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Dorothy Stafford
Lady Stafford
Portrait of Dorothy Stafford, by an unknown artist, c.1560
Portrait of Dorothy Stafford, by an unknown artist, c.1560
Spouse Sir William Stafford
Elizabeth Stafford, Lady Drury
Dorothy Stafford
Sir Edward Stafford
Ursula Stafford
William Stafford
Sir John Stafford
Noble family Stafford
Father Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford
Mother Lady Ursula Pole
Born 1 October 1526
Died 22 September 1604
Burial St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, London
Occupation Mistress of the Robes

Dorothy Stafford, Lady Stafford (1 October 1526- 22 September 1604), was an English noblewoman, and an influential person at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England, to whom Dorothy served as Mistress of the Robes. Dorothy was the second wife of Sir William Stafford, widower of Mary Boleyn. Dorothy and her family were forced to seek exile in Geneva during the reign of Mary I, due to their Protestant religion. Reformer John Calvin stood as godfather to her youngest son.

Through her maternal grandmother, Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, Dorothy had a claim to the English throne.



Dorothy was born on 1 October 1526,[1] the youngest daughter of Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford and Lady Ursula Pole. Her mother was the daughter of Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, who would be executed for treason in 1541 by the order of King Henry VIII. Through her grandmother, who was the last surviving member of the Plantagenet dynasty, Dorothy and her siblings had a claim to the English throne. Dorothy had 13 siblings, of whom 11 names are known. She, along with her sister Susan, was raised in the household of her aunt Elizabeth Stafford, Duchess of Norfolk.[2]Dorothy was the Duchess's favourite niece, to whom she was very generous, giving her many gifts of clothing and money.[3]

Marriage and children

In 1545, Dorothy married her distant cousin Sir William Stafford, whose first wife Mary Boleyn, the elder sister of Queen consort Anne Boleyn, had died in July 1543. Sir William was Mary's second husband, her first having been William Carey, by whom she had a son, Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, and a daughter, Catherine Carey. Sir William had at least two children by Mary, but they both died young. Sir William and Dorothy together had six children:

  • Elizabeth Stafford (1546- 6 February 1599), married firstly, Sir William Drury, by whom she had issue; she married secondly, Sir John Scott.
  • Dorothy Stafford (b.1548)
  • Sir Edward Stafford of Grafton (1552- 1604), married firstly, Roberta Chapman by whom he had issue; he married secondly, Douglas Sheffield.
  • Ursula Stafford (b.1553), married Richard Drake of Esher, by whom she had issue.
  • William Stafford (1554- 1612), married Anne Gryme, by whom he had issue.
  • Sir John Stafford of Marlwood Park (January 1556- 1624), married Millicent Gresham.

On 23 September 1545, Dorothy's husband was knighted in Scotland by Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford during the War of the Rough Wooing. From that time onward, Dorothy was styled as Lady Stafford.

Dorothy and her family were staunch Protestants; therefore during the reign of Roman Catholic Queen Mary I, the Staffords were forced to go into exile. They chose Geneva, where they befriended John Calvin, who stood as godfather to Dorothy's youngest son, John on 4 January 1556.[4] On 5 May 1556, Sir William died, and Dorothy moved with her small children to Basel.

Elizabeth I's court

In January 1559, following the ascension of Queen Elizabeth I, Dorothy and her children returned to England, where she was received at court. John Calvin had strongly opposed their departure, having wanted to keep his godson in Switzerland. In 1563, Dorothy was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Elizabeth, and she exercised much influence at the royal court. She used her influence with the Queen to promote the causes of both her friends and casual acquaintances; in 1569, Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, seeking a prebend for a colleague, wrote to Dorothy, requesting that she "speak some good word" on the matter to the Queen.[5] In 1576, she broke her leg in a riding accident, but quickly recovered. Two years later, she used her influence to secure the prestigious office of English Ambassador to France for her eldest son, Sir Edward Stafford.

She held her post at court until the Queen's death in 1603,[6] having served her for 40 years. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth was a Lady of the Bedchamber, and her son-in-law, Richard Drake, served as the Queen's Equerry. Her late husband's two stepchildren by Mary Boleyn also held influential posts at court.


Dorothy died on 22 September 1604, and was buried in St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. Her effigy and monument are in the north aisle of the church. The inscription on her monument reads:[7] Here Lyeth the Lady Dorothy Stafford, Wife and Widow to Sir William Stafford, Knight, Daughter to Henry, Lord Stafford, the only son of Edward, the last Duke of Buckingham: Her mother was Ursula, Daughter to the Countesse of Salisbury, the only Daughter to George, Duke of Clarence, Brother to King Edward the Fourth. Shee continued a true Widow from the Age of 27 till her Death. She served Queen Elizabeth 40 Yeeres, lying in the Bedchamber, esteemed of her, loved of all, doing good, all she could, to every Body, never hurt any; a continual Remembrancer of the Suits of the Poor. As she Lived a religious Life, in great Reputation of Honour and Vertue in the World, so she ended in continual fervent Meditation, and hearty Prayer to God. At which Instant, as all her Life, so after her Death, she gave liberally to the Poore, and died aged 78, the 22. of September 1604. In whose Remembrance, Sir Edward Stafford, her sonne, hath caused this Memorial of her to be in the same Forme and Place as she herselfe long since required him.



  1. ^ Kathy Lynn Emerson, A Who's Who of Tudor Women retrieved on 2 December 2009
  2. ^ Emerson
  3. ^ Barbara Jean Harris, Edward Stafford, Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521, p.73, Google Books, retrieved 3-12-09
  4. ^ Emerson
  5. ^ Anne Somerset, Ladies in Waiting, p.66, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984
  6. ^ Emerson
  7. ^ John Strype's, A Survey of the City of London and Westminster, retrieved 2-12-09


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