Stafford brothers seek sanctuary in Culham Abbey

In 1486 a number of Yorkist lords plotted a rebellion against the new Tudor regime. Among them were Humphrey and Thomas Stafford. They raised a force whilst King Henry VII headed north to seek out Feancis Lovell and crush any rebellion. Finding no trouble in the north, Henry Tudor turned his army south to crush the Stafford’s. Humphrey and Thomas Stafford were alert to the threat and took up sanctuary in Culham Abbey on 11 May 1486. 

The motives and plans of the Stafford brothers and Viscount Lovell

Humphrey Stafford, his younger brother Thomas, and Francis Lovell had all been close to King Richard III. Having fought at Bosworth, attainders had been issued that stripped the families of their titles, rights, and lands.

Sanctuary and plotting in Colchester

To avoid harm, the three had taken up sanctuary in Colchester, during which time they formed a plot and Lovell headed north, to Yorkshire, to drum up support for a rebellion.

Meanwhile, Humphrey Stafford drew up fake documents that said that he had been pardoned. The ruse worked, and the Stafford brothers made their way to Worcester.

Tudor regime alert to the threat

The early Tudor regime was alert to the possibility of rebellion and acted quickly. The Stafford brothers attempted to gather a force to head north, which never materialised.

In the north, King Henry VII arrived at Pontefract and found no large rebel force to contend with: he turned and marched south, on the Stafford’s.

The Stafford brothers seek refuge in Culham Abbey.

News of the kings advance reached the brothers, who escaped. They travelled to Culham Abbey where they took up sanctuary on 11th May 1486. However, the chasing pack, led by John Savage, broke sanctuary and arrested the men.

Seizure of the Stafford brothers from sanctuary

The brothers’ trial made an important legal precedent, it determined that sanctuary would no longer apply to those accused of treason. The brothers were tried, and Humphrey executed for his treasonable rebellion attempt on 5th July. Thomas received a pardon.


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