosskeys tavern, and then as the Queen's Head (cf. Rendle and Norman, Inns of Old Southwark, p. 204). His father had been carver and sword-bearer to Jack Cade, and was killed at the second battle of St. Albans on 17 Feb. 1461 (Archæol. Cant. vii. 243–4); his mother, who was born on 1 July 1429, and married Poynings in December 1459, inherited her husband's property in Kent, in spite of opposition from her brother-in-law, Edward Poynings, master of Arundel College; before 1472 she married a second husband, Sir George Browne of Betchworth, Surrey, by whom she had a son Matthew and a daughter. She died in 1487, appointing Edward her executor. Some of her correspondence is included in the ‘Paston Letters.’
Poynings was brought up by his mother; in October 1483 he was a leader of the rising in Kent planned to second Buckingham's insurrection against Richard III. He was named in the king's proclamation, but escaped abroad, and adopted the cause of Henry, earl of Richmond. He was in Brittany in October 1484 (Polydore Vergil, p. 208; Busch, i. 17), and in August 1485 he landed with Henry at Milford Haven. He was at once made a knight banneret, and in the same year he was sworn of the privy council. In 1488 he was on a commission to inspect the ordnance at Calais, and in 1491 was made a knight of the Garter. In the following year he was placed in command of fifteen hundred men sent to aid Maximilian against his revolted subjects in the Netherlands. The rebels, under the leadership of Ravenstein, held Bruges, Damme, and Sluys, where they fitted out ships to prey on English commerce. Poynings first cleared the sea of the privateers, and then laid siege to Sluys in August, while the Duke of Saxony blockaded it on land. After some hard fighting the two castles defending the town were taken, and the rebels entered into negotiations with Poynings to return to their allegiance. Poynings thereupon joined Henry VII before Boulogne, but the French war was closed almost without bloodshed by the treaty of Etaples on 3 Nov. In 1493 Poynings was acting as deputy or governor of Calais; in July he was sent with Warham on a mission to Duke Philip to procure Warbeck's expulsion from Burgundy, where he had been welcomed by the dowager duchess Margaret; the envoys obtained from Philip a promise that he would abstain from affording aid to Warbeck, but the duke asserted that he could not control the actions of the duchess, who was the real ruler of the country.
Meanwhile Henry had become dissatisfied with the state of affairs in Ireland; it had always been a Yorkist stronghold, and here Simnel and Warbeck found their most effective support. The struggles between the Butlers and Geraldines had reduced royal authority to a shadow even within the Pale, and Gerald Fitzgerald, eighth earl of Kildare [q. v.], the head of the latter faction, who had long been lord deputy, was in treasonable relations with Warbeck. Henry now resolved to complete the subjection of Ireland; he appointed his second son, afterwards Henry VIII, as viceroy, and made Poynings the prince's deputy. The latter landed at Howth on 13 Oct. 1494 with a thousand men; it was part of the scheme to fill the chief Irish offices with Englishmen, and Poynings was accompanied by Henry Deane [q. v.], bishop of Bangor, as chancellor, Hugh Conway as treasurer, and three others, who were to be placed respectively over the king's bench, common pleas, and exchequer. Poynings's first measure was an expedition into Ulster, in conjunction with Kildare, to punish O'Donnell, O'Hanlon, Magennis, and other chieftains who had abetted Warbeck's first invasion of Ireland; he is said to have done great execution upon the Irish; but his progress was stopped by the news that Kildare was plotting with O'Hanlon against his life; some colour was given to the charge by the revolt of Kildare's brother James, who seized Carlow Castle, mounted the Geraldine banner, and refused to surrender when summoned in the king's name. Poynings abandoned the Ulster invasion, turned south, and with some difficulty reduced Carlow; he then proceeded to Drogheda and summoned a parliament which was to prove one of the most momentous in Irish history.
It opened on 1 Dec. 1494, and, after attainting Kildare, proceeded to pass, at Poynings's instance, numerous acts all tending to make Irish administration directly dependent upon the crown and privy council. Judges and others were to hold office during pleasure, and not by patent as hitherto; the chief castles were to be put in English hands; it was made illegal to carry weapons or make private war without license, and it was declared high treason to excite the Irish to take up arms; the statutes of Kilkenny passed in 1366, forbidding marriage or intercourse between the English colonists and the Irish, and the adoption by Englishmen of Irish laws, customs, or manners, were also re-enacted. But the principal measure provided that no parliament should be summoned in Ireland except under the great seal of England, or without due notice to the English privy council, and that no acts of the Irish parliament should be valid unless previously submitted to the same body. Another act declared all laws ‘late made’ in England to be of force in Ireland, and it was subsequently decided that this provision applied to all laws passed in England before 1494. These two measures, subsequently known as ‘Poynings's Law,’ or ‘The Statutes of Drogheda,’ rendered the Irish parliament completely subordinate to that of England. A slight modification of them was introduced in Mary's reign, and during the rebellion of 1641 Charles promised their repeal; but their principle was extended by a statute passed in 1719, empowering the English parliament to legislate for Ireland, and it was not till 1782 that they were repealed, and the Irish parliament once more became independent.
While this parliament was sitting, Poynings made another expedition into Ulster, leaving a commission with his chancellor to continue, prorogue, or dissolve it as he thought fit. The Irish fled into their fastnesses, and the second expedition was even less successful than the first. Poynings now endeavoured to ensure the security of the Pale by other means; he negotiated alliances with various septs, chiefly by money payments, and strictly enforced upon the inhabitants of the Pale the duty of protecting its borders against Irish incursions. With the help of his under-treasurer, Hatteclyffe, with whom he was connected by marriage [see under Hatteclyffe, William], Poynings endeavoured to reform the finances, but the opposition of the subordinate officials largely impaired his success, and Warbeck's attack on Waterford in July 1495 interrupted the work. The lord deputy marched in person against Perkin, who blockaded Waterford with eleven ships, while Desmond, with 2,400 men, attacked it on land. The town held out for eleven days, and then, on Poynings's approach, Warbeck fled to Scotland.
According to Cox, the state of Ireland was now so quiet that the lord-deputy's presence could be dispensed with, and Poynings was thereupon recalled in January 1496. The immediate object of his administration, viz., the extirpation of the Yorkist cause in Ireland, had been attained. But Henry was disappointed that Poynings, through his system of subsidising Irish chiefs, and the partial failure of his fiscal reforms, had been unable to make Ireland pay her own way; and he now fell back on the cheaper method of governing by the help of the great Anglo-Irish families. Kildare, who had regained favour, was once more appointed deputy, and the Geraldine supremacy lasted till 1534.
After his return to England, Poynings was frequently on commission for the peace in Kent, and was occupied in the administration of the Cinque ports, of which he was appointed warden in succession to his brother-in-law, Sir William Scot, and Prince Henry. In 1500 he was present at the interview between Henry VII and the Archduke Philip at Calais, and in October 1501 was one of those appointed to meet and conduct Catherine of Arragon to London. He performed a similar office for the Flemish ambassadors who came to England in 1508 to conclude the projected marriage of Henry's daughter Mary to Prince Charles of Castile, and some time before the king's death became controller of the household. He was one of those trusty councillors who were recommended by Henry VII in his will to his son.
Poynings's offices of controller and warden of the Cinque ports were regranted him at the beginning of the new reign, and on 29 Aug. 1509 he witnessed a treaty with Scotland. In 1511 he was again on active service. In June he was placed in command of some ships and a force of fifteen hundred men, and despatched to assist Margaret of Savoy, regent of the Netherlands, in suppressing the revolt in Gelderland. He embarked at Sandwich on 18 July, reduced several towns and castles, and then proceeded to besiege Venlo. After three unsuccessful assaults the siege was raised, and Poynings, loaded with favours by Margaret and Charles, returned to England in the autumn (Hall, Chronicle, 523–4; Davies, Hist. of Holland, i. 344). He sat in the parliament summoned on 4 Feb. 1511–12, probably for some constituency in Kent, but the returns are lost. From May to November he was going from place to place in the Netherlands, negotiating a league against France (cf. Letters and Papers of Henry VIII). He was similarly employed early in 1513, and successfully terminated his labours by the formation of the ‘holy league’ on 5 April between the emperor, the pope, and the kings of England and Spain. With a retinue of five hundred men he was present at the capture of Terouenne on 22 Aug., and of Tournai on 24 Sept. Of the latter place he was made lieutenant; but he was ‘ever sickly,’ and on 20 Jan. 1513–14 William Blount, fourth lord Mountjoy [q. v.], was appointed to succeed him. But through the greater part of 1514 Poynings was in the Netherlands, engaged in diplomatic work, and perhaps assisting in the administration of Tournai, where he principally resided.
In October peace was made with France, and in February 1515 Poynings returned to England, with a pension of a thousand marks from Charles, and requested leave to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. In March he was appointed ambassador to the pope, but it does not appear that the embassy ever started; and on 7 May, with William Knight (1476–1547) [q. v.], he was once more nominated envoy to renew the league of 1505 with Prince Charles. On 14 Sept. Poynings returned to England, after four months' unsuccessful negotiation. In the same month, however, the victory of France at Marignano once more cemented the league of her enemies, and Poynings, who was re-commissioned ambassador to Charles (now king of Spain) on 21 Feb. 1516, succeeded in concluding a treaty with him on 19 April.
This was the last of Poynings's important negotiations, and henceforth he spent most of his time at his manor of Westenhanger, Kent, where he rebuilt the castle, or the Cinque ports. In June 1517 he was deciding disputes between English and French merchants at Calais, and in the same year he became chancellor of the order of the Garter. Henry also entertained the intention of making him a peer, and he is occasionally referred to as Lord Poynings, but the intention was never carried out. In 1518 he was treating for the surrender of Tournai, and in 1520 he took an important part in the proceedings at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. He was also present at Henry's meeting with Charles at Gravelines on 10 July. He died at Westenhanger in October 1521.
Poynings married Isabel or Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Scot (d. 1485), marshal of Calais, and sister of Sir William Scot, warden of the Cinque ports and sheriff of Kent (cf. Letters and Papers, passim; Weever, Funerall Mon. p. 269; Archæolog. Cant. x. 257–8). She died on 15 Aug. 1528, and was buried in Brabourne church, where she is commemorated by a brass. By her Poynings had one child, John, who predeceased him without issue. Poynings's will is printed in Nicolas's ‘Testamenta Vetusta,’ pp. 578–9. His estates passed to Henry Algernon Percy, fifth earl of Northumberland [q. v.], the grandson of Poynings's first cousin Eleanor, who married Henry, third earl of Northumberland [see under Henry, second Earl] (Letters and Papers, vol. iii. No. 3214). He had seven illegitimate children—three sons and four daughters. Of the sons, the eldest, Thomas, baron Poynings, is separately noticed. Edward, the second, became captain of the guard at Boulogne, and was slain there in 1546. Adrian, the third, was appointed lieutenant to Wyatt at Boulogne in February 1546, captain of Boulogne in the following June, and served for some years under the lord high admiral. He was knighted at the accession of Elizabeth, and in 1561 became governor of Portsmouth, where he died on 15 Feb. 1570–1. His daughter Anne married Sir George More [q. v.] of Losely. Of Sir Edward Poynings's daughters, Jane married Thomas, eighth lord Clinton, and became mother of Edward Fiennes Clinton, earl of Lincoln [q. v.][Letters and Papers of Henry VII, and Materials for the Reign of Henry VII (Rolls Ser.); Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. App. pt. i. passim; Cotton MSS. passim; Rolls of Parl.; Rymer's Fœdera, orig. edit. vols. xii. and xiii.; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Three Books of Polydore Vergil, Chron. of Calais and Rutland Papers (Camden Soc.); Hall, Fabyan, Grafton, and Holinshed's Chronicles; Bacon's Henry VII; Myles Davies's Athenæ Brit. ii. 60–1; Beltz's Memorials of the Garter; Gairdner's Richard III, p. 398, and Henry VII (English Statesmen Ser.); Lingard's Hist. of England; Brewer's Reign of Henry VIII; Busch's England under the Tudors, vol. i., which gives the best account of Henry VII's reign yet published; Sussex Archæol. Coll. vol. iv.; Norfolk Archæol. iv. 21, &c.; Archæol. Cantiana, v. 118, vii. 244, x. 257, 258, 264, xi. 394; Hasted's Kent, passim; Boys's Hist. of Sandwich; Burrows's Cinque Ports. For Poynings's Irish administration see Annals of the Four Masters; Book of Howth; Ware's Annales Hib.; Harris's Hibernica; Lascelles's Liber Munerum Hib.; Leland's Hist. of Ireland, 3 vols., 1773; Plowden's Hist. View; Cox's Hib. Angl., 2 vols., 1689–90; Smith and Ryland's Hist. of Waterford; Hist. of the Earls of Kildare; Gilbert's Viceroys of Ireland; Richey's Lectures on Irish Hist. to 1534; Froude's English in Ireland; Wright's History of Ireland, vol. i.; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors, vol. i. For Poynings's law see Irish Statutes; Hardiman's Statutes of Kilkenny; Davies's Hist. Tracts, ed. 1786; A Declaration setting forth how … the laws … of England … came to be of force in Ireland, 1643, attributed to Sir Richard Bolton [q. v.]; An Answer to the above by Samuel Mayart [q. v.]; Molyneux's Case of Ireland being bound, and the Replies to it [see under Molyneux, William]; Hallam's Const. Hist.; Lecky's Hist. of Ireland; Ball's Irish Legislative Systems.]