It's been quiet here, hasn't it? Here's a nice long post to make up for it. This is a draft of a piece I plan to put on my website (with footnotes). It's long (and will give you some idea of what I've been up to lately), so stay a spell!
In the fall of 1483, Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, rebelled against Richard III, breaking faith with a monarch whom he had helped to bring to power just months before. Much has been written about Henry’s conduct during 1483, but comparatively little has been written about the rest of life—and about his duchess, Katherine Woodville, sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville.
Born on September 4, 1455, Henry Stafford was the oldest son of Humphrey Stafford, the Earl of Stafford, and Margaret Beaufort (who is not to be confused with her first cousin of the same name, mother to Henry Tudor). Henry had royal connections, being a descendant of Edward III through both Thomas of Woodstock and John of Gaunt (through John's children by Katherine Swynford)
Henry's father Humphrey died in 1458, predeceasing his own father, the first Duke of Buckingham, also known as Humphrey Stafford. Henry inherited his grandfather’s dukedom when the latter was killed at Northampton on July 10, 1460, while guarding Henry VI’s tent. As Henry, not quite five, was a minor, he and his estates passed into the custody of his grandmother the Duchess of Buckingham. Anne Neville, the duchess, was a sister of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York and mother of the future Edward IV, and had had Cecily and her younger sons in her keeping for a time following her capture by Lancastrian troops in 1459.
In February 1464, Edward IV purchased Henry’s wardship and marriage from the Duchess of Buckingham. He then placed Henry in the custody of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV’s older sister.
Later that year, Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, a widowed daughter of Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Duchess of Bedford. The duchess’s marriage to a mere squire years before had produced a large brood of children, of which Katherine Woodville was probably the youngest. A post-mortem inquisition for her brother Richard in 1492 identifies her as “aged 34 and more,” placing her birth year at around 1458.
Edward IV announced his marriage to his council in September 1464, and Elizabeth Woodville was formally presented to the council and other worthies at Michaelmas (September 29). She was crowned on May 26, 1465.
Somewhere in this period, young Henry Stafford and Katherine Woodville were married. In 1483, Dominic Mancini, an observer of English affairs during this time, declared that Henry “had his own reasons for detesting the queen’s kin; for, when he was younger, he had been forced to wed the queen’s sister, whom he scorned to wed on account of her humble origin.” Recently, historians have been less inclined to take this comment at face value, given the anti-Woodville propaganda that was being circulated by the Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, at the time.
In fact, at nine years of age, Henry was likely to have taken his cue from his relations, who appear to have been on cordial terms with the Woodvilles. The dowager Duchess of Buckingham and the Duchess of Bedford were old acquaintances, who had often been in the receipt of gifts from Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou. They and their husbands attended Corpus Christi pageants in her company in 1457. In 1460, they and Lady Scales were delegated by the citizens of London to negotiate with Margaret of Anjou. The dowager Duchess of Buckingham played a prominent role at Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, bearing the queen’s train. Her second husband, Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy, later specified in his will that masses be said for the souls of Richard Woodville and his son John, killed by troops of the Earl of Warwick in 1469. Blount and his stepsons, the uncles of the second Duke of Buckingham, fought for Edward IV in 1471. Thus, if the nine-year-old duke did resent his marriage at the time, his feelings do not seem to have been shared by his elders. The person who probably was most upset about the marriage was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the “Kingmaker,” who with the duke’s marriage to Katherine lost an eminently suitable husband for one of his own two daughters.
In May 1465, the young duke and duchess participated in Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, where both were carried on the shoulders of squires. At the banquet afterward, both Duchesses of Buckingham sat at the same table, near the newly created Knights of the Bath, among whom were Henry and his younger brother, Humphrey.
Edward IV transferred custody of the Duke of Buckingham from the Duchess of Exeter to Elizabeth Woodville in August 1465, but as payments to Elizabeth for the duke’s maintenance were later made retroactive to Easter, he had probably been living in her household at least since then. Elizabeth’s household accounts for 1466-67 show that three people were paid for their services to Katherine, while a tutor, John Giles was engaged to teach grammar to Henry and his brother, Humphrey. (Giles was evidently good at his task, for he later became a tutor to the Prince of Wales and his younger brother.) Humphrey passes out of the records after this time, apparently having died young.
Katherine Woodville’s life took a terrifying turn in 1469, when the Kingmaker, acting in concert with Edward IV’s younger brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, took advantage of unrest in the country to mount his own rebellion and to rid himself of his political enemies. Naming the Woodvilles and others as favorites who were corrupting the king, and reminding those who read his manifesto of the fates of Edward II, Richard II, and Henry VI, Warwick gathered troops and met the king’s forces at Edgecote on July 26, 1469, defeating them. After the battle, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and one of Warwick’s enemies, was beheaded. As John Gillingham points out, this execution was illegal, as Warwick still recognized Edward IV as king and Pembroke had merely been coming to his aid. Three days later, Edward IV himself was captured by Warwick’s brother, George Neville, and taken to Warwick Castle, then to Middleham. Meanwhile, Warwick’s men captured Katherine Woodville’s father, Richard, and one of her older brothers, John, on August 12, 1469. Like Pembroke, they were executed entirely illegally. (Paul Murray Kendall, who wrote popular biographies of Warwick and of Richard III and for whom the only good Woodville was a dead Woodville, wasted no words on the propriety of the execution, devoting only a sentence in his Warwick the Kingmaker to the executions of the Woodvilles.) To add to the misery of the Woodville family, one of Warwick’s followers accused Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford, of sorcery. (The Duchess, however, fought the charges and was acquitted in February 1470 by a committee that included Buckingham’s stepgrandfather.)
Where the Buckinghams were during this period is unknown, though Elizabeth Woodville and her little daughters were in Norwich when her father and brother were killed, and Katherine may have accompanied the queen there. Things, however, were not working out for the Earl of Warwick as he had planned. His capture of the king had ushered in a period of lawlessness that Warwick could not contain with Edward IV in captivity. He was therefore forced to release the king, who entered London in grand state in October 1469. John Paston reported that “the Lordes Harry and John of Bokyngham” as well as Walter Blount were among his entourage. John would have been John Stafford, a younger son of the first Duke of Buckingham. “Harry” may refer to the fourteen-year-old Duke of Buckingham, who signed himself “Harry,” though it could also refer to his uncle Henry Stafford, brother of John Stafford.
The freed Edward IV and Warwick patched things up, but only temporarily. In September 1470, Edward IV fled the country, and Henry VI was nominally on the throne, controlled by Warwick. With Elizabeth Woodville and her children in sanctuary, custody of the Duke of Buckingham was transferred to his grandmother and to his stepgrandfather, Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy.
During Lent of 1471, Warwick took the precaution of arresting a number of suspected Yorkist sympathizers, including, apparently, the Duke of Buckingham, whose stepgrandfather and uncle were also arrested. Some of these men were kept in the Tower; when Edward IV arrived in London on April 11, they overpowered their captors and went out to join his forces. Three days later, Edward IV defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick was killed.
Nothing indicates whether the Duke of Buckingham, not yet sixteen, fought at Barnet or at the battle at Tewkesbury that followed. He certainly must have been with the king’s army, however, for when the victorious Edward IV returned to London on May 21, 1471, the duke was among those who accompanied him. Not surprisingly, due to her age and gender, Katherine Woodville’s whereabouts during this time are unrecorded. She may have stayed with her sister the queen or with her husband’s grandmother during this time.
In January 1473, Henry, only seventeen, was allowed to come into his inheritance. Most of his land was in Wales, as his grandmother, who lived until 1480, held many of his English estates in dower; other lands had been set aside to pay the dower of his aunt, a debt owing from Henry’s grandfather’s day.
For the next ten years, the role Henry would play in Edward IV’s court would be almost entirely ceremonial. He and his wife were present at the grand events of Edward IV’s reign, such as the welcoming of Louis of Gruuthuyse to England in 1472 and the marriage of Edward IV’s younger son, the Duke of York, to little Anne Mowbray in 1478. He enjoyed no influence at court, however, and served on commissions of the peace only in Staffordshire. He accompanied Edward to France in 1475, when the anticlimactic Treaty of Picquigny was signed, but is recorded as having gone home prematurely, for unknown reasons. Michael Jones has speculated that he may have shared the Duke of Gloucester’s distaste for the treaty and that he remonstrated with Edward IV about it, thereby consigning himself to oblivion for the rest of that king’s reign.
Other explanations for Edward IV’s behavior toward Buckingham abound. Some argue that he was squeezed out by the Woodvilles, while others suggest that Edward IV disliked him personally, regarded him as unstable, or feared that he might have designs on the crown. For his own part, Buckingham must have bitterly resented Edward IV’s refusal to hand over his share of the Bohun inheritance, to which Buckingham had a claim after the deaths of Henry VI and Edward of Lancaster in 1471. As Carole Rawcliffe points out, doing so would have not only cost Edward IV over a thousand pounds per year in lost income but would have emphasized Buckingham’s claim to the throne through the house of Lancaster. It probably did not help that Buckingham in 1474 had received permission to use the arms of Thomas of Woodstock.
In 1478, Buckingham’s relations with the crown took a brief upswing. Buckingham was made high steward of England for the purpose of pronouncing a death sentence upon Edward IV’s troublesome brother, George, Duke of Clarence. That same year, Edward IV granted him the manor of Ebbw and the lordship of Cantref Mawr.
Both the duke and the duchess had taken part in the wedding of Richard, Duke of York, to Anne Mowbray in January 1478. Katherine was heavily pregnant at the time, for on February 3, 1478, she gave birth to the couple’s first son, Edward—just a few days before the Duke of Buckingham sentenced Clarence to death. Edward IV served as godfather to Edward and gave a gold cup for the occasion. The couple had two daughters, Elizabeth and Anne, and two other sons, Henry and Humphrey. Edward, the third Duke of Buckingham, would eventually be executed by Henry VIII, while Humphrey apparently died in early childhood. Henry died of natural causes in 1523, having survived a couple of close calls with Henry VIII.
In August 1478, William Paston reported that the Duke of Buckingham was making a pilgrimage to Walsingham and would be visiting his “sister” Lady Knyvet at Bokenham (actually his aunt, who had married William Knyvet after her first marriage was dissolved). Walsingham had strong associations with childbearing; perhaps Buckingham was giving thanks for the birth of his son.
Buckingham dropped back into obscurity after that, not to emerge until 1483 and the death of Edward IV, when he and Richard, Duke of Gloucester banded together at Northampton to seize Anthony Rivers, Earl Rivers, to whose care Edward IV had entrusted the Prince of Wales. Buckingham’s motives for joining together with Richard are unknown. As noted earlier, Buckingham was said by Mancini to have detested the Woodvilles because of his “forced” marriage to one, but Mancini is demonstrably wrong on other points (for instance, his claim that Richard shunned the court after the death of George) and may well be wrong on this one, perhaps influenced by the anti-Woodville propaganda being circulated at the time. D. E. Lowe has noted that Buckingham served as a feoffee of Anthony Woodville, and Buckingham conveyed estates in 1481 to feoffees with strong ties to Anthony. Certainly Anthony, not known to be credulous or reckless, did not take any precautions when he met with his two brothers-in-law, as he surely would have had he regarded either man as being hostile toward him. It seems more likely that Buckingham, seeing at last the chance to gain power and the Bohun inheritance, sprang at the opportunity offered him by Richard. Whether Richard’s subsequent actions were at the urging of Buckingham, or whether Buckingham followed Richard’s lead, is unknown.
The succeeding events are too well known to require recounting in detail. Anthony Woodville, Richard Grey, the queen’s second son by her first husband, and Thomas Vaughn, Edward V’s chamberlain since his infancy, were seized and arrested. Edward V was taken to London by his uncles Gloucester and Buckingham, who lodged him in suitably royal quarters in the Tower at Buckingham’s suggestion. On June 13, 1483, William Hastings, Edward IV’s closest friend, was seized at a council meeting and executed without trial on the pretext that he had been plotting against Richard. The Archbishop of York, the Bishop of Ely, and Oliver King, among others, were imprisoned. Elizabeth Woodville, who had fled to Westminster sanctuary upon hearing of the arrest of her brother and son, was persuaded on June 16 to hand over her youngest boy, Richard, Duke of York, to Gloucester. The arguments put to her were no doubt aided by the band of soldiers surrounding the sanctuary. Buckingham met the boy at Westminster Hall, after which he was greeted by Gloucester and escorted to join his brother in the Tower. The next day, it was announced that the coronation had been postponed until November.
Beginning June 22, sermons were preached to the effect that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid and their children therefore illegitimate based on a supposed precontract between Edward IV and one Eleanor Butler—both parties being conveniently dead. Buckingham and Richard were present at one such sermon, preached by Dr. Ralph Shaw.
Buckingham appeared at the Guildhall on June 24, where he made a speech, attended by the mayor and numerous other prominent citizens, urging that Richard be crowned king. Though the speech was “so well and eloquently uttered and with so angelic a countenance, and every pause and time was well ordered, that such as heard him marveled and said that never before that day had they heard any man, learned or unlearned, make such oration,” the response was not enthusiastic.
The next day, Rivers, Grey, and Vaughn were executed at Pontefract, an event Rivers had been expecting since June 23, when he made his will. Back in London, on June 26, a petition formally setting out Richard’s title to the throne was presented to Richard at Baynards Castle. Richard agreed to take the throne.
Buckingham had the main part in organizing the coronation, held on July 6. He bore Richard’s train in the procession to and from Westminster Abbey, gave the king a pall and a pound of gold at the altar, and helped him remove his ceremonial robes and replace them with purple robes. His stepfather, Richard Darell, his cousin Edward Stafford, Earl of Wiltshire, and his uncle by marriage, William Knyvet, also attended. One family member, however, was significantly absent: Katherine Woodville, whose brother and nephew had been executed at Richard’s orders and whose sister the queen was still in sanctuary. Whether Katherine was purposely excluded from the coronation, or chose herself to avoid it, is unknown.
Buckingham was richly rewarded by Richard III for his kingmaking services. Having held no position of importance during Edward IV’s reign, he now was created chief justice and chamberlain of north and south Wales for life. He was also made constable, a hereditary Bohun office, and chamberlain—and he was given the coveted Bohun estates, with a promise that the grant would be confirmed at the next Parliament.
Meanwhile, Richard III’s nephews had disappeared from public view, never to be seen again. Rumors quickly spread that they had been murdered, with both Richard III and Buckingham being named as the killers. Buckingham has become the favorite suspect of those who wish to exonerate Richard from any guilt in the matter, but the case against him can be proven no more than that against Richard.
Just weeks after Richard’s coronation, plans were made to rescue the Princes from the Tower by starting fires in the city of London. The plan failed, and four men were executed, but the country was at last emerging from the stupor into which it had been plunged by the events of June. Another scheme arose, this time to take Elizabeth Woodville’s daughters out of sanctuary and send them abroad. Richard thwarted it by posting an armed guard around Westminster Abbey. By August, however, the conspiracy—involving mostly gentry who had been loyal to Edward IV—was spreading through the south. As rumors began that the princes in the Tower were dead, Elizabeth Woodville, her sons Lionel and Richard, Margaret Beaufort, Buckingham’s prisoner Bishop Morton, and Buckingham himself became involved. Margaret’s son, Henry Tudor, living in exile abroad, was invited by Buckingham in October 1483 to come to England—to assume the throne, according to the Croyland Chronicler. (Richard’s act of attainder states only that the rebels planned to depose and kill Richard; it does not indicate that Tudor was the intended replacement—presumably a notion Richard did not wish to implant in his subjects’ heads.)
Buckingham’s motives for joining the rebellion remain a mystery. Some have suggested that he aimed at the crown himself (and killed the princes as a step toward that ultimate goal), others that he believed that Richard’s reign was doomed and wanted to shield himself from reprisals by the rebels by joining them. The notion that he was revulsed by Richard’s killing of the princes has been discounted by historians as of late, but it should not be rejected out of hand (assuming, of course, that Richard did indeed kill them). Buckingham may not have had difficulty condoning the death of grown men, but infanticide may have been an entirely different thing to him. Horror and the fear that he had imperiled his immortal soul by his complicity with the king could explain his willingness to risk all of his long-coveted gains for an uncertain future with an obscure and untried exile. The Croyland Chronicler’s statement that Buckingham “had repented of his former conduct” may well be an accurate statement.
Whatever Buckingham’s motives, his own part in the rebellion failed miserably, due to Richard’s swift response, Buckingham’s inability to inspire loyalty in his Welsh tenants, and horrendous rains and flooding that hampered his forces’ passage. Leaving his daughters at Brecon, he went with his wife and sons to Weobley, where Sir Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers had a manor. Lord Ferrers’ role in this is a mystery. He was not named as being a rebel, and later fought and died for Richard III at Bosworth, but he had sheltered the young Henry Tudor in 1470 when the boy was in the care of Anne, Countess of Pembroke, Walter’s sister. Ferrers had also controlled Buckingham’s lordships of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington while Buckingham was a minor. It was presumably these connections that led Buckingham to him. Perhaps Ferrers was an unwilling or absent host; perhaps the presence of the duchess and the couple’s small sons allowed him to tell Richard that he had acted merely out of consideration for their plight.
After spending a week speaking to the local men, presumably in a fruitless attempt to gain support, Buckingham—now with a reward of a thousand pounds on his head-- disguised himself in workman’s clothes and fled, leaving what was left of his army behind. Before this, however, he entrusted his heir, five-year-old Edward Stafford, to Richard Delabeare to keep until he sent for the boy. With them to Kynardsley went William Knyvet, who was married to Buckingham’s aunt and who had also served as one of Buckingham’s councilors. Buckingham had taken the precaution of having a frieze coat—a coat of a coarse cloth that would not ordinarily have been suitable for a duke’s son—made for his son. While the duke and duchess and their remaining son, Henry, were still at Weobley, members of the Vaughan family (not to be confused with the Vaughan who had died at Pontefract) seized Brecon Castle, looting its contents and doing historians a great disservice by destroying many of the Stafford records. The Buckingham girls and their ladies were taken to Tretower, the Vaughans’ home.
The fleeing duke sought shelter at the home of a retainer, Ralph Bannister, in Wem. Either out of fear or out of greed for the reward, Bannister betrayed Buckingham and was rewarded by Richard III with a manor. A dramatic later account says that Buckingham, working in an orchard at the time of his apprehension, sank to his knees and cursed Ralph and his lineage.
Buckingham was taken to Shrewsbury, where on October 31 he was handed over to the ubiquitous James Tyrrell and to Christopher Wellesbourne, who took him to Salisbury. In Salisbury, his pleas for an audience with Richard III were refused. Buckingham’s son Edward would later claim that his father carried a dagger up his sleeve with which he would have stabbed Richard while kneeling down before him. Edward, of course, was nowhere near his father at the time, and his own sources for this information are unknown. Perhaps someone who was with Buckingham in his last hours told him the story.
On November 2, 1483, All Saints’ Day, Buckingham was beheaded in Salisbury marketplace. Several places have been suggested for his burial, but the most likely is that indicated by the Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, Greyfriars in Salisbury. He apparently was allowed by his captors to make a will, as both a 1485 Act of Parliament and William Catesby’s will refer to a will by Buckingham.
A search then began for Buckingham’s wife and sons. Search parties failed to find Edward, whose caretakers moved him from place to place and dressed him as a little gentlewoman (complete with shaved forehead) to avoid detection. Katherine and her other son, Henry, were found at Weobley by Wellesbourne, who with the brother of John Huddleston, probably Richard Huddleston (married to Queen Anne’s half-sister, an out of wedlock child of the Earl of Warwick), took the duchess to the king in London.
Katherine’s status after she was brought to Richard III is unclear. Some historians have claimed that she was allowed to join her sister Elizabeth in sanctuary, but the records do not show this; as Richard III was trying to get Elizabeth out of sanctuary, it seems unlikely that he would have let yet another Woodville in. On December 19, 1483, however, Richard III did issue a letter allowing the duchess to convey her children and servants from Wales to “these parts,” meaning London, from where the order was issued. Whether Katherine was living on her own in London at the time or was living as a royal prisoner or under close supervision is unknown. Presumably the missing Edward Stafford was included in this order and was brought out of hiding to join his mother.
By April 1484, Richard III had granted Katherine an annuity of 200 marks to be paid to her out of the issues of Tonbridge. This has been often cited as an instance of Richard’s selfless generosity, but it should also be noted that a widow of an attainted traitor was legally entitled to receive any jointure that had been set for her. In an act passed during Henry VII’s first Parliament, it is indicated that Buckingham set Katherine’s jointure at 1,000 pounds. If this was the case, Richard III ignored Katherine’s rights to jointure, and his grant to her should be viewed in that light instead of an instance of benevolence.
Katherine now faced the problem of raising four children on her small annuity—small, at least, for the widow of one of the richest landholders in England who had hitherto wanted for nothing. She may have appealed to William Catesby, Richard III’s royal councilor and a man who had served Buckingham as well. Richard III had granted Catesby and others a number of manors out of which to pay the duke’s debts. Catesby seems to have been derelict in discharging his responsibility, however, for in his will, made as he was facing execution after Bosworth, he left Katherine 100 pounds “to help her children, and that she will see my Lords detts paied and his will executed, and in speciall for such land as shall be amortised to the house of Plashy.” Pleshey College had received gifts from Buckingham’s forbears; presumably Buckingham had remembered the institution in his will.
After Henry VII took the throne, he reversed Buckingham’s attainder and assigned Katherine jointure and dower. Probably the generous treatment accorded Katherine—she was given lands that exceeded the value of her jointure and dower—was due to Henry’s desire to benefit his uncle, Jasper Tudor. The latter, newly created Duke of Bedford, married Katherine before November 7, 1485. Before Henry VII’s coronation, seven-year-old Edward Stafford, now the third Duke of Buckingham, was made a Knight of the Bath. With Edward restored to his family’s estates, his wardship had become a very desirable one. It was given to Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, and he and his brother grew up in her household.
Katherine was prominent in the ceremonies surrounding the coronation of her niece, Elizabeth of York, in 1487. She and several other ladies, carried in two chairs, followed the queen as she processed to Westminster the day before her coronation, and at breakfast the day after, Katherine sat on the left of the queen, with Margaret Beaufort on the right. At the christening of Henry and Elizabeth’s first daughter, Margaret, Katherine carried the train of the baby’s mantle, assisted by Lord Strange. She is not mentioned by name as attending her sister Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral, though one of Katherine’s daughters is mentioned as being present.
On December 21, 1495, Jasper Tudor died, aged about sixty-four. Katherine, still only about thirty-seven, very hastily married Richard Wingfield, without a royal license. Part of a prosperous but very large Suffolk gentry family, Richard, the eleventh of twelve sons, would go on to have a distinguished diplomatic career in Henry VIII’s service, but at the time he must have had few material resources. (Perhaps persuading the rich duchess to the marriage, which took place before February 24, 1496, was an early example of Richard’s diplomatic skills—or sex appeal.) Henry VII fined the couple two thousand pounds for their presumption, although it was ultimately Katherine’s son Edward who bore the burden of paying the fine. Katherine would have probably known Richard for some time, as there were already ties between the Wingfields and the Woodvilles: Katherine’s widowed sister Anne had married Edward Wingfield, a brother of Richard, while Richard’s mother was from the Fitzlewis family and thus was connected to Mary Fitzlewis, Anthony Woodville’s second wife. Two of Richard’s brothers, and perhaps Richard himself, had served in Katherine’s household, and the Wingfields had rebelled against Richard in 1483 and fought for Henry VII at Bosworth.
Katherine died on May 18, 1497, barely a year after her third marriage, having had no children by Wingfield. Richard Wingfield remarried, but in his will in 1525 requested that prayers be said for Katherine’s soul as well as for those of other deceased family members and friends.
Of the many children born to Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Katherine was the last surviving. Fortunately, she did not live long enough to witness the destruction of her eldest son by Henry VIII in 1521.