Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham KG (15 August 1402 – 10 July 1460), an English nobleman, great grandson of King Edward III on his mother's side, was best known as a military commander in the Hundred Years' War and in the Wars of the Roses.
He was born at Stafford, Staffordshire, England, the son of Edmund Stafford, 5th Earl of Stafford and Anne of Gloucester, daughter of Edward III's youngest son Thomas of Woodstock.
When Humphrey was less than a year old, his father was killed fighting for the royalist forces at the Battle of Shrewsbury in July 1403. He became 6th Earl of Stafford, inheriting a large estate with lands in more than a dozen counties, although over two-thirds of his estate was still occupied by his mother and he only received a reduced income, of less than £1260, until he was sixteen. Humphrey was made a royal ward on his father's death, under the control of Henry IV's queen Joanna of Navarre.
Death in War of the Roses
The Privy Council was controlled by Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset from around 1451. Buckingham supported Somerset, trying to maintain peace between him and Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. However, from August 1453, the king became catatonic and York was appointed Protector of the Realm; when the king recovered in 1455, reversing many of York's decisions, war broke out. Although loyal to King Henry VI, Buckingham was reluctant to take up arms for Somerset, even though his son was married to Somerset's daughter. He seemed to be the ideal choice to negotiate and secured Somerset's release from prison in Feb 1455; he was still trying to get a compromise up to the eve of the First Battle of St. Albans on 22 May 1455. Buckingham commanded the king's army of 2,500; only about 50 people died in the battle, but this included Somerset. Buckingham himself was wounded and captured with the king when the Earl of Warwick scored a remarkable success. York now had the political upper hand, made himself Constable of England and kept the prisoner, returning to the role of Protector when the king became ill again. Throughout all of this, Buckingham kept an open mind and helped maintain a relative stability during York's second protectorate.
Unfortunately, his actions estranged him from Queen Margaret. He opposed her decision to dismiss his half-brothers, Henry and Thomas Bourchier, from office and she disliked his decision to support York in military situations. But at the end, he aligned himself with the queen, escorting her to the 'Loveday' reconciliation effort held between the factions on 2 March 1458. When hostilities started again, his presence at Battle of Ludford Bridge led to the defeat of the Yorkist forces, and he was rewarded with extensive grants from the estates of Sir William Oldhall.
Warwick regrouped and landed in Sandwich in June 1460. in the lead up to the Battle of Northampton, envoys were sent to negotiate, but Buckingham was no longer conciliatory. Buckingham informed them "The Earl of Warwick shall not come to the king's presence and if he comes he shall die," and told a group of Yorkist bishops that they were not men of peace but men of war and there could be no peace with Warwick. The battle was fought on 10 July 1460 and was shortened when Edmund Grey, 1st Earl of Kent turned traitor to the king and ordered his men to lay down arms, allowing the Yorkists access to the camp. In the ensuing fight, Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Lords Egremont and Beaumont were killed by a group of Kentishmen. Buckingham was buried shortly after at Grey Friars, Northampton.
Family of Humphrey Stafford
Humphrey Stafford married Lady Anne Neville, daughter of Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Lady Joan de Beaufort, before 18 October 1424, They had the following children:
- Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford (1424-1458) - Married Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford, daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset and Eleanor Beauchamp. He died of the plague prior to his father's death. They were parents of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.
- Henry Stafford (1425–1471) - Third husband of Lady Margaret Beaufort, daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beauchamp. Margaret Beaufort had previously been married to Edmund Tudor, the eldest half-brother of Henry VI, and had given birth to the future Henry VII two months after Edmund's death. She and Henry Stafford had no children together.
- John Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire (1427-1473) - Married Constance Green. They were the parents of Edward Stafford, 2nd Earl of Wiltshire.
- Edward Stafford
- Margaret Stafford (1435-1475) - in 1455 Married Robert Dunham (b1430 in Devonshire).
- Catherine Stafford (1437 – 26 December 1476). Married John Talbot, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury.
- George Stafford (born 1439). Twin brother of William Stafford.
- William Stafford (born 1439). Twin brother of George Stafford.
- Joan Stafford (1442–1484). Married first William Beaumont and secondly William Knyvett.
- Anne Stafford (1446–1472). Married first Aubrey de Vere, son of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford. She married secondly Thomas Cobham, 5th Baron Cobham.
His eldest son having already died of plague, Humphrey was succeeded by his grandson Henry.