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Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham: Wikis


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An 18th century illustration of Henry Stafford.

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (4 September 1455 – 2 November 1483) played a major role in Richard III of England's rise and fall. He is also one of the primary suspects in the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the Princes in the Tower. Buckingham was related to the royal family of England so many different ways that he was his own cousin many times over, but his connections were all through daughters of younger sons. His chances of inheriting the throne would have seemed remote, but eventually the internecine conflicts among the descendants of Edward III of England and within the Houses of Lancaster and York brought Buckingham within striking distance of the crown. Some historians claim Buckingham's deliberate plotting to seize the throne started as early as the reign of Edward IV, and if they are correct then his elaborate and lengthy plan very nearly succeeded.


Early life

His father, Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford, supported the House of Lancaster in the initial phase of the Wars of the Roses. He died in 1458 of wounds after First Battle of St Albans, and his paternal grandfather, Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, another leading Lancastrian, was killed at the Battle of Northampton (10 July 1460). His mother was Margaret Beaufort, daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. Through her, Henry was a potential Lancastrian claimant to the English throne.

After his grandfather's death, Henry was recognized as Duke of Buckingham. The new Duke eventually became a ward of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV of England. Sometime before the time of her coronation in May 1465 he was married to her sister Catherine Woodville. Both parties were children at the time; they were carried on squires' shoulders at the coronation ceremony and were reared in the queen's household together.

According to Dominic Mancini, Buckingham resented his wife and the other Woodvilles as well because of his marriage to a woman of a lower status. When Edward IV died in 1483, and the Woodvilles struggled with Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, over the guardianship of the young Edward V, Buckingham first sided with Richard.

Accession of Richard III

Parliament subsequently declared Edward V illegitimate, offering Richard the throne, and he accepted it, becoming Richard III. Buckingham moved quickly to support Richard's claim. He was with Richard when they took possession of the young King Edward V at Stony Stratford in April 1483 and played a major role in the coup d'etat which followed.

After initially supporting Richard, Buckingham subsequently started working with John Morton, Bishop of Ely, in support of Buckingham's second-cousin Henry Tudor against the King, even though this placed him on the same side as his despised Woodville in-laws.

Rebellion of 1483

In 1483, a conspiracy arose among a number of disaffected gentry, supporters of Edward IV. They originally planned to depose Richard III and place Edward V back on the throne. When rumours arose that Edward and his brother (the Princes in the Tower) were dead, Buckingham intervened, proposing instead that Henry Tudor return from exile, take the throne and marry Elizabeth of York. For his part, Buckingham would raise a substantial force from his estates in Wales and the Marches.[1]

Richard eventually put down the rebellion; Henry's ships ran into a storm and had to go back to Brittany, and Buckingham's army was greatly troubled by the same storm and deserted when Richard's forces came against them. Buckingham tried to escape in disguise but was turned in for the bounty Richard had put on his head, and he was convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on 2 November. Following Buckingham's execution, his widow, Catherine, married Jasper Tudor.

The Bohun Estate

Buckingham's motives in these events are disputed. His antipathy to Edward IV and his children probably arose from two causes. One was his dislike for their mutual Woodville in-laws, whom Edward greatly favoured. Another was his interest in the Bohun estate. Buckingham had inherited a great deal of property from his great-great-grandmother, Eleanor de Bohun, wife of Thomas of Woodstock and daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton.

Eleanor's younger sister and co-heir Mary de Bohun married Henry Bolingbroke, who eventually became Henry IV, and her share of the de Bohun estates became incorporated into the holdings of the House of Lancaster, being eventually inherited by Henry VI. When Henry VI was deposed by Edward IV, Edward appropriated that half into the Crown property under the House of York.

Buckingham claimed those lands should have been devolved to him instead, and it is likely that Richard III promised to settle the estate on Buckingham in return for his help seizing the throne. Indeed, after Richard's coronation he did award the other half of the Bohun estate to Buckingham, but it was conditional on the approval of Parliament.[2] Historians disagree on whether this condition was in fact a way for Richard to appear to keep his promise while actually breaking it, but this may have been a motivation for Buckingham to turn against Richard.

The Princes in the Tower

Richard III is alleged to have consolidated his power by eliminating his brother's children, who preceded him in succession to the throne. However, there is some question about Buckingham's relationship to the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. According to a manuscript discovered in the early 1980s in the College of Arms collection, the Princes were murdered "be [by] the vise" of the Duke of Buckingham. There is some argument over whether "vise" means "advice" or "devise," and, if the former, in what sense.[3]

If Richard was responsible for killing the Princes in the Tower, the murders may have caused Buckingham to change sides. On the other hand, Buckingham himself had motivation to kill the Princes, being a Lancastrian contender for the throne with a viable claim potentially equivalent to that of Henry Tudor, depending on one's view of the legitimacy of the Tudor branch of the House of Lancaster. According to this perspective, if Buckingham killed the Princes and blamed Richard, he could foment a Lancastrian rebellion, putting the throne into play with only Henry Tudor as a rival. Indeed, a Lancastrian rebellion followed, but it was Henry Tudor who succeeded in deposing Richard III.

Relationship to Edward III

Three of Buckingham's four grandparents were descended from Edward III of England:

Important relatives

Buckingham was the son of Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford. Four of Buckingham's first and second cousins became King of England, and two of his second cousins became Queen:

One can see from the ancestral chart below that two of his great-grandparents were brother and sister (John Beaufort and Joan Beaufort). This made Buckingham's parents second cousins.



Buckingham and his wife Catherine Woodville were parents to four children:


  1. ^ Ross 105-119
  2. ^ Ross 114
  3. ^ Firth Green


  • Firth Green, Richard (July 1981). "Historical Notes of a London Citizen, 1483-1488". The English Historical Review 96: 585–590.  
  • A. R. Myers, "The Household of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, 1466-7," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library (1967-68).
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, "Stafford, Henry, Second Duke of Buckingham," by C. S. L. Davies.
  • Ross, Charles (1981). Richard III. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-29530-3.  
  • Harris, Barbara (1986). Edward Stafford: Third Duke of Buckingham, 1478-1521. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1316-2.  
  • Smith, George (1975 (originally published 1935)). The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville. Gloucester Reprints. ISBN 0 904586 00 6.  

External links

Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Buckingham
Lord High Constable
Succeeded by
The Lord Stanley
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Humphrey Stafford
Duke of Buckingham
Succeeded by
(restored in 1485
for Edward Stafford)


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