Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Stafford, Henry, tenth Baron Staffordlocked

  • C. S. L. Davies

Stafford, Henry, tenth Baron Stafford (1501–1563), nobleman, was born at Penshurst, Kent, on 18 September 1501, the only legitimate son of Edward Stafford, third duke of Buckingham (1478–1521), and his wife, Eleanor (d. 1530), daughter of Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland. Until his father's attainder he was styled earl of Stafford. The year 1516 saw negotiations, at Wolsey's suggestion, for a marriage to a daughter of George Talbot, fourth earl of Shrewsbury, which were unsuccessful. Wolsey had also mentioned in passing 'a good young lady', only daughter to Lady Salisbury (LP Henry VIII, 2/1, no. 1893), and on 16 February 1519 Stafford was indeed married to Ursula Pole (d. 1570) [[see Stafford, Ursula], under [Pole, Margaret]], daughter of Sir Richard Pole (d. 1505) and his wife, Margaret, countess of Salisbury. Since Ursula was a granddaughter to George, duke of Clarence, the result was to increase the already dangerous level of royal connection in the Stafford family.

Stafford was presumably educated in his father's household. Later tradition had him attending both universities, but there is no record of formal membership of either. In 1520 he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold, and in November 1520 his first child was born in the duke's household. Yet the duke was arranging at the same time for Thomas Lewkener 'to take charge of our son the lord Stafford' (Harris, 56). Shortly after his father's execution in the following year the king made provision for an income of 500 marks from Buckingham's Staffordshire and Shropshire properties to be settled on Stafford and his wife jointly and on the heirs of her body—significantly a concession rather to the Poles than to the Staffords. He lived at a house in Sussex for a time, but claimed to have been later forced by Wolsey to break up his household and move, with his wife and seven children, into an abbey for four years; he also complained that the lands allocated to him yielded less than the estimated 500 marks. He was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1528. Although technically merely Henry Stafford at this time, he was habitually referred to as Lord Stafford; a petition for restoration in blood (though disclaiming any ambition for his father's dignities) was unsuccessful.

In 1531 Stafford was granted, again with his wife, the castle at Stafford with its appurtenant properties. In the same year the borough of Stafford elected him as its recorder. In 1532 he excused himself from becoming a knight of the Bath. There were rumours (unjustified) in 1536 that he had raised 1000 men on behalf of the rebel Pilgrimage of Grace; in fact he did his duty by the king. He was in Sussex in 1537–8, but wisely kept his distance from his brother-in-law Lord Montague and the alleged Courtenay conspiracy. He also refused to receive his sister Elizabeth Howard, the estranged wife of the duke of Norfolk, into his house. His principal concern was to show his conformity to the king's proceedings, denouncing Walter Blount for speaking disrespectfully of the saints in 1535, while acting promptly to remove an image of St Erasmus in Stafford in 1538. He was assiduous in seeking, with little success, some morsel of monastic land for himself. He was JP for Staffordshire and Shropshire from 1536. His illegitimate half-brother, also Henry Stafford, was MP for the borough of Stafford in 1545 and 1547.

In the parliamentary session of 1547 Stafford again petitioned for restoration of blood, disclaiming any ambition for his father's land or titles. He received a writ of summons to parliament in November 1548, so now officially becoming Baron Stafford, although as a new creation and so at the bottom of the precedence list. He became an assiduous attender at the House of Lords. In the same year he published his translation of Edward Foxe's justification of the royal supremacy, originally published in 1534, as The True Dyfferens Betwen the Royall Power and the Ecclesiasticall Power, with a fulsome dedication to Protector Somerset for completing Henry VIII's work of destruction of superstition and of the powers of the 'Anti-Christ' of Rome. He remained financially embarrassed, selling former Stafford property granted him in 1550, but his principal worry at this time must have been the irresponsible activities in Europe of his son Thomas Stafford, and of his distant relative Sir Robert Stafford (probably the Dominus Stafford commended by Ascham for his Ciceronian studies at Cambridge). In December 1551 he was one of the jury of peers who condemned Somerset. However, he disliked the moves made in 1552 towards a more radical protestantism. He apparently absented himself from that year's parliament as the new Uniformity Bill made its way through the Lords, and was also absent from the parliament of March 1553.

Stafford raised troops for Queen Mary against Lady Jane Grey in July 1553, and sat on the trial of the duke of Northumberland in August. His reconversion to Catholicism was marked by his translation of two tracts by Erasmus against Luther (neither survives). He petitioned Mary for assistance in October 1553, alleging that his father's fall was due to his defence of Katherine of Aragon against Wolsey in 1520. He was granted in February 1554 office as one of two chamberlains of the exchequer, normally a sinecure worth some £50 p.a. and perquisites. He once again became an assiduous attender in the Lords, and in February 1558 had the satisfaction of having his peerage recognized as carrying precedence from 1299 rather than 1548. His brother-in-law Reginald Pole, now archbishop of Canterbury, helped procure him a keepership in Staffordshire in May 1558. But where he had previously been embarrassed by his Pole relatives, it was now the turn of his own children. His son Thomas landed at Scarborough in 1557 in rebellion, while his daughter Dorothy Stafford, who had married Sir William Stafford (Sir Robert's brother), fled with her husband as a religious exile to Geneva, where, left a widow, she had a spectacular row with Calvin about the custody of her son, Calvin's godson. Stafford was ill in 1558 and falsely reported dead in August. He distinguished himself in Elizabeth I's first parliament in 1559 by being one of nine lay peers to vote against the Uniformity Bill, and also voted with the bishops on a technical measure about the lands of the bishopric of Winchester. In September 1559 he was ordered to raise troops in Staffordshire for service in Berwick.

Stafford had an extensive library of some 300 books, mostly Latin. In addition to the writings of Erasmus and Foxe, he translated from French a treatise on forests (BL, Stowe MS 414, fols. 203–226). He commissioned Humphrey Lloyd to translate Vassaeus on urine, having decided that this would be a useful aid to physicians in diagnosis. He was also influential in having the first edition of Mirror for Magistrates printed in 1559. He devoted considerable effort to rebuilding his family's archive. No doubt this was in part in the hope of regaining the family properties, but he could also be moved by handling a historic document. He fought hard to re-establish the ‘ancient order of the Exchequer’, involving closer control by the chamberlains than had become customary in recent years, with some success initially, although his successors as chamberlain preferred to let the office revert to a sinecure. Although the evidence is not without ambiguities, Stafford also appears to have concerned himself about the listing and preservation of the ancient documents of exchequer and chancery in the Tower of London.

Stafford died at one of his ancestral properties, Caus Castle in Shropshire, on 30 April 1563, and was buried in Worthen church nearby on 6 May. His wife survived him, to die on 12 August 1570. There were at least twelve children alive in 1537, and one born subsequently. Two of his sons succeeded as Baron Stafford, Henry (d. 1566) and Edward (d. 1603). The barony eventually passed through three grandsons, the last of whom was induced to resign it in 1639 through poverty. Stafford was a man with great pride of family, but clearly determined to avoid the dangers which threatened him from his royal ancestry and marital connections, not politically ambitious, perhaps initially an opportunist in religion, but becoming a decisive conservative in later years, at some risk to himself, evidently finding consolation in historical study.


  • A. H. Anderson, ‘Henry Lord Stafford (1501–1563) in local and central government’, EngHR, 78 (1963), 225–42
  • A. H. Anderson, ‘The books and interests of Henry, Lord Stafford (1501–63)’, The Library, 5th ser., 21 (1966), 87–114
  • C. Coleman, ‘The reorganisation of the exchequer of receipt’, Revolution reassessed, ed. C. Coleman and D. Starkey (1986), 163–98
  • B. J. Harris, Edward Stafford, third duke of Buckingham (1986)
  • M. A. R. Graves, The House of Lords in the parliaments of Edward VI and Mary I (1981)
  • R. B. Wernham, ‘The public records in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’, English historical scholarship in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, ed. L. Fox, Dugdale Society (1956), 11–30
  • C. Rawcliffe, The Staffords, earls of Stafford and dukes of Buckingham, 1394–1521, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 3rd ser., 11 (1978)
  • J. Campbell, The Stafford peerage (1818)
  • Wood, Ath. Oxon., new edn, 1.266–7
  • CPR, 1547–58
  • CSP dom., addenda, 1547–65
  • J. Foster, The register of admissions to Gray’s Inn, 1521–1889, together with the register of marriages in Gray's Inn chapel, 1695–1754 (privately printed, London, 1889)
  • J. Strype, Ecclesiastical memorials, 3/1 (1822)
  • C. H. Garrett, The Marian exiles: a study in the origins of Elizabethan puritanism (1938)
  • JHL, 1 (1509–77)
  • J. C. Wedgwood, ‘Staffordshire parliamentary history [1]’, Collections for a history of Staffordshire, William Salt Archaeological Society, 3rd ser. (1917 [i.e. 1919])
  • W. Baldwin, The mirror for magistrates, ed. L. B. Campbell (1938)
  • C. Rawcliffe, ‘A Tudor nobleman as archivist’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 5 (1976), 294–300
  • The letter-book of Henry, Lord Stafford (1501–63), ed. D. Youngs (2012)


  • Hunt. L., commonplace book
  • Staffs. RO, family archives in Stafford and Bagot collections
Journals of the House of Lords
S. T. Bindoff, ed., , 3 vols. (1982)
J. S. Brewer, J. Gairdner, & R. H. Brodie, eds., , 23 vols. in 38 (1862–1932); repr. (1965)
English Historical Review
A. Wood, , 2 vols. (1691–2); 2nd edn (1721); new edn, ed. P. Bliss, 4 vols. (1813–20); repr. (1967) and (1969)
A. W. Pollard, G. R. Redgrave, & others, eds., (1926); 2nd edn, ed. W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, & K. F. Pantzer, 3 vols. (1976–91) [see also Wing, STC]
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)