Stafford, Henry, Duke of Buckingham

(c. 1454–1483)
   Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, was instrumental in ensuring the success of RICHARD III’s usurpation of the throne in 1483, an act that revived the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   A grandson of both Humphrey STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, and Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, Stafford became duke of Buckingham in 1460 on his grandfather’s death at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON. In 1466, EDWARD IV married the wealthy young duke to his sister-in-law, Katherine Woodville, daughter of Richard WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers. Although willing to tie the duke’s estates and following to the growing Woodville interest, Edward otherwise gave Buckingham little employment, and the duke remained a rather obscure figure for someone of his wealth and royal blood. However, Buckingham came into immediate prominence on Edward’s death in April 1483, when he joined forces with Richard, duke of Gloucester, to help him seize custody of EDWARD V from Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers, the young king’s uncle and governor. Aware of his need for Buckingham’s support, Gloucester made the duke all-powerful in WALES, appointing him to the most important Welsh offices and giving him the keeping of all royal castles in the principality. In return, Buckingham presided at a 25 June assembly of notables in LONDON that devised a petition asking Gloucester to take the throne, and next day he led a deputation to Baynard’s Castle to personally present the petition to Richard. Buckingham was also the most conspicuous peer at Richard III’s coronation on 6 July, officiating as high steward and carrying the royal train.
   Although rewarded with more offices and estates, Buckingham rose in rebellion in October against the king he had helped crown (see Buckingham’s Rebellion). The reasons for his surprising action remain uncertain.The traditional reason, used by William Shakespeare in his play RICHARD III, is the king’s failure to keep a promise to return to the duke certain lands to which he had a claim, but this theory is dismissed by most modern historians because Richard restored the lands in question in July 1483. The duke may have been disturbed by Richard’s murder of Edward V and his brother, although a modern case has been made that Buckingham was himself responsible for their deaths. A descendent of Edward III, he may have sought the Crown for himself, being encouraged in this ambition, as Sir Thomas More claimed in his HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, by Bishop John MORTON, a prisoner entrusted to Buckingham’s keeping by Richard III. He may have feared his fate should a conspiracy rapidly being formed by Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE and Margaret BEAUFORT, Countess of Richmond, put Margaret’s son, Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (see Henry VII, King of England), on the throne without his help. In any event, Morton put Buckingham in touch with the Tudor conspirators, and the duke rose in concert with them in October.
   Declared the “most untrue creature living” by Richard on 11 October (Ross, p. 116), Buckingham was captured by royal forces at the end of the month after severe flooding on the Severn and Wye rivers prevented his force from moving east while royal forces cut off his retreat to the west. Betrayed by a RETAINER for the £1,000 reward placed on his head by the king, Buckingham was carried to Salisbury and executed in the marketplace on 2 November without trial or royal audience.
   See also Plantagenet, Richard, Duke of York2 (1473–c. 1483); Princes in the Tower; Usurpation of 1483; other entries under Stafford
   Further Reading: Gill, Louise, Richard III and Buckingham’s Rebellion (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999);“Henry Stafford,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 363–364; Rawcliffe, Carole, The Staffords: Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham, 1394-1521 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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