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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Henry Stafford, Second Duke of Buckingham

Henry Stafford, Second Duke of Buckingham was born 1455 to Margaret Beaufort, although not the better-known Margaret Beaufort who was Henry Tudor’s mother. Through his mother, Henry was a potential claimant to the throne. Buckingham was little employed under Edward IV during his reign, despite the fact that he had inherited one of the richest and most powerful estates in the country. Grandson of the ruthless Humphrey Stafford, First Duke of Buckingham, and Edward Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, both Lancastrian supporters, he was made duke of Buckingham in 1460 after his grandfather was killed in the battle of Northampton. He married Katherine Woodville, Queen Elizabeth’s sister, and daughter of Richard Woodville, in 1466 at the age of eleven. Buckingham chose to betray his in-laws’ alliance to Edward and his Queen, however, and instead pledged his loyalty to Richard when he helped him to take the young Edward V from the custody of Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. Buckingham was the recipient of the highest offices and all of the royal castles in Wales thanks to his new friendship with Richard of Gloucester. Buckingham helped Richard to the throne by presiding over an “assembly of notable” that petitioned for Richard to be king which he personally presented. Buckingham acted as high steward during the period around Clarence’s trial and possibly during Richard’s coronation, in which he carried the royal train.

It is not completely certain why, but Buckingham eventually rebelled against Richard III. Though Shakespeare suggests that it is because Richard neglects to give him the lands he was promised, historians point out that these lands were in fact restored by 1483. It is possible that he was “disturbed” by Richard’s murder of Edward V and his brother, or that he was ultimately involved in a conspiracy to take the crown himself. It was with various Tudor conspirators that Buckingham rose in revolt in October, 1483 but was captured by Richard’s forces because of a flood that had cut off his access from moving out of harms way over the Severn and Wye rivers. During this plot, Richard offered a reward for £1,000 for Buckingham’s head, and he was eventually betrayed by one of his retainers and executed on November 2nd in the marketplace without a trial or royal audience.

The ill-received speech delivered by Buckingham in the play to the people of London calling for Richard of Gloucester to be put on the throne was actually a sermon delivered by Dr. Ralph Shaw at Saint Paul’s Cross in the churchyard of the cathedral in London on Sunday, June 22nd, 1483, the originally appointed date of Edward V’s coronation (although Buckingham did use much of his sermon a few days later in his speech at Guildhall). Apparently, Shaw preached on the text, “bastard slips shall not take deep root,” and described how Edward’s previous engagement to Lady Eleanor Butler made his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and his children’s claims to the crown illegitimate. Shaw also challenged the legitimacy of Richard’s brothers on the basis of their lack of resemblance to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Although Richard was allegedly supposed to have appeared at this very moment next to Shaw, he came too late and the awkward moment is what rendered the audience “stunned and silent.”


“Back to Basics: A Series for Newer Members.” Issue 4, June 1993. The Richard III and Yorkist History Sever. Web. Accessed 2-12-10. <>.

Gillingham, John, Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in 15th Century England. Phoenix Press. 2005. Print.

Wagner, John A. Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2001. Print.

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