Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

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The Duke of Buckingham
Henry Stafford.jpg
An 18th century illustration of Henry Stafford
Spouse(s) Catherine Woodville
Father Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford
Mother Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford
Born 4 September 1455
Died 2 November 1483 (aged 28)
Arms of Sir Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG (4 September 1455 – 2 November 1483) played a major role in King Richard III's rise and fall.[1] He is also one of the primary suspects in the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the Princes in the Tower. Buckingham was related to the royal family of England in many different ways, but his connections were all through daughters of younger sons. His chances of inheriting the throne would have seemed remote, but he played the role of a 'kingmaker' for Richard III and, unsuccessfully, for Henry VII.


Buckingham was the son of Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford, and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford. Three of his four grandparents were descended from Edward III of England:

Thus, Buckingham was closely related to the royal families of England and Scotland. Five of his near relations became King of England - his (Lancaster) second cousin, once removed Henry VI, his (Beaufort/Neville) first cousins, once removed Edward IV and Richard III, his second cousin Edward V, and his (Beaufort/Holland) second cousin, once removed Henry VII - while two relations became Queen consorts of England: his (Beauchamp) first cousin, once removed (and Beaufort/Neville second cousin) Lady Anne Neville and his (Beaufort/Neville) second cousin, Elizabeth of York. His (Beaufort/Holland) first cousin, once removed was James II of Scotland.

Early life[edit]

His father, Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford, supported the House of Lancaster in the initial phase of the Wars of the Roses. He died in 1458 of wounds after First Battle of St Albans, and his paternal grandfather, Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, another leading Lancastrian, was killed at the Battle of Northampton (10 July 1460). After his grandfather's death, Henry was recognized as Duke of Buckingham. The new Duke eventually became a ward of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV of England.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Sometime before the Queen's coronation in May 1465 he was married to her sister Catherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham and Bedford (b.1458). Both parties were children at the time; they were carried on squires' shoulders at the coronation ceremony and were reared in the queen's household together. According to Dominic Mancini, Buckingham resented his wife and the other Woodvilles because of his marriage to a woman of a lower status.

Nevertheless, the couple had four children:

Accession of Richard III[edit]

When Edward IV died in 1483 and the Woodvilles struggled with Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, over the guardianship of the young Edward V, Buckingham sided with Richard. Buckingham was with Richard when they took possession of the young King Edward V at Stony Stratford in April 1483.

Buckingham supported Richard's claim to the throne. Parliament subsequently declared Edward V illegitimate, offering Richard the throne. Richard accepted, becoming Richard III.

The Bohun Estate[edit]

Buckingham's motives in these events are unclear. His antipathy to Edward IV and his children probably arose from two causes. One was his dislike for their mutual Woodville in-laws, whom Edward greatly favoured. Another was his interest in the Bohun estate. Buckingham had inherited a great deal of property from his great-great-grandmother, Eleanor de Bohun, wife of Thomas of Woodstock and daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton.

Eleanor's younger sister and co-heir Mary de Bohun married Henry Bolingbroke, who eventually became Henry IV, and her share of the de Bohun estates became incorporated into the holdings of the House of Lancaster. The House of Lancaster ruled England as Kings from 1399 to 1461. When Henry VI was deposed by Edward IV of the House of York, Edward appropriated that half into the Crown property. Humphrey's grandson Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, claimed those lands should have devolved to him instead. Unsuccessful in regaining the property from Edward, he was awarded these lands by Richard III, pending approval of Parliament. This was probably one of Buckingham's motives in supporting Richard's accession as King.[2]

Rebellion of 1483[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Buckingham's rebellion.

In 1483, a conspiracy arose among a number of disaffected gentry, supporters of Edward IV. Buckingham started working with John Morton, Bishop of Ely. The conspirators originally planned to depose Richard III and place Edward V back on the throne. When rumours arose that Edward and his brother (the Princes in the Tower) were dead, Buckingham intervened, proposing instead that Henry Tudor return from exile, take the throne and marry Elizabeth of York. For his part, Buckingham would raise a substantial force from his estates in Wales and the Marches.[3]

Richard eventually put down the rebellion; Henry's ships ran into a storm and had to go back to Brittany. Henry's own ship was storm-driven to take shelter in a harbour of Jersey, an island of largely Yorkist sympathisers at that time, and Henry was given secret shelter for several days by the Red Rose Lieut-Bailiff of Jersey, Clement Le Hardy, until the weather moderated, and Henry's ship could continue his return to Brittany. Meantime, Buckingham's army was greatly troubled by the same storm and deserted when Richard's forces came against them. Buckingham tried to escape in disguise, seeking Sanctuary at the Abbey of Beaulieu in the New Forest and probably hoping to be able to arrange sea-passage to Brittany since the Beaulieu River was navigable down to the sea at that date, and Bucklers Hard was a seaport; but Buckingham was turned in for the bounty Richard had put on his head, and he was convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on 2 November. A monument in nearby Britford Church has been identified as his. Following Buckingham's execution, his widow, Catherine, married Jasper Tudor.

The Princes in the Tower[edit]

Richard III is alleged to have consolidated his power by eliminating his brother's children, who could even after their bastardisation serve as figureheads or incentives to rebellions. However, there is some question about Buckingham's involvement in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower.

If Richard was responsible for killing the Princes in the Tower, the murders may have caused Buckingham to change sides. On the other hand, Buckingham himself had motives to kill the Princes, having a claim of his own to the throne stronger than that of Henry Tudor, depending on one's view of the legitimacy of the Beaufort line. According to a manuscript discovered in the early 1980s in the College of Arms collection, the Princes were murdered "be [by] the vise" of the Duke of Buckingham. There is some argument over whether "vise" means "advice" or "devise".[4] According to this perspective, if Buckingham killed the Princes and blamed Richard, he could form a rebellion, putting the throne into play with only Henry Tudor as a rival. Indeed, he was one of the leaders of a rebellion, ostensibly in favour of Henry Tudor, in October 1483. However, the rebellion was quickly crushed and Buckingham executed. Henry Tudor would succeed in defeating Richard III two years later.



  1. ^  "Stafford, Henry (1454?-1483)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ Ross 114
  3. ^ Ross 105-119
  4. ^ Firth Green


  • Firth Green, Richard (July 1981). "Historical Notes of a London Citizen, 1483-1488". The English Historical Review 96: 585–590. doi:10.1093/ehr/xcvi.ccclxxx.585. 
  • A. R. Myers, "The Household of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, 1466-7," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (1967–68).
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Stafford, Henry, Second Duke of Buckingham," by C. S. L. Davies.
  • Ross, Charles (1981). Richard III. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-29530-3. 
  • Harris, Barbara (1986). Edward Stafford: Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1316-2. 
  • Smith, George (1975 (originally published 1935)). The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville. Gloucester Reprints. ISBN 0-904586-00-6.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Lord High Constable
Succeeded by
Lord Thomas Stanley
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Humphrey Stafford
Duke of Buckingham
Succeeded by
(restored in 1485
for Edward Stafford)