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Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham (1402-1460)

Motto: Humble et Loyal
Badge:

Flaming Cartwheel, Or. (taken from Ms. 2nd M.16, College of Arms).

2000 Stafford Knot badges were ordered by the Duke in January 1454

Standard:

St George in the hoist. Field: Sable over Gules, a bordure company sable and gules. Badges: A Swan, wings extended argent, beaked and footed gules with a crown and chain about the neck, Or. Flaming Cartwheels, Or. Motto: Humble et Loyal, Argent on Sable backing with a bordure, Argent.

In some instances the motto is shown without the Sable backing

Retinue:

10 knights and 27 esquires (men-at-arms)

Sir Edward Grey (d.1457), in 1444 retained for life at £40 per annum

Sir Richard Vernon retained for life at £20 per annum

Sir John Constable retained for life at £20 per annum

Career:

Humphrey Stafford, born 15 August 1402 and eldest son of the 5th Earl, became 6th Earl on the death of his father at Shrewsbury 1403. He was also recognised as Earl of Buckingham, by right of his mother, the Countess of Stafford.

He was knighted in 1421, became a Privy Councillor in 1429 and was made a Knight of the Garter (KG) the same year.

During the course of his life, Humphrey Stafford held many Offices, including:

Lieutenant-General of Normandy, 1430 – 1432
Count of Perche, a Province of Normandy, 1431
Constable of France and Governor of Paris, 1432-1436
Seneschal of Halton, 1439
Captain of Belleme Castle, Calais and Lieutenant of the Marches, 1442-51
Ambassador to France, 1446
Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1450-1459
Constable of Dover Castle, 1450
Constable of Queensborough Castle, Isle of Sheppey, 1450.

On 18 October 1424 Stafford married Anne Neville (d. 1480), daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland at Raby, Durham, England. They had the following children:

 1. Humphrey Stafford, (7th Earl Stafford, b. 1424, died from wounds, 1455).
 2. Henry Stafford, (b. 1425, died from wounds, 1471)
 3. Edward Stafford, (died in childhood)
 4. John Stafford, (1st Earl of Wiltshire, 1427-1473).
 5. Margaret Stafford, (b.1435)
 6. Catherine Stafford, Countess Shrewsbury, (1437-1476).
 7. George Stafford, (b. 1439, died in childhood)
 8. William Stafford, (b.1439,died in childhood)
 9. Joan Stafford, (1442-1484)
 10. Anne Stafford, (1446-1472)

On 14 September 1444 he was created the First Duke of Buckingham with an annual income of £5,500.00.

On 11 February 1447, Buckingham was charged with the task of arresting the Henry VI’s uncle, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester had become more and more vocal in his vehement opposition to the King’s favourite, Suffolk; who many blamed for ceding Anjou and Maine back to the French in April 1445. (Twelve days late Gloucester found was dead, most likely murdered).

After Gloucester death, Richard, Duke of York took up the leadership of the pro-war lobby within Parliament.

In 1449 Buckingham became embroiled in a feud with Sir Thomas Mallory. Although Mallory was a knight of high standing, he sat in Parliament on at least three occasions, he was a flagrant law-breaker. In late 1449, accompanied by a gang of twenty six men, he tried to ambush and murder the Duke. In May and August 1450 he committed rape and extortion and in 1451 he terrorized the monks at Monks Kirkby and stole several hundred head of livestock and deer from the Duke of Buckingham’s park at Calduon. Later he broke into Combe Abbey to steal money and ornaments and then had the audacity to return the following day with a hundred men to insult the monks and steal more money. Buckingham finally caught up with Mallory and had him thrown in gaol (from which he escaped twice). During his imprisonment, Mallory became the author of the famous Morte D’Arthur.

In August 1451, the Duchy of Acquitaine surrended to the French King due to lack of support from the English Government. A furious Duke of York blamed the Duke of Somerset (who had now replaced the murdered Suffolk as Henry’s chief advisors) and threatened rebellion. In February 1452, York marched on London with a sizeable army with the intention of removing Somerset from the Council by force. Buckingham is given the task of mobilising the Royal Army and on 2 March 1452 both sides were drawn up in battle array at Crayford, near Dartford. However neither side was keen to fight and following promises that the King would hear York’s grievances, York disbanded his forces. Somerset was arrested and York pardoned for his actions.

As a consequence of York’s actions Parliament agrees to act and a small English Army under the command of Lord Talbot is dispatched to recover the Gascony territories. Although initially successful, the subsequent failure of Parliament to fund the necessary reinforcements resulted in the French retaking the offensive in the spring of 1453 which culminated in the defeat of the English Army at Castillon. On 19 October 1453 thee Hundred Year’s War came to an end.

As a consequence of the loss of France, Henry VI suffered the first of many mental breakdowns and the following two years would degenerate into a period of political infighting and national lawlessness which would culminate in 1455 in York again raising his Standard in order remove Somerset from the Government.

The Duke of Buckingham was placed in command of the King’s Army at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455. Outnumbered by the Yorkist forces, Buckingham took a defensive position in the market square and placed barricades across the roads. As Buckingham returned from protracted negotiations the Yorkists launched a surprise attack against the defences on Sopwell Lane and Cock Lane. Royalist soldiers, who had withdrawn from the barricades for refreshment, initially repulsed the attack, but the tide turned when men under the Earl of Warwick fought their way in through gardens and houses between Sopwell Lane and Shropshire Lanes. As Yorkist archers poured into the square, Buckingham (who had been unable to don his armour), his eldest son, Humphrey and the King were all wounded by arrows, Buckingham no less than three times including one to the face. A short but savage melee followed during which many of the Lancastrian leaders were killed and Buckingham and the King captured. With the bulk of York’s enemies killed he again confirmed his loyalty to Henry VI.

Buckingham’s eldest son, Humphrey died shortly afterwards from an arrow wound to his hand which had become infected.

In 1456 Buckingham chaired a Royal Commission to investigate anti-Italian riots in London of that year.

In the summer of 1456 and on the pretext of taking King Henry VI to hunt in the Midlands, Queen Margaret (of Anjou) moved the Court to Coventry, and re-fortified nearby Kenilworth Castle with cannon. Having established a secure base, she then arranged that the King should call a Council meeting in October to which all the great magnates were summoned with the intention of having York and Warwick impeached for treason.

Margaret’s plans were thwarted when an unseemly brawl broke out between some of Somerset's men and the Town Watch in which members of the Watch were killed. The Mayor called the town to arms and soon the two sides were involved in a running battle through the streets of Coventry until the Duke of Buckingham intervened by using his own men to restore order and leaving bodies from both sides littering the streets.  With his newly won prestige in quelling the disturbance, Buckingham was able to patch the relationship up between the King, York and Warwick.

In January 1458, Buckingham attended the marriage of his second son, Henry, to Margaret Beaufort (aged only 15 and already the widow of Edmund Tudor and mother to the infant Henry Tudor) at the Duke’s main residence of Maxstoke Castle, Warwickshire, which he had acquired in 1437.

For four years after St Albans an uneasy peace reigned, partly due to the untiring peace-making efforts of Buckingham, who was York’s brother-in-law, and the reluctance of much of the nobility to become involved in civil war and commit treason against the King. However, behind the scenes both sides continued to vie for power.

Hostilities broke out again in 1459 and as Warden of the Cinque Ports, Buckingham was tasked with mobilising the south-east coast against attack from Earl of Warwick, who as Captain of Calais, commanded the large garrison there. Whilst one Lancastrian army was soundly defeated at Blore Heath on 23 September, a second larger force, under the command of Somerset and Buckingham, marched against the Duke of York at Ludford Bridge, near Ludlow on 12 October. Although the Yorkists were in a strong defensive position their morale was low and after the soldiers of the Calais Garrison, under Anthony Trollope, defected to the Royal Army, York deserted his men and fled to Ireland.

After the Yorkists flight from Ludlow, the Lancastrians leaders allowed their men to pillage Ludlow. There they discovered Cecille, Duchess of York, and her younger children. Courteously, they sent her off for confinement with her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham. It is likely that this resulted in the first meeting of her grand son, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, age 4 and Richard, later Duke of Gloucester, age 7.

With York in exile in Ireland the Yorkist cause lay in the hands of Warwick and York’s son, Edward Earl of March. In July 1460 they landed an invasion force (see “Stafford’s of Hooke”) on the south coast, captured London and marched north against the King, who at the time was raising troops in the midlands in preparation for a possible invasion by York in Wales.

On 10 July, the Lancastrian army under the command of Buckingham took a strong defensive position behind earthworks to the south of Northampton adjacent Delepre Abbey and with the River Nene to their back. However, before taking up their positions, the Lancastrian commanders had again allowed their troops to run amok, ransacking the town and setting it on fire.

Around mid-day, the Yorkist army, who outnumbered the Lancastrians, launched their attack in pouring rain. Not only did the sodden ground and slippery entrenchments hamper the Yorkist progress it also neutralised the Lancastrian cannon situated on the ramparts. At the height of the battle, troops under the Lord Grey on the Lancastrian flank suddenly laid down their arms, raised Warwick’s Ragged Staff and started helping the attackers over the defences. Within thirty minutes the Royal Army had collapsed, Buckingham was killed by a Pole-axe while defending the King’s pavilion and the King captured.

Humphrey Stafford was buried in the Parish Church of Holy Trinity, Pleshley, Essex, shown below.

In Buckingham’s Will he stated the Holy Trinity Collegiate “should be augmented by three priests and six poor men, its possessions increased with lands to the amount of 100 marks yearly and a chapel built on the north side of the church, in which mass was to be said daily”.

This does not seem to have taken full effect, but on 25 November 1467, license was granted for his wife Anne, duchess of Buckingham, executrix of his will, and her second husband Walter, Lord Mountjoy, to grant lands to the college to the amount of 40 marks yearly.

Buckingham was succeeded by his grandson, Henry (1454-1483), son of the 7th Earl.