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Stafford, Henry, second duke of Buckinghamlocked

  • C. S. L. Davies

Stafford, Henry, second duke of Buckingham (1455–1483), magnate and rebel, was born on 4 September 1455. His father, Humphrey, styled earl of Stafford (d. 1458), was son and heir to Humphrey Stafford, first duke of Buckingham, and his wife, Anne (d. 1480), daughter of Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland. His mother was Lady Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset (killed in battle on 22 May 1455), and Eleanor, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, thirteenth earl of Warwick. Henry had a younger brother, Humphrey.

Upbringing and marriage

The deaths of his father in October or November 1458, and of his grandfather, Duke Humphrey, killed at Northampton on 10 July 1460, made Henry Stafford duke of Buckingham at the age of four. His English lands were largely in the hands of his grandmother, Duchess Anne, as her dower; the Welsh lands were in the hands of the crown. Duchess Anne surrendered the duke's custody and marriage to Edward IV in February 1464, for a consideration of £1830; he was immediately placed in the custody of the king's sister Anne, duchess of Exeter. At some time between the king's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464 and her coronation in May 1465, Buckingham was married to the queen's sister Katherine [see below], like Elizabeth the daughter of Richard Woodville, Lord Woodville and subsequently Earl Rivers (d. 1469), and his wife, Jaquetta de Luxembourg, dowager duchess of Bedford; her other siblings included Anthony Woodville, second Earl Rivers, Lionel Woodville, bishop of Salisbury, and the soldier Sir Edward Woodville. As a bride Katherine brought no marriage portion. The queen was given his custody, and was granted 500 marks out of his Welsh lands, soon augmented by another £100, for his maintenance and that of his brother. The boys lived in her household (as did Henry's wife, at least during the late 1460s), and John Giles, future tutor to Edward IV's sons, was employed to teach grammar to 'the queen's beloved brothers' during 1465–7 (Myers, 308–9). According to Domenico Mancini, writing of the events of 1483, Buckingham resented his marriage because of his wife's alleged 'humble origin', but that may be a retrospective rationalization. There is, however, evidence (in the Annales of the so-called ‘Pseudo-William Worcester’) that Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker), regarded the marriage as a rebuff to his own hopes of marrying Buckingham to one of his two daughters and coheirs. Buckingham himself may have regretted losing the chance to acquire half the Kingmaker's estates.

Advancement and exclusion

Buckingham remained in the queen's hands until the brief readeption of Henry VI in 1470–71, when his grandmother, the dowager duchess, and her husband Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy, took custody of him. (His brother Humphrey had evidently died before this.) In April 1471, after the battle of Barnet, he was appointed by Edward IV to various commissions of the peace, and accompanied Edward on his entry into London after his final triumph at Tewkesbury. He was given licence to enter the lands of his uncle, Sir Henry Stafford, within three days of Sir Henry's death on 4 October 1471. In June 1473, still only seventeen, he had special livery of his grandfather's estates. They were nominally worth some £3000 p.a., although there is evidence of difficulty in raising the full value, while between 1474 and 1480 eleven manors were set aside to provide a dower for his aunt Joanna, separated or divorced from Viscount Beaumont. A further £1250 p.a. accrued to him in 1480, with the death of the dowager duchess. Buckingham was by then easily the wealthiest English peer, with the possible exception of Richard, duke of Gloucester. Another mark of favour was implied in the decision of the heralds in 1474 that as a descendant of Thomas of Woodstock, youngest son of Edward III, and 'therefore near the king and of his blood royal', Buckingham should carry Woodstock's arms, without the quartering of any 'lower coats of dignity' (Dennys, 110). He became knight of the Garter the same year.

A crisis in Buckingham's relations with the king seems to have occurred on the invasion of France in 1475. The duke took part in the campaign, providing 4 knights, 40 men-at-arms, and 400 archers, but was noted as 'returned home' before the French and English kings met at Picquigny in August. After his return he was kept conspicuously out of public office. He was on no commission, except that of the peace for Staffordshire. He was omitted from the prince's council of 1476, dominated by the Woodvilles, which took responsibility for the government of Wales and the marches. He was briefly high steward of England on 7 February 1478, specifically to pronounce sentence of death on George, duke of Clarence. Edward granted him the manor of Ebbw, previously leased, and the lordship of Cantref Mawr, both in south Wales. Edward also stood godfather to his first son, born on 3 February 1478. But other than for ceremonial occasions in London, Buckingham disappeared again from public life. He played no part in the Scottish wars of the end of the reign. He seems to have resided mostly at Brecon.

The protector's ally

When Edward IV died, on 9 April 1483, Buckingham was quickly in touch with Richard, duke of Gloucester, to seize the young Edward V from the control of his governor, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. While Buckingham may have resented his in-laws, there is no indication that Rivers suspected any hostile move; indeed, he had recently appointed Buckingham a feoffee for his Kentish estates. Rivers escorted Edward from Ludlow to London. Gloucester met him at Northampton on 29 April; Buckingham arrived the same evening. Next morning the two dukes arrested Rivers, and took the king to London, where the council proclaimed Gloucester protector. Buckingham suggested the king be lodged in the Tower.

Buckingham was Gloucester's trusted ally in the events of the next three months. On 10 May 1483 he was given supreme power under the protector in Wales and the marches, becoming chief justice and chamberlain of both north and south Wales for life, and being granted the supervision and governance of the king's subjects there, with the control of royal castles, nomination to offices, and the right to raise troops. He was also given the oversight of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire, and Dorset, with powers to raise troops. For all this he was excused rendering financial account. In a proclamation of 10 June the protector accused the queen's party of plotting the murder of himself and Buckingham, 'and the old royal blood of the realm' (Raine, 1.73–4). The killing of Lord Hastings on 13 June cleared the way for Buckingham to re-establish Stafford power in the north midlands, from which it had been largely excluded by Edward IV's promotion of Hastings; the latter's retinue was now reported to have 'become my lord of Buckingham's' (Stonor Letters and Papers, 2.160–61). Buckingham was part of the delegation headed by Cardinal Bourchier that persuaded the queen to hand over Richard, duke of York, from sanctuary; there is no contemporary evidence for the eloquent speech ascribed to him on this occasion in More's Richard III. He certainly addressed the Londoners at Guildhall on 24 June, setting out Gloucester's claim to the throne; again the text of the speech provided by More is fanciful. Buckingham had the 'chief rule and devising' of Richard's coronation on 6 July. He was appointed to the office of constable (hereditary in the family of his Bohun ancestors) and chamberlain on 15 July, and was given life custody of the castle at Tutbury, Staffordshire, the key to the north midlands, in succession to Hastings.

Relations with Richard III

A possibly contemporary source refers to Edward V and his brother as 'put to deyth in the Towur of London be the vise of the duke of Buckingham' (Historical notes of a London citizen, 588). Another miscellaneous compilation ascribes responsibility for their deaths to Richard, 'first taking counsel with the Duke of Buckingham, as said' (Hanham, 107–8). The French historians Commines and Molinet both report the belief in European courts that Buckingham had murdered the children. The Tudor tradition, exemplified by Polydore Vergil and More, makes no explicit mention of involvement by Buckingham in the murders; but it would hardly have been politic to do so before the execution of the third duke in 1521. It may be that Buckingham ordered the princes's deaths, with or without Richard's knowledge; but there is only flimsy circumstantial evidence in support of such a possibility.

Buckingham was with the king at Gloucester on 2 August 1483, and the two men evidently parted on good terms; indeed as late as 28 August the duke was appointed to a commission to investigate treasons in the London area. Why he was then to rebel, and how long he had been planning rebellion, remains a mystery. Vergil and More believed that the breaking point was Richard's refusal of a claim by Buckingham to that part of the Bohun inheritance held by the crown. The death of Humphrey (IX) Bohun, earl of Hereford, in 1373 had left two daughters as coheirs: Eleanor, later married to Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, Buckingham's ancestor; and Mary, who married the future Henry IV. Eleanor's moiety descended to Buckingham, Mary's to the Lancastrian kings. The deaths of Henry VI and his son in 1471 extinguished the line of Mary's descendants, making Buckingham heir to her moiety, thirty-eight manors worth £1100 p.a. in East Anglia and the south of England. Unsurprisingly Edward IV kept Mary's estates in his own possession. One consideration moving Edward might have been that the claim could fortuitously draw attention to Buckingham's Lancastrian connection (he was descended from John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, through his Beaufort mother). But neither Edward nor Richard had any problem in acknowledging Buckingham's royal blood, at least as it derived from Thomas of Woodstock. And in fact the disputed estates were made over to Buckingham on 13 July 1483, in a signet letter, with the promise that the transfer would be endorsed in the next parliament. It is hard to see that he had any cause for complaint. He may, however, have been disappointed when, on 23 July, Richard allowed the bulk of the Hastings estates to remain in the hands of Hastings's widow, perhaps an indication that a limit was being set to his acquisitions.

Rebellion and death

Bishop John Morton, Buckingham's prisoner at Brecon, helped persuade him to join the BeaufortWoodville conspiracy which erupted in October 1483. Lady Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond, a leading figure in that conspiracy, herself had family connections with Buckingham, both as first cousin to (and namesake of) his mother, and as the widow of his uncle Sir Henry Stafford. The duke was certainly in communication with her son Henry Tudor in Brittany in late September, and evidently urged him to marry Elizabeth of York and claim the throne for himself. Perhaps Buckingham was hoping in the general confusion to advance his own claim. Or he may have feared that the rebellion would succeed, and that the only way not to have to answer for his part in recent events was to join it. The rebels were overwhelmingly Edwardian loyalists from the south of England, intent on restoring Edward's line to the throne. It was only the subsequent parliamentary attainder that placed Buckingham at the centre of events, perhaps to distract attention from this embarrassing truth.

News of an imminent uprising in Kent reached London on 10 October 1483. Next day the king learned that Buckingham 'traitoriously is turned upon us' (Raine, 1.83–4). According to his subsequent attainder, Buckingham raised an army at Brecon on 18 October, but that date must be too late. The duke had been a demanding landlord to his tenants, and called to his service they showed little enthusiasm for his cause. Polydore Vergil describes his soldiers as Welshmen, 'whom he, as a sore and hard dealing man, had brought to the feild agaynst ther wills, and without any lust to fight for him' (Polydore Vergil's ‘English History’, 199). He marched east, probably hoping to raise the marches; he may have had hopes of raising Sir Gilbert Talbot, in Shropshire, and Lord Stanley, Margaret Beaufort's husband, further north. Neither stirred, although both were to join Tudor in 1485. Meanwhile Brecon Castle itself was captured by Thomas Vaughan of Tretower, no friend of a Tudor rebellion, since Vaughan's father had been put to death by Jasper Tudor in 1471. Later tradition had Buckingham aiming to cross the Severn at Gloucester, presumably to link up with the southern rebellion. If so, he failed and turned north. Arriving at Weobley, in Herefordshire, he attempted without success to raise the local gentry.

Had Buckingham succeeded in raising the marches, King Richard, threatened with a major rebellion on two fronts, would have been in great danger. But Buckingham evidently lacked the capacity to inspire loyalty; indeed, his part in the rebellion may well have deterred others from joining. Atrocious rain, the flooding of the rivers, large-scale desertion by his Welshmen, the knowledge that Sir Humphrey Stafford was holding Worcestershire for the king, may all have played their part in persuading Buckingham to throw in his hand. He fled into hiding, to the house of his servant, Ralph Banastre, at Wem, in Shropshire.

Banastre betrayed him (and was granted in reward Buckingham's manor of Yeading in Kent, worth £50 p.a.). On 1 November Buckingham was brought to Richard at Salisbury. According to his son he had secreted a knife to stab the king; Richard refused his request for a meeting. He was executed the following day (a Sunday, and All Souls' day) without trial. His execution and the confiscation of his property were ratified by an act of attainder in parliament in 1484, to be reversed in the first parliament of Henry VII in 1485.

Little can be said about Buckingham's personality. His support for Richard of Gloucester's coup in 1483 probably stemmed from resentment about his exclusion from political power by Edward IV. His subsequent break with Richard might suggest a dangerous degree of instability; it may be that Edward had already spotted that trait in 1475. No manifesto survives from his rising. His hopes of becoming king himself can be a matter only for speculation. He was evidently a headstrong young man with few political gifts, in contrast to his cousin Henry Tudor—the future Henry VII—and manifestly lacking the local political authority of a great nobleman; although he may have had some rhetorical talents. Nothing is known of his religious or cultural interests. He did, however, finance a considerable building project at the Benedictine college at Cambridge; now Magdalene College, it was known, from 1480 at the latest, as Buckingham College. No will survives, nor any tomb or representation of his appearance. He signed himself Harre Bokyngham, with the motto (Souvent me souvene).

Family matters

Buckingham was survived by his widow, Katherine Woodville (1457/8–1497), and their four children. Their eldest son, Edward Stafford, was born in 1478, and they had a second son, Henry, and perhaps a third, Humphrey, who died young, and also two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne. Given her husband's violence against the Woodville clan in 1483, it is unsurprising that Katherine did not attend the coronation of Richard III. She accompanied Buckingham from Brecon to Weobley in October 1483, leaving her daughters at Brecon. When the duke fled, the duchess and her younger son Henry were taken and brought to London. Edward, the heir, had been consigned to safe keeping. In December 1483 the duchess had licence to bring her children and servants from Wales to London. Deprived of dower or jointure, she was eventually awarded an annuity of 200 marks by Richard III.

Following Bosworth, Katherine Stafford was married, by 7 November 1485, to the new king's 55-year-old bachelor uncle, Jasper Tudor, now duke of Bedford. The act of parliament reversing Buckingham's attainder awarded her not merely her dower but also a jointure of 1000 marks, allegedly specified under Buckingham's will. Her total revenue was some £2500, about half the Buckingham estate; the marriage was clearly intended to bolster Bedford's position as his nephew's representative in Wales. Bedford kept her estates under separate administration. Katherine seems to have resided mostly at Thornbury, Gloucestershire; she and her sister, the dowager queen, are the only surviving siblings to appear in the will of her brother Richard, Earl Rivers, in 1491. Bedford died on 21 December 1495. By 24 February 1496 Katherine had remarried, without royal licence, taking as her third husband a younger man, Richard Wingfield (b. in or before 1469, d. 1525). Wingfield was to embark on a distinguished career, but at this stage he was presumably an impecunious junior member of a very large family. Two of his brothers, John and Edmund, were in the duchess's service, as he may have been himself. Katherine died on 18 May 1497; the fine imposed on her for her unlicensed marriage became a charge on her eldest son, the third duke. Wingfield remarried before 1513. His will, drawn up in 1525, specified masses for Katherine's soul, in striking contrast to the absence of any mention of her in Jasper Tudor's will.

Katherine had no children by her second and third marriages. From 1485 her sons Edward Stafford, now duke, and Henry were in the custody of Lady Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond; Henry Stafford in 1510 was created earl of Wiltshire. Her daughter Elizabeth married Robert Radcliffe, later Viscount Fitzwalter and earl of Sussex, dying between about 1530 and 1532. Her daughter Anne married first Sir Walter Herbert (d. 1507), then George Hastings, afterwards earl of Huntingdon, and survived the latter's death in 1544.


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  • Staffs. RO, estate accounts; genealogical and heraldic material relating to territorial agreements with Richard III; legal MSS
  • Staffs. RO, family estate papers, D/641, D 1721/1/1, 5, 6.11

Wealth at Death

total estates worth c.£4250 p.a. at beginning of 1483; additions of that year include £1100 p.a. for the Bohn moiety; total must have been well over £6000 p.a.: Rawcliffe, The Staffords

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