Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham
|The Duke of Buckingham|
Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, by William Bond, after Joseph Allen.
|Died||10 July 1460|
|Buried||Gray Friars, Northampton|
|Spouse(s)||Lady Anne Neville|
|Father||Edmund Stafford, 5th Earl of Stafford|
|Mother||Anne of Gloucester|
Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, 6th Earl of Stafford, KG (1402 – 10 July 1460) was an English nobleman and a military commander in both the Hundred Years' War and in the Wars of the Roses. A great-grandson of King Edward III on his mother's side, he inherited his father's earldom of Stafford at an early age. Through his marriage to a daughter of Ralph, Earl of Westmorland, Humphrey was not only related to the powerful Neville family, but many of the leading aristocratic houses of the time. Like his father, Stafford joined the English campaign in France and fought for King Henry V. On that king's death he became a leading councillor for the new King, the six-month old Henry VI. Stafford acted in a peace-making role in the partisan politics of the 1430s, when Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester vied with Cardinal Beaufort for political supremacy, and was also involved in the arrest of the Gloucester in 1447.
Stafford returned to the French campaign during the 1430s, and, as a result of his loyalty and years of service, he was elevated from being Earl of Stafford to Duke of Buckingham. Around the same time, his mother died. As much of his estate had been in her hands for life, Humphrey went from having a reduced income in his early years, to being one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in England of his generation. His lands stretched across much of the country, ranging from East Anglia to the Welsh border. Being such an important figure in the localities was not without its dangers, and for some time he feuded with and was being attacked by Sir Thomas Malory.
Stafford remained in England for the rest of his life, serving King Henry VI. He acted as a bodyguard to the King during Jack Cade's rebellion. He negotiated with the rebels for the government and, when the rebellion was over, helped investigate the causes of the revolt. He acted in a similar capacity when the King's cousin, Richard, Duke of York, rebelled in 1452. As the King became ill, and sank into a coma, the country slid towards civil war. Stafford fought for the King in the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, at St Albans, where they were both captured by the Yorkists. He spent much of the last few years of his life attempting to mediate between the Yorkists and the Crown, but partly due to a personal feud with one of the leading Yorkists, the Earl of Warwick, eventually supported King Henry. Stafford was responsible for Richard, Duke of York's defeat in 1459, which drove the latter into exile; but on the rebels' return the next year, the King was attacked at Northampton. Acting as the King's personal guard, he was killed, and the King was again taken prisoner. Stafford's eldest son had predeceased him, so his dukedom descended to his five-year-old grandson, Henry Stafford.
- 1 Background and youth
- 2 Early career
- 3 Later career
- 4 Wars of the Roses
- 5 Last years
- 6 Character
- 7 Aftermath
- 8 Family
- 9 Cultural references and portrayals
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
Background and youth
Humphrey was born at Stafford, Staffordshire, England, around December 1402. He was the only son of Edmund Stafford, 5th Earl of Stafford, and Anne of Gloucester, herself the daughter of Edward III's youngest son Thomas of Woodstock. This gave Humphrey royal blood, and made him cousin to Henry VI.
When Humphrey was less than a year old, his father was killed fighting for King Henry IV, against the rebellion of Henry Hotspur, at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Humphrey thus became 6th Earl of Stafford on 21 July 1403. He immediately inherited a large estate with lands in more than a dozen counties. Before his mother Anne had married Edmund, however, she had previously been married to his older brother, Thomas. As a result, she had accumulated two dowries, each comprising a third of the Stafford estates, and she continued to occupy these lands for the next twenty years. Humphrey, therefore, received a reduced income of less than £1,260 a year until he was sixteen. Since his mother could not, by law, be his guardian Humphrey was made a royal ward on his father's death, and was placed under the control of Henry IV's queen, Joan of Navarre. His minority was to be a long one, lasting the next twenty years.
Although Stafford received a reduced inheritance, as historian Carol Rawcliffe has put it, "fortunes were still to be made in the French wars; and, like generations of Staffords before him, he assumed the profession of arms." He fought with Henry V in the 1420 campaign, and was knighted on 22 April the following year. Henry V died, however, still on campaign, on 31 August 1422. When later asked in council if the King had spoken any last words regarding the government of Normandy, Stafford claimed that he was too upset at the occasion to be able to remember. Stafford was a member of the entourage that returned to England with the body, and was strictly still a minor himself at this time. Parliament later granted Stafford livery of his father's estate, which allowed him to take full possession of them. This was based on Stafford's claim that Henry V had verbally promised him this before Henry died, and Stafford did not have to pay a fee into the Exchequer on attaining his inheritance as was the norm.
Following the accession of Henry VI, the Lords in parliament decided that the dead King's brothers – John, Duke of Bedford and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester – would have positions of importance in the government of England as the new King, Henry VI, was a baby on his accession. Bedford would rule as regent in France, whilst Gloucester would be chief councillor (not quite a full protector) in England. Stafford became a member of this regency royal council on its formation. The first representative meeting of the council was held, with Stafford attending, in November 1422. He attended council assiduously for the next three years. By 1424, the rivalry between Gloucester, as Protector, and the Bishop of Winchester, Henry Beaufort, as the de facto head of council had become outright, frequent conflict. Although Stafford probably favoured the interests of Gloucester in the duke's struggle for supremacy over Beaufort in council, the young earl may also have been a moderating influence between them. For example, in October 1425, Stafford, together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Portuguese Duke of Coimbra, helped to negotiate an end to a burst of violence that had erupted in London between the followers of Gloucester and the Cardinal. However, in 1428, when Gloucester demanded an extension of his authority, Stafford was one of the councillors who personally signed an "outspoken statement" to the effect that Gloucester's position had been formulated six years earlier, and that in any case the King would attain his majority in the not-too-distant future. Stafford was also one of the lords who was chosen by the council to inform Beaufort (who had now been appointed a Cardinal) to absent himself from Windsor until it was decided if he could carry out his traditional duty of Prelate to the Order of the Garter now he had been promoted.
Stafford himself was made a knight of the Order of the Garter in April 1429, and travelled to France with the King for his 1430 French coronation, occasionally escorting him through the war-torn countryside. He was appointed Lieutenant-General of Normandy, Governor of Paris, and Constable of France over the course of his next two years of service there. Apart from one occasion in November 1430 when he and Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter took the English army to support Philip, Duke of Burgundy (in which the English army was never brought into battle), Stafford's primary military role at this time was carrying out defensive duties in the vicinity of Paris. Whilst in France, Buckingham attended the interrogation of Joan of Arc in Rouen in 1431. At some point during these proceedings, Buckingham is alleged to have attempted to stab her, and had to be restrained from doing so.
On 11 October 1431, the King created him Count of Perche, a province in English-occupied Normandy. Stafford held this title until the English finally withdrew from Normandy in 1450. This was valued at 800 marks per annum. Michael Jones has suggested, though, that as this was an area of almost constant warfare. In real terms "the amount of revenue that could be extracted ... must have been considerably lower." Since Perche was a frontier region, and experienced conflict at this time, whatever income the estate generated was probably invested in the defence of the region.
In England, on the ending of the King's minority in 1436, the council reorganised the King's Lancastrian estates under the control of local magnates. This gave Stafford control of vast swathes of the north midlands and Derbyshire, which was the largest part of the duchy that was delegated amongst the nobility. As a result, the earl had the royal affinity – those men retained directly by the Crown in order to provide a direct link between the King and the localities – to use as his own.
The centrepiece of Buckingham's estates, and his own caput, was Stafford Castle. This had a staff of at least forty, and a large stable, and was perfectly placed for recruiting his retainers in the Welsh Marches, Staffordshire, and Cheshire. He also had manor houses at Writtle and Maxstoke. These he had purchased as part of most of the estates of John, Lord Clinton, and they were useful when the court was in Coventry. Likewise he would use his castle at Tonbridge when he was acting in his capacity of Warden of the Cinque ports or on commission in Kent. His marcher castles – Caus, Hay, Huntingdon, and Bronllys – had, by the 1450s, generally fallen into disrepair, and his other border castles, such as Brecon and Newport, he rarely used. Stafford's manor of Thornbury was convenient for Bristol, and as a stopping point to and from London.
His mother Anne's death in 1438 transformed his fiscal position. His inheritance from her included the remainder of his father's estates, which were worth about £1,500, and his mother's half of the Bohun inheritance of around another £1,200. The latter also included the earldom of Buckingham, which brought a further £1,000, and made him one of the greatest landowners in England. "His landed resources matched his titles" explained Albert Compton-Reves, scattered as they were throughout England, Wales and Ireland. In fact, it is likely that only the King, and the Duke of York were wealthier in the kingdom. One assessment of his estates suggests that, by the late 1440s, his income was over £5,000 per annum, and K.B. McFarlane estimated Stafford's total potential income from land to have been £6,300 gross annually, at its peak between 1447 and 1448. On the other hand, it is also possible that the actual income yielded from them could have been as low as £3,700, In any case, it is likely that, on average, he annually overspent by approximately £300. Exacerbating this, for Stafford, was that rents owed to him were not always paid: even a lord of the status of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, for example, owed Buckingham over £100 in unpaid rent for the manor of Drayton Bassett in 1458. In the 1440s and 1450s, Buckingham's Welsh estates were particularly notable for both their rent arrears and public disorder.
Affinity and problems in the localities
All great lords created an affinity between themselves and groups of supporters, travelling with them, for purposes of mutual benefit and defence, and Humphrey Stafford was no exception. These men were often his estate tenants, who could also be called upon when necessary for soldiering, as well as other duties. They were often retained by indenture. In the 1450s, for example, Stafford retained men specifically "to sojourn and ride" with him. His affinity was probably composed along the lines laid out by royal ordinance, viz up to, but not above, 240 men, including "forty gentlemen, eighty yeomen and a variety of lesser individuals", although drawn in much smaller numbers in times of peace from the localities, rather than a standing body of men. In the late 1440s it was at least ten knights and twenty-seven esquires, mainly from Cheshire. Probably due to the political climate, this increased after 1457. His household has been estimated at around 150 people by about 1450. It has been estimated that maintaining both his affinity and household cost the duke over £900 a year.
Along with Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, Buckingham was the major magnatial influence in Warwickshire; and when Warwick left for his lengthy tour of duty in France, in 1437, Stafford became the sole regional magnate. This meant he controlled a large swathe of the Midlands, stretching from Warwickshire to Derbyshire. So involved was he with affairs of the court and government, however, that he was often unable to attend to the needs of his 'country'. Stafford also had major estates on the Welsh Marches which occupied his time, as they particularly required order kept within them. He also acted as a royal justice in the region. One of the most well-known disputes Buckingham had with his local gentry was with Thomas Malory. On 4 January 1450, Malory, with twenty-six other armed men, waited for Buckingham in Coombe Abbey woods, near the duke's Newbold estate with intent to ambush him. Malory appears to have been repelled by sixty of Buckingham's yeomen tenants. At some point Malory also stole deer from the duke's park at Caludon. The duke personally arrested Malory on 25 July the following year. Buckingham also ended up in a dispute with William Ferrers of Staffordshire, even though it was the centre of his estates, after Ferrers was appointed to the county King's Bench and attempted to assert political control over the county. On 5 May 1430 a Leicestershire manor of Stafford's was attacked, and following Cade's rebellion, his park at Penshurst was attacked by men "concealing their faces with long beards and charcoal-blackened faces, calling themselves servants of the queen of the fairies". There was trouble in Derbyshire in the 1440s, where, it has been said, Buckingham "made no attempt to restore peace, nor made any attempt to intervene at all." By the 1450s, not only was Buckingham unable to prevent feuding amongst the Derbyshire gentry, but his own affinity was in discord. This may in part be due to the fact that at this time Buckingham was not spending much of his time in the midlands. Rather, he preferred to stay close to London and the King, dwelling either at his manors of Tonbridge (Kent) or Writtle (Essex).
In mid-1436 Stafford, accompanied by Gloucester, the Duke of Norfolk, and the Earls of Huntingdon, Warwick, Devon, and Ormond, returned to France again with an army of nearly 8,000 men. Although the expedition's purpose was to end the siege of Calais, by the time the English arrived, the French besiegers had withdrawn, leaving behind a quantity of cannon for the English to seize. Peace talks in France occupied Stafford throughout 1439. In 1442 he was appointed Captain of Calais and of the tower of Risbanke, and was indented to serve for the next decade. Before he arrived in Calais – in September 1442 – the garrison had revolted, seizing the Staple's wool in lieu of their unpaid wages. Stafford received a pledge from the council that if such a situation arose again during his tenure, he would not be held responsible. In light of the secrecy that cloaked Stafford's appointment in 1442, says David Grummitt, it is even possible that the revolt had actually been staged by his servants to ensure that Stafford "had entry on favourable terms" to Calais. Stafford had, after all, emphasised the need to restore order there in his original application for the position. He also received permission to export gold and jewels (up to £5,000-worth every time he returned there) for his use in France, even though the export of bullion was illegal at the time. He appears to have served the full term of his appointment as Calais captain, as he left office in 1451.
Buckingham was granted the Honour of Tutbury around 1435. He held it until such time in 1443, when, as Professor Griffiths put it, he "hand[ed] it over to the son of one of his own councillors." Other offices he held included Seneschal of Halton (from 1439) and Lieutenant of the Marches from 1442 – 1451. At the same time, he became less active on the council. Buckingham became Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, also Constable of Queensborough, on the Isle of Sheppey, in 1450. He represented the Crown during peace talks with the French in 1445 and 1446.
Buckingham, as a Constable of England, and by now firmly in the Beaufort camp, was one of the lords who arrested Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, at Bury St Edmunds on 18 February 1447. Five years previously, Stafford had been on the committee that investigated and convicted Gloucester's wife, Eleanor Cobham, of witchcraft. Buckingham, like many others, profited substantially from Gloucester's fall: when the latter's estates were divided up, the "major prizes" went to the court nobility.
In September 1444, as reward for "many years' loyal and continuous service" to the Crown, he was created Duke of Buckingham. He was already describing himself as "the Right Mighty Prince Humphrey Earl of Buckingham, Hereford, Stafford, Northampton and Perche, Lord of Brecknock and Holdernesse" In May 1447 he was further granted precedence over all English dukes not of royal blood. Despite his income, during his time in office as the Captain of the Calais garrison, he was heavily out of pocket. He was responsible for ensuring the garrison was paid, and it has been estimated that when he resigned and returned from the post in 1450, he was owed over £19,000 in back wages, an amount so large he was granted the wool trade tax from the port of Sandwich, Kent, until it was paid off. Public office continued to push him to spend over his annual income, with household costs of over £2,000, as well as all the public requirements he needed to fund, effectively making him a substantial creditor to the government.
From May to July 1450, even before Jack Cade's rebellion had broken out, Buckingham had cause to summon about seventy of his tenants from Staffordshire to accompany him whilst he was in London. When the rebellion occurred, Buckingham was one of the lords commissioned to arrest the rebels with a forceful response on 6 June 1450, and who acted as the King's negotiator to the insurgents at Blackheath ten days later. However the promises Buckingham made to the rebels on behalf of the government were not kept by King Henry, and Cade's army invaded London. After the defeat of the rebellion, Buckingham headed an investigatory commission which was designed to "placate" rebellious Kent, and in November that year he rode noisily through London with the King and other peers, with a retinue of around 1,500 armed men, in an armed "demonstration of official power" intended to deter potential troublemakers in the future. Following the rebellion, Buckingham's retinue often acted as a bodyguard to the King.
Wars of the Roses
From around 1451 the King's Privy Council was controlled by Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, who had effectively replaced the Duke of Suffolk as the King's chief councillor on the latter's death in 1450. Buckingham supported Somerset's government, while trying to maintain peace between him and the Duke of York. He also acted as a Commissioner of the Peace on 14 February 1452 in Devon, suppressing Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon who was preparing to join and support York. When York rebelled later that month and confronted the King with a large army at Dartford, Buckingham was again a voice of compromise, and, since he had contributed heavily towards the size of the King's army, was heeded. A year later, in August 1453, King Henry became ill, and slipped into a catatonic state. Government broke down. The situation remained through Christmas 1453, when Buckingham personally presented the King's son – the newly-born Edward, Prince of Wales – to Henry. But Henry "gave no manner answer." Buckingham was as also present at the council meeting which resulted in the arrest and subsequent year-long imprisonment of the Duke of Somerset, who by now was York's bitter enemy. In the parliament of February 1454 Buckingham was appointed Steward of England – although Griffiths has called this position "largely honorific." Buckingham also attended the parliament of February 1454 in which it was decided to nominate the duke of York as Protector of the Realm on 27 March 1454 and Buckingham supported him, attending the Protectorate council more frequently than many of his fellow councillors. King Henry recovered his health in January 1455, and, soon after, Somerset was released or escaped from the Tower. A contemporary commented how Buckingham "straungely conveied" Somerset from prison, but it is uncertain whether this was as a result of the King ordering his release or whether in fact Somerset escaped with Buckingham's connivance. Buckingham may well have been expecting war to break out at some point, because in 1454, he ordered 2,000 of his cognizances – the 'Stafford knot' – even though strictly this (the distribution of livery) was against the law.
Battle of St Albans
With the King's recovery, York was either dismissed or resigned from his office of protector, and, with his Neville allies, withdrew from London to their lands in the north. The government meanwhile summoned a Great Council to meet in Leicester on 22 May 1455, at which, the Yorkists believed, they would be attainted, or worse. The Yorkists gathered their forces and marched south. The King, with a small force, was likewise marching north to Leicester. The King was made aware of the Yorkists' approach in the early morning of 22 May, and Buckingham urged that the royal army push on to St Albans. This, it has been suggested, was because he assumed correctly that York would want to parley before any confrontation, just as he had in 1452. The decision to head for the town and not make a stand straight away may have been a tactical error, however. The two parties met, then, at St Albans, with the King lodged in the town and York, with the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, encamped outside. Negotiations commenced on 22 May with York demanding Somerset be released into his custody. Possibly because of this, the King replaced Somerset as Lord High Constable with Buckingham the same day, and in that capacity Buckingham acted as the King's personal negotiator, receiving and responding to the Yorkists' messengers before the battle and playing for time. Buckingham received at least three embassies, but the King refused to give in to the main Yorkist demand – that Somerset was surrendered to them. Buckingham may have hoped that the repeated negotiations would deplete the Yorkists' energy for a battle, and likewise hold off long enough for reinforcements to arrive. To which end, says John Gillingham, Buckingham made an "insidiously tempting suggestion" that the Yorkists mull over the King's responses in Hatfield or Barnet overnight.
The battle of St Albans began whilst negotiations were still taking place, as the earl of Warwick launched a surprise attack at around ten o'clock in the morning. Buckingham commanded the King's army of 2,500, although his co-ordination of the defence of the town has been said to have had "serious defects," while he himself gave the initiative to the Yorkists, both of which enabled their assault. Although only about 50 people died in the battle itself, this included the very senior noblemen: the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and the Lord Clifford. Buckingham himself was wounded, sought sanctuary in the abbey, and was possibly taken prisoner with the King. Notwithstanding that he may have been captured, Buckingham, after the battle, rewarded ninety of his retainers that are known of, from Kent, Sussex and Surrey. It is not known for certain whether these men had actually fought with him at St Albans, however: As McFarlane points out, some of them, at least may not have got there in time.
York now had the political upper hand, made himself Constable of England and kept the King as a prisoner, returning to the role of Protector when Henry became ill again. Buckingham appears to have supported this second protectorate too, and probably as a result of this, he lost favour with Queen Margaret. A contemporary wrote that in April 1456, the duke returned to his Writtle manor, not looking "well plesid." Buckingham played a fundamental role at the October 1456 Great Council in Leicester, where, with other lords, he pleaded with the King to impose a settlement whilst declaring that anyone who resorted to violence would receive "ther deserte" – and this included any who attacked York.
In 1459, with other lords, he renewed his oath of loyalty to the King and Prince of Wales. Until this point he may have been a voice of restraint amongst the court party – possibly even on the queen herself. But his political realignment with the queen that year was decisive enough that it ultimately "hastened" the outbreak of hostilities again, although he may have been partially motivated by financial needs, and encouraged to do so by those retainers reliant on him. He had a bigger retinue than almost any other noble in England and was probably the only one who could match York in power and income. This was demonstrated at the Battle of Ludford Bridge in October 1459, where his army played a decisive part in the defeat of the Yorkist forces.
The Duke of York and the Neville earls fled Ludlow and went into exile; York to Ireland, the earls to Calais. They were attainted at the 1459 Coventry parliament, and their estates distributed amongst the Crown's supporters. Buckingham was rewarded by the King with extensive grants from the estates of Sir William Oldhall, probably worth over £800 per annum. With York in exile, Buckingham was granted custody of York's wife, Cecily, Duchess of York, whom, a chronicler reports, he treated harshly in captivity.
Death at Northampton
From the moment the Duke of York and the Neville earls left England it was obvious to those in government that they would return. In June 1460 they did so, landing at Sandwich, Kent. They immediately marched on, and entered, London, while the King, with Buckingham and other lords, moved the court from Coventry to Northampton.
In the lead up to the Battle of Northampton, the Earls of Warwick and March sent envoys to negotiate, but Buckingham, backed in his position by his son-in-law, the Earl of Shrewsbury and Lords Beaumont and Egremont, was no longer conciliatory. Buckingham was once again acting as representative of the King and did not allow the Yorkists' envoys to meet Henry. The duke informed them '"the Earl of Warwick shall not come to the King's presence and if he comes he shall die," and told a group of Yorkist bishops that they were not men of peace, but men of war, and there could be no peace with Warwick. It is likely that a personal animosity pre-existed between the two men by this time – possibly as a result of Warwick's previous rent evasion, and that Buckingham's influential voice was used to vote for action in the King's camp. The duke may also have misinterpreted the Yorkists' requests to negotiate as a sign of weakness. It is possible that Buckingham saw the coming battle as an opportunity to settle scores with Warwick (rather than with the Duke of York). If this was so, says Rawcliffe, then these plans "ended abruptly" on the battlefield. Not only this, but Buckingham may also have misjudged the size of the Yorkist army as well the royal soldiers' loyalty.
The royal army was outnumbered by that of Warwick and March. Buckingham's men dug in outside Northampton, and fortified behind a bend in the River Nene, close to Delapré Abbey. Battle was joined on 10 July 1460, but was considerably shortened when Edmund Grey, later Earl of Kent, turned traitor to the King. Grey "welcomed the Yorkists over the barricades" on the Lancastrian left wing and ordered his men to lay down arms, allowing the Yorkists access to the camp. Within half an hour of starting, the battle was over. By 2:00 pm, Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Egremont and Viscount Beaumont, were killed, possibly by a force of Kentishmen. Buckingham was buried shortly after at Grey Friars, Northampton.
Buckingham had named his wife Anne sole executrix of his will. She was to give 200 marks to any clergy who attended his funeral, with the remainder being distributed as poor relief. She was also to organise the establishment of two chantries in his memory, and he left "exceedingly elaborate" instructions for the foundation of a college in Pleshy.
In his youth, Humphrey Stafford has been described as something of a hothead, and later in life he was a staunch anti-Lollard. It was probably as a consequence of this that Sir Thomas Malory attempted his assassination around 1450 – if indeed he did, as the charge was never proved. Likewise, he did not lack the traditional noble traits of the time, particularly that of resorting to armed force before anything else. For instance, in September 1429, following an altercation with his brother-in-law the Earl of Huntingdon, he arrived at parliament "armed to the teeth." He was also a literary patron: Scrope presented him with a copy of Christine de Pizan's Epistle of Othea – in what has been described as "an elaborate act of homage to a powerful and potentially powerful patron," particularly due to its "dedicatory verses." On his estates – especially on the Welsh marches – he has been described as a "harsh and exacting landlord," in his pursuit of maximising his income, but also competent in his land deals, and who never – unlike contemporaries – had to sell land to stay solvent.
It has been noted that, although he died a staunch Lancastrian, he never showed any personal dislike of York or the Nevilles in the 1450s, and that his personal motivation throughout the decade was loyalty to the Crown and keeping the peace between his peers. Rawcliffe has suggested that although he was inevitably going to be involved in the high politics of the day, Buckingham "lacked the necessary qualities ever to become a great statesman or leader... [he] was in many ways an unimaginative and unlikeable man." On his latter quality, Rawcliffe points to his reputation as a harsh taskmaster on his estates and his "offensive behaviour" towards Joan of Arc. Further, she says, his political judgement was "clouded" by this attitude. His temper, she says, was "ungovernable."
Michael Hicks has noted that Buckingham was one of the few Lancastrian loyalists who was never accused by the Yorkists of being an "evil councillor", and further, that the duke was "the substance and perhaps the steel within the ruling regime." Buckingham's eldest son and heir Humphrey had predeceased his father, dying of plague in 1458. As such, the Stafford dukedom and lands descended to his son – Buckingham's grandson – Henry Stafford. Although Buckingham was not attainted when the Duke of York's son, Edward took the throne as Edward IV in 1461, Henry became a royal ward, which gave the King control of the Stafford estates during the young duke's minority.
Humphrey Stafford married Lady Anne Neville, daughter of Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Lady Joan Beaufort (Westmorland's second wife), at some point prior to 18 October 1424. Anne Neville was a literary patron in her own right, also receiving a dedication in a copy of Scrope's translated Othea, and left many books in her will. They had twelve children: seven sons (only three of whom survived to adulthood) and five daughters. At least three sons died young (Edward, George and William, with the latter two being twins). The seventh son has gone unremarked in the sources. Elizabeth and Margret are known not to have married.
The marriages Buckingham arranged for his children were focused on strengthening his ties with the Lancastrian royal family. Of particular importance were the marriages of two of his sons. They married into the Beaufort family, who were descended from the illegitimate children of John of Gaunt and thus of royal blood. His eldest son, Humphrey, who had predeceased him, had married Margaret Beaufort. She was the daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, and Eleanor Beauchamp. Margaret and Humphrey were the parents of Henry Stafford, the first Duke of Buckingham's eventual heir. The second link to the Beauforts was between Buckingham's second son, Sir Henry Stafford (c. 1425–1471), who was to be the third husband of Lady Margaret Beaufort, daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and Margaret Beauchamp. Margaret Beaufort had previously been married to Edmund Tudor, the eldest half-brother of Henry VI, and had given birth to the future King Henry VII two months after Edmund's death. She and Henry were childless. Buckingham's third surving son, John (d. 8 May 1473) married Constance Green of Drayton, who had previously been the duke's ward. Humphrey Stafford assigned them the manor of Newton Blossomville at the time of their marriage. John was later created Earl of Wiltshire.
The Duke of Buckingham's daughters made good (but for their father, expensive) marriages. They married the heirs of the Earl of Oxford, Viscount Beaumont and of the Earl of Shrewsbury. The eldest, Anne (1446–1472), had been proposed as the future consort to Louis XI of France, which would have linked the French Crown again with the Lancastrian regime. Instead she married Aubrey de Vere, son of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford. This marriage cost Buckingham 2,300 marks, and he "took a long even time to pay that". In 1452, Joan (1442–1484) married William Beaumont. Margaret (1437–1476), married John Talbot. Buckingham had apparently promised to give them £1,000, but died before acting on the promise.
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Cultural references and portrayals
Buckingham was depicted, during his son's lifetime, as "mounted in battle array" (during the 1436 campaign against Burgundy), in the pictorial Beauchamp Pageant, which was probably compiled by Anne, Countess of Warwick, the Kingmaker's widow, in 1480.
T.L. Lustig has suggested that Thomas Malory, in his Morte d'Arthur, based the character of his Gawaine on Buckingham, as Malory may have perceived the duke as being "peacemaker and warlord, warrior and judge" – qualities which the writer later ascribed to his Arthurian character. Buckingham appears in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 2 (c. 1591), in which his character conspires in the downfall and disgrace of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester. It is possible that he was the subject and title-character of the early-seventeenth century play, Duke Humphrey, which is now lost.
- Rawcliffe, C. (2004). "Stafford, Humphrey, first duke of Buckingham (1402–1460)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. (Subscription required (. ))
- Griffiths 1979, p. 20.
- Cokayne 1912, p. 389.
- Rawcliffe 1978, p. 12.
- Walker 1976, p. 104.
- Harriss 2006, p. 524.
- Matusiak 2012, p. 234.
- Jacob 1993, pp. 328–29.
- Allmand 2014, p. 177.
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The Earl of Stafford
|Lord High Constable
The Duke of Buckingham
The Lord Saye and Sele
|Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports
The Lord Rivers
|Peerage of England|
|New creation||Duke of Buckingham
|Earl of Stafford