Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, KG (4 September 1454 – 2 November 1483) was an English nobleman known as the namesake of Buckingham's rebellion, a failed but significant collection of uprisings in England and parts of Wales against Richard III of England in October 1483. He is also one of the primary suspects in the disappearance (and presumed murder) of the Princes in the Tower.
The elder son of Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Stafford, Buckingham became Earl of Stafford in 1458 at age 4 upon his father's death, and was made a ward of King Edward IV of England. He became the Duke of Buckingham in 1460 following the death of his grandfather, Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham. In February 1466 he was married to Catherine Woodville, sister of Edward IV's queen, Elizabeth Woodville, and daughter to Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers. Buckingham and his wife had four children:
Upon the death of Edward IV in 1483, Buckingham allied himself to the king's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, helping him succeed to the throne as Richard III in lieu of Edward's living sons. Becoming disaffected with Richard, Buckingham then joined with Henry Tudor and Tudor's mother, Margaret Beaufort, leading an unsuccessful rebellion in his name. Buckingham was executed for treason by Richard on 2 November 1483: he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Sarcen's Head Inn (both demolished in the 18th century) near Salisbury market-place. He is believed to have been buried in St Peter's Church in Britford in Wiltshire.
Buckingham's precise motivation has been called "obscure"; he had been treated well by Richard. The traditional naming of the rebellion after him has been labelled a misnomer, with John Morton and Reginald Bray more plausible leaders.
As Richard III's ally, the plausibility of Buckingham as a suspect depends on the princes having already been dead by the time Stafford was executed in November 1483. It has been suggested that Buckingham had several potential motives. As a descendant of Edward III, through John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster and Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester on his father's side, as well as through John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster through John Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt on his mother's side, Buckingham may have hoped to accede to the throne himself in due course; alternatively, he may have been acting on behalf of a third party.
Some, notably Paul Murray Kendall, regard Buckingham as the likeliest suspect: his execution, after he had rebelled against Richard in October 1483, might signify that he and the king had fallen out; Weir takes this as a sign that Richard had murdered the princes without Buckingham's knowledge and Buckingham had been shocked by it. A contemporary Portuguese document suggests Buckingham as the guilty party, stating "...and after the passing away of king Edward in the year of 83, another one of his brothers, the Duke of Gloucester, had in his power the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York, the young sons of the said king his brother, and turned them to the Duke of Buckingham, under whose custody the said Princes were starved to death." A document dated some decades after the disappearance was found within the archives of the College of Arms in London in 1980; this stated that the murder "be the vise of the Duke of Buckingham". This led Michael Bennett to suggest that possibly some of Richard's prominent supporters, Buckingham and Tyrell, murdered the princes on their own initiative without waiting for Richard's orders. Bennett noted in support of this theory: 'After the King's departure Buckingham was in effective command in the capital, and it is known that when the two men met a month later there was an unholy row between them.'
Buckingham is the only person to be named as responsible in a contemporary chronicle other than Richard himself. However, for two reasons he is unlikely to have acted alone. First of all, if he were guilty of acting without Richard's orders it is extremely surprising that Richard did not lay the blame for the princes' murder on Buckingham after Buckingham was disgraced and executed, especially as Richard could potentially have cleared his own name by doing so. Secondly, it is likely he would have required Richard's help to gain access to the princes, under close guard in the Tower of London, although Kendall argued as Constable of England, he might have been exempt from this ruling. As a result, although it is extremely possible that he was implicated in the decision to murder them, the hypothesis that he acted without Richard's knowledge is not widely accepted by historians. While Jeremy Potter suggested that Richard would have kept silent had Buckingham been guilty because nobody would have believed Richard was not party to the crime, he further notes that 'Historians are agreed that Buckingham would never have dared to act without Richard's complicity, or at least, connivance'. However, Potter also hypothesised that perhaps Buckingham was fantasising about seizing the crown himself at this point and saw the murder of the princes as a first step to achieving this goal. This theory formed the basis of Sharon Penman's historical novel, The Sunne in Splendour.
Buckingham is among the major characters featured in William Shakespeare's play Richard III, which portrays him as a man openly allying with Richard III in his schemes—until he is ordered to kill the Princes in the Tower.
Buckingham is depicted as a supporting character in Philippa Gregory's 2009 historical novel The White Queen (2009). He is depicted as the murderer of the Princes in the Tower in Sharon Penman's 1982 debut novel The Sunne in Splendour.
|Ancestors of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Buckingham, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of.|
Richard, Duke of Gloucester
|Lord High Constable
Lord Thomas Stanley
|Peerage of England|
|Duke of Buckingham
(restored in 1485
for Edward Stafford)