STAFFORD, HENRY, second Duke of Buckingham (1454?–1483), was son of Humphrey Stafford, who died in the lifetime of his father, Humphrey Stafford, first duke of Buckingham [q. v.] His mother was Margaret, daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset [q. v.] Buckingham was born in or about 1454, and being still a minor at Edward IV’s accession, that king placed him under the care of his own sister Anne, duchess of Exeter. He became second Duke of Buckingham on the death of his grandfather, the first duke, in 1460. Knighted at the coronation of Elizabeth Woodville in May 1465, he was elected to the order of the Garter nine years later. In 1478 he pronounced sentence as high steward of England upon Edward’s unhappy brother Clarence (Rot. Parl. vi. 195). Soon afterwards he was one of the negotiators with France. But he did not become a prominent political personage until the death of Edward IV and the accession of his boy successor. Though married to a Woodville, Buckingham was almost as much distrusted by the queen’s party as Richard of Gloucester himself. His pretensions as the greatest of the old nobility were quite irreconcilable with the ambition of the upstart relatives of Queen Elizabeth. He hastened to Northampton to meet Gloucester, who had been in Yorkshire when the king died, and it was with his help that Richard arrested (30 April 1483) Lords Rivers and Grey, and got possession of the young king, whom they were conducting from Ludlow to London (Cont. Croyland Chron. p. 565; Polydore Vergil, p. 174). Richard was prepared to do almost anything to make sure of the continued support of his powerful partisan. As Protector he invested him (15 May) with extraordinary powers in Wales and five English counties; there were also conferred upon him the offices of chief justice and chamberlain of the Principality of Wales and of constable and steward of all the royal castles there, and in the marches as well as those of Shropshire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire, with the right of levying forces. Richard entrusted Bishop Morton to his keeping at Brecon. It was Buckingham who suggested the Tower as a place of residence for the young king. He was present with Richard at Dr. Shaw’s sermon from Paul’s Cross, assailing the legitimacy of Edward IV’s children (22 June), and two days later he harangued the citizens at the Guildhall to the same effect, and suggested that they should call upon the Protector to assume the crown (Fabyan; see art. Shaw, Sir Edmund). His eloquence extorted admiration, for ‘he was neither unlearned and of nature marvellously well spoken’ (MORE), but he could not rouse enthusiasm for the cause he advocated. In Richard’s coronation procession (6 July) Buckingham outshone all in magnificence; the trappings of his horse flamed with his badge of the burning cart-wheel, and he emulated Warwick the king-maker in the number of his retainers, who all bore his livery of the Stafford knot (Hall, pp. 375, 382; Rous, p. 216). At the ceremony itself he officiated as great chamberlain and bore the king’s train (Excerpta Historica, p. 380). A week later he was given the stewardship of the honour of Tutbury and other Duchy of Lancaster estates in Staffordshire, and recognised (13 July) as sole heir of the old Bohun family. Richard gave him a promise under his sign manual to restore to him in the next parliament that moiety of the Bohun estates which had come to the crown by Henry IV’s marriage with Mary de Bohun; he was acknowledged (15 July) as lord high constable of England, the ancient hereditary office of the Bohuns (Dugdale, i. 168; Complete Peerage, ii. 64). The powers in Wales and the west conferred upon him in the previous May were in part confirmed, but without the power apparently of levying troops outside Wales (Doyle). Yet a month or two later, and without any apparent provocation, to the utter surprise of his contemporaries he was in open revolt. At first sight this sudden change of front seems inexplicable. It may be that he had taken alarm at the strength of the movement which at once began on behalf of the deposed young king, and shrank from the extreme measures which he knew Richard would not hesitate to take. He himself alleged that his support had been secured for the deposition by testimony which he had found to be false. But there are indications that personal ambition had something to do with his rapid volte-face. He may have had reason to doubt whether Richard would carry out his promise to restore the Bohun estates; he had won so great a position that perhaps he rebelled against the limits which Richard’s character must necessarily put to its further extension. It is even possible that he had come to the conclusion that he had better claims to the throne than Richard. There is some reason to think it probable that he knew that Henry IV’s attempt to exclude from the throne the descendants of John of Gaunt and Catherine Swynford, of whom he was one, had no legal weight (Gairdner, p. 139). How far his plans were formed when he left Richard at Gloucester on his northward progress about the beginning of August, and retired to his castle at Brecon, we have no means of deciding. He is said to have spent two days at Tewkesbury brooding over his claim to the crown, but to have been reminded that the eldest representative of the Beaufort claim was his cousin Henry of Richmond, by an accidental meeting with his mother, Lady Stanley, between Worcester and Bridgnorth (Hall, p. 388). If he was still wavering when he reached Brecon, the skilful representations of his prisoner, Bishop Morton, and the rumour of the murder of the princes in the Tower soon put an end to his hesitation. It was decided to overthrow Richard in favour of a union of the two roses by a marriage between the Earl of Richmond and Elizabeth of York. Henry was invited over from Brittany and a general rising arranged for 18 Oct. (Rot. Parl. vi. 245). On the 11th of that month Richard, at Lincoln, proclaimed Buckingham a traitor, the ‘most untrue creature living.’ At the appointed time Buckingham moved eastwards with a Welsh force into Herefordshire; but he could get no further, and the Wye and Severn were in high flood, long remembered as ‘the Duke of Buckingham’s water.’ They were impassable even if his distant kinsman, Humphrey Stafford of Grafton, had not been holding all the fords. Sir Thomas Vaughan [q. v.] of Tretower cut off his retreat into the march (ib.; Cont. Croyl. Chron. p. 568). After ten days of weary waiting Buckingham’s army dispersed, and he fled northwards in disguise to Shropshire; a price of 1,000l. was placed on his head; a retainer, Ralph Bannister of Lacon Park, near Wem, sheltered him for a time, but was not above claiming the reward for giving him up when his whereabouts was discovered (Ramsay, ii. 507). His lurking-place in a poor hut is said to have been betrayed by the unusual provision of victuals carried to it (Cont. Croyl. Chron. p. 568). He was brought to the court at Salisbury on 1 Nov. by John Mytton, the sheriff of Shropshire. Short shrift was allowed him. A confession failed to procure him an audience of the king, and next day, though a Sunday, he was beheaded in the market-place. His great estates were confiscated.
Buckingham married (February 1466) Catherine Woodville, daughter of Richard, first earl Rivers, and sister of Edward IV’s queen. His widow married, before November 1485, Jasper Tudor, duke of Bedford, after whose death (21 Dec. 1495) she took a third husband, Sir Richard Wingfield. She bore Buckingham three sons and two daughters. The sons were: Edward, who became third duke, and is separately noticed; Henry, afterwards Earl of Wiltshire (1509–1523); and Humphrey, who died young. The daughters were: Elizabeth, who married about 1505 Robert Radcliffe, lord Fitzwalter (afterwards Earl of Sussex) [q. v.]; and Anne, who married, first, Sir Walter Herbert, and, secondly (about December 1509), George Hastings, earl of Huntingdon.[Rotuli Parliamentorum and Rymer’s Fœdera, original ed.; Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle in Gale’s Scriptores, 1691; More’s Richard III; Hall’s and Fabyan’s Chronicles, ed. Ellis; Polydore Vergil, Camden Society; Dugdale’s Baronage; the Complete Peerage by G. E. C[okayne]; Gairdner’s Life and Reign of Richard III; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
Stafford, Henry (1454?-1483) by James Tait