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Siege of Harcourt Stanton Church

The Siege of Harcourt Stanton Church
One of the most interesting aspects of the Wars of the Roses was the general lawlessness, which often culminated in the large battles we know so well. However, because of the corruption and lack of justice, many wealthy families of the time developed personal feuds, some of which they were only able to resolve through battle. The Stafford family were not immune from this, and the more minor branch of the family from Grafton became embroiled in an argument with some supporters of the Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk was the King's favourite during the late 1440's and many of his retainers were involved in illegal acts, conducting a virtual reign of terror over most of East Anglia. Sir Robert Harcourt was one such fellow. Even other peer's were unable to take action due to Suffolk's influence and support from the King.

On May 1448, Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton, his eldest son Richard and a number of his servants were making for their Inn at Coventry, when they met Sir Robert Harcourt and his attendants. They immediately fell to blows. Harcourt struck Richard on the head with his sword, not seriously, for the young man made at Harcourt with his dagger. He stumbled and one of Harcourt's men stabbed him in the back, mortally. Sir Humphrey was also struck from behind and fell from his horse. A general melee ensued in which Stafford's servants killed two of Harcourt's men. The city coroner indicted Sir Robert the next day of murder and he was detained in Chester Castle for a while. However, he was soon released and had still not been brought to trial a year later, through Suffolk's influencing of the local Sheriff by a writ of the Privy Seal.

Tired of waiting for satisfaction by judicial means, the Staffords assembled some two hundred friends and tenants, travelling by night to Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire. Sir Robert had enough warning to make for the tower of the parish church. Which the Staffords laid siege to for more than six hours, loosing off over a thousand arrows and killing one Harcourt retainer. Tiring of this, they then threatened to set fire to the tower, which they did as he would not come out. However, Harcourt was fortunate and managed to hold out until they had to withdraw. Soon after Sir Humphrey was killed in London during Cade's Rebellion, although his bastard son Humphrey was able to exact revenge in 1469 when he finally killed Harcourt.

Staffords in the Wars of the Roses

Below is a partial list of Engagements the Stafford family were involved in.
 
Cades Rebellion

Shrewsbury 1403

Edmund, 5th Earl of Stafford, commanded vanguard of Henry IV's army against Harry Hotspur and was killed during the battle.

1st Battle of St. Alban's, 22nd May 1455

Humphrey, 1st Duke of Buckingham, commander-in-chief of the Lancastrian forces for Henry VI. Fought with his son, Humphrey Earl of Stafford, was wounded defending the King but both were spared after being defeated.

Ludford Bridge

Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham also fought here in support of the King.

The Battle of Northampton, 10th July 1460

Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, commanding the Lancastrian force in a defensive position with it's back to the river Nene. Due to the betrayal of Lord Grey the Yorkist's are victorious and the Duke is killed defending the king.
Humphrey Stafford, future Yorkist Earl of Devon and part of the Southwick branch was apparently present on the side of the Yorkists.
Also some conjecture as to the presence of one John Stafford, who is recorded as slaying one Sir William Lucy after the Battle.

The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 2nd February 1461

The aforementioned had accompanied Edward, Earl of March from South Wales, where they had been busy recruiting men. Fought on the Yorkist side and was victorious.

The Battle of Towton, 29th March 1461

Since the Duke of Buckingham was currently in a minority and ward of the King, owing to the death of his father in 1457 and grandfather at Northampton in 1460, Stafford participation was minimal after this point. However, as a ward of the King, Henry VI could summon Stafford troops on his behalf. So it is possible some fought at Towton on the Lancastrian side, ultimately losing.
Once again, Humphrey Stafford of Southwick supported Edward and was rewarded with the title Lord Stafford of Southwick.

The Battle of Edgecote Moor, 26th July 1469

Stafford’s of Clifton, Stafford

Founded by Sir Richard, younger brother of the 1st Earl of Stafford an active participant of the French Wars and fought at Crecy. He held the office of Seneschal of Gascony (1361-1362).

The Manor of Clifton came to him in marriage with a Camville heiress and he was summoned as a Baron in 1371. His eldest surviving son, Edmund (1344-1419), a churchman, became bishop of Exeter in 1395, and was Lord Chancellor from 1396 to 1399 and 1401 to 1403. He then devoted himself to his diocese till his death in 1419 and his patronage of learning is commemorated by Exeter College, Oxford.

The male line of the Stafford’s of Clifton ended about 1445.