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Sir William Stafford (c.1500-5 May 1556) was an Essex landowner and the second husband of Mary Boleyn, the one time lover of King Henry VIII of England.

William was the son of Humphrey Stafford of Blatherwycke in Northamptonshire and his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir John Fogge of Ashford in Kent. The family were distant relatives of the mighty Staffords, who had until recently had controlled the dukedom of Buckingham and the earldom of Wiltshire, but William Stafford was a commoner, and only a second son. He served Henry VIII as a soldier.[1] In 1532, he is listed as one of two hundred people who accompanied Henry VIII to France. Here Henry and his fiancee Anne Boleyn were to meet King Francis I of France to show his public approval for Henry's annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Among the other travellers was Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary Boleyn, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn who was by then the Earl of Wiltshire and the Earl of Ormonde. As an earl's daughter, a duke's niece and soon to be the sister-in-law of the King, Mary's marriage prospects were excellent. After marrying Stafford instead, Mary was dismissed from court and never saw her sister, Anne, her brother-in-law and former lover Henry or her brother George again.

The couple originally lived at Chebsey in Staffordshire, but later moved to Mary's family home, Rochford Hall at Rochford in Essex. Mary had two children during her first marriage (Henry Carey and Catherine Carey), although the father of both children is alleged to have been Henry VIII. Mary was pregnant by William Stafford when she was dismissed from court, but this child probably did not survive to adulthood. There are suggestions that the child was a boy, and that they also had a daughter, named Anne, who also died as a child. They had no surviving children. William served in Scotland, where he was knighted in 1545, and, two years later, he became MP for Hastings.


Second Marriage

After his wife's death, Sir William married Dorothy, the youngest daughter of Henry Stafford, 1st Baron Stafford, by whom he had three sons and two daughters. They moved to Geneva during Mary I's reign and he did not live to see the reign of his niece, Elizabeth I, or to see his wife, children and stepchildren become influential courtiers during the reign of Elizabeth I. He died on 5 May 1556 in Geneva.

Their children were

  • Sir Edward Stafford of Grafton (1552–1604), who married firstly Roberta Chapman, and secondly Douglas Sheffield.
  • Sir John Stafford of Marlwood (1556-1624), who married Millicent Gresham.
  • Elizabeth Stafford (d.1599), who married Richard Drake of Esher.
  • Ursula Stafford, who married firstly Sir William Drury of Hawstead (1550-1590), and secondly Sir John Scott.

In Popular Culture

William is portrayed by the actor Eddie Redmayne in the Hollywood adaption of The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, alongside Scarlett Johansson as Mary.

Phillip Glenister played William alongside Natascha McElhone as Mary in the BBC film of The Other Boleyn Girl

William Stafford appears as a main character in Karen Harper's novel 'The Last Boleyn', a tale about the life of Mary Boleyn in the years before, during and after her affair with King Henry VIII.


  1. ^ p.114-118, The Mistresses of Henry VIII, Kelly Hart


  • The Mistresses of Henry VIII by Kelly Hart
  • Bindoff, The Commons 1509-1558
  • Oxford DNB, Mary Boleyn


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