Stafford, Humphrey, Earl of Devon

(1439–1469)
   A loyal Yorkist, Humphrey Stafford was one of the men EDWARD IV raised to local political prominence in the 1460s, in an effort to build support for the Yorkist regime and to defend against Lancastrian insurgency. A member of a southwestern GENTRY family distantly related to the dukes of Buckingham, Stafford was an early adherent to the Yorkist cause. He fought at the Battle of MORTIMER’S CROSS in February 1461, was knighted by Edward IV after the Battle of TOWTON in late March, and was raised to the PEERAGE as Lord Stafford of Southwick in July. By 1463, Edward began positioning Stafford as the chief royal agent in the southwest, a region notoriously Lancastrian in its sympathies. The king appointed him to numerous local offices, granted him many forfeited southwestern estates, and gave him many local wardships. Stafford also served on various political and administrative commissions across the region.
   In 1469, Stafford was admitted to the royal COUNCIL and served on the commission that tried Henry COURTENAY, earl of Devon, for plotting treason with agents of Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU. Perhaps because Stafford 254 STAFFORD, HUMPHREY, EARL OF DEVON was given Devon’s lands and title in May 1469, he was later accused of having engineered Devon’s trial and execution. Although Stafford was ambitious, the keen personal interest that the king took in the trial indicates how seriously he took the charges and makes it more likely that Stafford was merely the beneficiary rather than the instigator of Devon’s downfall.
   Within weeks of his promotion, the new earl was identified in a rebel manifesto inspired by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, as one of a crowd of grasping courtiers who were impoverishing the kingdom for their own gain. Blaming the shrinking of his political influence on the rise of royal favorites like Devon and the WOODVILLE FAMILY, Warwick tried to overawe the king by instigating the ROBIN OF REDESDALE REBELLION in the summer of 1469. Ordered to raise troops to quell the uprising, Devon joined forces with William HERBERT, earl of Pembroke. Near Banbury on 25 July, the two earls quarreled over billeting arrangements and wound up in separate encampments, Devon taking most of the ARCHERS with him. When Pembroke was attacked by the rebels next morning at EDGECOTE, the lack of archers contributed to his defeat. Devon marched to the field of battle, but either came too late to affect the outcome or was unable to engage his forces. The earl fled into the West Country, but was seized and executed on 17 August by the common people of Bridgwater, who may have been acting either in Warwick’s or the Courtenays’ interest.
   See also other entries under Stafford
   Further Reading: Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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