Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham

STAFFORD, HUMPHREY, first Duke of Buckingham (1402–1460), was son of Edmund, fifth earl of Stafford [see under Stafford, Ralph de, first Earl]. His mother, Anne (d. 1438), was daughter and eventually sole heir of Thomas, duke of Gloucester [see Thomas, (d. 1397)], youngest son of Edward III, and his wife Eleanor, coheir of the last Bohun, earl of Hereford, Northampton, and Essex. Born in 1402, Stafford was only a year old when his father’s early death in the battle of Shrewsbury made him Earl of Stafford. He served in France in 1420–1, and was knighted by Henry V in the latter year (Gesta Henrici V, pp. 144, 279). In December 1422 he received livery of his lands (Fœdera, x. 259). Young as he was, Stafford appears in the council of Henry VI as early as February 1424, and became one of its more prominent members (Ordinances of the Privy Council, iii. 143). He had a hand in reconciling Beaufort and Humphrey of Gloucester in 1426. Three years later Stafford became knight of the Garter, and in 1430 accompanied the young king abroad, and was made constable of France with the governorship of Paris. The day after his arrival (1 Sept.) there he made a dash into Brie and recovered some strongholds (Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris, p. 259; Wavrin, pp. 373–374, 393; Monstrelet, ed. Douet d’Arcq, iv. 405; Chron. London, pp. 170–1). Turning back from Sens, he was in Paris again on 9 Oct., and lodged in the Hôtel des Tournelles (Paris pendant la domination anglaise, p. 317). Bedford soon after relieved him, and Stafford became lieutenant-general of Normandy, an office which he retained until 1432, when he returned to England. In the previous year he had been created by Henry VI Count of Perche, a title in which he succeeded Thomas Beaufort (Revue des Questions historiques, xviii. 510). On his return he seems to have opposed Gloucester’s ambitious schemes (Ordinances, iv. 113).

In August 1436 he took part in a short campaign in Flanders, and two years later there was again some talk of his going to France. He acted as one of the English representatives in the peace negotiations of June 1439 at Calais (ib. v. 98, 334; Stevenson, vol. ii. p. xlix). After his mother’s death, in October 1438, Stafford was known as Earl of Buckingham (Ordinances, v. 209). He was appointed in 1442 captain of the town of Calais, an office which he held for some years, but frequently performed its duties by deputy. He took a leading part in the peace negotiations of 1445 and 1446, and was created Duke of Buckingham on the very day (14 Sept. 1444) that Gloucester’s great enemy, Suffolk, was made a marquis (Rot. Parl. vi. 128; cf. Ordinances, vi. 33, 39; Engl. Chron. ed. Davies, p. 61). The creation of Henry de Beauchamp as Duke of Warwick in the following April, with precedence over him, drew from him a protest, which parliament met (1445) by decreeing that the two dukes should have precedence of each other year and year about. The death of the Duke of Warwick on 11 June following, however, soon supplied a more radical solution of the difficulty. Buckingham took the precaution to secure in 1447 a grant of special precedence before all dukes of subsequent creation not of royal blood. This doubtless was the reward of his prominent share in the arrest of Gloucester at Bury St. Edmunds in February of that year (ib. pp. 63, 117). He was also granted Penshurst and other of Gloucester’s Kentish estates (Rot. Parl. v. 309). In June 1450 he was employed in a vain attempt to make terms with Cade’s insurgents, and after the collapse of the rebellion was one of the commissioners who sat at Rochester for the trial of the rebels. In the same year he became warden of the Cinque ports and constable of Dover and Queenborough castles, and in the autumn he provided a strong guard for the king at Kenilworth and Coventry (Issue Roll, p. 478). His wages as captain of Calais had by November 1449 fallen into arrears to the extent of over 19,000l., but parliament then gave him a lien on the customs and subsidies (Rot. Parl. v. 206). He seems to have resigned this unprofitable post to Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset [q. v.], in 1451. In February 1455 he helped to bail out Somerset, and to arbitrate between him and Richard, duke of York (Fœdera, xi. 361–2). He had shown his dislike of York’s ambition a year before by consenting to act as lord steward at the Earl of Devonshire’s trial (Rot. Parl. v. 249). He it was, too, who had presented the infant prince Edward to the mad king without succeeding in making him understand that a son and heir had been born to him (Paston Letters, i. 263). About the same time (January 1454) Buckingham was reported to have had two thousand Stafford knots (his badge of livery) made ‘to what intent men may construe as their wits will give them’ (ib. i. 265). He consistently supported the queen against York, and on Henry’s recovery accompanied him against the duke. He vainly endeavoured to make an arrangement with York on the eve of the battle of St. Albans (Whethamstede, Annals, i. 167). He was wounded in the face at the battle (Paston Letters, i. 327, 330–3). But he soon recognised the accomplished fact, and ‘swore to be ruled and draw the line’ with York and his friends (ib. i. 335). He and his half-brothers, the Bourchiers, were bound in very heavy recognisances. The act of resumption passed by the Yorkist parliament contained an express exception in favour of his crown grants, and he was placed on various committees (Rot. Parl. v. 279, 287). Entrusted with the ungrateful task of investigating a riot between the Londoners and some Italians, he was put in fear of his life, and in May 1456 fled to Writtle, near Chelmsford, ‘nothing well pleased’ (Fabyan, p. 630; Paston Letters, i. 386). Before the end of the year Queen Margaret temporarily estranged him by the abrupt dismissal of Archbishop Bourchier and Viscount Bourchier from their offices. But on the whole his sympathies were with the royal party; possibly he had ideas of holding the balance between Margaret and the Duke of York. Sir James Ramsay thus explains the incident (which he thinks occurred on this occasion) of Buckingham reminding York that he ‘had nothing to lean to but the king’s grace’ (Rot. Parl. v. 347). In April 1457 Buckingham was with the court at Hereford, and a year later accompanied the queen to London for the famous ‘loveday’ between the two rival parties (Paston Letters, i. 416, 426). He remained loyal on the reopening of the struggle in 1459, and in the February following received a grant in recognition of his services against the rebels in Kent (Fœdera, xi. 443). A few months later he sent away the bishops, who appeared with an armed retinue just before the battle of Northampton (10 July 1460) to demand a royal audience for the Yorkist peers. ‘Ye come,’ said Buckingham, ‘not as bishops to treat for peace, but as men of arms’ (English Chron. ed. Davies, p. 96). In the combat that ensued he was slain by the Kentish men beside the king’s tent (ib. p. 97). His remains were laid in the church of the Greyfriars at Northampton (Dugdale, i. 166). In his will he left gifts to the canons of Maxstoke (Maxstoke Castle in Warwickshire being a favourite residence) and to the college of Pleshey in Essex, which he had inherited from Thomas of Gloucester (ib.) He was perhaps the greatest landowner in England; his estates lay all over central England, from Holderness to Brecknock, and from Stafford to Tunbridge.

A portrait at Penshurst has no claim to be a likeness; it was painted by Lucas Cornelisz [q. v.] under Henry VIII, as one of a series representing constables of Queenborough (cf. Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, ii. 302). Probably more trustworthy is the head on the tomb of Richard Beauchamp (d. 1454) at Warwick, engraved in Doyle’s ‘Official Baronage.’

Buckingham married Anne, daughter of Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland [q. v.] She was godmother of the unfortunate Prince Edward (Henry VI’s son), and did not die until 20 Sept. 1480, surviving a second husband, Walter Blount, lord Mountjoy (Rot. Parl. vi. 128; English Chron. ed. Davies, p. 109; Testamenta Vetusta, p. 356). By her Buckingham had seven sons (four of whom died young) and five daughters. Of the sons who reached manhood, Humphrey was ‘gretly hurt’ in the battle of St. Albans (1455), and died not long after (Paston Letters, i. 333; Rot. Parl. v. 308), leaving by his wife Margaret, daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset [q. v.], a son, Henry Stafford, second duke of Buckingham [q. v.] Henry, apparently the second son of the first duke, married, before 1464, the better known Margaret Beaufort, daughter of John, first duke of Somerset, and mother of Henry VII by her first husband, Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond; he died in 1481 (Stafford MSS. vol. i. f. 346b; Test. Vet. p. 324; cf. State Papers, Venetian, i. 103). The first duke’s third surviving son was John, K.G. and earl of Wiltshire, who died 8 May 1473.

The five daughters were: 1. Anne, who married, first, Aubrey de Vere, heir-apparent of the Lancastrian earl of Oxford, who was executed with his father in 1462; secondly, Sir Thomas Cobham of Sterborough (d. 1471); she died in 1472. 2. Joanna, married, before 1461, to William, viscount Beaumont, from whom she was separated before 1477, and married, secondly, Sir William Knyvet of Buckenham in Norfolk; she was living in 1480. 3. Elizabeth. 4. Margaret. 5. Catherine, married, before 1467, to John Talbot, third earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1473); she died 26 Dec. 1476.

About 1450 there was some talk of marrying one of Buckingham’s daughters, probably the eldest, to the dauphin, afterwards Louis XI (Beaucourt, Hist. de Charles VII, v. 137).

[Many details of the Stafford family history are contained in Lord Bagot’s Stafford MSS. described in Hist. MSS. Comm. 4th Rep. App. pp. 325 et seq. See also Rotuli Parliamentorum; Proceedings and Ordinances of Privy Council, ed. Nicolas; Inquisitiones post mortem (Record Comm.) and Rymer’s Fœdera (orig. ed.); Issue Roll of the Exchequer, ed. Devon; Gesta Henrici V (English Hist. Soc.); Chron. of London and Fabyan’s Chron., ed. Ellis; Wavrin’s Chron. and Stevenson’s Wars in France (Rolls Ser.); English Chron., ed. Davies (Camden Soc.); Journal d’un Bourgeois de Paris and Paris pendant la Domination Anglaise, publ. by the Société de l’Histoire de Paris; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Nicolas’s Testamenta Vetusta; Dugdale’s Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]’s Complete Peerage.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53
Stafford, Humphrey (1402-1460) by James Tait

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