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Stafford, Henry, earl of Wiltshirelocked

(c. 1479–1523)
  • Keith Dockray

Stafford, Henry, earl of Wiltshire (c. 1479–1523), nobleman and courtier, was the second son of Henry Stafford (b. 1455), second duke of Buckingham (executed for treason by Richard III on 2 November 1483), and Katherine Woodville (1457/8–1497) [see under Stafford, Henry, second duke of Buckingham], daughter of Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, and sister of Edward IV's queen, Elizabeth. Following Henry VII's accession in August 1485, he and his elder brother Edward Stafford, who now became third duke, became wards of the king's mother, Margaret Beaufort, countess of Richmond. As a younger brother, financial dependence may help explain his subsequent willingness to assist Edward in managing the vast Stafford estates: as one of Buckingham's retained councillors, he headed a commission to survey his brother's properties in the Welsh marches, Thornbury, and Bedminster in 1500, participated in an audit of the Gloucestershire estates in 1502, and in 1503 led a panel of judges sent to Newport and Brecon. He acted as steward of the Welsh lordships of Newport, Brecon, Caus, Hay, and Huntingdon from c.1500 to 1521, and throughout most of the same period served as sheriff of Newport, Wentloog, and Machen.

Financial considerations may have lain behind Stafford's marriage, in 1504 or 1505, to Cicely, wealthy widow of Thomas Grey, marquess of Dorset, and daughter and heir of William Bonville, Lord Harington, despite her being about nineteen years older than he, and mother of fifteen children from her first marriage. Partly as a result of his brother's apparent unwillingness to endow a cadet branch of the family on a permanent basis, his finances remained precarious. His expenditure at court early in Henry VIII's reign must have been considerable, and by 1521 he owed the crown £4407 4s. Although he was created a knight of the Garter in April 1505, and may have been a member of Henry VII's entourage when he met Archduke Philip of Castile at Windsor in January 1506, Stafford's brother's claim to the throne as a descendant of Edward III may have affected his prospects and help explain why, on Henry VIII's accession, Stafford himself was immediately imprisoned in the Tower on suspicion of treason.

Soon after his release without charge, Stafford became earl of Wiltshire, on 27 January 1510, and was thereafter one of a group of courtiers enjoying the king's particular favour, sharing his taste for lavish entertainments, tournaments, and hunting. In 1513, as captain of 651 men, he crossed to France with Henry VIII, landed at Calais on 10 June, and on 16 June left for the siege of Thérouanne. He was present in Westminster Abbey when Wolsey received his cardinal's hat on 18 November 1515, and in 1520 travelled to France for Henry VIII's spectacular meetings with François I at the Field of Cloth of Gold in June, and with the emperor Charles V at Calais in July. By 1520, too, he had become a privy councillor. Probably late in 1520 Henry VIII ordered Wolsey to keep 'good watch' on Buckingham, Wiltshire, and three others, but Wiltshire survived his brother's execution as a traitor on 17 May 1521, and again crossed to France in August 1522. He died without issue on 6 April 1523, when his earldom became extinct.


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  • GEC, Peerage, new edn, vol. 12/2
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