POYNINGS, Sir Edward (1459-1521), of Westenhanger, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. autumn 1459, o. s. of Robert Poynings of Maidstone by Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Paston of Paston, Norf.; half-bro. of Sir Matthew Browne. m. by 1485, Elizabeth or Isabel (d.1528), da. of Sir John Scott of Scot’s Hall, Smeath, Kent, 1s. d.v.p.; 3s. 4da. illegit. suc. fa. 17 Feb. 1461. Kntd. 7 Aug. 1485, KG 1493, banneret Aug. 1513.1

Offices Held

Councillor 1485; j.p. Kent 1485; knight of the body by 1488; dep. lt. Calais 1493; dep. [I] 1494-6; lt. Dover castle by 1496, constable 1504-d.; dep. warden, Cinque Ports 1505-9, warden 1509-d.; comptroller, the Household by 1509-19 or later, treasurer 1519-d.; commr. subsidy, Kent 1512, 1514, 1515, royal household 1515; other commissions, London and Kent 1489-d.; lt. Tournai Sept. 1513-Jan. 1515.2


Robert Poynings was killed at St. Albans in 1461, and Edward was brought up by his mother and his stepfather, Sir George Browne of Betchworth, Surrey. He took part in the Kentish rising of 1483 in support of the 2nd Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III and was attainted, as ‘Edward Ponyngs late of Marsham, esquire’, in the Parliament of January 1484. He made his escape from England, joined Henry Tudor and returned with him in August 1485, being knighted after the landing at Milford Haven; when Parliament met in November his attainder was reversed.3

The Parliament of 1485 in its turn attainted the followers of Richard III, among them Humphrey Stafford, and in September 1488 Poynings was granted seven of Stafford’s manors, in Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. He had already become active in the administration of Kent, where he had his chief seat. Most of his time, however, was spent either abroad or at court. In August 1488 he was commissioned to view the armaments at Calais, Guisnes and Hammes. Four years later he commanded 12 ships sent in support of the Emperor to besiege Sluys and after its capitulation he joined Henry VII at Boulogne. Appointed the King’s deputy lieutenant at Calais, Poynings was in July 1493 sent with William Warham to the Netherlands in a vain attempt to discredit Perkin Warbeck, maintained there by Margaret of Burgundy.4

Henry VII next turned to Ireland, where in the summer of 1494 a new landing by Warbeck was daily expected. In September of that year the King made his four year-old son Henry lieutenant of Ireland, with Poynings as his deputy, to suppress the ‘savage Irish’ and bring them under the same laws as those within the pale. Poynings succeeded in routing the Yorkist faction in Ireland and subordinating Anglo-Irish and Irish alike to the authority of England in the famous ‘Poynings’s law’, passed by the Parliament which he had summoned to meet at Drogheda on 1 Dec. 1494. Attempts at financial reform were less successful and, the crisis past, in 1496 Henry VII reverted to the policy of ruling through the Anglo-Irish aristocracy: Poynings was recalled and the 8th Earl of Kildare appointed deputy of Ireland.5

The Cinque Ports at their Easter Brotherhood in 1496 were awaiting the return from Ireland of Poynings, now lieutenant of Dover castle. Presumably he had been appointed to this office before his departure, possibly in October 1494 when Prince Henry was made constable of the castle and lord warden of the Cinque Ports. In 1509 Poynings himself was formally admitted at the court of Shepway as lord warden. During his wardenship he was elected to the Parliament of 1512, almost certainly as knight of the shire for Kent, and led the delegation of the Commons which announced its choice of Speaker to the chancellor in the Lords. He was presumably re-elected in 1515 in compliance with the general directive for the return of the previous Members, and could well have sat in earlier Parliaments for which the returns are lost. There is no direct evidence that he used his office as lord warden to secure parliamentary nominations in the Cinque Ports.6

A trusted servant of Henry VII, Poynings was appointed one of the additional feoffees of crown lands under the King’s last will in 1504. He stood even closer to Henry VIII, whose coronation he attended as comptroller of the Household, an office he retained until May 1519, when, or soon afterwards, he was promoted to treasurer. The intention seems to have been that he should retain the new position only until his services were rewarded with a barony, but he died in 1521 still holding it and still a commoner. His illegitimate son Thomas was later ennobled.7

In the early years of the reign Poynings had often gone abroad in the King’s service. In June 1511 he was appointed admiral of the expedition sent to assist Prince Charles of Castile in suppressing a revolt in Guelderland and in December 1512 he was one of the four commissioners to treat for a coalition against France; with Sir Richard Wingfield he was responsible for the negotiations in the Netherlands, where he arrived early in 1513. He served in the campaign that took Tournai and was named its first governor. His duties at Tournai prevented him from attending the third session of the Parliament of 1512 where he obtained an Act (5 Hen. VIII, c.18) annulling all suits and processes harmful to his landed possessions which had been or might be decided against him in his absence. He did not return to England until his replacement as governor by the 4th Lord Mountjoy early in 1515. Later in the year he hoped to go on pilgrimage to Rome, but on 7 May he was appointed ambassador to Prince Charles and arrived in Bruges on 23 May. He came back to England in the autumn. Early in 1516 he returned to the Netherlands to conclude a treaty with Charles.8

This was the last of Poynings’s diplomatic missions apart from a visit to Calais in May 1517 to settle disputes between English and French merchants and to deal with all violations of the treaty; in London in October 1518 he was one of the many signatories to the treaties of marriage and universal peace with France. His duties as warden of the Cinque Ports and comptroller of the Household—presumably more often than not exercised by deputy during these busy years—now occupied him. As warden he was called on to provide ships to transport Henry VIII and his retinue to Calais in 1520, and as a household officer he attended upon the King at the Field of Cloth of Gold and at the meeting with the Emperor at Gravelines.9

His ‘laudable service’ in two reigns did not bring Poynings much material reward. The grant of Stafford’s manors in 1488 was the only such grant which he is known to have received throughout his life, although it was supplemented in 1497 by the wardships of Henry Pympe and Humphrey Stafford. Another wardship, that of his grandson Edward Fiennes, 9th Lord Clinton, cost him nearly £135 in 1518. Poynings’s only child by his wife predeceased him but he left seven illegitimate children. He provided for them in his will of 27 July 1521, leaving Westenhanger to the eldest son Thomas. To his wife he left £80 a year, together with silver and household stuff and 200 sheep. He named his servant Edward Thwaytes executor and the prior of Christchurch, Sir John Norton and James Digges overseers. Poynings died on 22 Oct. 1521 and the will was proved on the following 19 Dec. His heir was Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, but the former Stafford manors (granted to Poynings in tail male) were reoccupied after his death by Humphrey Stafford, restored to his inheritance by an Act of 1515 (5 Hen. VIII, c.13).10

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., quoted Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner, ii. 329. DNB; Suss. Arch. Colls. xv. 16; Arch. Cant. xxxvii. 116; Mill Stephenson, Mon. Brasses, 212; H.H. Leonard, ‘Knights and knighthood in Tudor Eng.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1970), 220n.
  • 2. Hall, Chron. 424, 465-6, 524; CPR, 1485-94, p. 250, 1494-1509, pp. 12, 62, 427; Rymer, Foedera, v(4), 69; Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. (Kent Arch. Soc. recs. br. xix), 119-20; LP Hen. VIII, i-iii; Chron. Calais (Cam. Soc. xxxv), 8; Statutes, iii. 79, 112, 168, 172.
  • 3. Paston Letters, ii. 329; iii. 33; Rot. Parl. vi. 245, 273.
  • 4. CPR, 1485-94, p. 250; Materials for Reign of Hen. VII, ii. (Rolls ser. lx), 344; Hall, 452-3, 465-6; Rymer, v(4), 69.
  • 5. CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 12, 62; A. Conway, Hen. VII’s Relations with Scotland and Ireland, 1485-98, pp. 61-63, 80, 87, 92, 137, 142; Elton, Tudor Constitution, 33.
  • 6. Cinque Ports White and Black Bks. 119-20; CPR, 1494-1509, pp. 26, 427; LP Hen. VIII, i; Sandwich white bk. f. 173; LJ, i. 11.
  • 7. Rot. Parl. vi. 522; LP Hen. VIII, i. iii.
  • 8. LP Hen. VIII, i, ii; Hall, 524; Chron. Calias, 8; C. G. Cruickshanks, Eng. Occupation of Tournai, 1513-19, passim; The King’s Works, iii. 326; CSP Span. 1509-25, p. 247; Add. Ch. 1521.
  • 9. LP Hen. VIII, ii, iii.
  • 10. CPR ; 1494-1509, pp. 84, 105, 338; LP Hen. VIII, ii; Index 10217(1), f. 3v; CP, vii. 690; PCC 21 Maynwaryng; C142/36/14, 38/39, 39/85, 81/193, 194, 197; Mill Stephenson, 212.