Earls of Stafford and Dukes of Buckingham
The House of Stafford was founded in England by Robert, younger brother of Ralf de Toeni; standard-bearer to Duke William of Normandy. Following the Conquest in 1066, Robert received 131 manors extending into seven counties and henceforth he became known as Robert de Stafford due to his Governorship of Stafford Castle. The military service due from the fief was no less than sixty knights, as evident his grandson Robert de Stafford’s (1107-1185) indenture of 1166.
His son, Robert de Stafford (1107-1185) died without a male heir and the fiefdom passed his daughter’s husband, Sir Hervey Bagot in 1194 with their children assuming the Stafford name.
Their descendant Edmund de Stafford (1278-1308) was made 1st Baron of Stafford in 1299.
Edmund’s son, Ralph (1301-1372) attained fame in the French wars and conducted the capture and subsequent defence of Aiguillon during the winter of 1345/1346, fought at Crecy and Sluys in 1346, participated in the siege of Calais in 1347, rode with the Black Prince on his grand chavauchee of 1356 which culminated in the Battle of Poitiers and accompanied Edward III’s 1359 Rheims campaign which resulted in the Treaty of Bretigny during which Stafford participated as part of the English delegation. Chosen as a Knight of the Garter at the foundation of the Order, he was created 1st Earl of Stafford in 1351. On his death in 1372 his Inquisitions post mortem valued him at £1,432.00 per annum however records show that from 1351 onwards he was worth over £3,500 per annum.
Ralph’s eldest son Hugh (1334-1386), who succeeded as 2nd Earl in 1372 also served in the French Wars and from 1376 he became prominent in politics as a consequence of his marriage to Philippa Beachamp, daughter of the Earl of Warwick. He participated in Richard II’s invasion of Scotland in 1385 but died the following year in Rhodes whilst returning from pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Earldom subsequently passed to his second son, Thomas (1362-1392) due to his eldest son, Ralph, had been killed in 1385 by Sir John Holland to avenge the killing of his favourite Esquire by one of Ralph's retainers.
Hugh’s fourth son Humphrey was the grandfather of John Stafford (1387-1452) who having entered the religious order, came to the fore under Henry VI, becoming Treasurer in 1422, Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1425, Lord Chancellor 1432-1450 and finally serving as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1443 until his death 1452.
The marriage of Thomas, the 3rd Earl, in 1392 to Anne, Countess of Buckingham (1383-1438), daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, grand-daughter of Edward III and co-heiress of the great house of Bohun, proved a decisive turning-point in the history of the Stafford’s; for although Thomas died (possibly murdered) childless, Anne married his brother Edmund (1377-1403), the 5th Earl in 1398.
In 1403, Edmund further strengthened the family’s possessions by obtaining the Office of Lord High Constable of England, an Office previously held by his wife’s ancestors. Edmund was killed on 21 July 1403 at the Battle of Shrewsbury while commanding Henry IV vanguard against the usurper Henry Hotspur.